ITMO University is always open to talented students from all over the world. That’s why ITMO holds several international competitions, the winners and runners-up of which are able to choose where to continue their studies on a tuition-free basis.
Polina Petrusha, a coordinator of the Open Doors competition, as well as Irina Kim and Ekaterina Masterova, coordinators of the Open Competitions in Mathematics and Computer Science, shared all necessary info on how to apply and succeed. This year, all of these competitions will take place online in Russian and in English.
For prospective Master’s and PhD students
The Open Doors competition is organized by the Russian Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the Rossotrudnichestvo federal agency. ITMO University has been a coordinator of the Computer Science track for three years and this year it has also become one of the organizers. Thanks to this competition, talented foreign students have an opportunity to enroll in Master’s and PhD studies at ITMO University and other Russian universities without having to take entrance exams or pay tuition.
“We think it’s important to invite talented young people to apply not only for ITMO University’s Bachelor’s programs but also for Master’s and PhD ones. We are trying to attract the most promising applicants from all over the world and provide them with an opportunity to study here,” says Polina Petrusha, advisor to ITMO University’s First Vice Rector and a coordinator of the competition.
Among the available Master’s fields of study are Computer & Data Science, Business & Management, Neuroscience & Psychology, Engineering & Technology, as well as Politics & International Studies, Economics and Econometrics, Earth Sciences, and Education.
For PhD studies, there are: Mathematics & Artificial Intelligence, Physical Sciences, Chemistry & Materials Science, Biology & Biotechnology, Clinical Medicine & Public Health, and Linguistics & Modern Languages.
Who can take part
The competition is open to non-Russian citizens and Russian citizens permanently residing abroad. In order to apply for Master’s studies, they must have a Bachelor's or a Specialist’s degree or be on track to acquire one in 2021. In order to apply for PhD studies, a Master’s or Specialist’s degree is required. The participants can pick one or several fields of interest.
The PhD track has been launched this year. Prospective PhD students must pass an additional online interview with potential research advisors. ITMO University has the widest range of supervisors to choose from – you can find their profiles here.
You can find more information on available fields of study here. The universities decide which of their programs correspond to them. You can learn more about the Master’s and PhD programs on ITMO University’s international website. Once the field is chosen, you can sign up on the contest’s website and create a thorough portfolio.
The first stage is a portfolio contest that takes place from September 15 to December 10, 2020. Participants should attach all relevant research papers, certificates, awards and honors that they have ever received.
According to the organizers, the applicants often fail this stage because they incorrectly fill out their portfolios. Participants should keep in mind that certificates irrelevant to their field of choice shouldn’t be attached, whereas relevant achievements, such as published papers, completed online courses, presentations at conferences, awards, and patents, shouldn’t be left out.
The results of the first stage will be announced on December 25, 2020. Then, winners of the portfolio competition are invited to take part in the second stage. It consists of a test that they will have to complete in three hours’ time. The organizers would like to remind the contestants to check their devices and internet connection, as well as find a quiet place beforehand.
“Each year we receive messages from the participants who weren’t able to complete the test because of a poor internet connection or were disqualified because they were located in a crowded place. These are the most common mistakes. Contestants should check their internet connection and find a quiet place beforehand to complete the test. We also would like to remind everyone that the second stage of the contest is being proctored and anything that can be seen as potential external help, for example, people in the background, another screen in front of you, a smartphone, or headphones, will result in disqualification,” says Polina Petrusha.
Another common mistake participants make is not ranking universities by order of priority. It’s important to put the most preferred university in the first place because if you win, that’s where you will be enrolled. For example, if you want to enter ITMO University, you should put it first on your priority list.
The results of the second stage will be published on February 10, 2021. Participants will be able to appeal their results up until February 18, 2021. Then, on February 22, 2021, the final lists of the winners among prospective Master’s students will be published.
Applicants for PhD studies will enter the third stage of the competition on March 1-19, 2021. The final results for that part of the competition will become available on March 23.
For prospective Bachelor’s students
ITMO University’s international Open Competitions in Mathematics and Computer Science grant talented school students from all over the world an opportunity to continue their studies in one of the leading technological universities in Russia. The competitions are included on the official list of the International Entrance Competitions of the Russian Federation. They are available to non-Russian citizens, stateless citizens, and Russian citizens permanently residing abroad. The winners and prize-winners of the contest will be able to enroll tuition-free in Bachelor’s programs at one of a number of Russian technological universities with mathematics or computer science as a core subject as part of a quota established by the Russian Government.
“Each year, more and more students from different countries take part in ITMO University’s competitions. The leading Russian universities also compete for talented students from all over the world. Most of the participants have experience of competing in various national, international, and Russian contests. It’s important both for them and their parents to make the right choice when picking a program and a university. International competitions by ITMO University help prospective students gain experience and an opportunity to choose almost any Russian university. At the same time, the universities get the best students, too. ITMO doesn’t limit the students’ choices. We always support them if they want to apply to another university,” says Irina Kim, head of ITMO University’s International Cooperation Department and a coordinator of Open Competitions for school students.
The competitions will take place online on a platform developed together with ITMO University’s Information Technologies and Programming Faculty. Applicants will solve tasks created in accordance with the basic school program.
Who can take part
Non-Russian citizens, Russian citizens permanently residing abroad, and stateless citizens who have either graduated from school or are about to graduate are welcome to apply. Applicants can choose any program with mathematics or computer science as a core subject and apply for ITMO University or any other Russian university.
International applicants who would like to improve their level of proficiency in the Russian language can apply to ITMO University's Foundation Program. In the course of nine months they will actively study Russian and core subjects.
“There are some mistakes that our participants often make. For example, they should realize that having incorrect information in their profiles can lead to disqualification at the final stage. That’s why it’s important to check everything you enter,” says Ekaterina Masterova, analyst of the Center for Asian Cooperation and a coordinator of Open Competitions for school students.
She also adds that the participants should study the rules carefully before the final proctored stage of the competition, as any kind of a violation may lead to disqualification.
“Even though the requirements are rather strict, it’s not hard to fulfil them. If the participant is prepared, the rules actually allow them to stress less during the test. Our team is always ready to help the participants. They can contact us regarding any question, even a not significant one,” says Ekaterina Masterova.
The registration for the competition will be opened on November 6, 2020. You can learn more and find sample tasks from previous competitions here.
Winners and prize-winners of past years
We talked to some of those who were able to continue their studies thanks to winning one of the previous international competitions. They shared why they decided to apply and how they were preparing for the competition, and also gave tips for prospective applicants.
Kirill Neevin, Kyrgyzstan
Prize-winner of the Open Competition in Computer Science for school students, ITMO University student
I’ve always wanted to study in Russia. Thanks to me winning this competition, my dream came true – now I’m studying at a leading university and getting a great education in the field of IT. The competition made me feel more confident in my abilities.
I was studying in a mathematical class in school and participated in programming competitions. That’s how I gained a lot of experience that helped me become a prize-winner of ITMO University’s competition. So, there was no need for me to spend a lot of time on preparation, I only solved last year’s tasks.
Khalifa Ashenova, Kazakhstan
Prize-winner of the Open Competition in Mathematics for school students, ITMO University student
Thanks to my success in the competition, I was able to choose a program, study tuition-free, and receive an enhanced scholarship. I also didn’t have to take the Unified State Exam. I met interesting people and I’m getting the knowledge I need at the university.
I think a lot of preparation is the key. If someone you know also wants to apply for the competition – talk to them. Exchanging experience helps a lot. I would also recommend solving the tasks from previous years as much as possible.
Erzalia Martova, Kazakhstan
Prize-winner of the Open Competition in Mathematics and Computer Science for school students, ITMO University student
I wanted to apply for ITMO University in order to have a wider range of programs to choose from. I’ve been participating in competitions organized by ITMO University and other institutions since the seventh grade. I was preparing for the computer science competition by solving tasks from other competitions and from the Informatics website. I also attended online courses on Stepik. It was important for me to practice math right before the competition, so I revised various topics.
The victory made me feel more powerful and confident. It also made it possible for me to move to a big city. I was also receiving an enhanced scholarship during my first year of studies, which was kind of a reward for all the efforts.
Chenran Yang, China
Winner of the Open Competition in Computer Science for school students, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology student
Because of the new policy of the Chinese Ministry of Education, bonus scores for contest winners in terms of university admissions were drastically reduced, so I couldn’t get into a good Chinese university. I started thinking about moving abroad but I couldn’t afford to go to the US, the UK, etc. I thought that Russia is a good option and thought about ITMO University because I know about Gennady ‘tourist’ Korotkevich, who won many competitions and studies at ITMO. Then I found out about the international Open Competition on the Chinese website of ITMO University.
I didn’t prepare specifically for the competition – the experience of participating and winning in local and national computer science competitions in China helped me to win at ITMO, too. As a winner, I received a quota place for studying and chose the Computer Science program because I’m very interested in this field. I chose Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology but if ITMO University had an English-language program, I would have put ITMO first on my priority list.
Prince Appiah, Ghana
Winner of the Open Doors competition in the Computer & Data Science subject, ITMO University student
I saw the competition as a chance to enter one of the best universities in Russia without entrance exams. I’m studying information technologies, so I chose the Computer & Data Science track. Basically, I was practicing by solving tasks from past years. I also came up with tasks myself and solved them. The time you can spend on completing the tasks is limited, so I was also solving sample tasks. My victory encourages me to learn more about my field of study and motivates me to never give up.
Mina Maged Noshy, Egypt
Winner of the Open Doors competition in the Chemistry subject, ITMO University student
I learned about the competition from a friend who is doing a Master’s degree in Russia. I prepared my portfolio very well for the first stage, as all the certificates, awards, and research increased my chances of winning. I practiced for the second stage by relying on the sample version of the exam and by revising different subjects of chemistry.
Winning helped to enrich my experience and broaden my horizons, as well as provided an opportunity for cultural exchange. Professionally, studying at ITMO University and its cutting-edge laboratories gives me enormous academic knowledge and experience that will allow me to continue my studies as a PhD student. A successful chemist must have more than just scientific knowledge.
Omar Jeelani, the United Arab Emirates
Winner of the Open Doors competition in the Computer & Data Science subject, ITMO University student
I was preparing in advance by studying subjects related to my field, such as mathematical analysis and programming languages. The victory granted me a scholarship and the opportunity to enter any university of my choice for free. It’s also something for me and my close ones to be proud of.
I chose ITMO University for several reasons. Firstly, it offers a program on information security. Secondly, it allows you to enter a double-degree program and spend two semesters in different European countries, depending on the chosen field.
In the future, I would like to help fund the Open Doors project as much as possible because school students need such initiatives to support them on their educational and career paths. I advise future participants of the competition to prepare well – don’t miss the golden opportunity.