Now at Cornell University, the recent grad is characteristically modest about the rare achievement.
“I was going for a 7 [the top score] in every course, but I didn’t expect everything to work out,” says Liu from his residence in Ithaca, New York. “I feel really lucky; I didn’t run into any extremely difficult problems I hadn’t already practiced.”
Although the perfect score could be seen as game-changing, it didn’t affect Liu’s university plans; neither did the full scholarship he was offered by the University of Toronto or his acceptances to the University of Cambridge and Caltech. Liu had already set his sights on Ivy League school Cornell, where he can embrace both natural beauty and curricular diversity. His acceptance had come through months before the International Baccalaureate exams.
Liu cites the belief of Cornell’s founder, Ezra Cornell, that "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study," as one of the reasons the school appeals to him.
“I see it in how the school works,” he says. “The things people study here are so diverse and people are really well-rounded. I like that. You can take different courses and really explore your interests on this beautiful campus.”
One of Liu’s interests is computer science, so it didn’t hurt that Cornell is ranked highest among all the Ivy League schools in that regard. He’s leaning towards a degree in computer science or electrical engineering, something that probably doesn’t surprise his fellow UCC alumni. In Year 12, Liu was the leader of four clubs, among them the Math Society, where he helped math teacher Mr. Walker introduce the annual house math tournament and put together a UCC team to enter the Harvard-MIT Math Tournament; and the Coding and Algorithms Academy. (The other two were the outdoors club and student news publication Convergence.)
“[Design chair] Mr. Miskew inspired me to get into coding in Year 8 and we worked together to grow the club into UCC’s largest STEM club,” Liu says. “It has four sections, each with a different focus: algorithms, cyber-security, data science and project development (web- and game-development). As I was leaving UCC, I had to be sure I had put a good transition plan in place.”
As he settles into life in Western New York, Liu reflects on how well the College prepared him for university.
“The rigour of the IB program is similar to what I’m experiencing now,” he says. “Even if you keep up with all of your work, sometimes you’re lucky if you know how to solve 60- to 70-per cent of the problems on exams. Also, the IB experience at UCC taught me time management, researching skills and learning strategies. Basically, I was taking university-level courses of study in high school.
“I also learned from UCC that success is all about a balance in life, so I’ll try to get involved in some career-related clubs here and some for personal interest.”
Meanwhile, he’s simply soaking up the new experience.
“I’m actually closer to home than many of the students who come from New York City and New Jersey,” Liu says. “I get a great international experience while not being too far away.”