January 4, 2024

NYU Abu Dhabi 小lass of 2028 with a full ride scholarship as a climate activist from Russia

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Nataliya from Russia 馃嚪馃嚭

Campus Image of NYU Abu Dhabi
NYU Abu Dhabi 小lass of 2028 with a full ride scholarship as a climate activist from Russia

My name is Nataliya Sakharova and I am a 17 year old from Moscow, Russia. I am a current senior and IB DP student at Letovo School (a private boarding school in Moscow, Russia) and I have recently been accepted to NYUAD's Class of 2028 with a full ride scholarship. For the past 3 years I have been a climate activist, focusing on accessible environmental education for school students and more:)

My current admitted student home base
My current admitted student home base


I am born and raised in Moscow, Russia and I spent all my 17 years here. My educational story might not be very conventional, so I want to expand on it more. To start with, for my first year of primary school I went to a regular school near my home in the suburbs of Moscow. In the end of my school year, my mom spoke with my class teacher and she said that I was too prepared for that school, so I changed school to a different primary school. This school was only a primary school (so it did not have middle and high school departments), being a prep school for a prestigious public gymnasium, where I subsequently studied for my 5 and 6 grades of middle school.

My journey abroad (although, passively) has started in this gymnasium, at the time long before my senior year of high school, as I was attending additional English language courses in my 5th grade. There we studied American history, literature and arts with applications to English language. Also, I attended a lot of extracurricular activities, including clubs and sports, all thanks to my mom and family supporting my intellectual and physical development as a person. Being a professionally ranked mountain skier (although I did not list that in my essays or activities) has also shaped who I am, making me more resilient, which has really helped me to go through admissions process.

So, later, I understood that I would really wish to pursue my higher education abroad. The only problem was that I am the first in my whole family and extended family to decide to do so, so initially I thought that nothing would work out. But then I got into Letovo International School (a very prestigious private IB boarding school), where I knew my wishes of international education can be fulfilled. Experience at a boarding school has helped me become more independent through which I have learned how to live independently, so I really think that this would help me in NYUAD too:). Moreover, I can admit that my classmates and in general people who surrounded me at school are very talented and motivated individuals with very high standards and ambitions, which has aided me a lot in finally deciding to apply abroad.

Beauty of Moscow in the summer
Beauty of Moscow in the summer

Colleges I applied to (and intended applying to)

Firstly, I never liked Europe or Canada and did not see myself living and studying there. On the contrary, US and Asia caught my eye: US for the liberal arts educational system where I would be able to change majors if I wish to; Asia for the vibrant cultures, traditions, (food) and high-quality education.

Financial aid has also been a significant criteria for me when choosing a university. As I come from an average Russian family, I needed all of my expenses to be covered, so I laid my eye on several US and Asian universities. Most of the universities in my list were ranked at the top of university rankings, like Columbia, Harvard, Stanford and Northwestern. Some were very selective liberal arts colleges which provided need-based aid, like Bowdoin, Hamilton and Trinity CT. I also intended to apply to Asian universities that provided full scholarships, in Korea (for instance, Yonsei, Korea, Inha) and Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto Universities, which I eventually applied to). However, as I got into NYU Abu Dhabi through Early Decision I for the Class of 2028 on December 15, I accepted the offer and had withdraw all applications I have submitted for US Universities and not apply further, so I did not send any of my applications for Regular Decision cycle.

In total, I submitted 3 applications - 1 to NYUAD, and 2 to Japanese Universities - Kyoto's International University Program (IUP) and Tokyo's Programs in English at Komaba (PEAK). I would highly recommend researching the last two if anyone is interested in getting education in English in Japan.

Major choice

As I studied biology and chemistry at higher level at school, many people are surprised that I did not do any extracurriculars related to these fields, nor am planning to major in them in undergraduate studies and further. The reason for this is the following: when I was studying biology and chemistry, I understood that I do not see myself working in research positions, which biology and chemistry are mostly about. Even though they are very interesting for me, I wanted to do something that is not so deeply rooted in lab research, so I became a climate activist and advocated for more accessible climate education.

While being in the sphere of climate education, I learned a lot about non-profit organisations and NGOs, corporate climate practises and others, so climate education applied to Economics or Business is very interesting to me now. So, because NYUAD does not have Environmental Science major, I am thinking about majoring in Economics with a minor in Arabic language, while simultaneously pursuing my interests for climate activism on the side.

For instance, I participated in climate panels hosted by youth UN organisations and was a leader in some of the activities
For instance, I participated in climate panels hosted by youth UN organisations and was a leader in some of the activities


In my school there is no conventional GPA because we study at IB DP for both middle school (with national curriculum mixed in) and high school (with additional subjects such as Russian Language and Physical education to obtain national diploma). In my middle school (8 and 9 grade) I mostly had 6s and 7s (maximum mark is 7), which would translate into A and A+ respectively with a couple (not a lot) of Bs in history and literature, for example.

IB DP Predicted Grades - 41/45 (777 in Higher Level subjects - Biology, Chemistry, English B and 2/3 Core points), IELTS - 7.5 in one and only sitting. In all of the sections I had 7.0 and above and advise everyone to try to do the same.

SAT was a painful story for me, on the contrary. Even though I took it several times, I could not achieve the score that was competitive enough for US Universities, so I went SAT-optional to NYUAD. However, NYU allowed me to submit my IB Predicted Grades (39/42) as standardised testing, so I did that for Admissions Officers to see that I would be able to bear the rigour of college.

Personal statement & Inspiration quote essay

For my personal statement, I took curiosity as a part of my personality and showed how my curiosity first brought me to explore biology and then led me to the discovery of environmental sciences and subsequently environmental activism. This has also shown my self-discovery, self-growth and maturity of free will (if I can put it this way). It was super readable (did not use a lot complex words, highly recommend in doing so) and quite logically connected all of my application together. For instance, it answered possibly arising questions such as, "Why did she study biology and chemistry at school, but was doing environmental activism outside of class?". I would advise talking about something that would show who you really are as a person, what you value and love with all of your heart. Also, try showing some part of your thinking process or values via reflection.

Now, show time:

"What is so fascinating about a Question Mark?" - the first line of my Personal statement

"And I am gonna go and make it better." - the last line of my Personal statement

For the NYU inspiration essay, I choose the Sanna Marin quote "You have the right to want things and to want things to change". There I expanded on one of my most important extracurricular activities (playing football) and how my identity changed overtime as a girl who plays for guys varsity team because of the lack of females in the sport. I emphasised my values and my desire to be the flag mark for change in the realm of inclusive sports and how I want for females to have more accessibility for football:)

Extracurricular Activities & Honors

I mainly focused on environmental and climate change-related activities via being a youth advocate, however, it might surprise you, but my first activity was playing football on guys varsity team at my school. I absolutely love playing and watching football, so logically it is one of my biggest commitments in high school. I also put some of my environmental commitments such as participating in UN organisations for youth and children, working for an environmental charity organisation online, my own project to raise awareness about climate via art in a state primary school that partners with my school and others. I did most of my activities for fun purposes and to spend time with international community, and I think that this is what stood out for NYUAD. Moreover, I put some of my other "things-for-fun", like MUN, cooking, drawing and learning Greek & Indian mythology.

Honors-wise, I listed my participation in olympiads, tournaments and challenges from my prior biology/chemistry olympiad career, my invitation to an actual UN forum (UNFCCC SB58) which I did not go because of visa issues, and a best delegate award from school MUN club. I think my honors were pretty good too.

The main idea and tip - provide as much context and information to your EC or award as you can - this way Admissions Officers will get a fuller picture of you and this will give your more chances to be ultimately selected to the university of your dreams.

Me attending my favourite club's game:)
Me attending my favourite club's game:)
Football practice
Football practice

Why I chose NYU Abu Dhabi

Let me admit this: NYUAD was not my dream school, as I was pursuing the American dream with my dream schools being, of course, Harvard and Yale. But then, as I researched deeper, I understood that this is really not what I want and NYUAD simply felt like a vibe.

My future home:)))
My future home:)))

As much as it sounds lame, four things that drew me most to NYUAD are community, campus, location and financial aid.

  1. Community & campus

NYUAD is a small, tight-knit community with approximately 500 students per cohort. This attracted me to NYUAD in the first place as I would not be comfortable at a large, fast-paced US-university. Also, I heard from current students that the community is really supportive, loving and accepting. The campus facilities, building and in general the structure of it seemed also like a perfect place to grow, learn and live!

  1. Location

UAE. I wanted to explore a culture completely different from mine in a climate completely different from mine. As I am Russian, stereotypes about Russian winter are somewhat true and I really love the idea of warmth and 0 snow:)

  1. Financial aid - there is nothing to comment on, really, because NYUAD provides quite a generous financial aid to prospective students.

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Advices for prospective applicants

My biggest advice
My biggest advice
  • Rejection is always a redirection for something better. Move on and live life.

Never lose hope in life and in yourself. This might sound very hypocritical from my side, but really, college rejection (or any rejection) does not define you or your future. For instance, I got rejected when I was applying to United World Colleges (UWC - a very prestigious group of boarding schools all over the world) and I initially thought that my hopes for going abroad for education would be ruined. However, I put my thoughts and myself together and moved on. Everything will work out just fine:)

  • Start early.

I would never stop telling people how important it is to plan out and start applications as early as you can (the best time is the summer before senior year). I did almost all the work in the summer before senior year and it was a very pleasant experience for me, just polishing my application in the fall.

  • Make a realistic college list - do not just shot gun top 20 universities. Think smarter. Think ahead.

In my opinion, shot gun would never work if you do not know why you are applying to this university apart from it being prestigious. I would highly recommend finding universities where you can find your personal fit, where your values and aspirations correlate with those of university. Also, try placing yourself in the community of the university and ask yourself, "Would I be comfortable studying and living there?" - this is super important.

  • Do your extracurriculars for yourself and for fun. Pretty self explanatory.

  • Do not compare yourself with others.

This is a very toxic trait that I have suffered from myself. Every story and person is unique, so do not fall into the trap that you are not worth of acceptance. You really are, pump yourself up!

And with that being said, it is all for me! I really hope that you all will end up in the colleges of your dreams, you got this!

Good luck everyone who is (and will be) applying!

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from Russia 馃嚪馃嚭

Duration of Study

Aug 2024 鈥 May 2028


Undecided, possibly Economics

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NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, UAE馃嚘馃嚜

  1. 馃


    7 months ago

    wow I love it! Very informative! Thanks girl

    1. 鈽冿笍


      7 months ago


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        6 months ago

        Yay! Fellow Russian student abroad 馃拝馃徎 Go for it, girl! So proud of you! Thank you for such an information dense article!