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Junior Christopher Perez Accepted into Columbia University Science Honors Program


Chelsea Nakhleh '21

28 January 2020

Last summer, junior Christopher Perez was accepted into the distinguished Columbia University Science Honors Program. Perez attends a weekly Saturday class, via Zoom, hosted by the Ivy League school. His acceptance is a result of Perez’s hard work and dedication to not only the science field, but all his classes. Christopher Perez outside of Columbia University; property of Christopher Perez

Perez found the program while searching for challenging opportunities in the STEM field. “I was looking online; I wanted to find some STEM opportunities in the area. I found this free program and decided to apply,” explained Perez. “It seemed like a cool opportunity and was taught by STEM professors in Columbia.” 

Completing the application was an extensive process. Perez submitted his application in March of 2020. Applicants sent their transcripts and provided a recommendation letter from a science or math teacher. Mr. William Phillian, Perez’s chemistry teacher, fulfilled that requirement. The application was then followed by an essay prompt in which applicants explained why STEM interests them.

After completing the first part of the application, Perez sat for a three hour exam. The exam, which took place in May, is the most difficult part of the application process. It includes two math sections and one science section, with material from biology, chemistry, and physics.

This was Perez’s second time applying for the program. “I applied my freshman year and didn’t get in. I was pretty disappointed, but when I applied my sophomore year, I knew exactly how to prepare for it,” said Perez.  

Perez received his acceptance in August of 2020, which served as a reward for all the effort he put in not only to his application, but to his school work as well. Out of almost 2,000 applicants from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Perez was one of under 400 high school students accepted. The program has a mere 20% acceptance rate.

Mr. Phillian believes Perez’s acceptance is a testament to his hard work and determination in school. “It is significant for Perez as a reflection of his academic accomplishments and as a milestone in his academic pursuits,” stated Mr. Phillian. “It is significant to our school because it demonstrates that a Passaic Valley education can enable a student to qualify for a prestigious honor program at a world-class university.”

The program includes both a fall and spring semester and runs throughout the 2020-2021 academic school year.  “It's taught by Columbia professors and they have a huge class offering,” explained Perez.  “There's no homework and no tests, the whole point is for it to be a learning experience in which they make it as fun as possible.” Perez is grateful for the opportunity he’s received to learn from such a highly regarded institution.