Scholar: Eyitene Iwere
Undergraduate Course and Grade: Bachelor of Laws (LLB), First Class Honors
Undergraduate University: University of Hull, England, United Kingdom.
Graduate Degree and University: Master of Laws (LLM), Cornell University, New York, United States.
As a law graduate fresh out of the university, I decided to delay attending grad school until I got
called to the Nigerian bar and had practiced law in Nigeria. During my NYSC program, I made
the decision to attend grad school the following year.
With this in mind, I started researching into potential grad school destinations. After weighing
my options, I chose the United States because of the availability of funding opportunities. There
was no way I would have afforded to attend grad school without obtaining a scholarship or
I drew up a list of 4 schools I wanted to apply to and commenced the application process.
Interestingly, Cornell was not on my initial list. It was through LSAC (an organization that
provides a platform that simplifies the process of applying to multiple schools) that I decided to
take a chance on them. I was contacted and offered an application fee waiver if I applied. I
researched into the school and realized that it was also great for the courses I wanted to study so
I decided to add it to my list.
Applying to grad school is a very time-consuming job and it helps if you don’t try to do it all on
your own. I got friends and family members to read and review my application materials. I also
contacted my referees well in advance. I chose people who knew me personally and could speak
to my strengths and preparedness for grad school.
Regarding funding, I noticed that my program did not qualify for any specific graduate
scholarship and I only qualified for merit-based scholarships which was assessed solely on the
strength of my application.
Cornell was the first school I received an admission offer from. However, I was informed that
there were no available scholarships, but I would be contacted if funding became available. I
took that as a rejection and focused on the other schools I applied to.
After receiving two rejections and one admission with very little funding, I gave up on attending
grad school that year and agreed to try again the following year. The deadline for the payment of
deposit at Cornell passed and my admission was withdrawn. Surprisingly, two days after, I
received an email that my application was still being considered and a decision will be made soon. I brushed the email off as a glitch in their system because what school withdraws an
admission and then sends such an email?
Within minutes, I received another email that I had been recommended by the Dean of the Law
School for the award of a full tuition waiver by the Institute for African Development at Cornell!
It was when I got here that I realized that there were only 3 recipients of that award across all
graduate schools at Cornell and you could only be considered for the scholarship if you were
recommended by the Dean of your faculty.
What did I learn from this experience? Be prepared! Sometimes, you might not know exactly
what an admissions or scholarship review board is looking out for, but your application must
speak to your individual strengths, passions and interests. Secondly, if you never ask, the answer
will always be no. If I knew then what I know now, I would have emailed schools that offered
me admissions to enquire about funding opportunities and/or negotiate for more funding. I have
read about people who got substantial increase in funding just by asking!
Lastly, remember not to take rejections personally. Grad school, as with any other aspect of life,
is ultimately a game of numbers and sometimes, even great schools miss out on fantastic
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