Spike Stories is a new series of articles showcasing the students who got into highly selective US colleges.
Passion: Design & Technology
Spike: TEDx, The Hoverboard Guys & PKGamma Digital Agency
- UIUC, Special Engineering Program (class of 2021)
- Taiwan Schooling: Home-schooled in Taipei (class of 2017)
Philip Kuo got into a competitive US engineering undergraduate degree program (< 15% acceptance rate and ranked #6 by US News) not just because of his top academic scores and dynamic personality but because of his unique experiences and achievements — his Spike!
Philip is a very entrepreneurial and resourceful young man, as demonstrated by his achievements. Up and through middle school he went to normal, public Taiwanese schools and spent almost all his time studying for exams. But in the beginning of high school, he decided to do a year long study exchange program in the US. During this year he found his passion in entrepreneurship, design, and technology. He realized that there are other paths to education and personal development besides the path dictated by the education system in Taiwan. When he came back, he decided (with his family’s support) to be home-schooled, but he kept a close connection to his former school and teachers — who continued to support him throughout high school.
He spent a year organizing Taiwan’s first TEDx event in public high schools at his previous school, which inspired many people and unleashed a wave of new mostly youth-led TEDx events throughout the country. He started a film-making club, and, starting during his year in the US, he launched and maintained an exchange student blog (of more than 80 articles) that grew in popularity and, at its peak, had 2,800 monthly pageviews.
He co-founded a successful company, called The Hoverboard Guys, that imported into Taiwan the safest hoverboards in the market. They generated revenues of NTD 380,000.
Junior year he founded a Digital Agency, called PKGamma Digital Agency, that develops websites and build e-commerce and digital marketing for clients. As a freshman at UIUC, he is still running this company remotely, and it’s helping him pay for college.
Going abroad at an early age exposed Philip to different ways of thinking, and it and pushed him to do some soul-searching. This helped him find his passion in entrepreneurship, design, and technology at an earlier age than most people. He realized that he can pursue what he wants to and when he does, he thrives! With this realization and newfound confidence from going abroad, he came back and pursued this passion vigorously throughout the rest of high school resulting in numerous ambitious projects (Spikes). When the time came to apply to UIUC’s selective ‘undefined major’ engineering program that only let’s in ~100 students per year and is ranked 6th in the country, their admissions team saw what we clearly see: a highly motivated and self-directed young man who has forged his own path forward in the world, who has accomplished a lot and would bring his unique experience and special perspective to their community.
But you should also take away that this wasn’t easy for him. He said, “I didn’t think I’d succeed, but I tried it out.” He wasn’t afraid of failure in part because he realized what so few students realize: the risk is actually not very large because even if the project fails, the experience is very rich and full of transformative learning.