Updated: Feb 27, 2019
Scholar: Ifeoluwa Adedeji
Undergraduate course and Grade: Political Science, Second Class Upper
Undergraduate University: University of Ibadan
Graduate Course and University: International Affairs, Ohio University
My graduate school story follows the trail of every other account out there: a product of planning, research, and making deliberate, strategic contacts. In this sense, there is perhaps nothing extraordinary. Nevertheless, since every story is different in its own way, my hope is to share my unique personal experience in the hope that it inspires someone who has it settled that there is no way they can afford a foreign [graduate] education without a substantial external assistance. That was me.
Proceeding to get a graduate degree was an expectation that a lot of people had for me when I completed my bachelor’s; It was the logical next step right after youth service. Two things helped me come to the process with the right mindset. At the time I was at the University of Ibadan, there was a strong wave of entrepreneurship and opportunities that blew across, which a lot of students tapped into. It was remarkable how many opportunities lied around, waiting to be discovered just by having the right information, or at least knowing where to look for it.
The second impact came during my service year when I was fortunate to have a few friends who had the same desire to get a Master’s degree abroad. I learned from their efforts, and decided then that getting a funded education abroad required at least a year of active preparation. In that moment of preparation or strategic wait if you wish, I would gain relevant work experience to add to what I had, and put together a solid application that would be irresistible.
It certainly helped that I put together a plan around my purpose. I asked a lot of clarifying questions: Where do I want to study? What do I want to study? What do I hope to do with the degree when I’m done? Do I want to put my degree to use in the same country, or do I want to come home as soon as I’m done? These are simple, yet powerful questions, and if you look at them through the lens of mind mapping, you will see how many offshoot questions each of these can produce. The difficult part is getting clarity. Sadly, this is the biggest challenge I have with a lot of folks who reach out to me to “help them to secure admission and funding to a school in America”: No one should secure an admission or a funded education for you (except you’re paying a hefty sum to a Nigerian guaranteed solutions agency), that’s your own responsibility.
This process of self-investigation led me to use every web resource available to me. The internet is literally the only “long leg” anyone needs. I was at almost every school’s website that offered the disciplines on my longlist, and contacted almost every important person capable of giving critical direction. The U.S. was my only preferred destination for post-graduation, family, and other reasons. Out of every school and program I looked into, I decided on only OHIO because I didn’t want to write the GRE and the program offered many possibilities. Everyone applies to at least two schools to feel secure, but I did the opposite. Call it reckless or risky, but I was either going to put together a winning application and secure a scholarship, or I would remain working in Nigeria. In hindsight, that’s the kind of clarity of pursuit that never fails.
The application process was as intense and collaborative as it could get. I wrote and edited my essays every day for about three months. This is a truth people who were close to me during that stage of my life would confirm. I somehow ended up discovering better ways to write some part of the essays every new day. Everyone read my essays, from my pastor’s wife in Abuja to my senior friend in Ibadan. It was like a state constitution that needed to be reviewed and passed by every member constituent.
I remember when I reached out to a few people in the university I was applying to and asked about full funding possibilities, the response was cold, and it felt like I was dreaming too big. When I would later secure a graduate assistantship scholarship covering full tuition and a satisfactory stipend, one of those people was so hyped for me she said, “Even me that I’m here, I don’t have a GA, and you’re coming with one from Nigeria?” This is not to say that it was a fun ride. It required financial commitment, a lot of it. It was boring most of the time with the essays. I sometimes floated around the line between staying in touch with professors and bugging them. But it paid off.
One thing I have intentionally kept till now is to stress on merit and credentials. We see less-than-average students who take the process seriously clinch admissions and scholarships from time to time, but it is better to be solid on every side than hoping one area of the application packet will make up for another deficient area. It sucks to get a coveted admission or come close to it, but not be able to make it there because of insignificant funding or an unconsidered spot on the waiting list due to a deficient part of the application. Be a strong fit and put in the work for the application, and you are on your way.
I hope you read this story with much attention to find advice between-the-lines, find other people’s experiences and recommendations, especially the unique things they touch on that I do not, and make your inspiration full.
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