MANILA — Filipino high school student Carl Audric Guia had hoped to get a scholarship from at least one university in the US to ensure he could pursue his interest in astronomy.
But the results exceeded his ambition.
During the so-called "Ivy Day" on March 31, 2023 (Philippine time), Guia received e-mails saying he has been accepted to Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. The next day, Stanford also confirmed he has been given a slot. All those 4 institutions offered him full scholarships.
And in early March, he qualified for the Glynn Family Honors Program and Stamps Scholars Program at the University of Notre Dame.
"I was really in disbelief. I really couldn't believe that something like this happened to me. That day was just, I was on cloud 9," 17-year-old Guia told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview on Wednesday.
"People around me were saying that my life has changed already, and to be honest it hadn't sunk in yet."
Guia, a student from the University of the Philippines Rural High School in Los Baños, Laguna, was motivated to study in the US because of the "limited options" in the Philippines when it comes to the field of astronomy.
His interest in space began when he got access to his grandmother's encyclopedia and browsed them during his free time.
"I would always be mesmerized by the pages that have astronomy-related stuff to them so I would actively look for the galaxies, for the stars, for the planets," he said.
"That curiosity as a child built up through the years."
Guia described the application process as a "very stressful time." As the exams neared, he would regularly take a 4-hour test every weekend. "I did that for around 8 to 10 weeks," he said.
On top of that, he had to submit multiple essays and attend interviews.
Every university he applied to required students to submit 650-word personal statements. "And then there were also supplemental essays that are unique to each school," he added.
It all paid off.
Aside from the full financial support, allowance, food, transportation, and lodging will be shouldered by the universities. He would also get health insurance during his 4 years of stay, he said.
But Guia has a good problem: He had to decide which university to join on or before the May 1 deadline.
Guia said US universities are also interested in the applicants' personality, passion, and their vision for the world.
He told those who want to pursue studies abroad to figure out their other interests so "you can tell them that I'm not just an academic person but... I can offer my talent, my interest, and the impact you want to make wherever you want to go."
Guia also credited the guidance he received from organizations such as CAUSE Philippines and EducationUSA during his application.
"If you feel like you don't know where to start, the internet is a very good place to get help," he said.
"And you can always find organizations of people who are willing to help and take a risk with you."