- Generally, applying for STEM courses raises one’s odds to be accepted.
- Consider the interest of the department professors your course falls on—available on the official university profiles of the professors you target to work with.
- Getting the visa is founded on how you respond to the interview questions at the embassy.
Studying, or even working in the USA, is the desire of most people in Africa, especially young people.
Most of them, however, get lost along the way during the application process, and their need for guidance cannot be overstated.
Golden Standard Opportunities, a USA-based entity, recently brought together a group of Kenyan professionals in the US committed to sharing accurate information with those who want to apply to study in the US.
The professionals help such applicants navigate along the process.
They held a training workshop at Mokobokobo SDA Church in Nyaribari Masaba Constituency, Kisii County, on February 2, 2024.
Obed Ombongi, Founder & CEO of Ovision Consulting Group, an accomplished Public Health Practitioner, an Occupational Health and Safety Scientist, and an Environmental Scientist, led the team in training the participants.
The event featured speeches and guidance from several professionals from the team, with those in the USA joining virtually.
Starting off the workshop, Yusuf Oteri, District Pastor for Ibacho, gave a sermonette, setting the mood and bringing the audience to the point of focus. He urged them to concentrate on their future and be determined in whatever they do if they want to succeed.
He further motivated them to remain confident and clear about what they want in life.
“We lose our destiny when we stop focusing on our journeys and stop being directed by the Scriptures,” he noted.
He further encouraged them to ensure their character was strong and great enough to make them stand out among the masses.
Attended by students, young people, professionals, parents, county government officials and other interested parties, the event offered a learning platform for the participants to get a clear pathway on applying for opportunities in the US, either for academic furtherance or professional purposes.
The team gave a step-by-step application process, and is committed to walking with the applicants to help them further and guide them navigate the process.
Pst. Esmond Onsomu, Founder and CEO, Golden Standard, joining the event virtually, noted that “It is a land full of opportunities.” Pst. Onsomu did his further studies in the US and has been there for many years.
Making the decision
“For those who want to study in the US, it is usually easier if you choose a course which is not dominated by Americans, especially STEM programs,” he advised.
The idea behind STEM courses is that while most of the other fields can be fully trained in Kenya, the complexities of STEM training are better trained abroad.
According to him, it is important to ask yourself, which university fits what you want and in which you have a higher chance of being admitted. It’s also important to consider the institution which is welcoming or more preferable for international students.
Once you’ve chosen the university and joining time, you start with the application process.
It is important to note that every institution has a different set of qualifications, and a cut-across knowledge may not apply all along. Most of the information about the specific requirements is usually accessible in the institution’s portals.
Prof. Jared Oluoch, a Computer Science Professor at the University of Toledo USA, handled the requirements part of the process.
Statement of intent or purpose: This is a document detailing your academic and personal history, your interest in a certain program or field you want to research on, and your future goals. It represents you in your absence, thus, it needs to be clearly detailed to the core.
He said that as an applicant, you should look at your academic background, from high school to the first degree and how they prepared you for a master’s or PhD. It is based on how the background prepared you.
Also, consider the interest of the department professors your course falls on—available on the official university profiles of the professors you target to work with.
“What is the topic I am researching on and which problem do I want to solve?” Prof. Oluoch guided.
What has been done in the past to solve the issue?
What are the gaps that need to be addressed?
After getting these questions, infuse your solutions and how you want to bridge the available gaps.
“You are trying to look for what sets you apart from the other applicants,” Prof. Oluoch said.
“There is need to talk about your background growing up, how life has been, and how it has also shaped you from what you want to do. Identify that you have referenced a certain professor’s work, found it aligns with what you want to do, and that you would desire to work with them,” the professor advised.
According to Emmily Mouti, a USA-based health professional, you should also add how using your academic skills after education will help the community back home.
Most of the applications require three referees. The best ones are people who taught you, either in college or high school. This is according to Ombongi and Onsomu, who handled this section of the training.
“The applications evaluation team is looking for the recommender’s testimony that you were excellent in their courses,” said Ombongi.
Such recommenders can also bridge any gaps not covered by other application documents or even recommend you for financing or sponsorship.
The letter has to be connected to what you have done, who you are, and how it relates to what you want to go and study there.
For verification, Ombongi and Onsomu advised that applicants should ask the recommenders to provide their official work emails or write the letters under their workplace letterheads. They further handled the topical issue of funding.
Graduate Research Assistantships or Teaching Assistantships, which enable the beneficiaries to study and have their fee paid either in full or half, are the most common ways of funding.
Graduate Assistantships allow you to do research with your professors as their student and your fee is paid either in half or in full.
Tuition waiver also applies, where you get governmental tuition payment, but you look for your own upkeep.
Onsomu advises high school students who wish to pursue opportunities abroad to work hard, pass KCSE, do the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, and apply to more than one university.
Funding opportunities for undergraduate students are, however, limited.
On this, Ms. Mouti urges applicants to consider cheaper colleges first. They can further their education past undergraduate degrees elsewhere.
To verify one’s ability to pay for their expenses while in the US, bank account and home address details are required.
Having pursued her further education and career in the US over a decade ago, she says in years past, there was very minimal information about the process, but she still navigated.
“In all that you do, in your academics, career or entrepreneurship, have a mentor and seek their guidance all along. They will help you make the right choices and save time,” she advised.
She urged the applicants to pay attention to the dates between the application process and the interview date and spend that time getting all the preliminary requirements and documents they may need before the interview by the university and later the American embassy in Kenya.
For those seeking to study master’s degree or Ph.D., it is wise to also apply for assistantships and scholarships during the application processes for admission to give you a clear picture of how your financial life will be and save you money.
After you have applied for admission and you equally have your passport ready, you should start off with the visa application.
Visa interview booking dates are always accessible at the American Embassy online portal.
Transcripts, Passport, Certificate of Good Conduct, fee payment details and other supporting documents are key before getting admitted into any university in the USA.
Getting your Visa
Getting the visa is founded on how you respond to the interview questions at the embassy.
With the knowledge that you are going there to study, as an interviewee, you should be keen on how you respond, especially on the possibility of taking up other opportunities outside education in the US.
“Be truthful in all that you say. Stay honest, confident and clear with every detail,” Ombongi advised.
He encouraged them to be succinct, not giving information they’ve not been asked.
Before going abroad
Edinah Kangwana DHL, MBS, MHC, a transformational leader and Founder & CEO, Arise Circle Africa, shared with the participants about Mentorship and Discipline.
“You must work hard in all that you do if you want to get the opportunities in the US and elsewhere,” she encouraged the participants, adding that they should always be seeking more information and opportunities.
While waiting for all those opportunities, she urged them to uphold discipline and find mentors to keep guiding them along life’s pathways, and also commit to volunteerism.
She appreciated Ombongi and the entire team from the US for bringing the information back home.
Linet Moruri, an entrepreneur, advised the participants to use their social media platforms correctly because the information they share reflects who they are.
“Maintain discipline and invest in your image and character,” she advised.
Amb. Dominic Obadiah, a Humanitarian philanthropist and Civility ambassador, encouraged them to avoid any criminal actions, and also do as much community work as possible.
He spoke about the need to uphold high standards of integrity, honesty and accountability in their daily lives, reminding them that among the checklists in overseas opportunities include background checks on one’s criminal record history, just like in Kenya.
He reminded them to always strive to find their Why in life as a precursor to staying focused and clear in their goal implemetation.
Douglas Arege, Director Youth, Gender and Social Services Kisii County Government, further urged the attendees to share with the world about their community service, volunteerism and other transformative activities they’re doing, to raise their credibility and chances of being noticed by other organizations across the world for more opportunities.
Ombogi encouraged the participants to always follow the right channels, staying vigilant of other spaces that would ask them for unnecessary payments for information and the application process.