Congratulations Nika!

Nika will attend Columbia University where she will be a member of the Division 1 Fencing Team. Nika is not only an awesome student, but a charming, funny, well-rounded individual who loves art museums, dressing up for Halloween, and dogs! Check out her essays below.

“Who are you?”
My answer to this question used to change more frequently than undergraduates switching their majors. After years of searching, however, I have finally settled on a consistent response: I am a peacock.


I was introduced to this peculiar idea during the first group activity at the National Student Leadership and Engineering Conference, a two-week program that hosts career-focused courses for high schoolers. I sat alongside 49 other confused students when the “Animal Personality Matrix” was introduced. I met this activity with opposition, afraid we would not retain our true selves after being separated into groups based on our fur-to-feather ratio. Nonetheless, I completed the personality quiz and found that I have qualities associated with lions, owls, and koalas, but I am predominantly a pheasant with extravagant plumage: the peacock (interactive, playful, expressive).


I put my personality to the test during the first competition, which asked my teammates and I to construct an economically efficient mini-wind-turbine with limited resources. The judges explained that to get money for these resources, each team must showcase their talents. The owl in me (conscientious, detailed, prepared) quickly surveyed the situation, developing a master plan which included at least one person in line to showcase talents while the rest of the group built the turbine. For a few rounds, the plan ran smoothly. Then everything came to a halt when Carl, a self-proclaimed engineering nerd, professed himself talentless.


Worried that our group dynamic might be compromised, I put down the handheld generator I was wiring, mustered up some lion courage (direct, confident, results-oriented), and gave Carl a pep talk. Instead of pressuring him, I did everything I could to make him feel comfortable, cracking jokes and sharing my go-to icebreaker: a childhood anecdote in which I embarrassed myself by colliding with onlookers while attempting to showcase my cartwheel. Carl paused, deliberating, and finally agreed that he had nothing to lose.


Five minutes later, our group roared encouragement as he showed off his double-jointed shoulders and break-dancing skills at the talent table. While Carl embraced his inner peacock, I connected with the koala in me (supportive, patient, sensitive) and felt proud to have gently urged the most reticent of birds to spread his wings.


The zenith of the conference came in the final activity: the product pitch. As the rest of the students filed into the auditorium, I guided my group to the stage where a zoo of eyes viewed us expectantly. We quivered with anticipation, collectively reflecting on the week of preparation that would become synonymous with this moment. I remembered how my internal peacock rumbled during our prototyping sessions, my expressive nature manifesting with each fresh idea I contributed to our carbon emission-fighting machine’s construction. My inner bird’s chirps had grown louder as I facilitated intricate connections between my peers, weaving everyone’s research into a cohesive product pitch. 


As I stepped up to the microphone, my feathers finally unfurled. “Why does the climate want privacy?” I asked. A beat, then: “Because it’s changing.” After a moment of silence, the audience howled like a pack of rhesus monkeys stumbling on a Kit-Kat. They were hooked. Over the next fifteen minutes, I playfully relayed climate change jokes to supplement our clean-energy product presentation. Not only had I fanned out my kaleidoscopic sheath of feathers to the public for the first time, but I was chosen as my group’s MVP after we won the overall competition.


In our moment of victory, I understood that the alleged confinement of personality typecasting can serve as a foundation for growth and exploration in every imaginable direction. The conference helped me discover the joy in leading my classmates and friends to uncover and exercise new talents. Now I eagerly scan the open waters for new possibilities with a peacock figurehead perched at my bow.

List a few words or phrases that describe your ideal college community. (150 words or less)*


challenging / welcoming Pushing past mental boundaries through a demanding course load Disengaging from toxic competition

individual / collective Tailoring an athletic and academic program to fit my needs Learning through discussion and making cross-disciplinary connections

artistic / scientific Enjoying an art exhibit or show with a friend and deriving inspiration for my painting practice from it Getting my hands dirty in the lab and thinking up novel solutions to engineering conundrums

philosophical / practical Discussing Kantian theories over chai tea Interning for innovative engineering firms

structure / chaos Drawing upon a core curriculum to establish a foundation for profound exploration Experiencing an epiphany while navigating a busy street


Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why. (300 words or less)*

Curiosity is an integral part of my identity that has led me to discover my passion for harnessing the power of technology to benefit society. How can we make the huge technological advances of the 21st century accessible to everyone rather than a select few? I am thrilled to answer this question through a mechanical engineering major at Columbia. In conjunction with the communal learning and critical dialogue that the Core Curriculum fosters, I am eager to engage with the interdisciplinary program in rehabilitation robotics with Professor Agrawal and biomedical research projects with Professor Ateshian. This combination of structure and freedom is well-suited for my product design and entrepreneurial interests and also satisfies my intellectual curiosity.  Furthermore, since I started fencing in 2013, I’ve dreamed of being on a Division 1 team. The individualized training that Columbia’s fencing program offers along with the opportunity to practice at New York Athletic Club with some of the world’s best fencers will help me achieve my athletic goals. After speaking with Coach Aufrichtig and watching the Columbia Lions compete at NCAA championships, I know that no other team in the country would make me more proud to be a student athlete.  My curiosity extends far beyond athletics and academics. From baking my favorite bread for social justice with Challah for Hunger to fighting for diversity in STEM with the Society of Women Engineers, I can’t wait to contribute to Columbia’s vibrant community. I am excited to be immersed in the heartland of all of my interests and plan on making frequent trips to the Frick and local Russian banyas.  No other university offers the perfect balance of academics, athletics, and culture. At Columbia, I will channel my curiosity into solving accessibility issues in technology while engaging with the greater community of the City.


For applicants to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. (300 words or less)* A friendly receptionist led me and my mom past a fake plant and through a set of glass doors into what looked like a classic Silicon Valley startup. Business-casual hipsters sporting translucent glasses struggled to power walk to their feng shui work stations without spilling their matcha lattes. “So this is Tesla?” my 13-year-old brain wondered. We navigated miles of “flexspace” until arriving at a door distinguished only by its elaborate keypad. In a few quick motions, the receptionist conjured a portal to another universe: “So this is Tesla.” The sea of jerking mechanical arms assembling car parts in whirring harmony hypnotized me. My trance was only disrupted when Mom’s arm pushed me back, narrowly saving me from a man on a bicycle cutting through a maze of conveyor belts on the bright, linoleum track. Having returned from my reverie, I switched gears into problem-solving mode and began to discern the role of each robotic limb, thoroughly captivated by the calculated movements and the power of their collaboration. After years of pondering my Tesla experience, I discovered I am most passionate about how we can use everyday tools and objects in ways that have a global impact. For example, in my dual enrollment engineering class, I am redesigning a pinhole camera for people with limited dexterity. The possibilities don’t stop there. How can we manufacture a video game controller for someone with arthritis? How can we improve office chairs for those suffering from scoliosis? How will we redesign a race car to be wheelchair-friendly? It is up to the contemporary engineering community to develop creative solutions that unite people regardless of physical condition. I am eager to examine such questions and contribute to the groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary environment that is fostered at Columbia.


 List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or less)*

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
Antigone – Sophocles
Essentials of Comparative Politics – O’Neil, Fields, Share
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
Othello – William Shakespeare
The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri
Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri
The Non-Designer’s Design Book – Robin Williams
The Odyssey – Homer
The Overcoat – Nikolai Gogol
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Coleridge
The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or less)*

Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
The Gnostic Novel of Mikhail Bulgakov – George Krugovoy
A Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Brief Answers to the Big Questions – Stephen Hawking
Dr. Chung’s SAT II Math Level 2
Educated – Tara Westover
I Think I am in Friend-Love With You – Yumi Sakugawa
Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Rilke
Notes on “Camp” – Susan Sontag
Politics and the English Language – George Orwell
So the Story Goes – Johns Hopkins University
The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud
The Elements of Style – Strunk & White
The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
The Nose – Nikolai Gogol
The Old Man and The Sea – Hemingway
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps – Alan Gelb

List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly. (150 words or less)*

Arts & Letters Daily
Bloom’s Literature
Harvard Business Review
Mashable: Tech Section
MIT Press Journals: Daedalus; Linguistic Inquiry; Open Mind
NPR: Hidden Brain
Project Gutenberg
Radiolab – WNYC Studios
The Atlantic
The Economist
The Oatmeal
The New Yorker
The New York Times
Vanity Fair
What the Fashion

List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year. (150 words or less)*

Camp: Notes on Fashion (MET)
Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography (MFAHouston)
Nari Ward: We the People (CAMHouston)
The Impressionist Pastel (AIoChicago)
Pop América: Vital Dialogue Crosses Borders (Nasher Museum)
Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art (MFAHouston)
Works by Cy Twombly (Menil Collection)
Apocalypse Now
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Russian Ark
The Martian
The Shape of Water
Black Mirror
Mad Men
Peaky Blinders
The Americans
The Politician

Rice University lectures: 
Introduction to Neuroengineering
Principles of Economics

Kiss Me, Kate! – the Roundabout Theater Company
Picasso at the Lapin Agile – Alley Theater
Boléro Triptych – Stanton Welch; Houston Ballet
Swan Lake – the Russian Ballet Theater
The Fountain of Bakhchisarai – Mariinsky Theater
LENINGRAD at Hard Rock Hotel
Pink Martini at the Houston Symphony
Megan Thee Stallion at Revention Center
Spoon, Cage the Elephant, Beck – Night Running Tour
The Rolling Stones at NRG Stadiu

Please share how you believe your experiences, perspectives, and/or talents have shaped your ability to contribute to and enrich the learning environment at UT Austin, both in and out of the classroom.


As a kid, sitting beside my dad in his Tahoe on our way to school, I created a morning ritual of asking questions: “Papa…do the floodlights at McDonald’s have a light sensor to detect the sunrise?” Curiosity was an integral part of my identity, so the discovery that some questions “should not be asked” did not sit well with me. “What’s with the gender imbalance in STEM careers?” As a sophomore, I dug for answers through an IB research project. I learned that even children’s toys contribute to the false masculinity surrounding the sciences; “girl-themed” versions of spatial skill-building toys like Legos and Lincoln Logs are developed as an afterthought. Refusing to be limited by narrow-minded advertisers and Danish toy manufacturers, I began fearlessly pursuing my interest in STEM. I joined the robotics team my junior year to expand my knowledge and contribute new ideas in a collaborative environment. Now, I wear my safety glasses and gloves with pride and don’t doubt my abilities based on gender. Asking questions has also led me to discover my interest in mechanics: “What if you drill the hatch mechanism to the base at a lower angle so it can act as a support for the pneumatics?” During build sessions and process meetings, asking questions has not only solidified our designs, but my passion for engineering. As I enter college, I am eager to contribute to my environment through unbounded curiosity. I intend to lead by example and empower other young women to pursue STEM fields, undeterred by stereotypes. Most importantly, I will continue to ask productive questions without worrying about whether or not I’m allowed.



Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways. Please share how you have demonstrated leadership in either your school, job, community, and/or within your family responsibilities. Masked faces atop white bodies charge at each other with weapons held high. The audience is on the edge of their seats, awaiting the outcome of the bout with bated breath. Instead of using traditional metal swords, however, these knights fight with plastic blue foils and the tops of their helmets barely reach my hip. Every Tuesday and Thursday after school, I drive straight to Alliance Fencing Academy to work as an assistant fencing coach for children aged 5-10. Over the past three years, I have learned how to confidently manage 20 pipsqueaks as they yell at each other through their masks and trip over their feet. At first, it wasn’t so easy. Although I was eager to share my knowledge and love of fencing, a horde of children running around a gym in matching fencing uniforms felt more like herding kittens than teaching a class. Explaining nuanced fencing strategy to tiny people with limited vocabulary and short attention spans is a delicate process. Initially, the plethora of mistakes the kids made overwhelmed my experienced eye. Over time, I stopped focusing on abstract concepts, and began giving simple, physical corrections. “Keep your tip on the target. Retreat after your counterattack. Bend your knees!” Two hours later, as the children stuff their gear into fencing bags, I start to warm up for my own lesson. As I practice my explosive flèche and long lunges, the kids ogle and new students often gasp, “I didn’t know you were a fencer too!” Living this dual role as a student and coach has broadened my perspective on both learning and teaching. My firsthand knowledge of how a fencer responds in practice combined with my coaching experience yields a double-edged perspective that allows me to be an effective leader in my loving fencing community.




Please share background on events or special circumstances that may have impacted your high school academic performance. Halfway through my junior year, a shooting at Lamar High School prompted my family to transfer me to Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart for my second semester. While I maintained my grades throughout this trying transition, my level of participation in extracurricular activities dropped as I settled into my new school. When I finally joined the robotics team at my new school, I  lost my seniority and was unable to secure the leadership position that I had anticipated at Lamar. At the same time, I lost my placement in advanced classes as a result of my transfer from International Baccalaureate to Advanced Placement; thus, I was unable to take the IB tests for which I had been preparing. Because I could only be placed into one AP class when I transferred, I was unable to replace the IB tests with the appropriate amount of AP exams. Although being forced to transfer so close to graduation was frustrating, the experience made me less ignorant to my environment and gave me the skills to face future unforeseen circumstances. Within my first week at Duchesne, I found that the change had already helped me discover new academic interests (such as morality and justice) and become more adaptable not just to a new building, but different teaching styles and student culture as well. Adjusting to the new school community empowered me to cast an appreciative, yet critical gaze on my surroundings, opening my eyes to new opportunities and ways to excel in any institution. With this fresh perspective, I developed the tools to take the first step toward embracing change through creative solutions.



Why are you interested in the major you indicated as your first-choice major?  A friendly receptionist led me and my mom past a fake plant and through a set of glass doors into what looked like a classic Silicon Valley startup. Business-casual hipsters sporting translucent glasses struggled to power walk to their feng shui work stations without spilling their matcha lattes. “So this is Tesla?” my 13-year-old brain wondered. We navigated miles of “flexspace” until arriving at a door distinguished only by its elaborate keypad. In a few quick motions, the receptionist conjured a portal to another universe: “So this is Tesla.” The sea of jerking mechanical arms assembling car parts in whirring harmony hypnotized me. My trance was only disrupted when Mom’s arm pushed me back, narrowly saving me from a man on a bicycle cutting through a maze of conveyor belts on the bright, linoleum track. Having returned from my reverie, I switched gears into problem-solving mode and began to discern the role of each robotic limb, thoroughly captivated by the calculated movements and the power of their collaboration.


Four years later I experienced the most pleasant déjà vu as Professor Scott Evans led me through UT’s futuristic EERC building. He pointed out a wall of 3-D printers and a labyrinth of workstations in the InventionWorks room with students across multiple disciplines working together on their senior projects. In one corner, an architecture major and an electrical engineering student were putting the finishing touches on an automatic chess board. The magnetic pieces on the board responded to an AI-generated chess game, reminding me of the robot-human teams operating Tesla’s conveyor belts. 

While the Tesla tour awakened my passion for STEM, exploring UT’s laboratories solidified my path as a mechanical engineer. I am eager to contribute to the groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary environment of UT Austin.



Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – and that is the goal of true education.” Explain why both are of equal importance, in what ways will a Liberal Arts Honors interdisciplinary education help you grow in these areas? (250 words) My personal definition of intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge rationally. However, intelligence alone is not enough to pursue a successful endeavor. Applications such as developing an economic forecast, designing a smartphone, or creating a business plan not only require knowledge of science and commerce, but also a strong sense of ethics and understanding of human behavior.  My diverse upbringing has enabled me to think logically and to see the big picture. Without a broad interdisciplinary background, I would have found it difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood, stereotypes from propaganda, and reality from fiction. To maintain the flexibility and adaptability of my character, I seek an interdisciplinary education that will help me think both critically and morally while staying inspired to achieve noble causes for the good of the world. I am interested in making economic changes to promote the accessibility and global use of technology. To create this market shift, I must understand the behavior of producers and consumers as well as the role global policies play in international economic, social, and environmental spheres. This requires an in-depth study of history, philosophy, sociology, and psychology. By taking classes such as Reacting to the Past, Experimental Life, and The Nature of Inquiry, I will gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to become a global citizen. The Liberal Arts Honors program will foster my creative attitude and independent, moral thinking while perfecting my writing, negotiation, and presentation skills, enabling me to become an effective global leader. 


What do you see as the largest problem facing society today? What do you see as the negative effects of this problem and how would an interdisciplinary education in Plan II Honors give you the tools to begin to solve this challenge to the greater good? (250 words) Global society’s rapid, economically-motivated technological development disregards quality of life for a large percentage of humanity, and has created an accessibility gap that needs addressing. This gap affects not only minority groups, but the majority of economic classes, and I am eager to spend my career working with communities of designers and engineers to do my part in eliminating this gap. In my engineering class, I combated this issue by redesigning a pinhole camera for people with limited dexterity. The possibilities for future product improvements do not stop here. I want to design and manufacture a video game controller for someone with arthritis and improve office chairs for those suffering from scoliosis. I want to combat Siri and Alexa’s androcentric tendencies. It is up to me and my student community to fight issues of accessibility and unite people of all physical conditions.  From designing an interactive voice technology devoid of misogynist tendencies to aiding my arthritic grandma in winning the Fortnite championship, I will work to unite people of all backgrounds by bringing them to the highest standards of living. To accomplish these goals, I must pursue an interdisciplinary approach to education. I want to take advantage of the Plan II Honors program to become a clear and creative thinker who can act globally and continue to stay inspired to achieve noble causes for the good of society. Plan II will facilitate my acquisition, development, and application of interdisciplinary knowledge towards technological advancements that are guided by morals rather than money.


Help us get to know you better. Please write five sentences (numbered 1 – 5) that give us some insight into you, your life, your interests and your experiences. There are no right answers–feel free to be creative and think outside the box.

  1. Mikhail Bulgakov begins his classic novel, Master and Margarita, with a confrontation with Satan on a bench in Moscow, and I unknowingly sat on the same bench when I was 14 years old.
  2. I often serenade my dog with trending rap songs, teaching him to be hip so he can impress the ladies at the dog park.
  3. My grandpa helped me appreciate Russian culture when he taught me how to make pelmeni dumplings from scratch, letting me in on the secret ingredient: a resourceful combination of pork, lamb, and beef.
  4. In second grade, I walked the streets of New Orleans as a life-size isosceles triangle for Halloween.
  5. I spent 6 weeks on an oil painting depicting my mom bagging groceries at Whole Foods, which I presented to her on her birthday as a symbol of gratitude for her caring nature and excellent snack preparation skills.


Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work or family responsibilities. (50-150 words)


Dressed head-to-toe in a white fencing ensemble, I emit an angelic aura. Hidden behind the helmet, however, is a ruthless killer instinct. When a tiny flick of the wrist or foot shuffle can determine the result of an entire competition, I must conjure vicious yet level-headed plans of attack. I’ve learned to balance my inherent empathy with a resolute, unapologetic vigor, emerging victorious from the toughest tournaments while maintaining my moral compass.  Cultivating this balance through fencing has permeated every facet of my life. I approach exams like fencing bouts with careful analysis and application of strategy, unleash ruthless zeal at robotics competitions, and continue to perfect the tenets of good sportsmanship with my peers. Over the last seven years of training, I’ve built character with every touch I score that I am eager to continue developing as a member of the Stanford fencing team and greater academic community.


What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? (50 words) AI scans every face at traffic intersections and grocery store entrances. Instagram conjures advertisements that depict our unspoken desires. Rather than fretting over Trojan bankers, users worry that Alexa and Siri are gossiping about their private conversations. By not addressing data privacy concerns, we are accelerating towards a 1984esque reality. How did you spend your last two summers? (50 words) Two summers ago, I swerved with my new driver’s license from MegaCamp where I clashed blades with distinguished fencers to the airport where I powered through SAT practices between connecting flights. The following summer, I competed in design challenges at Rice University and hiked scenic trails in Banff National Park. What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (50 words) The Eiffel Tower’s elegant lattice and iconic shape are almost as intriguing as its controversial construction amidst Paris’s concerns of architectural regularity. I wish I could have witnessed the two-year assembly and ultimate unveiling of this feat of engineering at the 1899 World’s Fair.


What five words best describe you? (5-10 words) Be Risky Engaging And Delicious. BREAD. 


When the choice is yours, what do you read, listen to, or watch? (50 words) I came for Cillian Murphy; I stayed for gang activity, corruption, and revolution. Set in post-war Birmingham, Peaky Blinders is a cinematographic masterpiece, but more importantly, helps sharpen my Cockney vernacular in case I ever get in serious “barney rubble” during a brawl in a British pub.


Name one thing you are looking forward to experiencing at Stanford. (50 words) I want to break into SLAC. Exploring the National Accelerator Library without limitations would be my version of Night at the Museum. To see the Test Beams in their natural habitat – ugh, a dream come true.


Imagine you had an extra hour in the day — how would you spend that time? (50 words) My mom joked that I should use the extra hour cleaning my room. I one-upped her, saying I’d spend it designing a robot to clean it for me. Although room-cleaning robots already exist, mine would also untangle necklaces, keep a missing-sock memory bank, and dust my lucky elephant statue collection.


The Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. (100-250 words)

The jovial receptionist led a sulky 13-year-old (me) and a teetering-on-fury lawyer (my mother) past a fake plant and translucent glass doors into what looked like a classic Silicon Valley startup. Business-casual hipsters sporting translucent glasses struggled to power walk to their feng shui work stations without spilling their matcha lattes. We navigated miles of “flexspace” before arriving at a door distinguished only by its elaborate keypad. In a few quick motions, the receptionist conjured a portal to another universe: “So this is Tesla.” The sea of jerking mechanical arms assembling car parts in whirring harmony hypnotized me. Fully jolted out of my teenage mood swing, I switched gears into problem-solving mode and began to discern the role of each robotic limb, thoroughly captivated by the calculated movements and the power of the robots’ collaboration. What struck me most about my Tesla experience was how seemingly banal, everyday objects can be programmed in harmony to create something extraordinary and new. Most fascinating to me, the syzygy of the Tesla assembly factory can be applied to anything: from my engineering class assignment to redesign a pinhole camera for use by people with limited dexterity to my next personal project — improving office chairs for those suffering from scoliosis. The idea that the next extraordinary invention might come from objects we interact with on a daily basis makes me genuinely excited to learn the cross-disciplinary systems that will aid me in creating beauty from chaos.


Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate – and us – get to know you better. (100-250 words) Hail Mortal, I am Nika, Russian goddess of strength and speed, deliverer of victory. Before you commit to roommatehood, I must warn you that wall to wall my wingspan does reach. My plumage grows with each foreign land I grace with my presence, so prepare for a burst of feathers each time I pass through our door.  In addition to splurging on coordinated dorm decor with me, you must endorse conflict and relish in chariot joyrides. You shan’t be afraid of heights, for I will frequently require your assistance in handing out garlands of victory to worthy candidates on campus. We will have loads of fun scoping out selfie spots on campus during golden hour and relaying the gods’ messages to our people. After quizzing each other before exams in Lathrop, we’ll delight in bathing in the blood of our enemies.  You must enjoy musical performances for I will frequently break into celebratory, post-victory songs on my lyre. You must be brave, fortunate, and assertive for I have no patience for losers or introverts. If it sounds like my hubris might get in the way of our camaraderie, know that I am actually quite open-minded; I merely have high standards. If you possess these aforementioned qualities, I will grant you the strength and speed needed to emerge victorious from any undertaking and provide you with an endless supply of Nike shoes. Can’t wait to become BFFs!! XOXO,

Nika Goddess O’Victory


Tell us about something that is meaningful to you and why. (100-250 words) My family history reminds me to never take freedom for granted. Both my great-grandfathers fought in WWII, serving in active defense of the Soviet Union. Their wives remained in Leningrad, surviving the 872 days of Siege and burying half of their families who died from starvation. In search of freedom from communism, both my parents left everything behind and came to America as refugees, eventually becoming naturalized citizens and succeeding in their respective fields. “When I was your age…” stories have shown me how my family struggled while living in communal apartments, waiting hours to buy a mere six slices of cheese, and being denied higher education due to their Jewish status. The difficulties that shaped their lives have indirectly shaped my own. As a first generation American, I do not take the privileges I’ve been afforded for granted. Instead, I recognize the opportunity to aim above the already high expectations that first generation Americans often face. I seek to actively preserve my heritage by taking Russian grammar lessons, making borscht with Babushka, and learning Russian fencing terms from Coach Andrey so I can accurately relay my exciting bouts to aunts and uncles. I honor the sacrifices that were made to afford me the privilege of American citizenship by engaging with my Russian heritage. By remembering the past, I am able to move gloriously into the future.

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!