Those from Sub-Saharan Africa compose five percent of the U.S.’s international student body. Out of the vast continent’s countries, Nigeria comes out on top, with over 10,000 students enrolled in U.S. universities.
However, all international students need to be aware that applying to U.S. colleges and universities is an extensive process, one requiring at least two years of preparation. Nigerian students considering such a path must research U.S. schools, be sure to take the right admissions tests, and have all transcripts and documents ready.
The Application Process
International students compose, on average, 10 percent of the university population in the U.S. As such, schools only have a select number of spots. To increase your chances of admissions during the application process, the following are recommended:
- Research all possible schools you may be interested in, including those that seem less familiar. The U.S. has roughly 2,000 four-year colleges, but schools known across the globe, such as the Ivy League in the Northeast, tend to have a greater pool of international applicants.
- Contact each university’s international student advisor to ask questions about their specific application process, and to speak with students about their experiences.
- A list of standard application documents can usually be found on the university’s website, so be ready to provide all transcripts, coursework, test scores, and letters of recommendation.
- Admissions offices at U.S. universities consider: GPA, standardized test scores, classes, teacher and counselor recommendations, essays, community service, and extracurricular activities.
- Know which tests to take, and go through all registration steps in your home country. International students often have to take the SAT, ACT, and an English-proficiency test (TOEFL or IELTS). Graduate programs may require the GRE, MCAT, GMAT, or LSAT.
- Plan to use the Common Application, an online application accepted by over 450 undergraduate institutions.
- Decide if you want do to Early Decision or Early Action, and then determine if the university has such an admissions process. If you’re not familiar, applications for Early Action or Early Decision are due by November, and if you’re accepted, you’ll be notified in December or January.
- Find out if your transcripts or school curriculum has to be officiated. Because curriculum varies by country, a college may require you to submit your transcripts to a credential evaluator, who will translate the document to the U.S.’s standards.
- Even after you’ve been accepted, the process isn’t over. Students from Nigeria and other countries need to apply for an F-1 student visa. To do this, consult your country’s U.S. embassy and be ready to present your admission letter and certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant students from a U.S. school.
TOEFL/IELTS: Most U.S. schools require international students to pass the TOEFL or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to prove English proficiency, and ultimately indicate how well you’ll be able to handle coursework and class participation. If you don’t meet proficiency requirements the first time around, consider using an English-language tutor, either in your home country or online.
The SAT: Nearly all competitive undergraduate institutions require applying students to take the SAT or ACT. Nigerian students can now register for the test online through The College Board. Students can also register by mail, by filling out the Paper Registration Guide for the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests and sending it to your country’s or region’s SAT International Representative.
In Nigeria, you can register online or by mail. Additionally, once you have made arrangements to take the SAT, the following are required in Nigeria:
- Because of security concerns, students must present a valid passport to be admitted into the testing facility.
- Payments can be made by credit card online. If registering by mail, the following are accepted: a check from a U.S. bank, a U.S. Postal Service or International money order, an UNESCO coupon, or a bank draft.
- There is no wait list registration or test center changes.
The ACT Alternative: All U.S. universities allow students to submit ACT scores instead of SAT scores. The ACT is a test given several times a year internationally. Certain students may find it is better for their admission. The ACT does not test vocabulary at a high level like the SAT, and the ACT does not include 100-year old reading passages like the SAT. The ACT has a “Science Reasoning” section that replaces some of the Math. This means a student who is good at science and not-so-strong at math is likely to have an advantage on the ACT.
Ivy Bound tutors have helped students from Nigeria online and during their summer stays in the U.S.
Most U.S. universities do not offer financial aid or scholarships to international students, and in fact, ability to pay is taken into admissions decisions. As such, be ready to report your family’s income and assets with your application.
However, this doesn’t mean aid or financial assistance is completely off limits. The following programs may offer some options:
- The International Student Exchange & Study Abroad Resource
- International Financial Aid and Scholarship Search
- Your home country’s programs. In Nigeria, this may be the U.S. Pathway Program (USPP), created by the Consortium of North American Universities, or obtaining a nine-month Fulbright grant, which is subject to the approval of the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos.
Are you in the process of applying to college or a graduate program in the U.S.? Ivy Bound can be of assistance, with options for academic tutoring and test prep available for international students. Submit a form today to request more information.