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News from my poly junior- Kuriakin Zeng, Singapore Polytechnic’s first Harvard accepted student

Good news come early this may. Apparently, my Polytechnic junior Kuriakin Zeng, who’s notoriously labeled now as the “Harvard, Poly reject” is the first Singapore polytechnic student who’ve been offered a place to study in Harvard university.

As I was told by him, he will be doing engineering science in place of liberal arts. Looking back, I remembered him as a humble junior who sought my advice for overseas university applications last autumn, presumably where I guess he was busy with all his university applications. He’s a guru in the electronics engineering lab and almost everyone I talked to in the polytechnic robotics laboratory knows of the legendary Kuriakin. Ironically, I have not met him in person!

He’s all over the Straits times too. Somehow, after reading the article and coffee shop talk among my peers, it gave many an impression of “first” as in the first polytechnic student. Though I think in the context of the article, it’s actually meant only Singapore polytechnic’s first student. So I am not particular sure of the accuracy of the report by Amelia Tan in the papers- I do know of polytechnic students who are studying undergrad in Harvard, so I am not particularly sure of the context of the “first” claim.

Nonetheless, we do have quite alot to learn from these stories. Particularly about rejects, personally I was rejected by NUS and NTU for 2 consecutive years. I never looked back nor accepted any of their offers when I was given the offer to study at my current university. It goes to show that sometimes, there will never be a roadblock on the road. Just keep trying and you will make it in life, and that’s how it should always be.

Well done for Kuriakin, I believe his achievement is not only a milestone for his family and himself, but for the polytechnic as well. My only small gripe is that he broke my polytechnic record for distinctions (which stood for only one short year!) obtained in the polytechnic by only subject (Grrrr) :P.

Strangely somehow I often get pats on back from students in my graduation year (jokingly) comforting me about the shattering of the distinction record, often citing along the lines of: “For your time, you were the best”, well not that it actually bothers me. Haha, guess the old will always have to make in for the new, which can only get better!

Anyway records are meant to be broken right? GO SP!

You can read more on the ST article here.



  1. Hello Shawn, I am from SP EEE and personally know Kuriakin too. While your 32 distinctions of 41 modules is certainly commendable but it does not set a record because it’s not only about number of distinctions. Kuriakin set the record in that he scored distinctions for ALL modules . EEE has many year-long modules so relatively he has fewer modules.

    • Yes indeed, back then there was no one with a perfect distinction score, so 32 DIST was the record set for after the 48th graduation.

      Kuri’s in his own league, having smashed 2 sides to the record then, one for the total number of distinctions (33) and another for his perfect score. 🙂


  2. Yup, Shaun had that genius record too.
    I’m proud that there are many outstanding poly grad are accepted by many prestigious uni in the world. We have prove that poly grad can attend good uni with the scholarship. Poly grad possess the capabilities too!

  3. Hi,I’m also a student at SP currently doing banking and finance and I was wondering if you know whether kuriakin applied to Harvard as a transfer applicant or freshman applicant?

  4. Hi, I am a current student in SP in CLS. What kins of achievements do I need to have a chance at applying for Harvard?

    Also, relieved to learn that many polytechnic graduates are able to attend Ivy League colleges and reaffirms my conviction to strive towards that goal. It has been disheartening as I have been met with a lot of doubt by people I have shared my goal with.

    • Hi Mai, there is no one size fit all answer. Besides good grades to get yourself noticed in the heaps of applications, what I can recommend is, I know Ivy league universities these days love to look out for talented individuals who are natural in contributing back to the University.

      This is so as Singaporeans are currently notoriously known overseas to be largely a consumer- taking up all the As in the exams, graduate, leave the uni and seldom contributing anything back.

      This put us polytechnic grads in a better light, as our studies compared to A-levels are more rounded, with more exposure out of plain dry academical. This could be why more Ivy league unis are accepting more and more poly grads from Singapore these days too. I can say, it’s way alot easier now than my time!

      However, I won’t recommend you to do what people think are “good achievements” required to enter but rather I think you will be the best person to know what you are capable of contributing (besides having excellent grades too).

      Good starters will be a good track record of community work, involvement in a sport, a technology gizmo you built or even helping out your fellow man. The skies the limit.

      Hope this helps, cheers!


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