James Lo

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How I’m doing at university and how DBS IB has helped
A few notes on my background: I graduated from DBS IB in 2012 with 43 points, and took a gap year to found a non-profit organisation, Flashpoint, which teaches basic English, debate and public speaking to under-resourced students across Hong Kong. It now manages over 50 tutors and has benefited over 550 students from nearly 30 schools. At the moment, I am studying Government and Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), with a full scholarship awarded by the HKSAR government on a competitive basis.

Studying IB was a turning point in my time at DBS. Prior to that I studied in G9T, a remedial class for students particularly weak in Maths and other subjects. The IB’s emphasis on diversity and critical thinking unlocked my intellectual curiosity, and gave me vital tools for university and beyond. The large volume of essays, focused on evaluating instead of regurgitating concepts in a structured manner, has made writing university essays far less formidable. DBS’ vast diversity of extra-curricular activities, combined with the IB’s openness to diverse talent through CAS, allowed me to experiment with time management (with occasional failures!), particularly between leading teams in music, debate, drama, student government and maintaining academics. Those torturous days continue to inspire me as I debate for LSE internationally, and lead in the Finance and International Relations societies. The IB’s rigour across academic and non-academic fields is a perfect match for DBS’ holistic educational philosophy – it built a platform which allowed me to discover and realise my vision.

Advice for potential students

  • Academics: Move above and beyond the textbook, create your own notes and read independently. Start from the first day in IB and build up your notes folders so that you have a handy reference for exams, and always attempt relating concepts across Chapters, particularly in subjects such as Economics and History.
  • Extra-curriculars: Don’t be afraid to seize opportunities. Moving out of your comfort zone might seem like a gigantic gamble at first, and you may sacrifice some academic strength in the short term, but learning to manage your time and multi-task is crucial. Once you do, you unlock a huge diversity of exciting ventures that help you construct your own identity.
Updates from James Lo in 2018

To many, DBS is more than a school – it is an identity, a set of values for life. IB was an ideal expression of those values: freedom of thought; diversity of people and of knowledge; a delicate balance between academics and extra-curricular activities. DBS IB was a transformative experience for me, and I hope it will be for many of you too.

A bit about me

I graduated from DBS in 2012 with 43 points (just above average given how well our boys do nowadays!), and went on a gap year to found a non-profit for underprivileged students. We reached over 400 students per year, drawing from a wide network of support including the Chief Justice of Hong Kong, Google’s Empowering Young Entrepreneurs programme, Amnesty International and many other patrons and organisations. I then went to study Government at the London School of Economics, graduating with First Class Honours and top of the year in British Government, as a Sir Edward Youde Memorial Overseas Scholar. 

Throughout my university years I was heavily politically active, serving as president of the Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society and the Hong Kong Overseas Alliance during the Umbrella Movement, and later as president of the Finance Society, the largest careers society on campus at the time. 

Today, I work in the London office of McKinsey & Company, a management consultancy, where I mainly serve clients in consumer, retail and the social sector across Europe and Southeast Asia. I remain passionate about education and social impact, and my story and writings have been published widely across Apple Daily, Ming Pao, The Stand News, SCMP and other local and international news media.

How IB helped

IB was the turning point of my DBS life. Prior to that I studied in G9T, a remedial class for students particularly weak in Maths and other subjects. The IB’s emphasis on diversity and critical thinking unlocked my intellectual curiosity, and gave me vital tools for university and beyond. The large volume of essays, focused on evaluating instead of regurgitating concepts in a structured manner, made writing university essays far less formidable. DBS’ vast diversity of extra-curricular activities, combined with the IB’s openness to diverse talent through CAS, allowed me to experiment with time management (with occasional failures!), particularly between leading teams in music, debate, drama, student government and maintaining academics. Those torturous days helped me balance between academics, political activism and presiding two societies at the same time throughout university. The focus on critical thought, or ‘having an opinion’, helped shape my current career developing strategic recommendations for clients across different industries. The IB’s rigour across academic and non-academic fields is a perfect match for DBS’ holistic educational philosophy – it built a platform which allowed me to discover and realise my vision, which has translated to an early career at the intersection of commercial and social impact.

My advice to current and future IB boys

  • Don’t follow the herd: Hong Kong has a rigid social hierarchy that often dictates certain ‘paths to success’. Law, economics and medicine are noble and important professions with relative career stability (that certainly helps!), but you should never feel confined by social expectations for what someone of your calibre and talent should do. You alone know where your passions lie – success will come when you find the delicate balance between passion and pragmatism.
  • Discover who you are and what you stand for: Secondary school is the ideal time to ponder who you are. You can experiment across a wide range of interests without lasting consequences. Pay attention to your calling – what animates you, angers you, energises and motivates you – those will form the ingredients of your future.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail: Your failures today matter far less than you think. In a decade’s time, you won’t remember the test you failed or the competition you lost, but you will take the lessons you learnt away from them, and the friends you make will be for life. Keep trying, keep failing, keep learning – and keep your friendships and memories close to your heart.