I know a new batch of NYSC graduands just passed out two days ago and for some, an international master’s degree is on their mind. An international master’s degree is a good choice not just for grades but for a global experience as well. I trust this post will point you in the right direction.
First, a little backstory. In November 2015, I conceived the idea to do my master’s degree in the UK. By early 2016, I picked out four universities and applied to two of them. I got admission from both and eventually picked one to start in September 2016. My visa application failed and I had to defer to this year. With the help of my friends at UKEAS, I am currently in the Information Systems master’s program at the University of Portsmouth, UK.
With studying abroad people have a lot of questions. Even with the financial and academic means, many still think it is a difficult task to gain admission abroad but with some knowledge, it is easier than asking that slay queen out.
The first thing that must be established is your motive behind international master’s. Do you plan to get a job and emigrate? Or do you want to return to Nigeria with better skillsets and a broader understanding? The answers to these questions will play a huge part in deciding where you go.
Don’t worry if you can’t answer exactly, Nigeria isn’t going anywhere. So let’s start with the BIG question.
How do I pick a university?
In Nigeria, we choose schools because our friends go there or it’s close to our house or our parents know people there. I chose my Nigerian university because I was ill-informed and most of my classmates from secondary school went there.
With picking a university abroad, new factors such as subject strength, admissions calendar, teacher to student ratio, location, tuition fees, living expenses, student employability rate, research quality and international student ratio come into play. These factors together make up a university’s ranking.
Websites such as topuniversities.com provide university rankings across all continents based on the factors mentioned above. Think of it like FIFA team stats for universities. The high ranking universities like MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, Oxford do well in all these factors.
In matters of subject strength, specialized universities like MIT excel more in Engineering and Computing courses. John Hopkins University is foremost in medicine. In checking to rank, look for universities specialized in your chosen course.
Research quality ties in here. The higher the quality of a university’s research in a field, the more respected is accorded the university and the certificate from that university. This boosts your employability as a graduate of that university.
Universities abroad have different academic calendars based on course curriculum and country regulations. The duration of a master’s degree is 16 –18 months which applies to most universities around the world. However, for those in the UK, the duration of a master’s degree is 12 months.
If you intend to return to Nigeria immediately after your course, the UK can be a good option for you. Also, there are universities with September and January start dates. Looking at the academic calendar will help you plan early on.
The location where the university is situated is crucial. Universities in urban areas are better as they allow you to study and engage in the culture and activities of the city.
Nothing sadder than being stuck miles from social events. Another benefit of universities in urban areas is working and living expenses. Malls, apartments, pubs are cheaper and more abundant in urban areas which means part-time job opportunities as well.
I and some friends just paid 5x times the cinema prices in Portsmouth compared to Cardiff. Endeavor to check your favorite past times and their availability in your university’s location.
Teacher to student ratio is a factor that may not seem to matter early on but when it is time for dissertation and personal tutoring, it will count. The lower the student-to-teacher ratio (say 10:1 meaning 10 students to 1 teacher), the more personal contact you can have with your lecturers and project supervisor.
Concerning tuition fees, you should have a budget set out plus or minus 10%. Master’s tuition for international students (where you and I fall in) starts from £10,000 upwards in the UK. Some universities have strong ties with international bodies that subsidize tuition from developing countries.
Some universities like Essex and Portsmouth offer specific discounts for Nigerian students. Germany and a number of EU countries have close-to-free tuition for international students, the catch of course is language. Those are worth checking out as they can save you a few thousand.
Finally, international student ratio. Aside from the educational qualifications, a master’s is a good opportunity to meet and experience different cultures. You also want a university that has a good Nigerian population so you are assured there is Jollof rice available.
It is advisable to select 3–4 universities for consideration then eliminate the ones that meet the least of your criteria. You can use the https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2018 to check University rankings for next year.
The next step is to apply for admission.
How do I apply for admission?
This is the point where a lot of people run to agencies and pay huge amounts of money to process. It is not difficult to gain admission if you meet the necessary criteria.
International universities have sites loaded with information about their admission criteria to help prospective students go through the process smoothly and with a little time and effort, you can scale the admission process easily. Also, their support desks are also very efficient with requests, unlike their Nigerian counterparts.
Once you have selected your universities of choice, go to their postgraduate courses page and find out the requirements for your chosen course. They would list the required grades you need (2:1, 2:2, or 3rd class minimum), English qualifications IELTS/TOEFL (if any), curriculum, tuition fees, and the next start date for the course. Everything will be clearly spelled out on the university’s website.
If you feel strongly about the school but do not meet the criteria, you can call or send an email to their support desk. They may have options available to help you meet the requirements.
Application windows usually run from December — May for the September start date (resumption) and August — November for the January start date (resumption).
Some of the documents needed are:
- International Passport data page.
- 2 references (preferably academic)
- Personal statement (a short essay about yourself and why you chose the university)
Concerning TOEFL/IELTS some Universities can waive it for you if you can provide your WASSCE certificate with at least a C6 in English. Don’t forget to tell them your main language of learning is English. I had to write a strongly worded email to my university before I got the English certification waived. This can save you exam fees and time spent preparing for IELTS/TOEFL. It is best to start this process as early as possible to ensure everything is set before resumption.
So I have gained admission. What next?
Travel plans. Financial plans. Visa plans. Shopping plans. Read up guides on the country you are going to, find credible people living there, and soak up the knowledge of the area like a sponge.
Your chosen university often has guides on visa applications and general stay for international students. If you can’t find it, a google search of the country’s student visa application process should put you on the right path. If you are uncertain about anything, contact the university, they will gladly help.
Concerning visa applications, my advice would be to get expert help. An organization I can vouch for is UKEAS. UKEAS liaise with international universities in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK and caters to students’ admissions and visa applications all for FREE.
In my case, after failing my first UK visa application, they straighten my documents and the second attempt was a breeze. If you find the entire process of seeking admission tedious, you can consult them from the very beginning.
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Wish you success.