Northern California high school grad rejected by 16 colleges hired by Google

Zhong had a 3.97 unweighted and 4.42 weighted GPA, scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SATs.

ByKristen Sze KGO logo
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Bay Area high school grad rejected by 16 colleges, hired by Google
Stanley Zhong is a graduate of Gunn High School in Palo Alto who was hired by Google as a software engineer after 16 colleges rejected him.

SAN FRANCISCO -- College admissions decisions disappoint thousands of high-achieving students each year, but one Northern California teen's story is catching the attention of Congress.

Stanley Zhong, 18, is a 2023 graduate of Gunn High School in Palo Alto.

Despite earning 3.97 unweighted and 4.42 weighted GPA, scoring 1590 out of 1600 on the SATs and launching his own e-signing startup RabbitSign in sophomore year, he was rejected by 16 out of the 18 colleges he applied to.

But Zhong was recently hired by Google. He just started his new job this week. He and his father Nan Zhong appeared on this station's sister station ABC7 News' 3 p.m. weekday newscast, "Getting Answers," and talked about his improbable journey with ABC7 News Anchor Kristen Sze.

Kristen Sze: "I'm just wondering how you felt as each of these letters came in saying 'no, thank you, Stanley'"?

Stanley Zhong: "Oh, well, some of them were certainly expected. You know, Stanford, MIT, you know, it's, it is what it is, right?...Some of the state schools I really thought, you know, I had a good chance and turns out a bit of a chance I had, I didn't get in."

But shortly after the wave of rejections, he was offered a full-time software engineering role by Google, one of the world's top tech companies.

On Sept. 28, Zhong's story was brought up by a witness testifying at the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing. The goal of the hearing was to consider how this summer's Supreme Court decision banning affirmative action in college admissions is shaping university policies, policies that confound Zhong and his father.

Although Zhong recognizes that elite college admissions is complicated and his pool of Silicon Valley computer science major applicants is highly competitive, he admits to being surprised.

He was denied by: MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, UCSB, UC Davis, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cornell University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, Georgia Tech, Caltech, University of Washington and University of Wisconsin.

His only acceptances: University of Texas and University of Maryland.

College admissions experts frequently tell applicants that schools with an under 5% acceptance rate like MIT and Stanford are reaches for almost everyone, but Zhong was even denied by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which has a middle 50% GPA of 4.13-4.25 for admitted engineering students.

His father shared the story on some parent chat groups and blogs, and it's gone viral amid the national conversation on elite college admissions. Acknowledging that Zhong may have simply been extraordinarily unlucky, his family says they're sharing his story to spark conversation about making college admissions more transparent.

As for the 18-year-old Google software engineer, he had decided to enroll at the University of Texas but put that on hold when he got the Google job offer.

As for whether college is still in the cards, he says maybe. For now, he's enjoying himself, not on a college campus, but the Google campus.

You can watch Zhong's interview in the video media player above