Ian Zhou

During my sophomore year when COVID was at its peak, my family was planning to move to Orlando. After Mr. Lindsay, SAS’s Silver Knight coordinator, reached out to me and my parents, we changed our minds to stay in Miami and attend SAS. As it turned out, this was the best decision I made in my life.

Don’t let the academic rigor of this school discourage you. Some may tell you that SAS is difficult, while others may claim that it is not a real high school experience. As someone who has heard both, I can firmly and proudly tell you that SAS is more than a high school experience: it is a strongly-bonded family of some of the most kind, ambitious, and silly people I have ever met.

SAS is challenging, but just the right amount to balance life and keep you sharp. You may worry that you will lose free time; I am telling you that you will wake up every day so inspired that you will be itching to do something amazing with your time. Our events are meticulously planned by Activities Director Ms. Montiel, filling the years with potlucks, ice cream socials, talent shows, picnics, dances, and regular trips to Universal Studios and Busch Gardens. To top it all off, you have extremely caring faculty and staff who make sure nobody falls behind.

Only at SAS will you have a principal that gives drum solos at talent shows.

Only at SAS will you have a part-time guardian angel as your counselor (shoutout to Ms. Martinez!), supporting you no matter what happens.

Only at SAS will you have an APUSH teacher (Mr. P!) that goes all-out for in-class battle reenactments, a Math teacher (Mrs. Daire!) who gifts math shirts, book recommendations, and TI-84 calculators, and an English teacher (Mrs. Cabrera!) who dedicates almost every hour to proofreading your college essays and writing your recommendation letters.

Only at SAS will you find your teachers and mental health professionals ready to talk at a moment’s notice.

Only at SAS will you have the physical freedom to study anywhere on campus such as in the library, in breezeways and tree-shaded outdoors, adjacent to teacher offices, and be able to grab something from the medley of local restaurants to go.

Only at SAS will you experience the academic freedom that allowed me to take Developmental Psychology, Calculus 3, Differential Equations, and Statistics in the same semester.

I came to SAS as a nervous and eager junior, wanting to find friends and adjust to a new school. My expectations were exceeded in almost every way; I made dozens of amazingly talented and ambitious close friends, created my own service project with inspiration from Mr. Lindsay to win a Silver Knight Honorable Mention in Mathematics, and won the National Merit Scholarship, among other achievements with the support of my second family. I am now leaving SAS as a tearfully proud graduate, with my AA degree from MDC in tow.

Congrats on making it this far! That is a sign you are for SAS as most people would have stopped reading long ago. And just in case you were wondering, I was not paid to make this testimony. However, UF is paying me to attend!

In the end, SAS is what you make of it. For me, it was best two years of my life thus far. If you are like the junior me who was eager, nervous, and somewhat timid, I encourage you to make the leap. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  Take this shot. It is the best investment you can make.

Ian Zhou
School for Advanced Studies Wolfson Campus, Class of 2023
University of Florida, Class of 2025