Four Big Mistakes African Students Make When Choosing and Applying to Universities Abroad

by | Oct 25, 2022 | Admissions

Selecting and applying to a university abroad isn’t an easy task. 

Firstly, international students are overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices at their disposal. Out of all the universities offering their preferred degree, which one would be the best fit? 

Secondly, with the competition for slots being cutthroat, how does one increase the chances of being accepted? How do you get financial aid to pursue the degree of your dreams?

Here are 4 big mistakes that African students make when choosing and applying to universities abroad

#1- Not Adequately Researching Locations

With little knowledge of the geography of other continents and countries, international students have to undertake intensive research on school locations before applying. 

This means considering factors such as the local climate and weather conditions, whether the school is in a small town or a big city, and the type of leisure activities you can pursue. 

Students tend to only think about academics, while much of their university experience is about stuff happening outside the classroom. For instance, some students may assume that Cornell University is in New York City. 

Before deciding which university you want to attend abroad, do your homework. Research everything about its location. Is it a rural or town campus? What attractions are nearby? What leisure activities are available? 

Thoroughly researching the campus’ location will help find your best-fit college for your needs. The university campus will be your home for the next two to four years – make an informed choice. 

#2- Not Showcasing Your Extracurricular Accomplishments

Tying back to the mistake we’ve discussed above, African students are unlikely to delve into their extracurricular passions in their university applications. 

Most African students focus on academics and overlook the power of extracurricular accomplishments in their college applications. Many African students don’t realize that college admission officers are looking for well-rounded students who show deep interest in both academic and non-academic areas.

In simple terms, it isn’t enough to get good grades and test scores, you also need to show authentic passion and have attained notable achievements in some area. 

If you’re currently a high school student aspiring to pursue your degree abroad, start getting more involved in extracurricular activities. 

However, refrain from listing too many extracurricular activities in your application. Your goal should be quality over quantity. Pick a few activities you’re passionate about and can be fully involved in. 

#3- Writing Weak Application Essays

Your application essay plays a big role in your chances of being accepted to your dream international university. While college application essays don’t necessarily require perfect English, aim to make your writing as clear as possible. 

Even more importantly, make sure that you give a compelling story about who you are – both as a person and a student. The essay is more than simply restating your accomplishments.

African cultures emphasize the value of humility. However, don’t be humble when it comes to your talents, skills, and achievements. 

Don’t be shy about the experiences you’ve had in life. Don’t be afraid to bring up the setbacks and failures you’ve experienced. Sometimes, students can distinguish themselves by talking about adversity and how they’ve dealt with challenges in their lives.

Don’t make the mistake of going for the easiest essay prompts – which is something many African students do. They write about how they performed badly in math and improved with hard work.

Reflect on your life and the unique challenges of being you. Challenges to highlight in your application essay can range from home situation, being a refugee, or living with a disability. 

All these are things that make you who you are, and help admission officers understand your background. This is especially important when you’re applying to highly competitive programs or you have unimpressive grades. 

With effort and expert guidance, you can ensure that your essay gives a compelling case on why you are a unique and worthy addition to the college’s campus. 

#4- Not Asking Important Questions

Many African students don’t ask the right questions during the university recruitment process. To ensure that you’re making the right choice and have clarity on crucial information, don’t be shy about asking tough questions. 

Ask about your program, the curriculum, the pedagogical approach, the school culture, and any other relevant information. It’s also important to have all  the information you need on financial aid – you might wrongly assume that you automatically qualify for certain scholarships.


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