SSH Student Stories: Interview with Assel Ibadulla who got into Yale University
Please tell us about yourself
I am an MPH, Health Policy student studying at Yale University; graduated from Nazarbayev University with a BSc in Biological Sciences degree (cum laude) this year. Currently, I am working as a Research Intern at ERIC (Equity Research and Innovation center), Yale School of Medicine and as a staff member in SalivaDirect (COVID-19 early detection and diagnosis center).
Why did you choose Biological Sciences as a specialty?
Initially, I wanted to become a doctor and to continue my studies further in NUSOM (and saw Biological Sciences major as a gateway to NUSOM). However, after the Presidency in NU Student Government and several internships, I realized that I prefer working more in policymaking/analysis level and that I am more passionate about healthcare system and procedures. So, eventually, I ended up choosing Health Policy.
What were your research interests while doing BSc in Biological Sciences?
During my sophomore and junior years, I have been working as an undergraduate research assistant in 2 different labs (related to genetics, molecular biology, proteins). Later I have gained invaluable experience by serving as a research assistant in a joint project of the WHO Europe Office and the Ministry of Healthcare (Kazakhstan) aimed at the formulation of a targeted and effective policy for HPV vaccinations in Kazakhstan. During my assistantship, I interviewed mothers, analyzed the data (through the COM-B model), and helped to identify ways of reaching the highest possible vaccine uptake. Finally, my senior thesis was about the correlation between large-scale PCR testing, travel restrictions and daily case/death rate.
Which courses did you like the most? Can you tell us about NU (SSH) faculty a little, perhaps you have a favorite one?))
Almost all of the biological electives were interesting and super-helpful; and, honestly, we had brilliant professors (here, I have to mention Dr. Tursonjan Tokay and Professor Gonzalo Hortelano; I am sincerely grateful for their continuous support, guidance and endless willingness to help).
Yale is a very prestigious university. How hard was it to get into Yale? Any advice on application or interview process?
Yale has always been my dream school. Initially, when I found out that Yale MPH program has 4.7% acceptance rate, I thought I have 0 chances and decided to not waste my time and money. But then realized that actually, not applying means 0 chances, if I apply, I will have at least 4.7% (which is clearly better than 0:)).
So, my first advice is do not underestimate yourself, and don’t deprive yourself of things you want; and, please, always remember the worst answer is “no”, you either get it or just stay in the same level, no lose.
- Make sure that all of your docs, especially CV, motivational (ML) and recommendation letters (RL) complement each other (f.e. CV mentions your experience, ML – what you have gained, learned from this experience, and RL – how you are determined, committed, passionate about this experience.)
- Notify your professors earlier, give them enough time to write RLs, and, if possible, remind them your achievements (that you got 95% in difficult assignment, that you organized midterm preparation nights etc.), since they have hundreds of students and tend to forget.
- Have at least 3 people to check/review your ML (and Writing Center is always here to help). Don’t forget to mention why you have chosen specifically this sphere and this University. (More advices -> @asselibadulla)
Tell us about your program? How is your study going there?
Overall, MPH in Health Policy at Yale is a professional degree, meaning that we don’t have to write graduate thesis or be involved in research/academia; instead, main requirement for the graduation is completing mandatory internship and applied practicum experience. Another appealing aspect of the program is a broad choice of courses relevant to my sphere: we can register courses from Yale School of Management, School of Law and School of Medicine.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? In what fields do you want to work?
Overall, my ultimate goal is to help Kazakhstan to formulate effective responses and preventive actions towards non-communicable diseases and mental disorders.
Any pieces of advice for future students of SSH?
Банально, но правда: you will never be younger than now; you will never have such a unique opportunity to fail and learn. Therefore, devote students’ years to try, to explore yourself and to grow as an individual. Finally, make your best to balance between study, health and fun, so that after the 5 years not only overnight preparation in library will be remembered, but also life-long memories, true warm moments with your peers, after all life is made up from these moments. Good luck!