Felix Deemer has become Elizabeth Moir School’s 7th student in just over a decade to win a place at Harvard, the world’s top ranked university. Classmate Neema Jayasinghe has been offered a place at Cambridge University, the school’s 3rd place at Oxford or Cambridge in two years. With other students already offered places at universities in the world’s top 10 and to study Medicine in the UK, it looks like being another bumper year for the school, even before most US offers are announced on or before 1st April. Elizabeth Moir School has an unrivalled track record of students gaining places at the world’s leading universities and this experience is crucial.
The school has two full-time university advisers and an extensive programme of assistance available to students, from timetabled SAT classes taught by experienced teachers, to mock interviews and help with exams such as BMAT, UKCAT and the Oxbridge TSA. Felix scored 1590 out of a possible 1600 on the SAT and the maximum 800 in his SAT Subject Test in Maths. Neema was advised to apply for an innovative new course in Education, Policy and International Development at Homerton College, as well as benefitting from guidance with the essays she had to submit.
Neema says that she is grateful ‘Not only for the constant guidance with my application, essays and multiple mock interviews but also because it was through the school’s support that I was able to gain the courage to apply. They were with me every step of the way, even if that meant replying to emails at 11 pm.’ Although both Felix and Neema have superb academic records,as would be expected, it is their all-round excellence that gave their applications an extra dimension. When she was at school in Singapore, Neema was ranked 3rd in the country in Public Speaking and was awarded scholarships by the Ministry of Education for her excellence in Drama.
Like the school’s last three students who went to Harvard, Felix is the current Captain of School. He was selected for Sri Lanka’s National Debating Pool and won a Judge’s Award with the school’s team that represented Sri Lanka in last year’s Robotics Olympiad in Mexico City. He says, ‘For US admissions, having a balanced application is essential so Moir, where everyone seems to do everything, is the ideal school. Whenever I wanted to pursue something, the school always provided the opportunity, while teachers were always willing to spend their breaks discussing things you want to learn more about.
It was this that allowed me to develop my interests, helping set my application apart.’ Above all, it is independence and initiative that enable students to stand out from all the other highly qualified applicants. What probably impressed Harvard most was that, when he was only in Grade 9, Felix worked for 5 weeks at the Stanford University Center at Beijing University, while living with a family who did not speak any English at all, in order to improve his Chinese. Neema won the prestigious EAGLES award for leadership after setting up a Community Service platform in her school in Singapore and has set up her own NGO since moving to Sri Lanka.
Head of School, Mrs. Elizabeth Moir MBE, agrees that students must be encouraged to think for themselves and be independent. ‘Too many parents’, she says, ‘think they are helping their children by doing everything for them and micro-managing every second of their lives. What top universities are looking for are students who are used to taking responsibility for themselves and have developed their problem-solving and critical thinking skills by working on their own. Giving students the freedom to think freely, to take the lead in activities, and to learn from their own mistakes is crucial. This is why students from schools like ours are so successful both in winning places at top universities and in their later careers.’