My Journey to HSE
Syeda Ulya Ehsen Kazmi, PrepYear alumna and soon-to-be Master's student of the Economics: Research Programme on what she learned from researching different universities, applying to HSE, and participating in the PrepYear programme.
When I was an undergrad, I started researching graduate programmes and various paths I could pursue after graduating with a specialization in Finance. A language certification was often required for admission to English-taught Graduate programmes. I remember rushing to the computer lab after classes for an online course on Understanding the IELTS via FutureLearn (Platform for online courses from various universities, like Coursera and Edx) in my third year.
My interest in Economics was growing day by day. In my final year, I completed an internship in the Economic Policy Review Department of the State Bank of Pakistan (the Central Bank of Pakistan). There, I worked on issues such as poverty, urbanization, and demographic dividend. The experience greatly enhanced my research skills.
At the same time, I was creating a database of the top universities in the field of Economics and Finance, the programmes they were offering, and their requirements for admission. For shortlisting my options, I not only studied the websites of numerous universities at length but also learned a lot from their ratings and reviews (Mainly from QS and Times Higher Education). Some of the common requirements I noticed were a good GPA from your previous degree, an English language certification such as TOEFL or IELTS with an advanced level, an admission test in some cases or GRE or GMAT, a strong motivation letter, and a few sound recommendations.
Another aspect of my research were scholarship opportunities. I subscribed to numerous websites that disseminated weekly emails detailing the latest opportunities available around the globe. That is how I learnt about the Open Doors Olympiad. It’s an annual competition held by the Russian Scholarship Project Association. The good thing about this competition is that it is subject specific. There are two rounds. The first round is based on your academic record and the final round is an online exam.
At that time, some of my friends were also planning to study abroad. It was always fruitful to talk with them, share information, and exchange preparatory materials.
Meanwhile, I started working as a banker. The job helped a great deal to pay for the tests and admission application fees for the universities. Moreover, it provided the opportunity to learn about the practical aspects of the economy. To stay abreast of developments in the theoritcal side of the field, I continued participating in MOOCs every now and then.
By that point, the research I had been doing was sufficient enough to give me confidence in choosing universities and applying. I was determined to apply for fall 2019 and, if necessary, fall 2020. Thus, in 2018 I attempted the IELTS and the GRE. I also applied for the Open Doors Olympiad. By February next year, I had qualified for the first round which motivated me to analyze the participating universities in detail.
The National Research University Higher School of Economics, or HSE University as we call it, had many similarities with other world leading universities. However, what appealed to me most was the Economics: Research Programme. It seemed to be specifically designed for people with a genuine interest in research. As I did not possess a basic degree in Economics, this was my golden chance. If I managed to qualify for the final round, I could be considered for this programme. Though nothing was certain, I decided to try my best. Therefore, I got hold of the suggested readings on the Olympiad’s website. I checked the Prepare to Study section on HSE’s website and studied as much as I could.
The exam was on a working day. I returned from work, relaxed for a few minutes, and sat down for the attempt. It was difficult for me. I wasn’t sure whether I would be one of the top 25 participants. Even if I did succeed, would HSE accept me? These were the questions that kept weighing on my mind till the last week of April 2019. By this time, I had applied to 31 universities and already gotten offers from 11 of them, most of which included scholarships to various extents.
At the end of April 2019, I learned on HSE’s application portal that both my programme choices, namely Economics: Research Programme and Financial Economics, were recommended for admission with full-tuition scholarship. From then onwards, the International Office at the Faculty of Economic Sciences has guided me through the process, for which I am eternally grateful. In short, this is how I ended up at HSE.