The U.S is one of the most popular study destinations for African students. According to recent data, the 42,518 African students in the U.S represent 4.5% of the international student population. Known for academic excellence, it’s not surprising that U.S colleges and universities are highly desirable to African students.
However, there are many myths that might make you rethink your decision to study in the US. Before you’re dissuaded from pursuing college education in the U.S, let’s take a look at some of the most common myths. Is there some truth in them?
Myth 1: Getting a U.S Student Visa is Nearly Impossible
While getting a U.S student visa isn’t easy, it’s definitely not impossible. With proof of college admission and proof of funds to cover your tuition and living expenses, you’ll have high chances of student visa approval.
Although the process can be long and complex, with the right preparation and knowledge, international students can successfully apply for and obtain a U.S student visa. The key is to understand the requirements and to be organized.
Start by obtaining an I-20 form from a U.S school. The form certifies that you have been accepted and have the financial resources to cover your tuition and living expenses. Once you have the I-20 form, you can apply for a student visa at your local U.S embassy or consulate.
Go on the U.S Department of State’s website to look up the most up-to-date visa requirements. Gather all necessary documents, such as:
- A valid passport
- Proof of financial support
- An unconditional admission letter from a U.S university
Schedule an appointment with the U.S embassy or consulate in your home country for a student visa interview. The visa officer will ask you questions to ensure that you are eligible for a student visa. Research which questions you’re likely to be asked and prepare to answer them honestly and confidently.
With the right preparation and guidance, you’ll increase your chances of obtaining a U.S student visa.
Myth 2: U.S Universities Are for the Very Wealthy
University education in the U.S doesn’t come cheap. On average, international students pay $25,000-$35,000 per year at a public university and $30,000-$45,000 at private colleges in the U.S. Understandably, these rates are unaffordable for most self-funded international students.
Fortunately, many universities and colleges offer generous financial aid packages to international students to help them pay for their studies. Financial aid can come in the form of:
- Work-study programs
In addition, many schools have a variety of payment plans available to help international students manage the cost of their studies. Some U.S. schools also automatically consider international students for scholarship funds without requiring a separate application or demonstration of financial need.
To find an affordable school, compare various colleges and their tuition fees, other charges, and financial aid packages.
Myth 3: U.S Universities Aren’t as Safe as Universities in Other Countries
As an African student, you might have safety concerns about studying in the U.S. Racism is a big issue in the U.S, which extends to institutions of learning.
While such concerns are valid, many universities are now focusing on diversifying their campuses and making international students feel at home.
U.S universities prioritize safety of their students and have various measures in place to ensure the safety of all students in their campuses. For example, many universities have 24-hour security, emergency response teams, and strict visitor policies.
If you don’t feel safe in big cities, explore colleges in smaller cities or rural settings. To check how safe a university campus and its surrounding areas are, visit the Campus Safety and Security website that’s maintained by the U.S. Department of Education.
Fact: While it may be more difficult for international students to receive financial aid, it is not impossible. Many universities offer scholarships and other types of financial assistance to international students, and there are also external organizations that provide funding for international students.
As an international student, be rest assured that U.S universities are just as safe, if not safer, than universities in other countries.
Myth 4: It’s Impossible to Work While Studying in the United States
If you’d like to earn while studying abroad, you might be worried that you won’t be allowed to work while pursuing your studies in the U.S.
However, you have nothing to worry about. International students are allowed to work while studying in the United States. If you’re on a F-1 visa, you’ll be able to work for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session. During school breaks, you can work full-time.
On-campus jobs are usually part-time and generally do not require a work permit. Off-campus jobs, on the other hand, may require a work permit. Check with the university’s international student office to ensure that you have the necessary documents to obtain a work permit.
Myth 5: All American College Students Do Is Party
Thanks to Hollywood movies, many people have the misperception that U.S colleges and universities promote non stop partying.
While there are colleges that have a reputation for heavy alcohol and drug use, most U.S schools are focused on their studies and extracurricular activities. In fact, many universities have strict policies to ensure that students are prioritizing their studies.
Does that mean that you won’t have fun while studying in the U.S? Not really.
Most universities make sure to sponsor and promote fun social activities to help students network outside the classroom. When selecting a university abroad, don’t forget to research extracurricular and recreational activities available for students.
Myth 6: You Need Excellent Grades to Qualify for U.S Universities
International students often believe that they need to have excellent grades in order to qualify for admission to a U.S. university. However, while grades are important, admission boards also consider other factors such as
- Extracurricular activities
- Leadership experience
- Application essays
- Recommendation letters
You don’t need to have a perfect academic profile to be accepted. Universities and colleges in the U.S value having students with a variety of experiences and backgrounds.
With that in mind, a well-rounded application is more likely to be successful than one that is solely based on grades.
To increase your chances of acceptance, don’t limit your applications to the most competitive schools and programs. Some international students make the mistake of applying to one or two highly competitive schools and giving up when they’re not accepted.
Instead, apply to schools with varying acceptance rates. Create a balanced list of schools that comprises highly competitive universities, fairly competitive ones, and the least competitive ones.
We recommend choosing at least 12 schools for your list: 4 highly competitive schools, 4 fairly competitive schools, and 4 least competitive schools. Applying to schools with varying competitiveness will increase your chances of being admitted.
Do you want to learn more about studying abroad and exploring new scholarship opportunities?