6 Very Important Tips Before You Apply to Study Abroad or Anywhere
'What do you want to become when you grow up?'
That question is a rite of passage. You get asked in different forms by different people at different points in your life until it seems you've got it together. So if you're like me, my answer has cut across most professions. I've wanted to work in an orange juice factory, be a supermodel, musician, actress, electrical engineer, medical doctor, and the list goes on. Believe it or not, I sounded pretty convincing each time I picked any of them. Good old days as a little girl.
Life happened! It became clear that this choice of a profession, career or job was not as sweet as they made it look in primary school (elementary school). As a Nigerian, you're a serious-minded person if you want to become a doctor, engineer, or lawyer; the other professions just don't exist. Well, that time has passed. With our battered economy and the crisis everywhere, we need people who would do more than a job. The successful people of tomorrow are those that connect their gifts to passion and make money off it through hard work. Whether you are just finishing secondary school (high school), undergraduate or you want to make a change in your career, here are six important things before you apply to study.
1) Find something you're passionate about
Every living soul has something they enjoy doing or a profession they connect with deeply. Most times it comes somewhat natural to you, or you're excited about knowing more about it, or it's that sensible thing you do when you're bored. For me, anything healthcare related gets me over-excited. You don't have to properly nail it down initially, but at least know the area of something that makes you feel fulfilled inside. Keep in mind, you can study ANYTHING as long as you can defend it and know what you want to do with it.
2) Do your research
When you've found that 'thing', learn a little about it. Ask questions like: How can this benefit the public? Who else does this? How do people make money from this? What opportunities are out there? and What are the UNEXPLORED areas in this field?. You see my dear friends, if you don't do something innovative and break boundaries, you'll always struggle in the crowd. Don't get into a profession because it's currently prestigious and everyone is doing it: times change. Furthermore, if you apply to study in the U.S, you can't afford to be clueless about the course you want to study and WHY you want to study it.
3) Look for schools that are GOOD in what you're interested in
It really matters where you get your education. Not just for prestige or bragging, but it influences how much or how well you learn. You don't have to go to the most expensive school or ivy-league schools, but be sure to a certain extent they have a strong curriculum for your area of interest. It's as easy as emailing the school about it (they like that serious-student vibe). Find out a little about your choice schools and areas where they are located. Some states are hotter or colder than others; what's your preference? Also, most times during a U.S visa interview, you have to defend your choice of school.
4) Excellence produces SCHOLARSHIPS
Studying is expensive. Studying abroad comes with another layer. That shouldn't in any way deter you because there are opportunities. A lot of scholarships are given based on academic merit or a talent, usually sport. Out of those good skills you have, find a good school that's interested in any of them, and save a few thousand (if you have enough money to pay for school, AWESOME). Also, build a good transcript. The admission team wants to see you have a record of academic excellence. If you flunked out a few times or haven't been in a school for a while, take some classes; repeat some if you must. Patronize evening schools or online classes; have proof of RECENT successful academic experiences.
5) Study like your life depends on it
Whether it's SAT, ACT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, or one of the many standardized exams, it's not enough to pass it. There are so many people passing exams, you have to ACE it. Being an international student puts you in a unique spot already, which could go either way. Your chances of acceptance and getting financial aid increases when your scores shine BRIGHT like a diamond. Don't cheat; you will be caught immediately or somewhere down the road. Take a preparatory class if you must, but the bulk of your success lies in your studying. Give yourself enough time to prepare: it doesn't pay to rush any of these exams. Doing well once is better than doing well on your fourth try; that shouldn't stop you from trying again if you don't do well in any of the exams.
6) Trust God
I know how 'cliché' this sounds, but it really says it all. I'm not overly intelligent or super talented, but I can tell you God makes little effort yield big results. In my few years on earth, I've noticed hard work is useless except it collides with the right opportunity. Only God provides that perfect opportunity. After you've narrowed down what you'll like to do, how you want to do it, where you'll like to study, and scattered that standardized test, trust God and APPLY. Please don't fall for the agents from hell that take money from you and promise you things they can't deliver like: guaranteed scholarship, guaranteed high score, guaranteed a visa, and all the other nonsense I've heard.
Nobody can influence your admission decision apart from you. These six things also arm you for your visa interview, if you'll have one. The consular officers are trained to detect insincerity, fraud, and they make sure you know why you want to study abroad. Even if you're unsuccessful initially, the foundation you have laid in picking a course or career path would still be fruitful for you. There are more tips in my head, but let's save that for part 2. I'm working on compiling a list of schools in the US that give international students scholarships.
I don't know everything, but I can help find out more: so, send your questions, comments, and suggestions.
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