15-year-old entering UBC this year wins $80,000 scholarship

He may be 15 years old, about to enter university, and the winner of an $80,000 scholarship, but Cheng Xie doesn’t think he’s *that* smart.

“I did an IQ test for the program. I didn’t score that well. My math is pretty good, but my memory is horrible, it’s below average,” says Xie.

“It’s not all about natural talent. You can be disadvantaged in natural talent but you can still pull through if you work hard.”

Xie has certainly worked hard to become the youngest winner of the Schulich Leader Scholarship. It’s given to 40 students in Canada each year, who beginning university programs in sciences and engineering.

“My parents were ecstatic, but after I considered it all, I realized I was just on that path of what I had done before, working towards this scholarship,” he said.

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“It was the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel keeps on going.”

Xie was born in Germany, but his family lived in China and Germany in many cities before settling in Canada in 2012 – a path he says helped foster his personality.

“We moved all the time, and I’m always the guy that’s new. But the more I moved, the more I got comfortable adopting to new situations,” he said.

“The first time it was really socially awkward, but as time went on, after each move I got more comfortable. It’s not just a challenge but it really taught me about myself, how I can achieve success wherever I go.”

Xie became hooked on science after his first Science Fair in Grade 4, and recently built a software program that can recognize handwriting and turn it into a text file.

He’ll begin his applied science degree at UBC in a matter of weeks, and knows that he’ll need to focus to continue his growth.

“You can actually compress the coursework quite easily and I was able to fit quite a few extracurriculars into my spare time as well. I don’t think that’ll be the case in university.”

Just don’t call him smart.

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“Smart is a very subjective term. Smart is different for each person. I think everyone is smart in some way,” he says.

“It’s definitely true that I’ve had the fortune of really, really good parents that were able to nourish my passion. A lot of people are caught in a trap where they can’t find what they want to do early enough and I’ve had the great opportunity to have the support of my community and parents to pursue what I love to do.”