April 13, 2024

How I got into Duke Kunshan University for Class of 2028


Asanali from Kazakhstan 🇰🇿

Campus Image of Duke Kunshan University
How I got into Duke Kunshan University for Class of 2028

My background

I attended a NIS IB school. It is a public school, but enrollment is competitive and requires successfully passing entry exams to study there. The language of instruction is English, and we study based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) system. The school is located in Astana.

Reasons to study abroad

It has long been my dream to study abroad. I used to live in the United States, spending a year there in 2012. After that year, I decided to return for further studies. I was considering other options, but the U.S. was always my top priority.

Why the US and other options I have considered

I chose the U.S. because I have my dream universities there that are extremely good in my major of political science. While the U.S. is my top choice in this area, I also considered China. However, I only applied to two Chinese universities, compared to twenty American universities on my list. I did not consider other countries because I don't think they are the right fit for me.

Universities I got into + Financial Aid

I was accepted to the University of Michigan - Flint, University of Michigan - Dearborn, NYU Shanghai, Duke Kunshan, Drexel University, and the University of Pittsburgh with a guaranteed admission offer to the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). Regarding financial aid, only three universities offered me scholarships - Drexel (40%), NYU Shanghai (60%), and Duke Kunshan (85%).

My stats

Maintaining a good GPA while studying in the IB program is challenging. My GPA is 4.6 out of 5. My IB subjects are History, Economics, and English. I also took three Standard Level classes in Physics, Russian, and Mathematics. For my predicted IB grades, I scored 38 out of 43, which is a solid and the minimum score required by Ivy League universities.

I took the SAT exam three times and eventually scored 1440. On my first try, I got 1400, and the second attempt was a complete disaster. The third time, I scored 1410 and got a superscore. I did not submit my SAT scores because my IB scores are much stronger. I only applied the SAT to two universities.

As for my TOEFL, I scored 101 out of 120.

Extracurricular activities

The first activity is my research experience. My mentor is a Cornell alumnus, whom I contacted and asked to collaborate on research. I consistently completed the paperwork and gave my best effort. He wrote me a letter of recognition in gratitude. I have been part of this team for about two years, since December 2022.

The second activity is a social project dedicated to raising awareness about domestic violence. We post content on social media to raise awareness of the problem of abuse in Kazakhstan, share methods for prevention, and promote concepts of healthy relationships.

My third main extracurricular activity was participating in the local political organization "Jas Otan," where I represented the youth of Kazakhstan.

Personal Statement

I wrote my personal statement about my relationship with my father and how we communicated infrequently. One day, he started bringing home books from his work, mostly about history and politics. I started reading them and discovered that we shared the same interests. That is how we began talking, and I became even more interested in political science. I believe our improved communication played a crucial role not only in my personal growth, but also in the development of my relationship with my father.

Supplemental essays

Actually, I wrote a plethora of supplemental essays. As I reflect, my strongest one was for New York University in Shanghai, where I was accepted. I realized that supplemental essays are one of the strongest parts of the application and really help you stand out among all applicants. After being rejected from Cornell University, I completely revised my approach to the supplemental essays, putting greater emphasis on the perspective of the admission officers. Since then, I have received several acceptances and am still waiting to hear back from more schools.

How I structured the application process

I completed my Personal Statement by the end of August. As for the standardized tests, I took them in 11th grade, which was last year. I realized I would not have time in 12th grade, my final academic year of high school, so I decided to take the tests as soon as possible. I received my TOEFL results by May and my SAT results by March. By September, I had already started working on my supplemental essays. I did not have to rush, as I had everything figured out even before September.

As for my extracurricular activities, I just had to organize and present them in an effective way. I started filling out my Common App application by early June.

Useful resources that helped me with admissions

I used to apply to universities with the help of the "Early Birds" course from Aidana, ABS Academy, and I found it very helpful. I think it assisted me a lot in structuring my activities and identifying the "spike" between them.

As for other resources, the book with 100 personal essays from College Essay Guy really helped me in the writing process. When you read the essays that helped students get into highly selective universities, you start to see the patterns that unite them. The crucial advice from the book was that you have to tell a story, showing your best qualities, rather than just listing them. By sharing the story about my relationship with my father, I was able to showcase my core values and constant drive to learn.

In addition to the course and guidebook, I watched many helpful videos on YouTube. Those videos kept my preparation progressive, especially the ones featuring students who got into their dream colleges. Thanks to them, I stayed motivated and proactive, aspiring to one day post my own success story.

My expenses during the application process

The good part is that my school provides fee waivers. When applying through the Common App, I did not have to pay anything. Applying to 20 universities in the U.S. cost me almost nothing. I think I only sent my SAT scores four times, which cost around $64. Additionally, I had to send my TOEFL scores to all the universities I applied to, which was approximately $400. The CSS Profile also cost me a significant amount, though I'm not sure of the exact figure.

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from Kazakhstan 🇰🇿

Duration of Study

Aug 2024 — May 2028


Political science

Learn more ->
Duke Kunshan University

Duke Kunshan University

Kunshan, China🇨🇳


✍️ Interview by


Aruzhan from Kazakhstan 🇰🇿

High-School student and social activist

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