“I started my high school career solely focused on academics. I did also play World of Warcraft, but it was very casually and my academics always took precedence. I was taking all of the AP / honors classes my school offered, excluding English, with the goal of being admitted to a top university such as MIT, CMU, Cal, or Stanford. I was pretty socially reclusive, and would mainly show up to class, work on coursework during lunch in the library, then go home directly after school to either study or play video games. During my sophomore year, I quit WoW and picked up League of Legends, which I quickly became addicted to. As I became more obsessed with the game, and its professional scene, my focus started to shift from getting into an elite school towards making it into the LCS. By senior year, I had switched into a program that was a hybrid of traditional school and independent study to facilitate longer scrim hours and more practice with the teams I played on during my senior year: Denial, Cloud 9 Tempest, and later towards graduation, Team Solomid. I’d like to thank everyone who supported me throughout the years and those who continue to support me. -Nick “Gleebglarbu” Haddad
In senior year, when you moved into the TSM house, you had to skip the last three weeks of school and ended up missing out on your high school prom and graduation. Looking back at it, would you have changed anything?
No, not really. I wasn’t close friends with many people in my high school at the time, and also wasn’t interested in asking anyone to prom. Graduation ceremony, to me, seemed like a complete waste of time that was supposed to symbolize some big accomplishment, but I feel that graduating high school isn’t a big deal. I guess it could have been cool to receive the salutatorian honor in front of my graduating class, but that would’ve required me to miss two days of scrims (graduation rehearsal + graduation day), and commute between Santa Monica (where TSM’s gaming house was located) and Agoura, where my school was.
According to your resume posted on Twitter, your weighted GPA in high school was an astounding 4.13 and you were the salutatorian for your graduating class. What measures did you take to make sure you succeeded in both academics and gaming?
During my first two years of high school, I made sure to stay on top of my coursework and actually do the assigned readings for my classes when they were assigned. After I got really invested in League, the only real measure I took to ensure that I did well in academics was switch into the independent study / traditional school hybrid program so that I could have more free time to play LoL without negatively affecting my sleep schedule. Beyond that, I stopped really trying in school because I knew I wouldn’t make it into an Ivy tier school with how little time I could devote to classes. Also, I knew that the community college → transfer to four year uni route existed, so, as long as I graduated, I could still attend a few good schools (UCLA, UCSD, Cal, UCI).
When you first started in the LCS, what was it like trying to balance school and professional gaming? Did you have any other hobbies that made it more difficult to include in your daily schedule?
It wasn’t really balancing school and LCS, it was just playing in LCS. I stopped doing most of my assignments and moved out of my parents’ house with three weeks left in the semester. I would just call in sick every day from the TSM house, and commute once every week or two to the campus in order to turn in enough of the work to not fail any classes. In hindsight, I probably could have received some disciplinary action for skipping so much class, but luckily I didn’t. I think I had 80+ absences my senior year.
What were some of your important factors when you were applying to colleges?
Back when I was looking for colleges in 9th grade, I simply chose the schools that had the best engineering programs, such as MIT, Cal Tech, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, and Cal. I didn’t really pay any attention to what the student life was like, if they had good sports teams, or where the schools were located. The reason people go to school is to get an education, and in my opinion, looking at other factors such as those should be secondary to the strength of the school’s programs. Because of pro-gaming, I didn’t have enough time to take as many AP classes and prep for the SAT/ACT as much as I could have. Before playing League, I never put gaming before school ever, even if I was the highest rank in my school. So when I was actually applying as a senior, because of pro-gaming, I knew my application had sunk to the point where I wouldn’t make it into most of these schools, so I just did the University of California apps because I didn’t feel like writing multiple essays.
Do you ever regret not joining your high school’s League of Legends/eSports club?
Nope. There weren’t any other high elo players in my school, so I don’t think I would have had much to talk about. I was also busy enough between C9T, AP Calculus BC, AP Physics C, and AP US Government / Econ during my senior year.
What do you think about organizations like High School Starleague and colleges giving out several tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship prizing for students who excel in both academics and gaming?
I think it’s cool to see competitive gaming be rewarded by schools and organizations like HSL. Also, since these types of competitions are limited to high school and college students, they don’t have to worry about needing to put in the insane number of hours that amateur and pro players do in order to compete, have fun, and potentially earn scholarship money.
What are some advice you have for gamers who have just entered high school and students who are graduating soon?
My advice for gamers who just entered high school is to focus on your academics and extracurriculars in order to build an outstanding application for universities. It’s fine to play games occasionally, but unless you’re good enough at your game to receive a scholarship specifically for it, schools will care much more about your GPA, leadership positions, talents (music, sports, arts, etc), coursework, and standardized test scores. By doing well in high school and getting into a highly ranked institution, a student can surround themselves with like-minded individuals and be put into an environment that facilitates critical thinking and innovation. For people that are graduating high school soon, it’s good to have fun before college starts, but still pay attention and do the work for your classes. Some schools do request your second semester grades from your senior year and will rescind your admission if you do very poorly (usually D or worse). I personally know a friend who only applied to his dream school, got in, got a D during his senior year, and then had his only admission revoked.
Interview by Cindy Wang for High School Starleague
(Original photos from lolesports, 2012)