Singapore — Allan Wu fits the typical bill of a strict Asian father, now supporting his teenage daughter, Sage Wu, who turns 17 in September to enrol into an Ivy League School, Stanford, or at least the University of California, Berkeley, which is Wu’s alma mater.
The actor-host pushes his children to run laps with him under the hot sun when they were younger and enthusiastically encouraged them to join sports.
Sage is currently in her first year of the International Baccalaureate program at SJI International School in Singapore which she has attended, together with her 15-year-old brother Jonas, since she was in pre-school.
Wu shared that his daughter does not just do well academically but does well in sports and art too. This paves the way for her to get into the top universities.
However, getting into Stanford, Harvard or Oxford is not that easy. To enter an Ivy League school, just getting straight As doesn’t cut it. You may not be accepted into those hallowed halls even if you get top grades, are the captain of your school basketball team, a talented swimmer and sprinter, and have channelled your artistic talent towards raising money to support victims of the Yemen Humanitarian Crisis. These are all part of Sage’s many achievements.
Besides having perfect credentials, you need a little extra push from folks who know how it all works and professionals who can help you close the gap and seal the deal. Wu was interviewed by 8days.sg about getting Sage into a top university.
He said that it is more complicated in America compared to Singapore. America has the most complicated, most demanding and most difficult college application process. Wu has gone through it himself too. He said it is probably because the market is so big, the population is diverse with so many different ethnicities, social backgrounds, and people from different parts of America
Wu added that he is totally biased but these are the most prestigious universities in the world, schools that everyone has heard of and it is even harder to go in now. In the past, you just need a really good SAT score but now it is more competitive with people from all around the world — from China, India, and Singapore — applying for these US universities.
Every kid’s score is way up there. Let’s say there is a space open and 10 kids have the same test score and a ridiculous, astronomical GPA, or grade point average. How does one kid stand out from the rest? What has this kid done with his life, beyond just the grades, that makes him unique or more attractive, you know, to MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, or even Berkeley? Wu said that that is where they are trying to find that edge.
Wu hopes that the edge comes from a university admissions consultancy and a mentoring company called Crimson Education, which has a Singapore office.
They would provide highly-individualised support in every aspect of the application process — from university selection strategy, test prep, personal statement support, to extracurricular mentoring and interview practice — and help pave the way for Sage, when she graduates from SJI International in 2022, to gain admission to the university of her dreams.
Wu thinks Sage’s dream university is Stanford at this point in time but he wants to brainwash her to go to his alma mater, Berkeley. Stanford is one of those schools that if you go to, everyone will see you differently, said Wu. Sage is interested in aerospace, rocket science and computer science and she just really wants to use her brain. It is opposed to Wu wanting her to be a basketball player or do something in entertainment. At this stage, based on her academic results and her background, personality and profile, Wu would say she maybe has an 80 per cent, possibly 90 per cent chance, of getting into a top tier school by herself.
Wu is working with Crimson Education to give Sage that extra 10 per cent or 20 per cent she needs. If Wu can increase Sage chances, then why not make that sacrifice and make that investment, make that choice as a parent. Wu said that if they did not do this programme and Sage got into a lower-tier school, he will always wonder to himself what if he had done it.
The “sacrifice” and “investment” we’re talking about can go up to $50K for Crimson’s full comprehensive package, though Wu says he got the $20K one. And yes, he did pay for it, though he got a nice little discount ’cos he’s, well, Allan Wu. In return, he will help promote their services and extol the advantages of shelling out for a university admissions consultancy.
Despite Wu complaining that the private school fees for both Sage and Jonas are exorbitant over the years, he and his ex-wife Lilin insisted on sending their kids to private schools. The couple divorced six years ago. Wu concedes that the kids’ expensive private school education has put them in good stead. He thinks that local and international schools have their own pros and cons in terms of the development of the child beyond the classroom and beyond studying.
He thinks that Sage would have thrived in a local school setting, and academically, local and international schools are on par, but it is the other things, like being able to articulate their thoughts well, being creative and having good social skills, being confident, those other kinds of skills that aren’t necessarily on paper, that Wu can see a bigger disparity.
According to Wu, international schools are not cheap with at least SGD2,000 a month per child now and that does not include school supplies, trips and all that other stuff. If he was going to invest in something in his life, he wants to invest in his children. He wants to make sure he does whatever he can to help them, to clear a path to a very fulfilling, happy and productive life for the future. He has been paying for their education himself while his ex-wife pays for living expenses and food and rent and all that.
Wu handles the big-ticket items like school fees and he has been paying through his nose for the school fees since kindergarten. The actor-host said that he has been really blessed with work and that he is grateful to have the opportunity to travel and see the world and to work in China. He thinks that’s a testament to his own college education, having that confidence because he went to a good school, and being able to work in a very diverse and unpredictable type of environment. There are times when it has been challenging, but, overall, he has been really lucky where he has been able to meet these very, very high living costs and educational costs. The China projects are really helping to pay the bills and all that.
Wu added that he is busting his ass and he will do whatever he can to ensure that he can meet these fees, to make sure that his children go to a good school and very good university. He realised along the way what is important, through the divorce and through life, and for him, the most important thing has always been being a father to these children. Wu said he can just eat rice and live in a cardboard box as long as they are taken care of.
Wu said that he hardly sees his children nowadays. He sees them maybe once a week or twice sometimes on the weekends. His children are older now and they are busy. They have homework, their own friends, video games — they’d rather just do other stuff. They do a lot of their own thing with their mum too, and Wu don’t live with them.
It’s not always easy for him. They’re also very independent kids — it’s good and it’s bad. He kind of wish they relied on him more, but he is also happy that they can do their own thing. And when he does see them, they’re all up on their phones, talking to their friends or reading, stuff like that. It’s not the kind of quality time Wu used to have when the kids were younger when Wu was the centre of the universe. It’s so sad, lamented Wu.
He said if they don’t want to hang out with him, it’s fine. He is always bugging them and messaging them while they ghost him always. He said that at least they know that he has always wanted to be a part of their lives. He does not want to be that parent that was always off chasing skirts, drinking or partying.
As much as they want to blow Wu off, that’s fine. But for himself, at least he knows that as a father, he has always been here. He just wants to do what he can and help them. And if they need him for anything, like for education and all, he is not too far.” /TISG
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