The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Meet the Interviewee: Kyle Tam

Kyle Tam Headshot

Kyle Tam is not your typical recent high school grad. Like the majority of his classmates, Kyle graduated this past June from Loyola Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario. Unlike his peers, however, Kyle emerged with a 99% average on his transcript. This got him the Governor General Academic Medal, which is awarded to graduating high school students with the top average in their years. I had the opportunity to interview Kyle about his tips for achieving and maintaining outrageously high grades.

What was your average at the end of high school?

“At the end of high school, my average was a 99.17%.”

What kinds of courses did you take?

“Some of the courses that I took included English, Physics, Chemistry, Advanced Functions, and Calculus. These were all required for me to get into my program at the University of Waterloo (Mechatronics Engineering). But my school offered some other interesting courses, so I ended up taking a full eight courses by also doing Philosophy, Extended French, and Computer Engineering Technology as well.”

What do you believe most enabled you to win the Governor General Academic Medal and why?

“I think it would be a combination of both my work ethic and my ability to focus. Since starting high school, I developed a pretty good work ethic. Each year I kind of improved on the last, getting myself ready for Grade 12 when the marks would really count. My ability to focus was also a part of it. It may sound kind of counter-intuitive, but to focus I often devoted part of the time just for procrastinating. I know that I’m the kind of person who can’t work for long stretches of time. That’s why I always made sure to give myself little breaks in between study/work sessions, although I made sure to keep track of the time of course.”

What tips would you give high school students looking to achieve and maintain a high average?

  1. Have a schedule. It doesn’t have to be too specific, because, yeah, life happens, but doing so really improves your time management. These come in real handy especially when you have other commitments like clubs or a part-time job.
  2. Know your goals. During the months when you’re applying to university, the stress of applications coupled with school work and assessments was a big source of anxiety for me. By knowing my goals and sticking to them, I felt motivated enough to power through it all.
  3. Do some extracurriculars. In Grade 12, marks may be important, but on a lot of applications, extracurriculars are often asked for as well – and this is the opportunity where you can truly shine. In a way, they can be a way to relieve stress.
  4. Get some sleep during the week. I know a lot of people who powered it through the weekdays and just crashed on weekends. Not only was this unhealthy, but it didn’t produce stellar results, so please don’t do it.”

Trying to achieve and maintain a high average school can be difficult and stressful. What strategies did you use to cope with stress and keep yourself motivated?

“Hobbies are very important. Even though you may be anxious about your applications, I can’t stress how important it is to continue having a life. I honestly don’t think I would have done anywhere near as well as I did in Grade 12 without my piano playing and my novels. Also, studying is not an excuse to shut out your families/friends. They are your support system. And believe or not, they’re probably just as anxious as you – both for you and yourself.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add or mention?

“Have faith in yourself. Obviously don’t be overconfident in yourself, but a lot of people often don’t shoot high enough just because they don’t believe they can. Sometimes you just need to take a chance and see where it gets you – because you never know.”