Дина, выпускница High School Diploma

Last year, Dina completed the mammoth task of finishing Russian and American school programmes. Dina was offered places at Louisiana State University, Penn State University and Oregon University, but due to the strain of the two programmes decided to stay in Russia for a year. After taking a year to catch her breath, and to try her hand at the British A-level programme, Dina is ready to take the plunge and go onto higher education. Her university of choice is Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.


This year was great because it was not so stressful. Last year, I graduated from two schools simultaneously, which was very difficult. This year I gained the opportunity to study the British programme, because the British school gave me a scholarship. It’s been really fun; I found loads of amazing friends, and all the teachers who taught me were amazing.

How different was the British programme from the US programme?

As part of the American high school I studied History, Literature and US Government. I was surprised that I loved all of these subjects, although none of them were connected to my future specialization. My teacher Elena was just amazing. This year I studied Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics, which are all very useful and interesting. I think that they are very different from Russian school. When I first started, I thought that I knew Chemistry pretty well, and that the Chemistry A-level was going to be easy. However, it was very difficult for me — different topics, a different language. It was a very good experience, and I definitely needed to try studying the subjects in English.

Originally hoping to go to the United States, Dina applied to the Netherlands without the intention of studying there. Having reassessed her priorities over the past year, Dina changed her mind and is looking forward to making the Netherlands her new home. 

I applied to two countries: The United States and to the Netherlands. There were some problems with the American application, some exams were cancelled in Russia and this was very stressful. We originally applied to the Netherlands as a backup option. Last year, when I first applied to American universities, I had no idea what to do. Everything was very last minute, I was in a hurry, my exams were not great. This year my ACT and SAT exams were much better, I had interviews with American universities, which was a good experience for me. I definitely needed this year to rest and to understand what I really want in life.

Last year I was such a kid. I’m only 17, but when I look at myself a year ago, I understand how different my views were. I am much more realistic, I think, when it comes to what I want in life, my plans and goals. I see many things very differently, not necessarily like a grown-up, but I am trying to change myself, to become more hardworking, more successful.

I still want to do Science, as I still find it fascinating. I applied for Medical and Biomedical majors. I had 4 dream universities in America, which are very competitive and difficult to get into: Duke University, Dartmouth, Brown and The University of Chicago. In the Netherlands, I applied to Groningen, Maastricht University and Radboud University. I was very interested in scientific research when it came to choosing universities, and all of my choices are strong in this field.

I’ve chosen Radboud University in Nijmegen because it offers a major in Molecular Life Sciences, which does not limit me in studying only one science. I will study everything: chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, etc. This way, I can start studying the general programme and then choose the science I really want to be involved in. My course is very interesting, at least for a person who wants to pursue science. Also, this university has one of the best rankings in the Netherlands and has a lot of English programmes and many international students. Furthermore, the city that the university is located in — Nijmegen — is made mostly for students.

What was most difficult in the application process?

Submitting documents. They require so much information about you, when you’re filling out forms. I never thought they would ask about all of this. I was terrified of messing up, of not submitting an important document. I contacted all of the universities to check that they had received all the necessary documents, and they normally made me submit a hundred more.

I found that it was useful to contact the universities. I contacted all of the universities I liked, and asked them about any information, which I could not find. They were all very nice and helpful. It was very interesting with Duke University; I spoke to them so much, that they remembered all of my personal information. I think this is good, because they see you as a person they already know. I also met with a Duke alumni, he’s from Russia, but he lives in Switzerland. He came to Russia to meet with me and another student who was applying to Duke. As well as the interview in Moscow, I had two interviews online. Most of the universities asked about why I applied to their university, why I am interested in this subject. They asked me about my passions, my interest in science, what I do in my free time, my academic achievements, about my personal life and family. They can ask about anything. I read a lot of information about how to speak in an interview, and someone told me that you should talk as though you are already a student of the university – tell them what you will bring to their university.

The best advice I can give is to contact universities and to show your interest in them. This year, when it came to writing essays, I was determined to write about the specific universities and why I chose them. I asked them questions about the things that interested me, and then included this in my essays; the different courses, scholarships and clubs they offered.

If you were to start from square one, would you choose the American or the British programme?

It depends. For me, probably the British programme is more suitable, because I am really interested in science, and the American programme didn’t offer it in the format I studied. At the same time, I wanted to apply to America and wasn‘t planning on applying to Europe, so it’s good that I have an American diploma. With this diploma, I don’t have to pass IELTS or TOEFL. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to study on both programmes, and on the Russian programme.

Right now I feel like I am ready to start my university life and move to another country. I am happy that I am going to Europe, because apart from studying, I can also travel more. I am very excited and have high hopes, so I am sure that I am making the right choice.

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