Scholar: Chinyere Francis
Undergraduate course and grade: Economics, Second Class Upper
Undergraduate University: University of Ibadan
Graduate Course and University: Communication, Illinois State University
Getting a graduate degree was not my first choice straight out of University because as much as I did well in Economics, I knew I was interested in something else but didn’t know what that meant for my career.
During NYSC, my parents insisted on me taking Graduate Records Examination (GRE) and going to Canada for my Masters in Economics. I was dreading this but I did great in my GRE (311/340) and applied to Canadian universities. Long story short, I didn’t get any funding and could not go.
The next best thing was to get a job but I didn’t want just any job! While my friends were applying to finance companies, I wrote down all my interests and googled my way to discover my career path. The next thing I did was to write a list of the top 10 related companies in Nigeria. The first one on my list wasn’t hiring at the time but I applied for the position I wanted anyways and I got in! Best believe, I put all my heart into this job and after a few months there, I was sure this career path was for me! I started to think of ways to elevate my career and that’s where getting a graduate degree in Communication surfaced.
I didn’t apply to a lot of Universities because I started doing my research really early and had narrowed my choices down. I also had a tight application fees budget so Google was my best friend! Whenever I found a University whose Communications program matched my interests, I would start sending emails to find out everything I needed to know. Requirements for admission, funding opportunities for international students, requirements for funding...I was very specific with my queries and that’s how I decided which schools to apply for. Schools work differently with funding and for my school, you had to apply for a Graduate Assistantship separately.
My school had options- teaching, research, administrative and pre-professional assistantship. I went back to my drawing board and decided I wanted a pre-professional assistantship because it would count directly as related work experience upon graduation. So, while I applied for one teaching assistantship (which I was put on the waiting list for), I applied for not less than 7 pre-professional assistantship positions and got the first one I interviewed for. That meant a full tuition waiver, a monthly stipend and opportunity to gain real work experience. I cried the night I got the news.
My experience definitely stood me out in the application process. I had worked in Communications for almost 2 years, I was certain this was what I wanted to do and I knew why I wanted to do it. I was very confident in my essays and interviews (and side note: one of my strong points is being a likeable person, so I let my witty personality show in everything!) The feedback from my interviewers was about how much they enjoyed talking with me, so I would say let your essays and interviews be very personal.
Lastly and most importantly, God comes through! I’ve gotten so many NOs in the past that aren’t captured here and a part of me wasn’t feeling up to this but God came through. The Graduate Assistant position I got was the one I almost didn’t apply for because I had applied for so many already! So many beautiful testimonies!
Hey, if you’re planning on embarking on this journey, I would say you’re the most important decision maker. Have an idea of what you want and the picture will get clearer. Do the work, do the research, ask people questions, send emails, follow up and don’t let money stop you. You might not be able to go ahead immediately but with a solid plan and God’s favor, you can and will achieve your dreams!
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