When I was a kid and people asked me what I wanted to study when I grew up I always had a different answer. Whether I said I wanted to be a vet or a chef, one part of my answer was always the same: I wanted to go to the United States.
Fast forward ten years and I was a senior in high school. It was time for me to decide what I wanted to study and which university I wanted to attend. After hours and hours of reading about the careers I thought were interesting, I decided that I wanted to study Computer Science. When it came to picking a university I considered the University of Buenos Aires, the University of La Plata, and many others, but I never even thought that studying in the U.S. was a possibility since I knew how expensive going to college is there.
Then one day my mom showed me a post she saw on the U.S. Embassy in Argentina’s Facebook page. It read “Applications for EducationUSA’s Opportunity Funds program are now being accepted!” As I later found out, the Opportunity Funds program supports exceptionally well-qualified students of limited financial means with the up-front costs of applying to undergraduate degree programs at U.S. colleges and universities. I decided to apply and, about a month later, I found out that I was selected as one of the four Opportunity Scholars in the country!
Later that week I visited one of the EducationUSA centers in Buenos Aires, and I met my academic advisors, Curt McNeal and Giselle Dubinsky. Curt has his office in ICANA, and Giselle is located in the Fulbright Commission. I then had to decide which colleges and universities I wanted to apply to. I was told “choose two dream schools, two reach schools, and two safety schools”. I knew from the beginning what my two dream schools were: MIT and Stanford. Of course, I didn’t ever think that I would be accepted to them since they accept less than 7% of the applicants.
For three months I travelled over an hour from where I live to Buenos Aires to take classes with a private teacher twice a week to prepare for some of the standardized exams I had to take. I took the SAT, but I wasn’t happy with my scores so I went on to take the ACT twice, until I finally got a score I was proud of. I also had to take the TOEFL to demonstrate English proficiency. Moreover, I had to take three SAT Subject Tests. I somehow managed to do all of that in just seven months, balancing it on top of my school work and other activities.
EducationUSA’s Opportunity Funds program financed my exams, the translation of my academic documents, application fees, and other costs. My advisors, Giselle and Curt, guided me through the whole process. I talked to them almost every day. We had many discussions about me not applying to enough “safety schools”, but I knew exactly what I wanted and I never backed down or lost sight of my goals.
Out of the 11 schools I applied to, MIT was the first to release their admission decision. It was the first of many rejections. It wasn’t until March 30th that I got good news. It was Ivy Day, and I had applied to five Ivy League schools. But I didn’t get good news from all of them. I was rejected by UPenn, Harvard, and Brown, and waitlisted by Columbia. And, finally, when I logged into my Dartmouth applicant portal I read “Congratulations! I am honored to offer you admission to the Class of 2021.” I was incredibly happy! Not only had I been accepted, I had also been offered a full ride. But I still held out hope for Stanford, and the news finally came the following day.
Decisions came out at 7 p.m on the same day that I was going to Lollapalooza, a music festival. I happened to walk into the venue at exactly 7, and as soon as I got in I lost all phone signal. I kept trying to check but I could never get enough signal to even load the page. I ended up getting signal three and a half hours later while walking from one stage to another in the dark and trying not to lose my friends in the crowd. After getting rejected from most of the schools I applied to, I was expecting to get another rejection, so when I read “Congratulations!” I stopped dead in my tracks because I needed a minute for it to sink in. Even to this day it’s still hard for me to believe that I got accepted by such an amazing school, and I was even offered a full ride!
I am one of only three Argentines going to Stanford this year, which to me just proves that if you work hard enough, dreams do come true. And if I hadn’t found the EducationUSA Opportunity Funds Program, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. As Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President of Stanford, said recently at Stanford’s Commencement: “Be open to unexpected experiences; there is a good chance one of them may transform your life.”
If you want more information about studying in the USA, you can attend EducationUSA’s Fair on August 29 @ Hotel Emperador (Avenida del Libertador 420), Buenos Aires. From 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm. Entry is free. Link: https://educationusafair.org/buenos-aires/