Admission to world-class universities
Admission to world-class universities: Tips for future applicants
Although many students from Bangladesh go to Nanyang Technological University (NTU) for graduate studies, there is hardly any student from Bangladesh who went there for undergraduate studies, let alone with a full-ride scholarship. Recently one admission candidate ended the drought, meet Abrar Azim Hrittek, who is possibly the first student from Bangla medium background to gain full-ride to study at NTU as an undergraduate student. To learn about the admission journey and get tips for future applicants, the writer had a conversation with him recently.
Nanyang Technolo-gical University (NTU) is a research-intensive university located in Singapore. It was established in 1981 and has since grown to become one of the top universities in the world, consistently ranked among the top 20 in the QS World University Rankings. NTU is prestigious for its strong focus on research and innovation, with a number of research institutes and centres, which led to significant breakthroughs in various fields, including engineering, science, and business. Moreover, students from over 100 countries make the NTU student body diverse, create a culture of learning, collaboration and opportunities to broaden their perspectives and build global networks.
Choosing Singapore for overseas studies: In general, Bangladeshi students tend to go to Anglophone or European countries (such as US, UK, Canada, Germany etc.) for higher studies. Why did you choose Singapore as the study destination? Abrar replies, "I was drawn to NTU's unique academic and social culture, and surprised by its quick rise to being one of the best universities in the world despite only being 41 years old. It was like an unattainable dream, but I decided to take a shot at applying."
Admission journey to NTU: The admission journeys to foreign universities were never easy, and Abrar's choice to apply in a Singaporean university which is different from the stereotype adds an extra layer of difficulty for him, "I prepared for the admission process for the last two years, despite being introduced to the world of foreign admissions late. Although I was behind my exceptional peers, I gave extra effort, while balancing a long-distance commute from Dinajpur to Dhaka. My passion and involvement in extracurricular activities helped my application. Mental preparation is crucial for applying abroad, especially with the expectation of a full scholarship and countless rejections. Being one of the first accepted applicants to schools like NTU, I developed an unyielding mentality that allowed me to chase my dreams despite doubters."
His perseverance didn't go in vain, as he managed to secure not only admission in NTU but also study his preferred major as well, "I dreamed of studying at a top university and Nanyang ranked consistently in the world's top 20. In 2022, it was ranked 12th worldwide and considered Asia's best science and technology university. I got accepted to the environmental earth system science major with a second major in data analytics. With one of the best environmental science programmes in the world and state-of-the-art facilities, I knew it was the right fit for me and the opportunity of a lifelong experience I was going to carry."
Scholarship at NTU for Bangladeshi Students: Getting into one of the top universities of the world with a full-ride scholarship looks nearly impossible for most of the students. Is it impossible for Bangladeshi students too? Well, Abrar cracked the code and shared his experience, "NTU requires both academic excellence and extracurricular performance to be eligible for scholarships. For NCTB curriculum students, we are not eligible to apply with national grades. So, personal projects and leadership positions can be used to prove academic capability. Prioritising extracurricular activities is important, and NTU admires dedication to work shown through volunteering and other impactful activities."
Abrar continues, “I demonstrated my passion for environmental sciences with personal projects, work in international magazines, an Olympiad medal, and other distinctions. My philosophy was simple: these universities wouldn't judge you on the basis of just a few marks or even a grade in some cases.”
He further continues, “The holistic admission process considers personal goals and passion behind one's work. My volunteering for three years at InclusionX, an NGO that works with special needs children and pursuing impactful environmental journalism work through internships showed my dedication towards my work and was admired by NTU.”
"Finally, I would credit my performance at the International Earth Science Olympiad winning a bronze medal with my team showing academic excellence in my preferred subject. It wasn't just limited to academic and extracurricular activities as I tried to showcase my inspiring journey through family and financial hardships in my essays to NTU," Abrar added.
As a Bangla medium student from Bangladesh to gain full-ride to NTU, how does Abrar feel? He responds, "It is indeed a dream come true. I have been told numerous times that it was just an unattainable dream. Honestly, sometimes I believed that as well. Traversing through uncharted territories does make it scarier. For me, I remember my family not celebrating when I just got the acceptance as anything below a full-ride would be unaffordable. The same scenario can be seen for a lot of students in the country. They should be prepared to hear harsh words and face harsher situations. I was told a million times I couldn't do it, even a teacher once said that I won't ever amount to anything just because I strayed from the traditional path. So, it is never over till it's over."
Advice for future applicants: So, what is the future advice for future candidates who want to choose an iconoclastic path like Abrar? His first and foremost advice is to start early with the process, "Admission in NTU is a very holistic process, especially for national curriculum students. I would recommend finding your passion soon and working to demonstrate it. Olympiads and project competitions could be a great way to show that you are genuinely passionate about something. In many cases, the entrance examination requirements aren't waived. In these cases, a good foundation in STEM subjects would be crucial in cracking the exam."
Abrar Azim Hrittek's journey to being one of the first students from Bangla medium background to gain a full scholarship to study at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is an inspiring one. He overcame obstacles, excelled academically and in extra-curricular activities, and made it to one of the best universities globally. His journey inspires and offers valuable guidance to those who hope to study at a world-class institution like NTU.