March 21, 2024

How I got into NYU Abu Dhabi with full financial aid from a public school in Uzbekistan


Nigina from Uzbekistan 🇺🇿

Campus Image of NYU Abu Dhabi

How I got into NYU Abu Dhabi with full financial aid from a public school in Uzbekistan

My background

I am from a small town called Zarafshan in the Navoiy region of Uzbekistan. It's certainly not a village, but it's also not a large city. In our town, it was not common to apply to foreign universities after graduating from a local public high school, where all subjects were taught in Uzbek. However, my parents wanted me to get an education abroad. Watching the successes of other kids from Uzbekistan who got into prestigious universities, I too became inspired by the idea and decided to try, even though I didn't really believe I could get into any, let alone such a selective institution as NYU Abu Dhabi. The success of Khosilmurod from Uzbekistan, who got into Yale, inspired me. I thought, "If he could do it, then I have a chance too." By the end of 10th grade, the idea of studying abroad had fully formed.

Test Preparation

The preparation for admission to a foreign university started in the 9th grade with learning English. We had a great teacher who motivated us to pursue education abroad. Thanks to the lessons in a specialized English class, I scored 7.5 on IELTS at the beginning of 10th grade and started thinking about further preparation for college.

To prepare for the SAT, I had to temporarily move to Tashkent, as there were no appropriate courses in my town. I wanted to go through a full offline preparation for a better immersion in the process. I took the SAT twice, and on the second attempt, I scored 1530. Being a graduate of a regular school without an IB/AP program, I wanted to demonstrate my academic preparedness with a higher SAT score.

University Search and Why NYUAD

Initially, I only wanted to apply to top universities in the USA because the idea of the USA itself was a bit intimidating to me. It’s a huge country with a diverse population, nothing like my small town in Uzbekistan, where it’s even safe to walk the streets at night. Therefore, I only considered the best universities, and Columbia University was my dream - I really liked its campus.

However, as I started to explore more options in detail, I became interested in NYU. I found out that it has a campus in Abu Dhabi, where many from Uzbekistan were applying. Abu Dhabi turned out to be not so far away - just a 3-hour flight and the programs at NYU seemed very interesting. Students declare their major only in the second year, which gives them an opportunity to better understand themselves and try different fields.

The campus in Abu Dhabi seemed very safe to me, which was my number one priority. The city itself seemed like a diverse and new place that I might like - after all, I love sunny regions. However, the main factor was the opportunity to pursue a major related to 3D programming and animation. It was NYU Abu Dhabi that had a suitable program, so I decided to apply there Early Decision, and this university became my dream.

Acceptance Letter🎉
Acceptance Letter🎉
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How to Research Universities

Initially, I studied the official website of NYU Abu Dhabi, but there was so much information that it was hard to make sense of everything. Therefore, I turned to blogs by the university students themselves, and I even had a whole folder of them in Telegram.

I also read all the interviews on Borderless - they were very informative. Then, I used YouTube, where I also found several useful videos from NYUAD students. I even have a special notebook with all the information collected about this university. Additionally, the College Vine website was a huge help, where I found advice on writing supplemental essays with a quote for NYUAD.

Extracurricular Activities

My main activities and projects include:

  1. Just Education - my primary project involved creating short educational animated videos in the Uzbek language (about 2-3 minutes each). I was inspired by TEDx and TED Education videos. I wrote scripts, animated, and voiced the videos myself. Due to the lack of professional equipment, the sound quality wasn’t perfect, but I did my best. I worked on the project all day long. I posted the videos on YouTube and managed blogs and channels on Telegram, and Instagram. This project took about a year or even a bit more.

  2. A research project with a professor from Webster University on the topic of "Using Interactive Media in Education." Despite being a high school student, the level of work was quite high. We worked together for about a month, meeting daily.

  3. Volunteer work at Wikipedia Camp - translating articles from Russian and English into Uzbek. I helped to make Uzbekistan the leading country in terms of the number of Uzbek-language articles among Central Asian countries on Wikipedia.

When listing extracurricular activities, I tried to highlight my experience in design, 3D graphics, and animation since this was my main hobby and area of interest related to my desired major. However, I also aimed for diversity, adding activities from other fields. For 7 years, I studied music, playing the piano. Additionally, I had experience in volunteer work related to environmental conservation.


  • IELTS: 7.5

  • GPA: 5/5

  • SAT: 1530

Personal Statement

Writing the essay was one of the most challenging parts of the application process. It was important to present myself as a potential student advantageously, highlight my strengths, and convince the admissions committee of my future success at the university. This required deep reflection and self-analysis.

Writing the Personal Statement was particularly challenging, as I had never written anything like it before. My only experience was writing essays for the IELTS, without any special courses.

After numerous attempts, I understood what a perfect essay should look like. I needed to find something unique that represented me from my best side. I decided to write about my passion for handwriting, which I love for the process itself. Through this topic, I could reveal aspects of my personality. The essay began with the phrase "I love handwriting..." and included life moments that influenced my character development. In the end, I demonstrated my growth and development as a person.

In a personal statement, it's necessary to show personal growth throughout the essay. Additionally, it's important to choose a memorable topic because the admissions committee has very little time—about 3-4 minutes per essay. A unique theme will help you stand out — like "the girl who is passionate about handwriting."

Supplemental Essay

For the supplemental essay at NYU, I rewrote my draft at the very last moment, finding the initial version too cliche. I added more personal moments and details because I believe revealing personal experience is very important in an admissions essay.

In this essay, I wrote about moving from a small town to Tashkent for exam preparation. I described the difficulties of adapting to life in a big city, and the loneliness and sadness from living away from home. But I also shared how I overcame these challenges.

The main goal of this essay is to demonstrate the ability to quickly adapt to new environments and step out of the comfort zone. I wanted to show that I can overcome difficulties and will be ready for student life in the USA.

Overall, each part of the application should reveal a certain facet of the applicant's personality, forming a complete picture. It's like assembling a puzzle, where all the pieces come together to create a cohesive portrait of a person.


I had an online interview, or as they call it, a "candidate conversation," with the admissions officer Lisa Mortini. The interview took place in a fairly relaxed, informal atmosphere.

I wasn't very nervous because I had already received an invitation to this interview, and almost all candidates after it received an invitation to the candidate weekend. Apparently, the interview did not play the most crucial role at this stage.

It lasted about 13 minutes, which is considered short, but for some, it lasted only about 8 minutes. The questions were relatively simple: to talk about my background, environment, what I think about the main difficulties at NYU Abu Dhabi, which places I would like to visit in Abu Dhabi, and the mark I want to leave at the university.

I tried to act confidently and answered all the questions well. Overall, the interview went smoothly. After that, I indeed received an invitation to the candidate weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Candidate Weekend

It was a wonderful 4-day offline candidate weekend. Surprisingly, there were no formal tasks, interviews, or essays to assess the candidates. Instead, the organizers simply observed us in the informal setting of various events.

On February 9th, I was greeted at the airport and accommodated in a 5-star hotel. There was an organized meet-and-greet, and the food was just amazing. In the evening, everyone went on a desert safari - a very beautiful and exciting experience. NYUAD prepared various fun activities: sandboarding, camel riding, henna painting, and dinner under the stars. There was also an interesting tradition - everyone brought a special item representing their culture and explained its significance to the others.

The next day, an open-bus tour of Abu Dhabi was organized, where we saw the city's landmarks and parks. Then we were taken to the NYU campus, where lectures were held on the topics we had chosen in advance. It was very interesting! Overall, the candidate weekend was more focused on informal interaction and getting to know the university and the city in a pleasant atmosphere, without any assignments.

Since this was my first experience traveling abroad alone, I was quite worried about some aspects. I was most anxious about the airport - how to find the correct terminals for my transfer in Istanbul, and not to get lost.

I was also nervous about how I would meet and interact with other candidates, as I am naturally quite an introverted person. I feared that initially, I would struggle with English due to nervousness.

At first, it was a bit difficult to just approach strangers and start a conversation, asking about their interests and background. But by the end of the second day, the atmosphere became more relaxed, and it was easier to communicate. We made many new friends from different countries.

When it was time to say goodbye and fly home, many were close to tears - that's how close everyone had become. We promised to miss each other.

In Abu Dhabi
In Abu Dhabi

Financial Aid

Nearly all of my expenses at NYU Abu Dhabi are covered by the university's financial aid. I only need to cover about 2,000 dollars a year for direct costs, while other expenses for travel, personal expenditures, and the like are financed.

When completing the CSS Profile for financial aid, my Expected Family Contribution (EFC) was 2,000 dollars, so I was very pleased to receive such a high level of support. However, some of my friends did not receive full financial aid.

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Resources That Helped Me with Admissions

First and foremost, I want to express my deep gratitude to Borderless - your interviews were very helpful to me. I also actively used the Admissions Guidance service from Borderless upon a friend's advice. The recommendations for describing extracurricular activities were particularly helpful.

The College Vine website was a valuable resource with detailed instructions for writing supplemental essays for different universities. Since I also applied to Harvard, Penn, and other universities with a lot of supplemental essays, these tips were very useful.

The book and videos from College Essay Guy also provided many helpful recommendations for writing a Personal Statement. On YouTube, I watched interviews with students who got into NYU Abu Dhabi, especially those from Kazakhstan - they explained the nuances well.

Interviews on the EducationUSA platform were also informative. Overall, I utilized a multitude of different resources to compensate for the lack of professional mentorship or admissions consulting.

Initially, I thought that it was almost impossible to prepare a successful application without a specialized company. Fortunately, by using all available resources, I managed to achieve the desired result on my own. Nonetheless, the process turned out to be very challenging without individual guidance.

Advice for applicants

  1. Believe in yourself and don’t give up, no matter what.

  2. Plan everything carefully in advance. I learned about the specifics of the application process too late, which made planning difficult.

  3. Don't listen to those who discourage you or doubt your chances. There were people who called my Personal Statement "a waste of time." This plunged me into depression. But you can't pay attention to such demotivating statements, because nobody knows in advance what will happen!

  4. Never give up and move towards your goal, despite the obstacles and doubts of those around you.

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from Uzbekistan 🇺🇿

Duration of Study

Aug 2024 — May 2028


Interactive Media Arts

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NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, UAE🇦🇪

  1. 😀


    4 months ago

    So inspiring

    1. 😵‍💫


      4 months ago

      you motivated me thanks i will try my best to get my dream uni