Ivy League Collage top Akshara, Rami and Patil Bottom Shreyas and Saanvi-1659330189866
Proud students all: Akshara Thakur, Rami Hamzeh, Patil Djerdjerian, Shreyas Sharma and Saanvi Aima who are headed to top universities in the US. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: After graduating from high school in the UAE recently, expat students in Dubai who have been accepted into some of the world’s top universities have shared their journey on how they made the cut.

Armenian student Patil Djerdjerian, 18, who is headed to Harvard University in the US in the fall, will be pursuing Economics for her undergraduate studies. “There is no linear path to getting into university, but I believe participating in activities you’re passionate about, challenging yourself in your academic life at school and being authentic in your narrative through university application essays will put you in good stead,” said Patil.

Getting into an Ivy League school is a big deal for most students.

A GEMS Wellington International School student, Patil said: “The application process for US universities requires you to be introspective. For me, it was a personal journey of self-reflection regarding my multicultural identity as a Canadian of Armenian origin living in Dubai and how that has intrinsically moulded my perspective, interactions, experiences and passion in international affairs.

Growing up in Dubai helps

“Growing up in a cosmopolitan city that allowed me to engage in cross-cultural interactions and embrace my diverse background, I felt inspired to participate in Model UN, which led me to write a research paper analysing the United Nations. I’ve also had the opportunity to lead as Head Girl at my school, become a Grade 8 classical guitarist and engage in community work.”

Top scores

Patil completed I/GCSEs with 11 grade 9s, scored 44/45 points in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programme with four Higher Level and two Standard Level subjects. “I’ve completed placement exams to prepare for course selection and started to connect with other incoming students. I’m also enjoying exploring the different opportunities university life has to offer, whether it is joining clubs, societies or student publications, and of course gathering dorm essentials.”

Multicultural outlook

Other students too vouthe pluses of growing up and studying in Dubai which provides a multicultural outlook to life.

Indian student in Dubai Akshara Thakur from Dubai International Academy (DIA) Emirates Hills, who is heading to Columbia University in the US, scored 1,560 for SAT. As for academics, her IB final scores stood at a full 45. “I am extremely happy to be attending an Ivy League college for undergraduate studies. I hope to give my best as I have always done,” she said.

Lebanese–Canadian expat Rami Hamzeh, 17, from Raffles International School, who has been admitted into Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, US, said he will be pursuing Economics for his undergraduate studies and his goal is to do law for a master’s programme.

Hamzeh is excited to head to an Ivy League. “It is a privilege and I hope to excel. I have dreams and goals and getting into Brown University is a major step towards achieving that.”

Many pursuits

Saanvi Aima from GEMS Modern Academy is also heading to Columbia University this fall. She is planning to pursue Computer Science. “My career aspirations are to work towards the implementation of computer science and robotics in the development and improvement of healthcare. I would love to collaborate with research teams involved in the implementation of ML [machine learning] algorithms in predictive medical diagnostics and analysis, particularly in personalised medicine for cancer and degenerative nerve diseases,” said Saanvi who scored 1,590 in SAT. She also achieved 98.75 per cent overall in her ISC (Indian School Certificate) board exams for Class 12.

Aima said her cut to Ivy League was possible because she could pursue a broad mix of subjects and interests in Dubai. “Be it SAT exam preparations or building a comprehensive profile of academics and extra-curriculars to get into Ivy League, the main thing that stood out for me is that I pursued computer science and lots of projects within that field like artificial intelligence. I also did a creative things like speech and drama. I taught speech and drama and speed cubing too.”

Offer letter at 3am

Another Indian student in Dubai, Shreyas Sharma, who also graduated from GEMS Modern Academy, said he will be going to Stanford University in the US to pursue computer science and possibly philosophy as well for his undergraduate studies.

“I opened my Stanford offer while Zooming with friends at 3am and was fortunate enough to be accepted. In my excitement, I promptly proceeded to celebrate by waking up my parents and my little sister. We had a little party with paneer burgers,” said Shreyas.

He said: “I felt incredibly grateful for being accepted into Stanford as well as three Ivy League universities. After deliberating, I chose to attend Stanford. I feel that it is a great fit for me due to its excellent faculty in both the humanities and sciences, the resources and opportunities it offers for undergraduate research, and of course California’s perfect weather.

“I am excited to pursue a liberal arts education, especially because I’m still unsure of what my future plans are. I aim to explore the wide variety of courses offered there and am currently leaning towards studying a combination of computer science and philosophy.”

‘Don’t get overwhelmed’

Diya Bansal, who is studying Computer Science at Cornell University in the College of Engineering, said freshman students for the fall semester should prep well for their new journey into university. “I would advise students not to take up too many hard courses in the first semester as it can leave one overwhelmed. Take it a bit slow. Students should get comfortable in their new environment and pace it up steadily.”

10 tips for freshmen

Complete any prerequisites for the course before you reach

Preferably do not skip semesters for your majors (works for general courses). Universities teach in a way quite different from textbooks and you would not want to miss out on important tips imparted

Place orders for your SIM card, toiletries, university-sized bedsheets, etc. online before you reach

Take on medical insurance and open bank accounts as soon as possible on arrival

Do attend lectures as with so many activities and potential distractions, it’s vital students do not lose sight of their goals

Get organised with your notes

Start coursework early

Do more than just your degree

Make an effort to make friends

(Source for tips: Alka Malik, founder and managing director of Ascentria, and Amanda Jewell, Head of Careers and Transition, GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail)