Rejected from all Ivy League universities

Rejected from the Ivy's

Two days ago I received rejections from all the universities in the USA I have applied to (except Ramapo and Drexel). The list of universities includes the Ivy League, Duke, Vanderbilt and Williams. And of course I am not the only one – many friends of mine in Bulgaria got rejected or at the best waitlist decisions. And of course many other impressive students around the world got rejected as well. With this post I want to explain my thoughts on the top universities in the U.S. I also hope that if someone rejected lands on my post, the latter would help him overcome the rejections (if he feels forlorn).
1) Why you shouldn’t feel sad
Many really successful students around the world do not get accepted to the Ivy League. Many people refer to the Ivy’s as a gambling bet – you may be talented and get in, you may be really talented and get rejected, you may not be really smart but get in thanks to a hook or you may not be really smart and get rejected like the other 30,000 candidates for the same university. You just did not have luck, but this does not mean that you are not going to be successful or that you wont have a good life. I will give you an example right away – an acquaintance of mine got rejected from a lot of places last year and he decided to take a gap year. He applied again and received acceptance offers from Cambridge and Yale. So, what I am trying to say is: “The rejection is never the end. You can choose another place to study or you can take a gap year during which to learn a lot of new things, gain useful experience and do what you really want to do. You can be a volunteer in a foreign country, you can take up different courses in Internet or in the nearby college. You can help people – if you are really good in chemistry, for example, you could teach chemistry from time to time in your school.”. Remember, top universities do not produce successful people. They just give you good opportunities you could exploit if you are a hardworking person. But there are opportunities everywhere: if you want to study Computer Science, why don’t you just read a book, start solving programming problems, compete in online contests and do research. You could do this on your own and basically own DA SHIT at the university.
2) No, it is not the end
The bachelor degree is not the end. You could always take a Master or a PhD degree at a better university. Usually, the acceptance rate for Master and PhD degrees are much higher than those for bachelor degrees. Are bachelor degrees that important? If you have graduated from Harvard, that would definitely be a hook for your first job, but would it be such a huge hook for your second, third, tenth occupation? No, I do not think so. If you are hard-working and devoted, you could always succeed in the long run. I know many people who have not studied at MIT, Princeton and the other top universities, but now work at different prominent companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook. I hope that thankfully to the aforementioned facts I have persuaded you that the bachelor degree is not the end. Strive for success, cling to happiness and you will inevitably find them!
3) Why you shouldn’t be sorry for applying to the Ivy’s
Perhaps you think that you have wasted your time applying to universities you did not get in. Yeah, you have spent a lot of time studying for the SATs, for school, doing volunteer work, competing in Olympiads, going to conferences, embarking on research projects, filling in forms and writing essays. But is that wasted time? You have learned a lot of new things, you have probably met a lot of new and diverse people, you have enhanced your mental skills and you have made one of the steps towards success – understanding that not everything goes as planned and that not always your hard work is going to be rewarded. Maybe the only thing you should feel bad is the money, but as an ex-owner of an online shop I could tell you – money flows in different directions: at one time you could be swimming in cash, at another you could be broke as hell. Basically, you should not feel that bad for the spent money, because you may be broke right now, but at a later stage of your life I bet you will have all the money you need.
4) So what now?
Do as you please! It is your final year at secondary school – make something out of it. Develop your own plan:
– What are you going to do this summer? Camps? Festivals? Parties? Study?
– What are you going to do with your life? Do you wanna rock? (Twisted Sisters reference). Will you take a gap year? Will you study in the U.S., in the UK or in another country? The decision is entirely up to you!
– What do you want to do? If you are interested in something, give it a try – study in Internet, read books about that topic, perfect yourself.
– Are you going to work this summer?
Think about the aforementioned questions and build a schedule. Always remember: no matter where you end up, you could always be successful in the long run. Do not sob that you are not going to study in the Ivy’s or in another prominent university, because life is ahead of you. You are young, talented and intelligent (only smart persistent people apply to the Ivy’s, trust me) – you can always be a winner, just do not give up.
So, that’s my motivational post about the Ivy League and generally about life and education. I hope that it would offer some psychological help to all of you who have been rejected and feel forlorn about that.
It turned out to be a really long post, but I am happy that I have written it – it turned out to be a motivation for me, as well.

My Cambridge interview – stay, questions and much more

About 3 months ago I had the opportunity to be interviewed for the University of Cambridge. Though I have not received an offer, I would like to depict my experience and give some advice to future Cambridge applicants.

Intro
I applied for a CompSci major at Christ’s College. Myself, I think that his was my first mistake regarding my application. I have decided to apply to Cambridge on a whim and I have not embarked on a research to select which the most appropriate college. I should have carefully examined all the colleges. My mistake was that Christ’s College is one of the small colleges. There are about 15 CompSci candidates a year and they pick only one or two. Although the chance for every college is about the same, it is more suitable to select a college in which the enrolled students are roughly 60-70 or more.

The travel
There was a storm on the day before my interview and I almost missed my flight. I landed safely in London on the 5th of December. Basically, I caught the bus for St Pancras, got me some food and caught the train for Cambridge from King’s Cross. It took me about an hour to get to Cambridge. The people were exceptionally friendly – I met a priest (as funny as it may seem) who helped me reach Christ’s College. Because I had been a little early, I had to wait for about two hours in the nearby coffee (EAT.). All applicants were irritated because the rooms were quite cold despite the heating. All of the other candidates were nervous due to the imminent interviews – I guess studying in Cambridge could be really important for some people.

The interview
I had two interviews – one in Mathematics and one in Computer Science. I was asked two questions during my Maths interview. Before the questions, he introduced himself and told me not worry if I make some mistakes. The interview went for about 20 minutes. The problems were:
1) Draw me the graph of y^2 – x^2 = -1 . This includes the graphic, asymptotes, and etc. Next I had to talk a little about for a more general case y^2 – x^2 = a where a is a constant. I did a few mistakes but the interviewer gave me the opportunity to correct myself. They know that it is stressful to be in a foreign environment.
2) Given a set of n elements, what is the count of subsets we can derive from the initial set. Again I made a few mistakes, but I managed to correct myself and tackle the problem. After you tell him the answer, which is (2^n), you will have to prove it. You will have to mathematical induction.
Next was the CompSci interview. I had an one-hour break. This time there were two interviewers. They introduced themselves and asked me some introductory questions:
1) Why do I want to study Computer Science?
2) How do I see myself in 5 years?
Next, the main questions followed:
1) You have a set of users and their passwords in a file (handles me a paper with examples). What is the problem? Do you see something which is not right? What would you correct?
The list contained something like:
george 123456
sam qwerty

First I talked about keeping the information in a database, because it is easier to handle the info and it is more secure. Then I mentioned hashing the passwords using md5, sha1 + salt. I guess I had to tell them about setting an appropriate id for every user so that we could search for a user in O(1) given by its index.
2) How would you hack the website?
I told him about a brute force attempt. The interviewer was obviously not familiar what brute force means, so I had to explain to him. We had a little talk and proved him wrong – he was like “Yeah, that’s right”.
3) You have a set of 1000 cards. How would you sort them?
I told him about using quicksort (fast, but harder to code) or bubblesort (slow, but easier to code). He laughed that I would use quicksort for sorting a deck of cards (yeah, it would seem funny using this algorithm in a real life scenario). He told me to explain bubblesort and to calculate the number of comparisons and swaps of cards. Then he told me to explain insertsort. I wold him about using binary search to find the appropriate place for the card in ordered set of cards. He again told me to tell the number of swaps and comparisons.
Basically, this was pretty much everything. I really thought I had aced the interviews, but unfortunately I was rejected.

My advice: I felt in love with Cambridge the moment I visited the city. It is really nice, the people are cool and friendly and London is just an hour away from Cambridge. If you are given the opportunity to study there, unless you have offers from the Ivy League or other cool universities in the U.S., you should definitely enroll.

If you have any questions, I would be more than honored to answer them. : )

How to get a good score on SAT

If you consider to study in the U.S, then you would need to take the SAT exams. Depending on what you plan to study, you would need to take a different “pack” of SAT subject tests. For example, if you plan to study Bioinformatics, it would be a good idea to take Biology, Math Level 1 or 2 (preferable 2) and furthermore it would really help to take Physics. Why Physics? Well, Physics is an universal science discipline and would enhance drastically your methodology of thinking. Physics is a part of many other science subjects and therefore you should have a deeper comprehension on it in order to be good on the other. Consequently, you should pick Physics and Math Level 2 if you plan to pursuit a science career. Of course, in order to be competitive you should also take SAT 1 and if you have time and the knowledge you could also take other subject tests like German, Chemistry, History and so on.

But let us get to the main topic of this post: How to get a good score. There is no straight answer. However, I can give you some tips you should consider and which, though these tips may not guarantee you a perfect score, they would undoubtedly improve your score. Firstly, I will consider the SAT 1 subject test and I will discuss the three parts of it – Reading, Math, Writing.

SAT 1

Reading:

You will get across two general types of questions: Passage-based reading and sentence completion.

How to prepare for the passage-based reading?

The only key to beat the passage-based reading is… reading books. What a surprise, isn’t it? You should pick hard to read books like “Pride and Prejudice”, “1984”, “The Great Gatsby” and other greats classics. Reading these books you will be stumbled by the many unfamiliar words, that you SHOULD learn. Make flash-cards and study about 40-50 words a day. If you have a 6 months till your SAT exam, you should not panic. You could even  learn 20 words a day and still be on schedule.

How to prepare for the sentence completion?

Well, you should only learn words. Read 10 hard books (preferable novels) and you will be ready (of course if you have learned all words in the books). How convenient, isn’t it? To prepare for the passage-based reading and on other hand to be preparing yourself for the sentence completion.

You should also practice. Buy 2-3 SAT books, do the tests, search in Internet. There are plenty of sites which offer SAT tests for free. Some of them contain other helpful material.

Math

Well, honestly, I do not think that this part of the test is hard and you should just be focused and pay attention on the exam, myself. However, if you’re not good in Mathematics you should read a book and do some tests. 10 tests would do fine. Be aware, 1 mistake can cost you 20-30 points!

Writing

It is a good idea to read as many books as possible to gain enough examples you can write about in the essay. Being familiar with history would help you as well. If you’re with many walks of life, then you could give an example with your personal experience. And again: do as many tests as possible! Doing so, you will be familiar with all possible questions and common mistakes on the writing section.

The general conclusion: do all the tests you can find and undoubtedly you will get a good score. But be aware that do them with exact timing. If the time has passed, stop doing the section.

Soon I will take my time to write a post about “How to score a good score on SAT subject tests” and I will speak mostly about MATH 1,2, Physics and Chemistry.

Why to aim for a good university abroad

The following post clearly mirrors my own thoughts on studying. Therefore, I do not expect my ideas to be absolutely correct and I would really like if someone could take his time to comment.
About a year ago I made my decision to study abroad, mainly because, in my opinion, the education in Bulgaria is pretty poor and “outmoded”. It is a fact that one cannot obtain practical knowledge even in the top Bulgarian universities. That’s the main reason I made up my mind to study abroad – mostly aiming for USA and England. The educational system of a typical university in USA is undoubtedly a lot better than that in my home country and moreover most of the TOP universities in the world (a.k.a ivy league) are located there. One cannot by himself enumerate the benefits from entering a top university like Princeton, for example. However, right below you can see a list of some of the benefits:

  • Participation in research
  • Close contacts with some of the pundits of our century (and the previous one)
  • Studying in some of the best courses you can find
  • Learning the newest technologies and other interesting stuff (i.e. machine learning, cloud computing, nano technology and so on)
  • Having an “university life”. You will live on your own (though you will probably have a roommate). Consequently, you will learn to be independent and eradicate the habit to count on your parents.
  • Diversify your contacts. You will be in an environment in which you will be a foreign student. Moreover, you will have the chance not only to get along with the “natives”, but also to meet people from other nationalities – Indian, Chinese, Russian and so on.
  • You will be surrounded by people who can make a change. Most of them will become famous scientists, other will occupy important positions, other will found their own companies and other will be workers in the top companies – Google, Microsoft and so on.
  • Being surrounded by smart people will raise the “knowledge bar” to a higher level. You will have to push yourself to the limit in order to enhance your knowledge. Only, in this way you will be able to be competitive in the university, because no one is “random”.

I hope that the hereby post will be a motivation for people who hesitate whether they should learn abroad or not.