The first step to applying for colleges abroad is to understand that you can do it without an agent. There is a lot of information on the web, and google is your friend. I did it when I was 17, and I believe anyone can do it as long as they are determined. There are books with step by step guides to help you, and it is much better spending a minimum amount to buy those books than spending thousands of dollars paying someone else. This article is divided into different sections to help the you understand the process better.
STEP 1 – BEFORE GRADUATING FROM SECONDARY SCHOOL
In Nigeria we have Junior Secondary 1-3 (JSS1 – 3) and Senior Secondary 1-3 (SS1-3). By your SS2, you should already begin making plans for your university applications and travel. It might look like it is too early, but I assure you that it is not. The process involved in applications and travel preparations are so cumbersome that a minimum of a year is needed. In addition, there are different processes for different universities, and the processes differ based on the path you select. For instance, if you need a scholarship, then you would have more steps than another person who is paying their fees themselves. The content of this article covers a study abroad without a scholarship. While in your senior secondary school, it is essential that you begin to gather all the information you need.
STEP 2 – BROWSE FOR UNIVERSITIES
The next step is to start browsing for universities that you are interested in. The United States has about 4300 accredited universities and eight of these are ivy leagues. Each University has its own standardized test requirements. Some might require just TOEFL, others might require TOEFL and SAT and others might require ACT. In addition, there are other requirements. For instance, a school might want a cut off of 1000/1600 for your SAT score while others might require less. Ivy leagues definitely require more, and these are usually an almost perfect score.
As you browse for schools, also check for their tuition fees. There are in-state tuition fees (which is the tuition fee for those who live and pay taxes in that particular state), and there are out of state tuition fees. Lastly, there are tuition fees for international students. Most times, they are almost the same amount as tuition fees for out of state. In addition to tuition fees, there are also other payments such as room and board, books etc. Tuition fees also vary based on the program of study. For instance, those in STEM usually pay significantly more than those in arts. When you are done making your research on schools, you narrow them to about 4 or 5, and those are the schools you will apply to
STEP 3 – STUDY FOR YOUR STANDARDIZED EXAMS
From step 2, recall that there are standardized tests to be taken for admission into Universities. These include SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS. Depending on the schools you chose, you will know which of these exams to take. Usually, most schools require SAT or ACT, and for the purpose of this book, we will be using those. SAT is a Scholastic Assessment Test and it measures writing reading and math skills in secondary school students. There is the SAT 1 which is the general SAT and the SAT 2 which tests specific subjects. Most schools require SAT 1. There is the English section, the essay and the math section. The SAT is timed for each section so it is necessary to time yourself as you prepare for the exam. It is important to adequately prepare for the SAT, because your score determines if your chosen University accepts you or not. The SAT is the equivalent of the Nigerian JAMB, and we know that without a good JAMB score you have no way to get into a University. You can study with books from Kaplan, College board or Barron’s. These books help you understand how the exam works and how to take it. Also, endeavor to do well in high school as your results and your SAT score are combined to determine the University that you end up in.
STEP 4 – TAKE YOUR STANDARDIZED EXAMS
From step 3, we talked about preparing and studying for the SAT. If you are unable to purchase the book, you can ask for one from the center where you will register for SAT. Most centers sell them, and some loan them out on a reduced price. In addition, you might consider studying alone for the SAT or studying in the lesson center. Your registration center will most probably have a study/prep session for those taking the SAT. If however you choose to study alone, you must dedicate at least 5 hours per day for studying. The SAT exam takes 3 hours, which implies you have to sit for 3 hours a day when taking the mock exam. Also watch YouTube videos to get other tips on the exam. There are videos on math preparation, essay sections and general tips/do’s and don’ts.
After you’re done studying for the SAT, you can choose the time and place to take your exam. In Nigeria, there are centers for the SAT in the following states: Lagos, FCT Abuja, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Asaba, Enugu, Jos, Kaduna, Benin, Kwara, Ibadan and Osun. The SAT costs about $50 and the SAT with essay costs about $65. The results for the SAT are usually available within 2 weeks, but for Nigeria it takes about a month. After you take your exam, the college board usually sends your results to 4 universities of your choice. This is where the schools you chose at first come in. If you want to send your results to more schools, you have to pay a certain amount of money for each school you send your score to.
GET YOUR TRANSCRIPTS
After you are done with secondary school, the next step is to start gathering documents and all you need. Get your transcript from your secondary school. A lot of times they would require money from you for it. I did mine for #50,000 and this was years ago. Transcribing transcripts is important, but some schools can accept your transcript without transcription.
GET YOUR LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION (LOR)
After getting your transcript, you should get your letter of recommendations. This is again where the schools you chose at first come in. These schools have their requirements on their website. Be sure that you are utilizing the requirements and steps for international students and not that of domestic students.
Most schools usually require two letters of recommendations, from your secondary school teachers. In this letter, these teachers vouch that you are a good student and not a nuisance. Be sure that the teacher writing this is someone who really knows you and not just someone who will write two sentences about you.
PAY YOUR SEVIS FEE
After you have successfully applied to the schools you want, you are sent an I-20. This is an equivalent of an ‘invite’ to the United States. Some schools require that you pay for your I20. If you have time you can pay for postal shipping and if not (or to be on the safe side) you can pay for expedited shipping. The shipping of I20 costs about $100. Once you receive an I-20, the next step is to pay for the SEVIS fee. It is not possible to pay the SEVIS fee from Nigeria. However there are two options to do this:
- Ask someone living in another country to help you pay it
- Travel to Seme border in Benin republic to pay for it
The current cost of Sevis fee is $350, and the Sevis fee is your unique ID that identifies you as a student in the states
The next step after a successful payment of your SEVIS fee is your Visa application process. There are different steps for this and they are listed below
- The first thing to do in this step is complete your DS160. This is the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form. When completing this form, make sure you fill in everything accurately. The DS160 determines your intentions for traveling to the USA.
- After this you pay for your visa fee. There are different kinds of visas for anyone who wants to come to the United States. For those coming to study full time (not part time) it is the F1 visa. The cost of the F1 visa is $160. You can pay for this in GTB all over Nigeria. You need your international passport and the fee for this
- The visa fee takes about 2 days to reflect, so after the payment you can book your interview date
- The Visa interview is another process, and if you are interested in acing your interview, be sure to check out my book – Acing your F1 Visa interview on the first trial. Here, I compiled some common Visa interview questions and how to answer them
- After acing your interview, you are given a slip and told where to go to pick up your passport
- After you pick your passport up, you can book your flight
- That is all! Congrats and safe travels!