Becoming the First Undergraduate Student from Uzbekistan at Dartmouth College
Dec 19, 2022
3 mins read
💼 Bachelor Student
⏳ Sep 2022 — Jun 2026
✅ Student Visa
💰 100% Financial Need Met
🤓 7,000 Students
🌏 16% International
Dartmouth College is a private research university in the United States, part of the prestigious Ivy League. The university is known for its distinctive focus on undergraduates, hence it distinguishes itself by calling itself a College rather than a University. This unparalleled focus on undergraduates was one of the reasons why Dartmouth was one of my top choices as I was researching universities. According to US News, for five years in a row, the college placed #1 for undergraduate teaching in the United States. Dartmouth is also known for its small, intimate size (compared to the other Ivies), collaborative, rather than competitive, spirit, its extremely dedicated alumni network, and its gorgeous setting deep in nature. Although some are put off by its rural location, for me, it is an advantage. I believe this peaceful, beautiful environment is perfect for dedicating oneself to academics. Another important feature that distinguishes Dartmouth is its unique quarter system called the "D-Plan". Instead of the usual semester system, the college operates on three 10-week quarters: Fall, Winter, and Spring. Although it places immense pressure on students by having them cover a semester's worth of material in almost half the time and creates a very fast-paced temp that takes time to adjust to, it also offers many benefits. For example, students can take 'off-terms' -- a quarter in which they choose to not be on campus (and every student, by default, has one free 'off-term' to take) -- to pursue internships (for which they won't be competing with students from other schools), research, or go abroad on various immersion trips offered by our international center, Guarini. Lastly, the intimate setting creates a very tight-knit, collaborative, and accepting campus community. The professors are extremely accessible to students, too; In fact, Dartmouth prides itself on the abundance of research opportunities it offers its undergraduates -- as research is mostly accessible to graduates at most universities.
My Stats and Extracurricular Profile
I had all 5's in my academic subjects (apart from my single "4" in Uzbek language) from my local school (on a 5.0 scale). After attending my local public school, I applied to and won Tashkent International School's Scholarship program: it covered 100% of tuition for my last 3 years of high school (10th, 11th, and 12th grades). At TIS, I pursued the well-recognized International Baccalaureate Diploma. My success in the rigorous program, I believe, demonstrated my academic capability: Dartmouth is known to prioritize academic achievement heavily as it evaluates its applicants.
I had 1580 on the SAT (EBRW: 780, Math: 800), which was also an above-average score for Dartmouth and schools of similar caliber.
In terms of my extracurricular profile: I had extensive leadership and service that were channeled through the many activities I pursued. Although I can't list them all here, some of the major ones include:
Leading a team to develop an application to address a local issue (on NGOs and youth employment/engagement in public issues) and placing in the international semifinals as part of the competition
Founding and leading a fundraiser for the Aral Crisis, during which we raised money to plant 1500+ saxaul trees on the Aral's sea bed
Founding and leading an environmental club at two schools
Interning at the first NGO focused on sustainability and green energy/technology in Uzbekistan
Developing a strategy/program for increasing youth engagement in reading and improving access to books
And many more conferences, research papers, and clubs I was engaged with throughout the years that were heavily related to my passions and focused on solving various local social issues I was witness to.
What Got me In
All universities have different priorities as they admit students: there are too many qualified applicants for a spot, and thus a rejection is not an accurate reflection of a student's potential and capabilities. Hence, I cannot for sure say, ever, why exactly I got in. Thus, the following is just my opinion. For schools such as Dartmouth, academic excellence is the bare threshold for your application to be read. Thus, I believe my academics, reflected through my SAT score and GPA, put my foot in the door as I passed the first round of screening based purely on academics. In the second round, everyone is of the same academic caliber, and your personal brand - conveyed through your activities and essays -- determines your success at admission. No doubt, with such rates of admission (e.g. 4.6% for the RD round in which I applied), luck is also a factor: but I believe if one conveys passion, excellence, and a strong story in their application that uniquely and accurately captures who they are, they will increase their odds.
I got a full scholarship that covers all my costs at Dartmouth. Dartmouth is one of the 7 U.S. universities that are need-blind in admitting international students, meaning they do not factor in one's financial ability in making an admissions decision. Dartmouth covers all costs for students whose families earn less than $65,000 per year. Hence, most students from CIS countries are on full scholarships.
Advice and Insights
Believe in yourself. Trust yourself. If you believe you can do it, nobody should be able to stop you from realizing your dream. My first college counselor at TIS told me I was "not the type of student" Ivies were looking for. In fact, he told me that I would most likely not get into a U.S. College and advised me to look at other countries. Thankfully, I knew my worth, my strengths, trusted myself until the very end, took what he said with a very heavy grain of salt, and here I am today where I am.
Stemming from the first point: think critically, always. My decision to take my counselor's advice with a heavy grain of salt was not one based purely on emotion and sheer conviction: it was also based on heavy reasoning. I thought, My counselor's job -- what he does for a living -- is to ensure everyone at school gets into college. It is not in his best interest to get me into the best college for me -- that is only in my interest. It was logical for him to advise me the safe path: there are absolutely no guarantees in U.S. admissions as an international seeking financial aid. It was my decision to take the risk, based on the evaluation of this situation.
You don't need expensive consulting services: today, all the information you need on presenting your best self through your application is available online, for free. The A2C community on Reddit and this page were my guides as I navigated this process on my own (fun fact: TIS didn't have a (competent) college counselor the year I was applying, so I was left on my own to handle everything). I am a strong proponent of equal access to all educational opportunities. Finances should never be an inhibitor to pursuing the education you want and deserve. With enough resourcefulness and focus, it never will be. I often joke with my friends that I got into an Ivy for $35 :) (All my standardized testings were covered by my high school scholarship, the Common App fee was waived, and I paid $35 for Grammarly Premium to proofread my essays).
These are the big-picture tips I have. For more technical advice on extracurriculars, writing essays, and presenting yourself, you can refer to the resources I linked: they cover everything in mesmerizing detail.
Feel free to also contact me with any questions you may have on the application process or Dartmouth!