There are many reasons why young Kenyans want to study in the USA. Some see a first world country with beautiful cities and glowing people. Others see a place with immense opportunity for their dreams while others see a land with life on the first lane. All these perspectives are very attractive and that’s why every year thousands of Kenyan students take on the race to American universities.
Unfortunately, only less than 10% of these students get the opportunity to study in the USA. The main reason behind these low statistics is the lack of comprehensive sources of information. I wouldn’t rule out the fact that most of these universities in America are very selective and expensive but what really pulls Kenyan students back is the lack of information.
This brief article, however, will give you some light on this issue and more information will be included with time. So, without further ado, these are the most important steps for those who desire to study in the USA.
While in High School
If you completed your high school, jump to the section After high school
1. Start preparing early.
If you have a lucid vision of pursuing your higher education in the USA, then you need to start sharpening your tools early. From form 1 start reading a lot of English novels, try speaking English with your friends, take part in debates and connect with your English teachers. Then, practice math every single day and train how to answer questions faster. These two subjects are very integral as they take a huge chunk of the exams required for admission in American colleges.
2. Create a wonderful reputation with your teachers.
As my principal used to say, you may be the smartest, most talented or most ambitious person in the world, but without character, you are going nowhere. When you begin to apply to universities in the USA, you will require about three written and signed recommendations from your high school teachers. So be of good character from the moment go.
3. Start taking the SAT tests.
Practice makes perfect. When you reach form 3, you should begin taking SAT exams. Talk to the career teachers, I believe most high schools sponsor their students to do the SATs. If your school doesn’t sponsor students, discuss with your parents. Its opportunity is worth much more than the small fee you pay.
Some students might perform so well in these trial SATs, and get admitted at top schools before completing high school. You can choose to go immediately but I would advise you to differ the admission for one or two years so that you can complete your secondary education first. To differ is just like postponing your admission.
After High School
Assuming you could not secure a spot in an American university while in high school.
1. Immediately begin intensive SAT study.
Having completed your secondary education, you now have the time and space to delve into something you love. Since you desire to study abroad, you should concentrate on your dream.
Acquire SAT books from friends and libraries or purchase some if you have the money. The USA Embassy in Kenya in Gigiri, Nairobi is a rich source of SAT books. Its library is regularly updated and they even have a program for students who want to study in the USA. Get more information HERE
When you walk around Nairobi, you should spot street vendors selling used novels and books at very cheap prices. Look for SAT books in their collections. If you don’t find any, talk one or two vendors into searching used SAT books for you.
2. Join a program/school.
There are various institutions around the country offering tutorship for high school graduates who want to study abroad. These schools have intensive programs that mold you appropriately to tackle the SAT exams. Besides, they assist you in the application process and recommend you to top institutions in the USA.
Some have very good connections with Ivy League institutions and sometimes it’s almost guaranteed you will get admitted somehow, through their help. A good example of such a program is Equity Foundation which however is very selective; only the top students in every county get sponsored.
I remember during my time, our school produced 2 students in the top ten KCSE yet Equity Foundation only took the first one. There are various other institutions that I will include here as I do some more research. Stay tuned.
3. Begin your Application process.
This is a very crucial part of your journey to studying in the USA. You should be careful and preferably, seek assistance from consultants and friends who have already made it. If you are fine doing it alone, these are the steps.
a) Create a CommonApp account.
Most American universities have their own application forms and requirements, so if you want to apply to multiple universities it might be hectic having to repeat all the processes again and again. CommonApp comes to your rescue. It is a platform where students can apply to multiple universities using the same forms and requirements. The organization behind the platform partners with more than 600 universities in America and around the world. Create an account here and you have access to more universities than you can dream of.
b) Prepare your Student Essay.
This is an article of not more than 650 words that introduces you to the universities you apply to. Think of it as your statement. It speaks about your origin and personality. It dictates what Americans will think of you. It might be your gain or loss. Many students overlook its importance and think that SAT scores are more important. Well, here are some facts.
Until 2016 when the SAT was changed, way more than half of Harvard applicants got 2300 and above and among them, thousands got perfect scores and were valedictorians in high school. Yet you will find some who will fail to secure admission there while a kid from nowhere who got 2100 in SAT gets an admission. The trick behind; his student essay was so touching that Harvard admission officers couldn’t let go.
c) Get your documents and recommendations ready.
You will be required to give proof of the achievement you pamper into your applications. So before you claim that you were the best mathematician in high school or the most outstanding sports person in your time, be ready to substantiate your claims. You will also need to acquire recommendations from your teachers and as I said earlier, your character while in high school will determine what teachers will write on their recommendations for you.
4. Apply for and do the Exams.
This is definitely the most important step, even American students require it to join universities. Since you will have prepared yourself for these exams, you need not worry. Visit a certified institution like the LTS offices at Taj Tower Upper Hill and apply for your SAT. You can visit their site through this LINK to learn more about the application deadlines, fees, exam dates, and venues.
Students who have attempted the SAT by now will have a better chance in these exams. ACTs are exams which can also be used in the application but are not very popular among Kenyan students.
When exams approach, you should be prepared psychologically, mentally and physically. These exams are very stringent, stricter than the KCSE. If you drop a rubber and attempt to pick it without permission from the invigilators, you might as well kiss the American dream goodbye.
5. Apply for Scholarships.
Missing out on this crucial step has seen many potential Ivy League students loose their chances. Most Kenyan students perform well. However, remember we are competing with students from around the world. Japanese and Chinese who are known for being crazy smart are in the race too.
So, not all students will get fully-fledged admissions in American universities. As an individual, you need to prepare for the worst. Start searching for scholarships. Check the university websites for unique scholarships and see how you can improve your chances. Their fees are super-crazy. Tuition fees for a single academic year can buy a Mercedes GLC 2016, and I haven’t even included; accommodation, books, food etc.
If your parents can afford to buy one of these machines every year, then you are super lucky. As for the rest whose parents cannot start knocking doors. Seek advice from consultants and friends who were admitted. Go to the American Embassy, there are people whose work is to assist you. Check out MasterCard Foundation, it’s one of the top organizations offering scholarships to undergraduates.
6. Don’t neglect your Kenyan life.
When you start this journey, you will be wildly motivated. You will have this mentality that you either go to Harvard or go to Harvard. You might also not imagine yourself studying in Kenya. Me, in JKUAT? Ha-ha! Never! Pal, life is not a straight line. Many people have tried and failed.
So instead of throwing away your Kenyan life, continue to uphold it. In fact feast on the Kenyan adventure with a big spoon. Assume President Trump might instigate laws against international students and render it impossible for Kenyans to study in the USA. Swallow the fact that it is not automatic that you will go. This will give you peace. I wish I never had to write this point down if you know what I mean.
There is life in Kenya, east or west, home is the best. Even those students that go to study abroad will return to actualize their career dreams here.
7. Believe in yourself.
I picked this from the book Emotional Intelligence. The power of the subconscious mind is unfathomable. Say these words every day; ‘I will make it to Harvard, I will pursue my university education at Stanford.’ Replace with the university you desire. I won’t guarantee that it will assure you admission, but if you believe, you might make it against all odds. What you feed your mind is what you get. Friend, this is your time, you can do this.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now but I will continue to add more information on this piece as I research. Stick around for more.
I invite all those who made it to American Universities to contribute through the comments section so that you can inspire more young people to achieve what you did.