Updated: Feb 27, 2019
Scholar: Ruth Chidinma Akor
Undergraduate Course and Grade: Economics, Second Class Upper
Undergraduate University: University of Ibadan.
Graduate Course and University: Applied Economics, George Washington University.
Right from my first year of undergraduate studies at the University of Ibadan, I told myself that I
would do my Masters abroad. At that time, the dream was vague because I did not know what
school or what course or how it would become a reality.
During my NYSC in 2016, I started the search for schools in Canada, USA or Australia good for a Masters in Finance. I was aiming for Ivy league schools like Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, etc. I got a special book for this purpose where I wrote down my choice schools, their requirements, essay questions, and necessary exams. I discovered GRE was a major requirement for most of the schools I chose so I had to write GRE. Most importantly, I knew all my efforts would be futile if I did not get a full scholarship.
I spent weeks and weeks surfing the net in search of schools and scholarships. The search got frustrating and overwhelming that I closed the book and decided to work! After NYSC, I worked at the Ministry of Finance for over a year. This was a major eye-opener for me, I discovered my interests in public sector economics, developmental economics and International Finance. Along the line, an opportunity came for a scholarship for graduate studies overseas. I was recommended by my employers, I applied and got the scholarship.
I had to begin my search again. This time I wanted a Masters Degree in Applied Economics or
International Economics. I used Graduate School finders to help narrow my options then did proper research on each school and programme offered. I narrowed my choice to schools in The UK and US. I applied to two schools in the UK and three schools in the US. I discovered George Washington University (GWU) at the last minute. I quickly did a research on GWU and was fascinated by its proximity to the World Bank, IMF, The White House and many other financial institutions. I was also excited about the programmes offered and the numerous opportunities available for students.
The application process was very easy. For GWU, I did not have to apply differently for a
scholarship; I just had to check ‘yes’ for the question ‘do you want to be considered for a
graduate merit award?’ when I was completing my application. In less than a month, I got an
admission offer for an M.A in Applied Economics from GWU which came with a partial tuition
award of $10,000.
Here’s the hack -
First things first, involve God - if you do not want frustration and indecisiveness to deal with
you, make God your special adviser on this journey. My admission and scholarships were as a
result of God’s grace and favour. I got tired and frustrated too many times because of
indecisiveness. I did not have so much money to pay application fees so I knew I had to really
narrow my options. I finally had to hand it all over to God and He directed my choice of country,
school and course.
Be ready to sacrifice a lot of time and money - I believe the first step to getting a graduate
degree is writing out your goals and doing extensive research before applying to schools. Be
aggressive and deliberate about this. Searching for schools, gathering your references and
putting your application together will take time! If you are applying to schools in the US and
Canada, be ready to pay application fees.
Mark the deadlines for these schools - applying early makes you stand a better chance of
landing that scholarship. Try to meet the early decision! I missed a lot of opportunities because I
started my search and application late.
Information is Power guys! - Ask all the necessary questions. There is no stupid question!
Every school has contacts/email addresses that you can constantly reach out to and ask all
your questions. Get advice from current students there, you can find them via LinkedIn or other
social media. Search for the school on social media and connect with them. Talk to friends who
have/are also studying in that state/school/country and know the opportunities available during
and after your programme. Also, know what exams are necessary and scores needed to be
considered for admission and scholarship. For me, I did not want to write an English test so I
was particular about schools that could waive the English test requirement.
Apply/ Request for funding - For some schools, you have to apply separately for funding, for
some others it comes with the admission. Most schools offer you a scholarship based on the
strength of your application. Get good and strong recommendation letters from work or past
lecturers! (let your recommenders sell you out very well, this cannot be over-emphasized!)
Make sure your essays stand out - sell yourself! Highlight your leadership experiences! Find out
those things every school is looking out for. For my course, my school was looking out for
research and quantitative skills. For some courses in the school of International Studies GWU,
they were looking out for experience in the public sector, so do your research thoroughly and
note the experiences/skills to highlight in your application. I later discovered some of my
classmates got tuition award worth double of mine apparently because their resumes,
recommendation letters and essays were more “outstanding”. In some cases, you can negotiate
with a school to increase your scholarship/ give you a scholarship (different strokes for different
folks, just know which one works!)
What do you want to do after grad school? - if your plan is to return to Nigeria immediately,
then schools in the UK can be your preference. If you wish to stay back in the country of study
and gather some work experience, then you may want to consider the US or Canada. Also,
some schools in the US have STEM courses which give you the opportunity to have two years
of work experience after your studies. So align your choice of grad school to your