Texas Tech University, Architecture & Business

Name: Tsvetelina Churalska
Home City/Country: Peshtera, Bulgaria
U.S. Institution: Texas Tech University, TX
Double Major: Architecture & Business

Why did you choose to study in the United States?
There were lots of reasons for me to go and study in the United States. First of all, while at high school, I enjoyed very much studying the English language. Even though I graduated from a Mathematics High School, I proved to myself that I could become fluent in a foreign language and succeed in a foreign country. Next, a diploma from an accredited American institution of higher learning is highly appreciated all over the world. In addition, U.S. education is incomparable in quality to education in Europe. And last but not least, the international experience you gain at an American university is very enriching. The U.S.A. is a country of opportunities. It’s only up to you to decide which path of life to take.

How did you prepare for applying for admission with financial aid?
I started preparing for applying to U.S. schools in the end of my 11th grade. My advice to prospective international students is that you start preparing much earlier as the application process is very intensive and time-consuming. I spent lots of time on each step of the application process because I wanted to be successful.

How did you assess the colleges you applied to?
As most of the Bulgarian students, I decided to apply to schools on the East Coast. The truth is that the majority of good schools are over there and they do offer scholarships. I applied to 12 schools in the states of New York and Massachusetts. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a full-ride from any of the schools over there. Then, I considered the idea of going to a two-year college where tuition and fees are much more affordable. I wasn’t quite sure to which state I really wanted to go. On the 60th anniversary of George Bush – July 6, 2006, I decided to check out his biography. I noticed that his hometown was Midland, TX and that there was a community college over there. It also happened that it was one of the top two-year colleges in Texas. That’s where I went for two years and I got an Associate Degree from Midland Colelge. Then I transferred to one of the top 4-year colleges in Texas – the Texas Tech University.

How did you make your application stand out?
A good application is not only about a perfect GPA, perfect scores on the SAT, etc. A successful application should show that you are a well-rounded individual.

What distinguished you from the other successful candidates?
When I applied for admission in the U.S. in 2006, I was a successful candidate but not enough competitive to get a full-ride. In the U.S., in the end of your sophomore year at a two-year college, you need to decide where you would like to go next. Every year, each of the thousands of two-year colleges nominates one student to compete for the most prestigious and generous scholarship in the U.S. This year I was the Midland College nominee. Out of thousands candidates, I was chosen as one of the 50 students to receive a scholarship of $30 000 per year to attend any four-year institution of higher education in the U.S.

What was the most useful information you learned about how to present yourself successfully to colleges?
The best way to present yourself in my opinion is through your essays. They show who you are, what are your values and beliefs, what you are interested in. Essays are a great tool to introduce and promote yourself as a well-rounded candidate.

What mistakes did you make in the application process?
One of my biggest mistakes was not setting realistic goals. Being a top student in Bulgaria doesn’t automatically mean that I would be accepted to a top U.S. school. I applied to schools where I had no chance of admission because I didn’t satisfy some of their admissions criteria. I spent lots of money on postage and going through the whole application process. However, I learnt from my mistakes and now I can advise future applicants to work closely with their Educational Advisers and be very realistic in their college choice. Another mistake I made was not to provide enough time for preparing for the SAT and TOEFL exams. This hurt a lot some of my chances for a full-ride. Overall, the closer you work with your adviser, the more you inquire from institutions and students, the better your chances of avoiding mistakes.

What characteristics make you a successful student at your U.S.college/university?
Some of my strenghts are ambition, motivation, hard work, nobleness, stubbornness, generosity, kindness. In addition, what makes a human being worth living is passion. Without passion, not many great works have been created in this world. Never lose your passion and your desire to succeed, to develop, to be helpful.

How are you preparing for a successful career upon graduation?
Since the beginning of my study in the U.S., I have had summer internships with the Electrical
and Computer Engineering at Texas Tech University. I have participated in numerous leadership symposiums and I have had some great jobs. I believe that all of this is going to help me in some way in my future career.
This upcoming summer, I am considering a Study Abroad Program in Florence, Italy where I can learn more
about the architectural history. I have been an active member of several architectural organizations as well
as some international service organizations. Also, I am volunteering with the College of Architecture at Texas Tech University. I have been offered two internship positions at some of the most successful architectural firms in the state of Texas. Overall, I feel ready for graduation and starting work.

How are you preparing to give back to your country?
My home country Bulgaria has always been very deep into my heart. One of the greatest gifts a person can make throughout her life is the gift of giving. What I have received from my teachers, relatives, friends, and officials – from everybody involved in my life – could not be measured in money. It could be returned with lots of good deeds. I have a host family here in Texas and every time I ask them “How can I give you back”, they tell me that the only way to give back is by helping somebody else in need. Some of the things I am considering doing when back to my home country is sponsoring accomplished high school students who would like to pursue education in the U.S. I would love to support them through scholarships as well as by counseling and advising them. I would like to set up an academy with minimal educational costs for students in financial need after finding enough generous sponsors. Also, I could assist in the modernization of the educational system of my home country.

Do you have any advice for prospective international students on how to maximize their chances to qualify for financial aid?
International students are unique. It’s true that it is extremely difficult to compete for admission with financial aid, still they should never give up. Students from Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, and South America are highly qualified and very competitive. As I have already said, one “key” to success is aiming at being that well-rounded individuals that U.S. colleges and universities are seeking for.

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