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Wuraola Dasylva shares tips on making your application stand out on your path to graduate school.

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

Scholar: Wuraola Dasylva

Undergraduate Course and Grade: Law Degree,  2nd Class Upper

Undergraduate University: University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Graduate Course and University: Master of Laws (LLM), University of Manitoba, Canada

The reason I chose Canada for my graduate studies was because of country factors such as opportunity to work while studying and the ability to stay back in Canada and build my career upon completion of my studies.

Regarding my specific choice of school, my big determining factor was whether the school makes funding available to graduate students. My best friend and I did some research about schools, reached out to relevant departments and also contacted other graduate students to gather personal information and obtain a holistic perspective.  

Thankfully, I secured admission and obtained full funding which included tuition, and biweekly stipends for 2 years. I also got some other lump sum payments.

I believe that my application stood out because of each of the following reasons:

My Grades: My class of degree was a second class upper but it was a strong one. Many schools in the western world are not immediately carried away by the class of degree. They evaluate the transcripts in great detail and watch out for consistency in grades, courses taken and general breakdown of transcript.

My extra-curricular activities: Many schools appreciate high fliers (students with potentials to be successful) because a successful graduate strengthens their alumni community, among other things. I was involved in tons of extra-curricular activities ranging from community services and volunteering, to politics and religious activities. I think the two biggest ones that possibly impacted my application were my volunteering experience with my university radio station and my political achievement as a students’ union leader. Your ability to combine other meaningful activities alongside your studies will stand you out as a candidate.

Strong Reference Letters: My references were amazing people who knew me well and did not lazily put pen to paper in writing about me. One of those references almost made me cry – it was about 3 pages long and it sold me well. The letter detailed how the professor came to know me, his interactions with me, his observations when he worked with me on some projects, and importantly, my academic feats and potentials. Your references should be people that know you well and that can go over and beyond in genuinely writing about you. Notably, they should also have exemplary records/reputation such that considerable weight will be given to what they say about you.

Impeccable Personal Statements: If you can’t sell yourself, who will? Engage the services of professionals like Get In Education Consulting or someone who has gone through the process to review your personal statements and research proposals, if applicable.

The God-factor: I am not ashamed to say that I am a little girl helped by God. The Grace factor made a difference. On my own, I could do nothing but God’s plan materialized. While you do your part, it is not a bad idea to pray as well.

Key Takeaway

1. Do a lot of research. Nothing beats it. Read up all you can about the school, their requirements and expectations. Observe the trends on the students’ profiles on the school website and determine if the school is a place for you. Connect with students that have graduated from the schools you are considering – be professional – reach out to them via LinkedIn or their institutional e-mail address. Consider if the school has track-records of providing international students with funding.

2. Consider what your mid-term goals are. Will you be returning to your home country immediately after graduate studies or you want to stay back and build your career in the new country? This will help you plan ahead of time and considerably ease the stress of relocating or returning home. This will also make you better focused during your graduate studies and will inform the opportunities that you take and the exams or kind of jobs that you do rather than leaving everything to chance.

3. Finances: Consider whether you will continue to have support from your family or if you have to support yourself. Even if you secure admission with funding, continuous funding through the duration of your program may depend on your academic performance or other conditions. You need a backup which may be in form of savings, family support or ability to work and support yourself.

I wish you the very best!

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