Interview by Filip Lyapov

EducationUSA Advisor Filip Lyapov sat down with Maria Georgieva, our latest addition to a growing cohort of bright Bulgarian high school students who continue their education with degrees at prestigious American universities. In the interview, Maria sheds light on her remarkable journey as part of the EducationUSA and Opportunity Funds programs. This fall, Maria will commence her undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. 

FL: Hi, Maria! Could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers? 

MG: Hello, my name is Maria Georgieva, and I am a recent graduate of Geo Milev English Language School in Ruse, Bulgaria. Ever since I can remember, my dream has been to study in the United States, so right now my dream has come true and I’m very excited about what’s awaiting me in the autumn at Harvard. 

FL: Tell us a little bit about your Harvard success story. How did your journey start? 

MG: My journey, of course, started by learning about the Opportunity Funds program and the EducationUSA consultancy program run by Fulbright Bulgaria from a friend of mine who was also a participant in the program. I’m very happy to say that she also had a success story applying to the University of Pennsylvania and getting accepted with a full-ride scholarship there. So, I immediately contacted her, asked her a couple of questions, and then she quickly pointed me in the direction of the Opportunity Funds competition and from then on, my journey kickstarted. 

It was very, very challenging, learning a lot of new information at once, but because my advisor was so helpful, she actually doled everything out in portions and managed to spread it over time with deadlines that felt comfortable for all the participants in the program. So it was enough for us to get accustomed to all new parts of the application process. In the end, stress is manageable and success is possible if you have someone who can guide you. 

FL: You already said that it’s challenging and often stressful, but could you share with us a few tips for future applicants? What should they do and what should they avoid? 

MG: Of course. For me the most challenging part was writing the essays. As a Bulgarian student, I have never had such an experience and lacked practice. Writing the main admissions essay is not simply about the wording or structuring your ideas. It’s more about understanding and expressing yourself, which to some people may present a very big challenge. So I needed first to know what my priorities are, what my story would be, and then to find a way to express it in the most creative and unique way that screams “me, me, me” in the essay. 

Also, I really struggled with deadlines, so I will advise every student to begin as soon as possible. In the end, stress can get the better of us and this inevitably has an impact on our mental state. We should start preparing well in advance and set comfortable deadlines for ourselves. 

FL: You’re absolutely right that applying to the States is quite a long process. Could you talk about some of the people who helped you along the way? 

MG: First of all, that was my advisor in the Opportunity Funds program, but also there were all the other students who were involved in the program. Opportunity Funds provides an amazing networking system that allows an applicant to connect not only with the participants from the same year, but also with those who were successful in previous years. I got to know many of them, I got to listen to their advice, and I’m really glad I did so, because they were also the people who helped me throughout this process – they knew the most tips and tricks about how to approach a certain task. It really saved me a lot of time, effort, and made me feel truly supported and more at peace. 

FL: What about your friends, family, and high school teachers? Did they all believe in you? Did they believe that you would be able to get accepted at such prestigious universities and that you would also get the necessary funding? 

MG: They supported me at every step of the way. Truly. Sometimes they even believed in me more  than I believed in myself, which might not be such a good thing, but it shows the great support that they were for me throughout the whole process.  

Since all the information about the financial offerings of all universities is so easily accessible on their websites, not only me but also my family, teachers, and friends knew that it was possible for me to get accepted with a full scholarship that would cover all my financial needs and would truly allow me to study in the United States. 

FL: And now, what do you expect from your Harvard experience? 

MG: Well, I expect that, first of all, I will learn so much new information. Not just in an academic way, but also because of the new interactions with other people that I will meet, with people from different cultures and from different backgrounds. And I truly hope that, thanks to those connections that I will have with diverse people, it will broaden my horizon and make me a better version of myself. 

I think that I will benefit from both the academic atmosphere and from all the relationships with faculty members, professors, and other students that I will be able to build, so those are the highlights that I’m looking most forward to. And, of course, getting to know my roommates, because living with roommates will be something new to me and I’m really excited about it. We could host social events at our dorm, which is another aspect of the American college experience that I’m sure I’ll really, really enjoy. 

FL: Thank you so much, Maria! Best of luck! 

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