Sixth Form student Maja O has just received a Stanford University offer! We interviewed Maja to ask her about her time at Langley, what she is currently studying, and any advice she would give to future students going through the American university application process.
How did you end up at Langley? Are you pleased you came?
I was fortunate enough to become a laureate of the British Alumni Society competition, which each year nominates students from Poland for full academic scholarships to boarding schools in England. I was allocated to Langley School and am very pleased to say that I have enjoyed my time here tremendously. It has been a great academic adventure, and living abroad taught me how to be independent and allowed me to explore different cultures.
What subjects are you studying?
I am studying English Literature, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Polish.
What was the process of application/interview for Stanford?
Stanford was extremely meticulous with the required documents – I had to provide grade transcripts all the way to primary school! I was also required to send predicted grades, SAT scores (the American equivalent of A-Levels), recommendations from my teachers and school counsellors, information about my extracurricular activities and their scope, a list of most important academic honours and awards, and even my family’s tax documents in my application for financial aid. Most importantly, I had to write multiple essays detailing my motivations and views – I answered prompts about “events that sparked a period of personal growth”, the most significant challenges faced by our society, what I’m looking forward to at Stanford, what makes me excited about learning or how I spent my last two summers. My application was 22 pages long, not including attachments, and much more comprehensive than my UCAS applications. I also had an interview where I talked to a recent graduate about my motivations and had an opportunity to ask any questions about the university.
What was the hardest question you were asked on the application form/at the interview?
The question, “Which historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?”. It was difficult to choose just one! I answered that I’d like to witness humanity’s first meeting with intelligent extraterrestrial life, aka aliens. Although it’s not technically a ‘historical’ moment (unless the conspiracy theories are right…), I like to think it will take place somewhere in the future.
The most important reason is that it’s in California, right next to the beach! It’s also located near Silicon Valley, where I’m thinking of working on artificial intelligence. It offers hundreds of courses and is consistently ranked among the top universities in the world, on par with Oxbridge, Harvard, and MIT. Also, Stanford was extremely generous with my scholarship offer, giving me the so-called “full-ride” – 100% scholarship, including room and board, plane tickets, or even health insurance. Universities in the USA can be very costly – Stanford’s usual fees amount to approximately 90 000$ per year, and, to put it bluntly, I don’t want my education to indebt me for the rest of my life. I received other offers, and as much as I’d like to attend Harvard, Yale, or Amherst, they weren’t as financially generous, and that’s an important aspect of my education.
What is appealing about the U.S.A? Academically, culturally?
Culturally, I have no idea, but I hope to find out! Academically, I love that I do not have to declare my chosen course for the first 2 years and can instead take different classes and explore my academic interests. It’s common for students to study computer science and comparative literature at the same time. In the UK and much of Europe, I would have to strictly declare which course I am applying for, and there wouldn’t be much space for exploration. I’m a very interdisciplinary person and have trouble following just one academic path, so the more flexible system of the US is better suited to my particular strengths.
Do you know anybody else who is going to the US?
No, I, unfortunately, do not. Hopefully, I’ll meet many great people there!
What advice would you give to others interested in this process?
Start early because the application is very different from the UCAS one. Also, since you’re considered an international student, it may be more difficult to get admitted. It’s good to have some original accomplishments or interests that will distinguish you from other candidates – for example, I wrote extensively about my passion for space medicine and beekeeping. There are many more essays than in the UK applications, so it’s important to let your personality shine through in areas other than academia. Most importantly, be brave and don’t listen to people who discourage you – I never thought that I, a student from Eastern Europe who needs a full scholarship, would make it, but here I am!