Journey to America II
My journey to the America (Part 2)
By my final year, most people were making
plans to get jobs but me
I had only one goal in life and it was
to study for my master's degree in
A few companies like KPMG, P&G,
Skye Bank, Zenith Bank, and Access
bank came to UNILAG to conduct Job
aptitude tests for students with 3.5
and above CGPA.
For lack of anything better to do and
because you’d get free snacks and drinks
at the end of the tests, I wrote the first
three companies’ exams and passed
but did not follow up on any of them.
I was going to America! Remember?
Every time anyone asked me for my
post-NYSC plans I would confidently
tell them I was going to study for my
master's degree in America and I was
not interested in hearing any advice
telling me to either work for a few years
first before going or apply to the UK
As I said earlier - stubborn goat.
This meant the whole Nigeria expected
Oluwatoyin to be in the US come
August 2010 and I was determined not
to disappoint them.
I did my Industrial training in the transmission
unit at Starcomms Ltd - a telecoms service
provider - and loved it.
You know the people that ensure your
conversations and data packets are
transmitted over the airwaves to their
destinations using microwaves?
This experience informed my decision to
study Elect/Elect Engineering with a
wireless communications specialization.
One of the lies I told in my Statement
of Purpose (SOP) was that my goal for
wanting to study the course was to go
back to Nigeria and apply the knowledge
I gained in school towards ensuring
broadband internet was readily available
Yeah right! Boya I’m MTN or Glo.
P.S. 90% of Nigerians pursuing higher
education in the US lie in their statements
of purpose about planning to return to
Nigeria after completing their programs
but never do.
My cousin had gained admission to study
for her Ph.D. degree also in the US
so I asked her for advice and one of the
things she told me was to go to the
Educational Advising Center (EAC) of the
United States information services (USIS)
as they would advise me on schools
to apply to, help with my SOPs and
coach me for the VISA interview for
a fee of N27,000.
I heeded her advice and spoke to one
of the two counselors at EAC.
She asked me for my undergraduate
school, CGPA, my age, and course of study.
And I replied with; UNILAG, 4.01/5,
22 years old and mobile communications
While we were talking, a boy came in to
speak with her about going to the US
for his undergraduate program and
when she asked him for his age he
said was in his early 20s.
This woman shouted at the poorboy
asking him how on earth he could
be just be planning to get a first degree
at his old age.
She asked him to take a look at me
saying I was only 22 years old and
a female yet I had already graduated
with a degree in Elect/Elect engineering
from the University of Lagos with a
2nd class upper and I was already
planning to go for my masters!
Hearing this immediately put 2 hefty
shoulder pads on my shoulder and
made me swell with pride.
As far as I was concerned, that
statement meant the admission process
was going to be a breeze and any
American University would be glad to
have me in their school.
Little did I know that pride goeth
before a fall.
GRE and TOEFL were required exams
to take for many postgraduate programs
in the US and I can’t remember how
much they cost now but they weren’t
You also had to pay an application fee
for every school you applied to,
write a statement of purpose tailored
to the specific question asked by the
school, and submit three letters of
recommendation for each of the
schools you apply to.
As you can see, applying for postgraduate
studies is not beans.
EAC advised their students to apply to
10 schools to increase their chances of
getting admitted to at least one school.
Application fees were like $50 or $100
(I can’t really remember).
Somebody was now asking me to pay
that amount 10 times! - can never be me.
I decided to only apply to 4 schools
and I chose 4 top schools with one of
them being my dream school even
though you were advised to apply to
1 top school, 2 medium schools and
1 safety school based on your grade
I sat for the GRE exam and scored
1270 - 720 in Math and 550 in verbal.
The average Math score for the
schools I applied to was 750 with
some people even scoring as high
Yet, I refused to heed sound advice
telling me to retake the exam believing
that I could compensate for my
low score with other parts of my
I really didn’t know what was going on.
I barely went back to EAC for advice
and follow up because laziness and
procrastination were my strongholds
Their office was located in Broad street
and I worked in VI so I’d have to take
Buses to get to their office which was
quite inconvenient for me.
The lecturers at UNILAG I begged to
write my letters of recommendation, and
gave thank you gifts to wrote nonsense.
Could you blame them though?
They barely knew me and were even
less familiar with writing such letters.
Imagine a lecturer writing “she’s a good
girl” inside a letter of recommendation
instead of highlighting my academic and
I am suspecting although I can’t prove it
that other candidates wrote their letters
of recommendation themselves and just
asked the lecturers to sign and send it.
But what was my own?
I submitted the letters like that after all,
I was a star candidate!
I gave My statements of purpose to a
few friends who weren’t really
knowledgeable about writing SOPs to
review and they gave me decent feedback.
In my heart of hearts, I knew my SOPs
weren’t compelling enough to make
me a strong candidate for admission,
but I brushed the thought aside and
constantly reminded myself that
I was a 22-year old, female,
elect/elect engineering graduate of
the prestigious UNILAG with a
4.01 CGPA and 8-months industry
Even I am laughing at my nerve as
I’m typing this.
Anyway, I ended up applying to only
3 schools as I missed the application
deadline for one of the schools.
My latest deadline was December 31,
2009, and I was expecting admission
decisions around April 2010 for resumption
in August 2010.
By May 2010, I had received an email
from my dream school notifying me that
the admission decision had been made
and I needed to login to the portal to
see the decision.
With a heart beating partly out of fear
and excitement, I logged on to the
portal and read;
After considering your application, we
regret to inform you...”
there was no need to read the rest.
I got my first taste of rejection and failure
in 22 years and it almost broke me!
I cried my eyes out but after a while,
I figured I still had 2 more schools to
wait for so I dried my tears.
It was like all 3 schools got together
and planned to
Show me pepper for my pride
2nd school wrote - “we regret to inform
Even the 3rd school that was supposed
to be my safety school sent me “we
regret to inform...” you decision.
I wasn’t interested in being retained at
my NYSC office so I was just whiling
away time there and barely applied
I had not applied for a single job because
I was 100% certain I was going to move
to the US.
I had told the whole of Nigeria whether
they cared to listen or not that I was going
to the US in August.
How was I going to face them and explain
that nobody gave me admission when
I bragged about going for my masters
in the USA like I had already secured
To be continued...