American English Academy in Sofia ‘20
EducaionUSA Opportunity Funds-Bulgaria Grant Recipient
New York University in Abu Dhabi, Class of 2024
My Way to NYUAD: A Success Story
College interview, conducted by Fulbright ED Angela Rodel
My name is Veselina Tomova, and I am part of the Opportunity Funds program*. I study at the American English Academy in Sofia. Last month, I was accepted in New York University in Abu Dhabi to study biology. This offer made me extremely happy because the university is highly selective, with a 2% acceptance rate, and I was offered a full merit scholarship, which even included personal and travel expenses. I had a chance to see NYU Abu Dhabi’s modern campus this February when I was invited to Candidate Weekend at the expense of the university. And I fell in love with the facilities and the peaceful atmosphere.
Getting here wasn’t easy at all. But to make it a little bit easier on you, I want to share my story.
Coming from an American high school, I always knew that I wanted to continue my education in an American university. It was just natural. So, I began my standardized-test preparation very early. I think I was in ninth grade when I took my first SAT Subject Test in U.S. History. When I got an 800, I was motivated even further. Later on, I took four more SAT Subject Tests—Biology E, World History, Literature, and Math Level 1—and the SAT itself, of course, on which I got a 1550. And I also managed to squeeze in two AP exams.
Even though I began preparing before I joined Opportunity Funds, I learned a lot from my participation. All the information that I received as part of the program was invaluable and helped me immensely during the application process.
Actually, even before I became a part of Opportunity Funds, I had joined Mrs. Teneva’s mailing list, which was full of useful tips and advice. It was from there that I learned about taking online courses and organizing my resume. The program built on all that, offering three Modules with in-depth preparation for the TOEFL, SAT, and the personal statement. The third one was especially useful for me in terms of actually writing the personal statement, filling out the Common App and the CSS Profile (the financial aid document), and navigating the interview. Believe me, the application process is very specific, and without assistance from someone who knows the ins and outs, it can be quite challenging to complete. Luckily, we had Snezhana Teneva’s steady guidance to help us throughout the program. I'm also thankful to Opportunity Funds for bringing me in touch with so many like-minded people who were all striving to reach the same goal. It was amazing to share this journey with others like me.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is to start your standardized-test preparation as soon as possible, around two years in advance. Admissions committees want well-rounded individuals for their universities. So, whenever possible, I would also recommend taking SAT Subject Tests from different fields. For example, if you’re applying to study science, it’s a good idea not only to take SAT Subject Tests in science, but also another one in social studies or languages as well, and vice versa. This way you can show the admissions committee that you have an interest and aptitude in different fields. I think this was one of the strong points in my application.
It’s also important to choose your universities well in advance. Take their programs, activities, and focus into consideration when making your decision. After you’ve made your selection, your next task is to get well-acquainted with them. Knowing relevant information about your universities will come in handy during interviews and when you’re writing “Why this university?” essays in the application.
American universities, unlike Bulgarian or even European ones, place great weight on extracurricular activities and community involvement. They want to accept you not just because of your grades, but because of who you really are as a person. So, your job is to show them. Attend competitions or Olympiads or anything else like that to showcase your skills, and engage with societal issues that you’re passionate about. Remember that all of your application elements have to align perfectly like puzzle pieces to form a bigger picture that represents the real you.
Maybe everything I’ve said so far has intimidated you. But even though this process is time-consuming and arduous, believe me, it is incredibly rewarding. The hard part is sticking through it all the way to the end. I just hope that my experience and advice could lighten the burden and help you achieve your goals. Good luck!
* The Fulbright Commission and EducationUSA launched the U.S. State Department-funded Opportunity Funds program in Bulgaria in February 2016. The program provides financial resources to highly qualified, yet economically challenged, Bulgarian students to cover the up-front costs of applying to U.S. universities, such as testing, application fees, or airfare. In addition to their impressive academic achievements, Opportunity students also bring cultural and socio-economic diversity to U.S. campuses.