This post is long overdue. I apologize. From my last post on getting into graduate school, I got a few messages and comments on what to do to get into grad school. I know grad school is not for everyone and this post is probably not going to be “relatable” for some of you, but if you are thinking of getting into a Masters’ program in the USA, then here are a few tips. These are things I know from my own experience and I hope they help.
To break the ice, I got into my Masters program without writing any of those exams in the title of this post. Impossible, you say? Well, I got quite a lot of that when some of my friends got to know, but then, it’s the truth (y’all know I don’t lie to you here lol). Before putting this post together, I contacted a few friends studying in the US, just to have a clear idea of how they got in and if they took any exams. I discovered some took TOEFL and another exam related to their courses. And that’s the catch!
I completed my Bachelor’s in 2017 and I knew that all along that sometime, I was going to get into grad school, be it about a year or two after graduation, or immediately after. So, in my final year, I already did tons of research about schooling in the US and the UK. Being an English major and wanting to further in that field, those were my top two options. If you’re a Nigerian living in Nigeria, you know that there is a lot involved with choosing the right school, the right program and of course, writing the exams. People own jobs that get you ready for exams and all that stuff.
However, I got on Google, and researched till I was tired. I had two things at the back of my mind:
- I have been taught in English my whole life. I have a B.A. in English and I have to write an exam to prove my proficiency in English?
- I will be studying something in the humanities. Why do I need GRE, SAT, or GMAT?
That was my motivation the whole time and I realized, in my research, that not all schools require TOEFL/IELTS. It is a requirement if you are from a non-English-speaking country, so you will usually find it on the school’s website when you check the “International Students” tab. Some are kind enough to state the exception, as seen in the screenshot below from University of Maryland, but some of them do not. So, you might want to give them a call to find out (like I did) or send an email. Then, I realized the other exams are mostly program-specific. If you are willing to study English, Social Work or most courses in the humanities, you do not need most of those exams. Some schools like NYU (New York University) state “No GRE is required.” However, if you are thinking of studying a program like Law, you might need to take the LSAT (which, of course is program-specific). In this screen recording below from the Accounting department website, you would notice it links to countries exempt from TOEFL and Nigeria is one of those.
Getting into grad school is easier than portrayed sometimes and my advice is to ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH. A lot of people have a lot of experiences and ideas about the application and admission processes, but what you should know is that things are constantly changing and you just might find something more convenient.
Someone might ask, “So how did you get in since you did not write any exams?” After submitting my application, it was sent to the department of my prospective program (and this is usually the case for grad school – the department decides if they want you). The next thing I was asked was my official transcript in its raw form and in its evaluated form. I contacted my previous school and had them send the transcript to the school and to the evaluation company. Then, they also asked for many sample essays. Especially because it was an application to an English department, I wrote essays upon essays, submitted extracts of my Bachelor’s thesis and all that. They also asked for recommendations and so on. So, that was the major of the process.
Once your application is approved and you are granted admission, you fulfill all other requirements in terms of finances and stuff and they send you your I-20, so you can apply for a visa at the embassy.
ABOUT VISAS AND EMBASSIES
I do not know how it works for other embassies, but at the US embassy, I tried to notice a few trends while waiting in line for my interview. There was someone who applied to about five schools and got denied a visa, even though he was admitted in all the schools. One or two schools are good enough, or if you apply to many, try to go with only one I-20 and be as specific as you can. Make it obvious that you know what you want and why you are going. One of the questions I was asked was why I chose the school I applied to. I said it was because of the rich course content that I had researched on and found to be interesting. I also mentioned the school’s portrayal of diversity, and how that appealed to me as an international student. So, all of these things matter. Be genuine with your answers, and of course, pray!
Okay Royalty, that’s my two cents on getting into grad school in the US as an international Nigerian student. I hope it helps you or someone you know. Please leave a comment, let me know if you have more questions and message me here if it is something private.
Sidenote: from my last Instagram poll, new blog days are Wednesdays and Saturdays EVERY WEEK.
With Overflowing Love,