PETALING JAYA, April 15 ― Two Malaysian students made headlines after being accepted into Harvard University, beating more than 50,000 applicants.

Jarell Cheong Tze Wen from Kuala Lumpur and Muhammad Hamdi Ahmad Hakimi from Kuantan will join the institution’s undergraduate class of 2025.

A press release by Harvard Club of Malaysia on Twitter stated that this year, Harvard College marked its lowest admission rate in its 385-year history, accepting only 1968 students out of 57,435 students who had applied for admission.

Cheong completed his secondary school education and A-levels in Kuala Lumpur’s SMK Seri Bintang Utara and Sunway College while Muhammad Hamdi graduated from SM Sains Alam Shah in Kuala Lumpur before pursuing his A-levels in Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar.


TMC Life Sciences Berhad group chief executive officer (CEO) and Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara CEO Wan Nadiah said that while Cheong has represented Malaysia in dance, Mathematics and chess, Muhammad Hamdi is a debater who gives tuition to secondary school students.


She described Muhammad Hamdi as more philosophical, discussing his worldviews and opinions on current affairs.

Cheong, on the other hand, is a rare individual who has excelled in multiple platforms including scoring all As in his Cambridge International Exams.

“The KL-born represented Malaysia in the SEA Games Dancesport events and also competed under the Malaysian flag in the Asian Pacific Mathematical Olympiad and international chess tournaments.

“What’s interesting about him is that he has found a way to continue his passions despite the Covid-19 restrictions.

“He also started teaching dance classes to youths aged 7 to 14 over Zoom in the past year and pursued his interest in Mathematics independently, exploring beyond the A-levels curriculum to explore proof-based math.”

Meanwhile, Khazanah Nasional Berhad research head and alumni interviewer Nick Khaw added that Muhammad Hamdi’s story is an inspiring one as he had many challenging experiences including working several jobs to make ends meet.

Muhammad Hamdi also went to boarding school to lessen the burden of his family.

“This led him to observe and think deeply about the world around him, and read voraciously from Noam Chomsky to Za’aba.

“He also channeled his energy into several areas including learning to speak English by participating in debate competitions at the age 14 and devoting his time and efforts to mentor students in rural schools and teaching debate.”

Khaw was happy that both Cheong and Muhammad Hamdi were chosen to pursue their studies in Harvard College.

Khaw added that the duo, like many other Malaysian Harvard college alumni who went through the public education system, have demonstrated that it is possible to gain entry into an Ivy League school if one has the talent and drive for it.

“We want to see more and more Malaysian undergraduate students represented at Harvard.”

At Harvard, Cheong plans to major in Mathematics while Muhammad Hamdi wants to further his studies in Economics.