Elena is an overachieving student from Bosnia looking to study Computer Science. Where better than UC Berkeley and the Silicon Valley?
Growing up in war-torn Bosnia, Elena had a huge challenge that she needed to overcome. After winning The National Mathematics Competition, she decided to enroll to the best high school specialized in Science in the Balkans. During her time there, she took part in the Mathack Competition, NASA Space Apps Challenge, MTS App Challenge, won first place at a regional competition in Belgrade, completed a half-marathon and won a silver medal at Belgrade's Rowing Competition.
How did you choose your university and major?
I've always been into math and computer science (CS) and I simply thought that CS would be more practical and lucrative, thus a better long-term choice. Silicon Valley is the global center for technology and CS and I couldn't have imagined a better place to study than UC Berkeley. I always thought that it is important to be part of a school that has a strong brand and that also played a big role when I applied there.
What were the most useful aspects of Mentorship Program to you?
The amount of information that I was getting from Equedu allowed me to make my decisions fully aware of so many details regarding my application and it definitely saved me a lot of time. I also appreciated that the information I was getting was first-hand, something that I couldn't have gotten online, but from people who've experienced it and have full understanding of the application process, career coaching, and life in the United States.
How would you describe your interaction with your mentor?
From the very beginning, it was friendly and I could see how the people at Equedu were determined to help me succeed. I also appreciated the flexibility which the mentors showed. I am usually very busy with a lot of projects and extracurriculars and it meant a lot to me that I could easily get in touch with my mentors whenever it was necessary.
What were the most difficult part of the application process for you?
There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of students applying to each of the top universities in America every year. A great portion of these applicants are students who have great grades, great SAT results, and lots of extracurricular activities. I knew that the only way for me to succeed was to focus on my own individuality.
What were some of the aspects that made your application stand out?
I was born in Bosnia just after the civil war and my early childhood was defined by poverty and the consequences of that war. One of the consequences was that there was a shortage of qualified professors because most of them fled the country during the war and I understood very early that I would have to leave my country in order to get a higher level of education. In high school, besides my academic achievements, I was engaged in several different clubs related to Robotics and Technical Sciences and was also the first girl to ever play basketball on the school's all-boys team.
How did Equedu help you grow on a personal level?
I became much better and confident at communicating with others, both verbally and via email. During this process, I had to talk to many people who studied at top universities in order to get their advice, prepare for interviews and write tens of emails in search of scholarships. People at Equedu were always there to guide me and teach me how to be better at all of these things.
What is your advice to future applicants?
Focus is the keyword. A few more points on the SAT aren't going to do much to improve your chances even though it might take a lot of work to achieve that. I would say that the key would be to show focus in your extracurricular activities and show that you've become very good at them. That wouldn't happen if you participate in a dozen different activities, but if you focus on one to three where your attributes would be strongest.