Finding your dream university

Diana Levchuk, a first-year student at the Faculty of Biotechnologies

ITMO wasn’t the first university that I got into. I graduated from school in Arkhangelsk and back then I thought that medicine was the best field for me – I wanted to study my beloved chemistry and biology. That’s why I first got into the Almazov National Medical Research Centre's Institute of Medical Education, but after 1,5 years I realized that I don’t see myself as a clinician. So I started looking for a new field.

As luck would have it, at that time my friend just got into ITMO to study IT. She told me that at this university you can create your own individual learning track, practice soft skills, study at beautiful coworking spaces, and take part in extracurricular events such as ITMO.Megabattle. This sounded like my dream university! And my expectations were fully met. I took the exams and enrolled at ITMO’s Faculty of Biotechnologies.

Diana Levchuk. Photo courtesy of the subject

Diana Levchuk. Photo courtesy of the subject

I decided to visit my school in Arkhangelsk to share my experiences: the application process, studying different fields, student contests, entrance exams, choosing the right courses, and passing your first exams. It was a great talk, where students could ask me specific questions and learn some of my life hacks firsthand. I think such meetings are valuable because students get to talk to their peers without any embarrassment or shyness and get as much attention, time, and information as they need.

Moving to a new city

Anastasia Osinkina, a first-year student of the Faculty of Software Engineering and Computer Systems

I went to school in Novy Urengoy and in my senior year I focused more on mathematics and computer science. These were the subjects that I’d always liked, although I did have a passion for biology once – I won contests and was even looking to apply for bioinformatics at Lomonosov Moscow State University. Eventually, I decided to get a broader IT education in my Bachelor’s degree and dive deeper into bioinformatics in my Master’s.

I secured my place at ITMO thanks to a student math competition. I’d heard a lot about it from friends who were into competitive programming. They said ITMO is a great place for programmers and recommended I apply there. I was also looking forward to spending my student years in St. Petersburg.

ITMO is one of the country’s top universities, so I knew I would have to work hard. My experience with student contests really helped me adapt to the new lifestyle. I was also lucky enough to meet students who were interested in making projects together, just like I expected. The university supports student initiatives and creates the best studying environments. Here, you can find convenient coworking spaces, funding for your startup, and ask for advice from your lecturers.

The move itself was the hardest challenge for me. I come from a small town so I needed to know how I would manage my daily routines, what my dorm would look like, and how to handle all the paperwork. I found answers to some of these questions online, but others I had to solve when I arrived.

I wanted to share this knowledge with school students. I have friends in my hometown who will be entering university in a year or two. I told them and everyone who came to the meeting about entrance exams, career prospects, study fields, and more. I think that talking to peers like me is much easier and more interesting for school students than talking to adults. There are no barriers between us, so we can talk informally.

Choosing the right field 

Ivan Tyurin, a third-year student at the Faculty of Software Engineering and Computer Systems

Ivan Tyurin. Photo courtesy of the subject

Ivan Tyurin. Photo courtesy of the subject

At my school in Severodvinsk, I had in-depth classes in math and computer science; I also took additional classes in robotics and wrote code for robots in C. I came to love programming, so for my future studies I considered Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and ITMO. Thanks to my wins in school competitions, I got into ITMO. 

Back then, I knew ITMO to be a leading university, one of the top in the country, whose students have won ICPC multiple times. From my own experience, I know that here you can study useful subjects and have a lot of free time for personal development.

At school, I had a hard time choosing a specific field to focus on. They all seemed to be about IT and it can be hard to tell them apart, whereas actually they are all very different. In my experience, this is quite a common problem: for example, many think programming is only about robotics or web design, but actually IT is much bigger than that. 

Last year, I visited my former school to talk about my experience of studying at ITMO and to share my advice on how to choose your field within IT. This year, I kept up the tradition – only I talked about infochemistry, bioinformatics, and programming in physics. There were lots of questions, so I think students were really interested in the conversation. I’d be happy if my experience helps someone choose the right field for them. 

Combining the impossible

Kirill Maltsev, a first-year student at the Faculty of Control Systems and Robotics

Kirill Maltsev. Photo courtesy of the subject

Kirill Maltsev. Photo courtesy of the subject

I’ve always loved robotics: since childhood, I’ve been designing circuits and building small robots. At the same time, I used to write code and study the work of information systems and artificial intelligence. At school, I had no idea how I could combine these passions; I didn’t know where you could study programming and engineering together, so at first I considered only IT specializations. But when I saw that there is a program in robotics at ITMO, I knew I wanted to study only here. I finally didn’t have to decide between programming and engineering – here my two favorite fields merged into one. 

Before application, I read different sources and learned a lot about the university. I was particularly impressed that at ITMO you can choose optional courses, create your own schedule, learn soft skills, and practice English. It all seemed like magic to me. But when I came to ITMO, I found that reality far exceeded my expectations. I was amazed at all the academic freedom. For instance, you can change your specialization within your educational program by simply choosing different courses on your personal page. I decided that within robotics I am mostly interested in IT, not electronics, so I changed my specialization and added more IT courses to my schedule.

I wanted to demonstrate on my own example that it’s possible to get into a cool university. And you don’t have to have high Unified State Exam scores – you can take part in competitions and contests, like ITMO.STARS and KRONBARS STARS. At the meetings with students in Stary Oskol, I talked about the research done at ITMO, the fields available, and the existing career prospects.

I hope students got something useful from these meetings. Yes, you can find many answers online, but it is much easier to talk directly to someone who has only recently gone through the application process and is ready to share their experience first-hand.