Success Stories: Expanding the Study Abroad Narrative by Sidikat Olajuwon, African Leadership University

by | Mar 28, 2023 | Admissions, Mentorship

Like many African college applicants, studying abroad meant three places to me: the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Australia, China, Japan, and Paris were plan Ds and Zs. 

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. But I am saying, and you would agree, that much rejection comes from it, especially without the right support system.

I started my college application journey in 2020 with Ivy League dreams, thinking if I could just get into one, anyone, my future could finally begin. In two years, I applied to more than fifteen schools, some more than once. “If I was waitlisted this time, surely I can get in next time.” 

I bared my soul in essays and spent my days editing and re-editing applications. Being an almost straight As student with impressive extracurriculars and awards, I was very disappointed by the responses I got. When I wasn’t rejected, I was admitted with partial scholarships that covered almost nothing. I had limited resources to find full scholarships and limited access to loans. 

My New York City dreams were draining me. I grasped every loose straw, applying without test scores and complete documents—a lot of work and a lot of hope, but not much luck. Then I had a “but one-day” moment. And it’s not the kind you think.

If I described precisely the moment I found the African Leadership University, this next part might sound more fictional than it already might. So I won’t (also, I don’t remember). The African Leadership University is where students declare missions, not majors, a promise of Pan-African and experiential education. That was the first thing that caught my attention.

Through the unconventional application process, I learned more about the university and visualized what difference I could make as an African leader. I dropped every other application and gave this my all. ALU sold the dream of owning my career, personal impact, and future, and I bought that dream and started to believe it into reality. The first step to doing that was completing my college and financial aid application.

Ultimately, what made the difference was the relative ease of applying for financial aid. Being an African institution, they understood the difficulty of obtaining certain financial documents and the possibility that those documents didn’t even exist. The application system was designed for us, not against us, and there was support every step of the way.

Fortunately, not only did I get admitted, but I also received a full scholarship. Let’s take some time to bask in the glory of this moment. I had never been happier or more confident of the future. I’m not saying it was all rainbows and sunshine after that. 

In fact, I found myself in a situation where I had to defer my admission and scholarship and lived with the constant fear that I might lose the latter. But that is another story for another day. It ended very well, though, as I am currently studying at the African Leadership University. 

So, this is my college application journey. Remember that unfortunate part at the beginning of this? I’m not saying that is how it always is. Your journey could be very different. But we can rewrite our study abroad stories or, at least, add to them. 

This is my addition to our narrative. You can find the future within Africa.

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