How to Study in the U.S. – Nigerian Student to USA

If you’re a Nigerian student looking to go for your undergraduate studies in the United States of America (USA) as a Nigerian citizen, then this post is for you.

If you’d like to get your Bachelor’s degree in America as a Nigerian, then you likely have many questions that you’d love detailed answers to.

In this post, you’ll find answers to those frequently asked questions that you might have.

Let’s jump right in!

1. Everything feels overwhelming – the process of applying to study in America as a Nigerian student is so difficult and challenging, where do I start?

I agree – it’s a lot to juggle.

From finishing your WAEC exams to researching US schools, from taking standardized tests to applying, and then waiting for results, everything seems like a lot. And I’m with you on that one.

But to reduce the stress of all these, I’d advise that you start with one thing first… and that’s TIME.

Start by giving yourself enough time for you to go through the whole process of researching, applying, and traveling to the US for your studies.

You see, US schools take applications at least one year in advance to the time that you plan to actually start studying.

So, if your goal is to start studying by August/September 2023, then you’ll need to start the application process at least a year before that time.

So, how much time you need will depend on when you plan to start studying in the US.

For example, if you plan to start studying in the US by August/September 2023, you need to give yourself enough time to start the process by August 2022… even preferably earlier than that, say, January or March 2022.

It’s even a very good idea to take a “gap year” – meaning, take a year off between when you complete your SS3 and WAEC exams (or A’Level or IGSCE exams) and when you start applying.

So you can use that year to focus on your applications.

So, start by deciding when you want to start studying at the US school, and when you want to start preparing for the whole process.

This would give you enough time to do your research, put in all the required documents, and still meet all the schools’ deadlines.

2. Basically, what are key steps to applying to US undergraduate schools as a Nigerian student?

There are six main steps:

Step 1: Decide your application timeline (of a year or more).

US admissions is a marathon, not a sprint.

Step 2: Gather your documents.

For example:

  • Your WAEC “O” Level results (from WAEC website),
  • Cambridge A’Level or IGSCE results (if this is applicable to you),
  • Your transcripts from JS1 to SS3,
  • Your resume (containing your educational journey and accomplishments)
  • Letters of recommendation from your school principal, teachers or mentors that know you well

Some of these documents take some time to compile, so the earlier you start, the better.

Step 3: Do your research.

There are over 4,300 colleges and universities in the US as at 2017, according to the US Department of Education. Now that’s A LOT of schools, and you definitely can’t apply to even 100 of those schools.

So you’ll need to do your research to find US schools that best fit what you want in a university education.

For example, here are some of the things you’d need to research:

  • Why you want to study in the US, in relation to your career goals and plans after graduation
  • US schools with strong departments in the course or degree that you want to get your Bachelor’s in
  • How much money you’ll need to spend, your finances, and how you can get scholarships or external funding for the schools you’re looking into
  • Application requirements, test score ranges, and financial aid deadlines for the schools
  • Cities / states where you’d like to live in the US – for example, based on cost of living, closeness to family or tight-knit community, the weather, and other factors, etc.

Side note: You’d think the weather is such a flimsy thing to consider.

But I have to tell you, the general weather in Nigeria is fairly similar across board, compared to what you’ll experience in many US cities, especially during the winter (very, very cold) and summer (so hot) seasons in those US cities.

The best way to prepare is to do your research; so you know your specific situation, and the best US schools that would be a great fit for you.

Step 4: Take standardized exams / tests

Just like you’d take UTME or post-UTME to enter Nigerian universities, you’d need to take certain entrance exams that you’d use to apply to US colleges and universities.

The two biggest exams for undergraduate admissions in the US are the SAT and ACT. You’d only have to take one exam or the other, not both.

You might also need to take:

  • The TOEFL/IELTS (if some of your desired schools want it from Nigerian applicants), or
  • The SAT subject tests (to demonstrate your top-notch ability in specific subjects like Math, Science, English, History, or Languages)

And although some US schools might say these tests are optional, it’s often in your best interest to write these exams (especially the SAT or the ACT) as an international student coming from Nigeria.

Because here’s the deal: writing these exams and performing exceptionally well will make you stand out. It will give your application that better chance (that you need) to favorably compete with other top-notch candidates from all over the world, including native students from US schools.

Step 5: Look for funding / financial aid opportunities

You can get into all the US schools that you want, but if there’s no money to pay for it, what’s the point?

US schools are notoriously expensive, especially for international students.

And so you want to pay very detailed attention to the funding options that are available to you, given your strengths and profile as an international student coming from Nigeria.

You can’t leave your financial aid to chance – you need to do your research, and look into:

  • Schools with scholarships for international students
  • Agencies in Nigeria with funding opportunities for US schools
  • And all other options where you can get financial aid

It might even be worth it to go to a “middle-ranked” school that gives you more funding, than a “top-ranked” school that leaves you hanging with zero or little funding.

For example, your research into funding opportunities might lead you to:

  • Writing hundreds of essays and personal statements to apply for many scholarships,
  • Drastically reducing the shortlist of your schools,
  • Start looking into getting loans to fund your education,
  • Or finding ways to simply just get more money, so you’ll be able to pay once you’re admitted

Step 6: Apply

You’ve given enough time to apply as a Nigerian student to US undergraduate universities.

You’ve gathered your documents and done your research.

You’ve taken your standardized tests and looked into funding options that will work for you. You’ve done most of the work, but your work’s not done yet.

The next step is for you to apply. Based on the factors that you’ve considered, you’d have narrowed down your list of schools into a final shortlist.

Apply to your final shortlist of schools and pat yourself on the back. Well done!

Next, you’ll just have to wait and pray, so that your hard work eventually yields excellent results.

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