School Advisor Articles

From elc to Harvard: Thamini Vijeyasingam’s Journey to Ivy League Excellence

Published by SchoolAdvisor | Apr 09, 2024

How does one feel when they gain acceptance to Harvard University? Excitement, gratitude and a whirlwind of emotions — these are just some of the feelings that wash over a student upon receiving a coveted acceptance letter from Harvard University.

Or you could just ask Thamini Vijeyasingam, who has successfully gained admission to this Ivy League institution.

“The first feeling was really shocking. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing and I definitely felt overwhelmed, but in a quiet sense. I think that was very quickly followed by disbelief and gratitude, and I’d say the excitement really kicked in a few days later.”

Thamini’s strong foundation was laid at elc International School and Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL). Throughout her formative years at elc, from primary to secondary education, Thamini thrived in a nurturing environment that fostered a love for learning, strong communication skills and a commitment to excellence — all qualities that undoubtedly impressed Harvard’s admissions committee.

Supportive Teachers, Engaging Lessons

The teachers at elc were, without a doubt, some of the most supportive and engaging educators Thamini had encountered. They were passionate about their subjects and went above and beyond to make lessons fun and interactive.

“I have many fond memories of working on science projects for class, playing with batteries and circuits, and putting on plays and shows for class performances.”

Science classes with Ms Fiona were a particular highlight, where exciting projects or captivating videos introduced new chapters, fostering a sense of curiosity and a love for learning in all the students.

elc’s focus extended beyond academics. Regularly scheduled field trips expose students to diverse environments. From exploring the underwater world at aquariums to witnessing the rice-making process at a paddy field, these trips broaden their horizons and instill an appreciation for the world outside the classroom walls.

Departmental days were a highlight, where students from different year groups collaborated on creative projects across various disciplines. From designing costumes for Performing Arts Day to building structures such as bridges and rockets during Maths, Science and Technology Day, these events fostered creativity, teamwork and the ability to apply classroom knowledge in practical ways.

Thamini was a Head Prefect and Head of the Yearbook Committee as well as part of the elc's debate and MUN team.

Building Communication Skills Through Debate and MUN

Thamini’s time at elc was also enriched by her active participation in co-curricular activities (CCAs). Debate and Model United Nations (MUN) were particularly impactful, providing a platform to delve into global issues. Ms Shaalini and Ms Iris, her MUN teachers, played a pivotal role in her development.

“We had the chance to represent the school at international MUNs, namely FOBISIA MUN. We had time during and even after school hours to train and ensure we were well-prepared to excel at these competitions. I’m very grateful to both of them for the support and coaching they provided me.”

Participating in CCAs equipped Thamini with a strong foundation in communication and the opportunity to explore diverse interests. From Eco Club to basketball and sewing, these activities allowed her to discover new hobbies and passions. Adding another feather to her cap, Thamini also served as a Head Prefect, leading a team of 30 prefects, overseeing their daily duties and conducting weekly meetings.

Collaborative Effort Leads to IGCSE Success

Thamini's stellar IGCSE results, with straight A*s, were a product of the exceptional support she received from both teachers and peers. “I scored 10 A*s in my ICGSEs, for Malay, English, Maths, Additional Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, History and Business Studies.”

The teachers went above and beyond, offering consultations outside class hours and providing valuable feedback. Her classmates were a source of constant motivation, creating a healthy environment fostering competition and collaboration. Even when the pandemic necessitated online learning in her final year, the teachers ensured their students’ learning was consolidated and thoroughly tested.

At MCKL, Thamini benefitted from supportive teachers who were always available to answer queries and even organised extra lessons when needed.

MCKL: A Rigorous Academic Environment

For her A-Levels, Thamini transitioned to MCKL. The environment here was demanding, with a rigorous academic schedule focused on studying and completing assignments. However, the supportive faculty made a significant difference. Teachers were readily available to answer questions and even organised extra lessons when needed.

“I have fond memories of my Physics classes with Mr Ben, who would put in effort to teach us physics concepts through physical projects or group work and experiments, which made it all the more enjoyable.”

Besides that, Mr Samuel, her Further Maths teacher, took the initiative by organising exam-like sessions. These practice sessions, designed to mirror real exams with varying difficulty levels, proved invaluable in building her mental resilience for the actual exams.

The result? Thamini scored 4A*s for her A-Level Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Economics and Physics.

When it came to the university application process, the teachers were immensely helpful — something Thamini can attest to. “I am very grateful to my lecturers and counsellor, Mr Joshua, for their support throughout the process. They helped review many of my essays and wrote the reference letters for my application. Even though I took a gap year and had graduated, they were very supportive and continued to speak with me and provided guidance throughout the year.”

Despite the academic intensity, MCKL offered a vibrant student life. Even in the post-pandemic era, many active clubs and societies provided opportunities for extracurricular engagement. Thamini herself participated in the Student Union, relishing the chance to organise events for her fellow A-Level peers. Her contributions included supporting orientation programmes, overseeing Project X (which included a Fashion Week and an online game session called ‘Sotong Games’), and overseeing All Clubs Day, a three-day fair where student clubs promoted their activities to new intakes.

Thamini actively participated in debate and Model United Nations (MUN) from primary through secondary school, attending numerous inter-school MUN conferences to hone her skills.

Internship at FMT News

After her A-Levels, Thamini interned at FMT News for six months — her first foray into the media world. After seeing a former student organisation colleague intern there, she secured this opportunity through a cold email. 

“As my first major internship, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at FMT. The world of media was exciting to experience, with a very fast-paced and dynamic environment.”

As part of the business team, she gained valuable insights into economics and politics. The trust and support from her editors, MK and Guan Jin, along with the other reporters on the team, made the experience all the more enriching.

Gaining admission to Harvard University

After her studies, Thamini took a gap year for a few reasons.

“Chief among them was to spend time exploring my interests and discovering potential careers. For example, it gave me the time to prepare for, study and qualify for the International Economic Olympiad. Besides that, I wanted to spend more time at home and with my family.” 

Shortly after, she got offers from other universities, including Warwick, Leeds and Oxford. She was contemplating these choices when the biggest of them all — Harvard — knocked on her door. Her choice of taking a gap year ultimately proved to be a fruitful one, as she has now landed an offer from Harvard University. She plans to pursue Economics with Politics and Philosophy there.

During her time at MCKL, Thamini participated in an essay competition where she won the consolation prize.

elc and MCKL: A Nurturing Ground for Values and Skills

Looking back, Thamini believes elc has instilled a strong work ethic, perseverance and the importance of commitment in her. The school fostered a sense of curiosity and encouraged her to seek help when needed. But most importantly, it nurtured her confidence and ability to speak up and present herself in front of an audience.

Her leadership skills were also honed thanks to the environment at elc, where the motto of the Prefectorial Board was ‘learn to aspire.’ The school provided numerous opportunities to learn from role models and develop the ability to work effectively in teams.

“Above all, I’m really grateful for the people who were there for me, both at elc and MCKL. I feel very, very lucky to have met teachers who were so dedicated and invested in my success, as well as good friends I knew I could always lean on. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that support system.”