Temitope,a Harvard scholar talks about her application process and the importance of determination
Updated: Feb 27, 2019
Scholar: Temitope Giwa
Undergraduate course and Grade: Law, Second Class Upper
Undergraduate University: University of Ibadan
Graduate Course and University: Master of Laws (LLM), Harvard University
My first inspiration to attend graduate school at a Golden Triangle or Ivy League University was from a friend’s sister who also attended the University of Ibadan. Sometime in 2012, my friend informed me that her “first-class” sister had just secured admission to Cambridge’s LLM Program and the offer was fully funded. I was super excited upon hearing such great news. I also discovered another female University of Ibadan graduate went on to complete her LLM at Cambridge and was fully funded as well. Hearing these stories, spurred me to finish UI and law school with a First Class so I could also go to Cambridge.
Upon graduation, I feared that I could not secure an admission to Cambridge because I did not finish with a 1st Class from University. My 2.1 friend (who at the time had applied to Cambridge) explained to me that Cambridge also admitted persons within the top 5 – 10 percentile of their graduating class (I checked Cambridge’s LLM requirement recently and found that the requirement is either a 1st class or a grade which falls between top 5 to 10 percentile of your graduating class- please confirm for yourself).
However, this is not a story about Cambridge. It is to inspire you just the way I was inspired by my friend's sister that your wildest "dreams are valid". Too many times, we give up without trying just because we think we do not meet an eligibility requirement for an admission when in fact graduate admission teams consider several factors in awarding offers. It may just be the case that out of 10 requirements, you satisfy 8. There is no harm in believing and trying.
As you can tell from the first paragraph, I was a Cambridge junkie. So, when the time to apply for grad school came, my first choice was Cambridge University. I also applied to Oxford University and King's College London. In applying to these schools, I researched the available funding within and outside the Universities. Originally, I was only looking to graduate school in the UK but 2 friends encouraged me to apply to US Schools. Funding was equally vital to my decision to apply to Harvard.
Luckily, I got one month leave off work at the end of my NYSC. This afforded me time to prepare my application. I also prepared for and took my language proficiency test during this period. Very importantly, I set timelines and did my best to meet them. I believe it is key to draw from your circle- your family and friends. After writing my essays, I asked my circle to proofread my essay and they found errors I did not find after several reads. They also criticized some of the things I had written and caused me to reconsider some of those things. Get In Education Consulting was also very helpful. They taught me how to highlight experience and skills relevant to my application and advised me to get rid of redundant sentences and experiences. Some of these irrelevant things were important to me but not for my application, so I painfully deleted them.
Everything I am is a product of God's grace and I cannot do without mentioning the God factor. I prayed for several months before I applied to schools and clicked the submit icon with a word of prayer. I also fasted once a week for about 5 or 6 months (application to visa period).
I think it is very important to contact your referees in time and have them submit their references as soon as possible. Our lecturers and employers are busy people. There is the tendency that they might be preoccupied with their professional and personal lives just when a school's application is about to close and you need that reference in. I think it is only fair to them and for your peace of mind that you contact them in time to submit references on your behalf.
If you are required to prove English proficiency, I think you should take the test well ahead of your preferred school's deadline for submission of English test results. Most grad schools advise this but I took it for granted. Having been raised and taught in English, I assumed I was going to ace the English test. To my amazement, it is the first test I failed in my life. English test! Failure is relative, so to be fair to myself, I did not fail per say but I did not get the score the UK schools I so desired needed. After two close TOEFL attempts, I passed the IELTS test with a band score of 8.0 almost 2 months after the deadline to submit the English proficiency result to Cambridge. Fortunately, they considered my application and offered me admission despite stern warnings that they do not consider applications by applicants required to satisfy English proficiency. God factor remember :)
After 4 offers, cutting my coat according to my cloth, praying and weighing my options, I am pursuing my Masters degree at Harvard University. I am overcoming the impostor syndrome and looking forward to the year ahead believing that there are even greater years ahead.
I wish you all the best and hope that this inspires you.
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