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Study Abroad Guide: All You Need to Know as an African Student

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As a student aspiring to study abroad, the processes involved might seem complicated. Not to worry, though. Here’s a guide that’ll show you everything you need to know as you begin your quest. As an undergrad student in one of Nigeria’s top tertiary institutions, my encounter with strikes, exploitation, cultism, sexual assault, and other bottlenecks was excruciatingly painful. It had me convinced that if I were going to further my studies, it would have to be in a system that worked. I opted for Europe.

I made this decision 15 years ago. And looking back, it remains the best academic/career choice I’ve made. The quality of education and environment was a stark contrast with my previous experience. Fast-forward to the present, and I’ve found that the struggle with many students who want to study abroad is knowing how to go about the process. I have consequently pulled from my experience to create a guide for you. If you fall into this category, you should read this guide to discover how to study abroad and get into any foreign university of your choosing.

Most importantly, if you want to go overseas to study, you need to be well-versed in this matter. You must be familiar with all of the procedures involved and know exactly what you need to accomplish per time.

The process of applying for admission is detailed in the article Steps to Get Admission to Foreign Universities, some of which are:

  • Securing your international passport
  • Preparing and sitting for the relevant exams
  • Applying to the Schools you’ve selected
  • Preparing for Visa Interview

The first step is to obtain an international passport if you do not already have one. This is critical because you will use it for every subsequent process, including serving as an identity card during the international exams you will take in the near future.

It is available from any National Immigration Service offices in most countries. You will need two passport photos, each measuring 2 by 2 inches. The overall cost varies depending on the agents used, the city, the urgency, and other factors.

The importance of this International passport cannot be overstated. It is your first identification document as an international student. Without it, you will be denied whatever visa you apply for and have limited access to international doors.

Study Abroad Guide: All You Need to Know

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Get Your Relevant Credentials In Place

Whether you are a degree holder or have just graduated from high school, you should ensure you have all of your necessary school credentials. Obtain an original copy of your WAEC certificate if you are a secondary school graduate. Get your university transcripts from your school as you prepare for postgraduate studies if you are a university graduate.

Bottlenecks frequently hamper the ease with which you obtain these transcripts. That is why you must complete it as soon as possible so that it does not become a barrier to your desire to study abroad.

Search For Your Choice School On The Web

In this case, Google should be your best friend. You can also work with an academic counselor on this. You should have decided on the country and university where you want to study by now, but if you haven’t, take the time to look through foreign universities and choose one. There are numerous factors to consider before deciding on a school. Among them are:

Location: Do you have any relatives abroad? Would you want to select schools that are close to them?

Cost: Tuition fees at universities abroad vary greatly. How much money can you afford, and are you hoping for a scholarship? You must consider schools that are within your financial means. Furthermore, the cost of living in different cities abroad varies. Pay close attention to the cost of living in that country, which includes things like housing, food, transportation, bills, and so on. So, if you choose to study abroad, don’t expect the cost of food, housing, and other necessities in New York to be the same as in New Delhi. Countries such as Finland, Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore, Greece, Cyprus, and Poland provide education at a lower cost than their American and Asian counterparts. 

Course Availability: You must ensure that the school of your choice offers the course you wish to study. And there are over 3,000 universities and colleges from which to choose. You should also consider the universities’ reputations as well as how well they regard African students in general and Nigerian students in particular.

Look Out For Scholarships

If your studies abroad will be supported by a scholarship, you must narrow your search to schools that regularly award scholarships to international students. Your SAT or GRE score will heavily influence this. The Fall (August) semester is the best time to enroll if you want to receive a scholarship, because there are limited enrollments and scholarship opportunities for students wishing to enroll in January.

Some schools will provide students with up to a full scholarship, depending on the availability of the scholarship and the student’s performance on the prerequisite exams. There are also schools that can provide graduate assistantships to postgraduate students. This can help you offset some of your expenses when you arrive. In general, start your research and application process well ahead of the application deadline.

For Students Applying to the US and Canada

You must have your schools outlined before filling out the SAT registration form, as there is a column for a maximum of four schools that come with free registration. You have the option of adding up to four additional schools to your registration. However, each other school will cost you $11. If you are a graduate student, you will fill your schools (maximum of 5 for GMAT and 4 for GRE) immediately after taking the GRE or GMAT exam at the exam center and on exam day.

If you want to apply to more schools, you must pay a fee for score reporting ($25 per school for GRE and $28 per school for GMAT).

Sit for the Exams

Determine which exams you must take and begin your preparation. If you have your West African Senior School Certificate Exam (WASSCE) results and would prefer to study in the United States or Canada, you must take the SAT and TOEFL. However, if you already have a university degree and only want to pursue a Master’s degree in the United States, you would have to first take the GRE or GMAT and then the TOEFL.

If you want to pursue a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) or a Master’s degree in Management, you must take both the GMAT and TOEFL exams. However, if you want to pursue a postgraduate degree in Engineering, Science, or MSc, you must take the GRE and TOEFL. Although not all schools accept it, the IELTS is an alternative to the TOEFL. If you decide to take the IELTS, you must first determine whether your prospective schools accept it; otherwise, the TOEFL is your best option.

Get Acquainted with the Admission Requirements of Schools You’re Interested In

Now that you’ve decided on your schools, it’s time to apply to each one individually.

You can, in most cases, submit your applications online or by mail (for all schools). Every school has an application fee ranging from $20 to $150. After you’ve finished your research and considerations, take the time to become acquainted with the school’s admission requirements and procedures. Admission requirements vary between foreign ivory towers; some will require you to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) although you are from an Anglophone (English-speaking) country, while others will not.

Most of their requirements will, in general, include internationally recognized exam scores such as;

  • GMAT (varies, majorly for management students)
  • TOEFL (Varies, required majorly in the US & Canada)
  • SAT (varies)
  • WAEC results (Very necessary)
  • University transcript (necessary)
  • Recommendation letter (necessary)
  • IELTS (varies, required in the UK)
  • GRE (For postgraduates studies)
  • Bank Statement within the last 6 months

The requirements do not stop with those mentioned above. They may request additional certificates from you, but the ones listed above are the most important. If you score well on the GRE, you may be eligible for a scholarship and health insurance. The GRE is only used for graduate school. Also, your potential school takes your cumulative grade point average (CGPA) into account.

It is critical that you investigate their requirements in that area. For most schools, postgraduate studies require a 2.1 or nothing. While some may accept a 2.2, your GMAT or GRE should be higher if you have a low CGPA.

Apply to the Schools

Each school has its application deadline, so make sure to apply on time. The exam body sends results directly to the school, not through you. That is why, on the exam day (for GRE/GMAT), or in the registration form, you will indicate which school you want to receive your scores from (for SAT). Include a scratch card with your WASSCE results, which they will use to confirm your results from WAEC’s website.

There are application fees that you will be expected to pay. There are also application deadlines, so you must be aware of them and apply as soon as possible before the window closes.

If your application is accepted, the school will send you an admission letter or an invitation letter.

Process Your Visa to Study Abroad (Student Visa)

You can now go to the embassy or consulate of your choice to apply for a student visa. This has a monetary value as well. After your application has been forwarded to the embassy, you will be invited for a visa interview. If you want to expedite this and every other process, you can enlist the assistance of a “Study Abroad” agency.

Finally, if you are confident in your abilities, you can apply for a state or federal government scholarship abroad. In this case, you don’t have to spend more money or stress yourself out. The only difficulty you’ll face is writing the scholarship test and scaling through, which, as I previously stated, will be a walk in the park if you’re pretty clever. The government then pays for your tuition, admission, housing, and various other expenses while you study abroad.

Acronyms Used and Their Meanings

GMAT –   Graduate Management Admission Test

GRE –      General Records Examination

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

SAT –       Scholastic Aptitude Test

IELTS –  International English Language Testing Service.

Final Helpful Tips: Know Your Course of Study

Before deciding to study abroad, you should have a clear plan and an idea of what you want to study. Some courses you take abroad may even make it less likely that you will find work when you return to your country. For example, if you study Marketing or Law in a foreign country, you will be taught specifics that will only work if you pursue a Marketing or Law career there. The environment you learn in will influence what you know and where you can practice. So, if you intend to return to a country like Nigeria after studying abroad, you should select a course that will help you advance your career in Nigeria. This applies to other African countries as well.

Your SAT, TOEFL, or IELTS Grades are Very Significant

Sure, you need more than just grades, but your grades must be well above average to be considered for admission to some universities abroad. Because universities are unlikely to interpret what your transcripts mean, some schools will use the SATs (or another alternatively accepted examination) to evaluate you. You must also perform well on the TOEFL or IELTS exams. The English-speaking abilities of international students are scrutinized because they affect how well you can participate in class and keep up with the work.

Extra-Curricular Activities are Important

Most foreign universities look for much more than grades when admitting international students. Your rates will not get you there on their own. These schools will take note of your extracurricular activities. Colleges in the United States, for example, seek well-rounded students. Showcase any extracurricular activities you’ve participated in, such as volunteering, part-time work, or playing an instrument.

Always look out for Cheaper Deals

Many universities around the world provide scholarships or lower-cost options for international students. Make sure you do your homework before making a decision. If you have a high GPA, you should look into scholarships that are available to you.

If UK, US or Canada are the countries you are interested in, see the Requirements to Study in the UK, Canada & US for Nigerian Students

As a next step, see 10 Best Canadian Universities For African Students if you’re interested in going to Canada for your studies.

Wishing you excellence!

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