Iliyas Bashir Noman  

Sofia High School of Mathematics ‘23 

EducationUSA Opportunity Funds-Bulgaria Grant Recipient 

MIT, MA ‘27 

My name is Iliyas, and I am a senior at Sofia High School of Mathematics in Sofia, Bulgaria. My passion for mathematics led me to apply to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, where I plan to study mathematics. I was also admitted to other elite institutions in the US – Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Duke, and Yale – but I ultimately chose to join the Beavers. 

My journey to MIT was not a solitary one, and I had the support of the Fulbright EducationUSA Advising Center in Sofia throughout the entire process. To describe my entire EducationUSA/Opportunity experience in one word or phrase, I would say it was “transformative”. I learned so much from the advising center that helped me to navigate the complex process of applying to universities in the United States successfully. 

My favorite Opportunity assignment was writing the sample essays, where I had the opportunity to hone my writing skills and learn how to communicate my ideas more effectively. The three most useful Opportunity activities were attending information sessions, the essay writing course, and participating in mock interviews. These activities helped me to understand the application process, what colleges are looking for in applicants, and how to present myself in the best possible light. 

Thanks to my training with the Fulbright EducationUSA Advising Center, I avoided many mistakes that students often make during the application process. For example, I learned how to write a compelling essay, how to request letters of recommendation, and how to demonstrate my interest in a college. 

Choosing to attend school in the United States was an easy decision for me. The United States is home to some of the best universities in the world, and studying in the United States would provide me with unique opportunities that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I found the right college for me by doing extensive research on universities that have strong mathematics programs, are research-oriented, and have a vibrant campus community. I chose to apply to MIT because of its exceptional mathematics program and its commitment to research and innovation aligns with my academic and career goals. 

To demonstrate my interest in colleges, I attended college fairs, visited college websites, and talked to current students and alumni. I believe that what helped my application stand out was my strong academic record, my research experience, and my involvement in math olympiads. 

The standardized admission tests were an essential part of my application, and I prepared extensively for them. I also took advantage of virtual college visits and contacted colleges to ask questions and learn more about their programs. As an international student, getting a 100% scholarship is difficult, but I was fortunate to receive generous financial aid that has made attending MIT possible. 

Through this process, I learned a lot about myself and my strengths and weaknesses. I realized that I am resilient, adaptable, and able to handle stress and pressure.  

Managing my workload was challenging, but I learned to prioritize my tasks and create a schedule that allowed me to balance academics, extracurricular activities, and the application process. 

The major challenges I faced during the application process were navigating the financial aid process and dealing with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. To manage these challenges, I sought advice from my school counselor and current students who had gone through that process in previous years.  

If I had to do something differently, I would start the application process earlier and give myself more time to prepare for standardized admission tests. My advice to rising seniors would be to start early, stay organized, and be true to yourself in your application. 

In conclusion, the U.S. holistic application process is challenging, but with the right support and preparation, it is possible to succeed. My experience with the Fulbright EducationUSA Advising Center and the application process has taught me that it is essential to stay true to yourself, be confident in your abilities, and never give up on your dreams. My path to MIT was a success story, but it is just the beginning of my academic journey, and I look forward to the opportunities that studying in the United States will provide me. I hope that my story will inspire and encourage other students to pursue their academic goals and dreams.

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