April 8, 2024

My journey to the University of Toronto with an International scholarship


Aray from Kazakhstan 🇰🇿

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My journey to the University of Toronto with an International scholarship

Personal Background and High School

My name is Aray Kamaliyeva, and I am from Astana, Kazakhstan's capital city! I am a senior student at the Nazarbayev Intellectual School and part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program there. I am currently finishing my diploma program in year two in biology, mathematics, application and interpretation, English B, chemistry, Russian language and literature, and the modern history of Kazakhstan. I was invited to enroll at the University of Toronto, and I have received an International Scholarship.

How I chose my major

I have chosen my major as mainly molecular biology, along with immunology and disease modeling. I genuinely became interested in this field when I graduated from the summer program of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth called “Disease Modeling.” Throughout this experience, I went through various advancements, such as susceptible, exposed, infected, and recovered complexities. This process helped me recognize that this path aligns with my interests and the subjects I want to pursue in the future as well.

Why University of Toronto

I have a school counselor at our school, and one day I received an announcement that they are selecting a nominee for the scholarship. Since then, I started to get interested in Canadian universities, then I decided to give it a try! After filling out the form, my school decided to nominate me, which motivated me to actually apply to Canadian universities, especially the University of Toronto. 

Scholarships and Financial Aid

As an international student, I have been accepted to the University of Toronto International Scholar Award. Through this opportunity, I am happy to be awarded an amount of over $100k for four years of study. Moreover, I am still waiting for my Lester B. Pearson Scholarship Award announcement, which will significantly impact my final decisions. At first, I was nominated for this scholarship, which is completely full-ride. It covers tuition, room, board, books, and incidental fees, and these are all very essential supports for many international students, including myself.

Test scores and Award achievements

My GPA is 5 out of 5 in our school, and my predicted IB score in the autumn was 40/43 since the school didn’t consider an essay when they released predictive scores. And recently, it was updated to 42/43 after mock exams. My IELTS score is 7.5. Regarding the SAT, I have a score of 1460: with math 760 and reading 700. 

In high school, I won several different national and international awards. First of all, I won the Deep Diving Award, which was for the advanced use of technology in the International Female Startup Exhibition called “Tumaris.Expo” It was held in March 2023 in Uzbekistan, and this is one of the most memorable awards as it was my first major international award. In addition, for some national awards, our team won first place in the section of computer analysis, resulting in our team leader receiving a scholarship to KBTU (Kazakh-British Technical University) in Almaty. This event mainly gives the prize for institutional scholarships to universities. One of the most accomplished memories of my junior year was the award from the science fair at my neighboring school, NIS Physics Math. 

Extracurricular Activities

My biggest commitment is my DermaMarker startup, which is an artificial intelligence that analyzes the image of a skin mole and decides which disease is most probable according to its appearance. This is the first initiative that I started with my friend at the end of my sophomore year. The model was trained to make these diagnoses according to the data set consisting of almost 10,000 photographs collected by Harvard Medical School. Then, we also train our AI to make a prediction according to the visual image. Through this activity, I have won several awards as well. 

In addition, I was also part of the Zhas and Healthy Club, which advocates for a healthy lifestyle among teenagers. Each spring, we announce a competition of healthy projects called “Project Marathon”, and it has gathered more than 700 students from local schools. The impact was huge, as even some neighboring countries like Uzbekistan or Russia visited to participate in this competition. Here, I have invited several sponsors from the Astana Hub, which is a technopark of startups. I remember that our first sponsor was American Corner, a library at the Eurasian National University. Now it will be our third consecutive year of the Project Marathon, and will still continue to thrive and be organized even though I graduate high school.

Lastly, I initiated another club called Ignite Startups Incubation. It began with our local school incubation involving over 60 students, and I was one of the founding members. We introduced how to make ideas more real in a startup by combining them. I thought it would be a good idea to share knowledge and conduct this club for more than half a year. Then, in February, we expanded our reach by organizing the Idea Pitch Competition among Kazakhstani students. The scale was pretty big with sponsorship from Kcell and Astana Hub, and it was my first ever experience of organizing anything like this!

Resources and Support

I have been a member of the EducationUSA Astana Club for 23-24 cycle. I came across the school announcement about EducationUSA, which provides mentorship with the overall application process, including the SAT, college essay guides, and individual consultations with advisors. Since it was free and the spots were limited, less than 200 out of 500 students from Kazakhstan could join their program. Luckily, I was one of 200 students and began my journey with a basic introduction to what types of universities there are and what financial aid they can provide. It was very useful and helpful for me as they hosted different webinars, mentorship programs, and individual consultations. Advisors from my region of Astana provided the guidelines for the application process.

Why I decided to study abroad

The main motivation for me to decide to study abroad was because I was inspired by the story of my older sister, who was very competitive throughout high school and won several prestigious awards. However, our family’s financial situation was not good enough to provide full assistance, and she ended up attending a local university. Unfortunately, she now faces challenges and limits in getting a job at international companies and has advised me to pursue an international degree based on her experience. She highlighted the importance of having a suitable diploma in my major to find my job and network with professionals. 

Another reason I chose to study abroad was the supportive environment of my school. My school offered students access to various resources and financial assistance to motivate us to apply to foreign universities if we had the opportunity. I didn’t want to miss these opportunities, so I finally decided to study abroad as an international student.

Challenges and Concerns

As I have also applied to several schools in the US, I have some concerns regarding the outcomes and results. It makes me nervous from the fact that many students from our school have received either waitlist notifications or rejections for now. Nevertheless, I extend my best wishes to you for success in your application process!

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from Kazakhstan 🇰🇿

Duration of Study

Sep 2024 — May 2028


Molecular Biology, Immunology & Disease

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University of Toronto

University of Toronto

Toronto, Canada🇨🇦


✍️ Interview by

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Clara from Canada 🇨🇦

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    1 month ago

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