How to Increase your Chances of getting a U.S. Visa

If you want to attend college in the United States and you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need to obtain a student visa. The Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security share responsibility for monitoring school and exchange programs and for monitoring visa applications that are submitted.

In order to obtain a visa, there are specific requirements that must be met by each applicant. It is always a good idea to start preparing for this part of the process early on so that you can be sure you are able to meet each requirement sufficiently.

Applying for a Student Visa

Applications for visas will not be approved any more than 120 days in advance of when the first day of classes will start. Approved applicants are generally not allowed to enter the United States any sooner than 30 days prior to the start of their classes, so if you have special circumstances or you simply want to come to America sooner than that, you will need to request an exception through the consulate or embassy that you are dealing with.

Applicants should wait until they have been accepted by a college or university before they begin the application process, as it is not at all likely that an application will be approved for students who do not have concrete plans to attend a school in the United States.

As a standard part of the application process, applicants will be required to participate in an interview at an embassy or consulate. There is usually a wait for interview appointment times, so it is advisable to put in a request for an interview as early as possible. The U.S. Department of State has a listing of American embassies to help you find the one that is nearest to your location.


Everyone who applies for a visa will have to present some documentation during their interview. There are no exceptions to this rule. The documents that are required are:

  • One 2 x 2 photograph
  • A passport that is valid for travel within the United States. It must be valid for a period of at least six months beyond an applicant’s intended period of stay in America.
  • A completed application – this is the non-immigrant visa application, number DS-156. It must be submitted along with form number DS-158. The embassy that you go to can provide you with complete, detailed information regarding any questions that you might have concerning these application forms.
  • Form I-20A-B – this is the certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant student status. This form, or another one that is similar, will be required. You must complete and sign this form, and a representative of the school you will be attending will also need to sign it.
  • Transcripts and diplomas – these are required from each institution a student has attended.
  • Scores from standardized tests such as TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.
  • Financial evidence proving that you or your parents have the financial means to support you while you are in the United States attending school.
  • Fees – application fees are always required, and they may vary. It is always best to check with your local embassy to find out the current fees in advance.

If you make sure that you have all of your information together at the time you begin the application process, you will likely find that it goes quite smoothly.

Interested in a University in the UK?

Many African students dream of traveling to the UK to attend university. They’re excited about the multicultural glamour and fine art of London, or the wild, barren reaches of Scotland or Wales. If this is your dream, you’re probably wondering how to achieve it.

Here are a few tips from the experts. We spoke with officials from the international student office at several universities, and here’s there advice. Before you apply to a program, here are some questions to consider.

Photo by David Jakab on

Am I qualified for this program?

Every university course has entry requirements. The requirements are designed to choose students who will be the most successful. Research the program and course requirements online or in the university prospectus. Remember that the requirements are there for a reason. It’s not going to do much good for you to enroll in Advanced Algebra, if you’ve never studied Basic Algebra.

Usually the entrance requirements will be described in terms of UK exams as grades such as A* (A-star, the highest grade), A, B, C, D, E, F, or G. Often they will be described in terms of a Tariff point score. The Tariff point system is used by UCAS to help universities to compare students. An A –Level exam score of A* counts as 120 points on the Tariff point scale, for example. Each university sets its own requirements for Tariff points. For example, one university might require 240 points for entrance, while another might require 260 points.

Will this university accept my diploma, certificate or qualifications?

Unfortunately, there is no standard for international students throughout the UK. Every university sets its own standards. Some will accept your secondary school certificate, and some will not. Those that won’t, will likely require that you take British A-Level exams, which you can study for and take online. Contact the international student’s office at the schools you are interested, and ask if they will accept your qualifications.

What are my English scores like?

If English is not your first language, you’ll probably need to pass a test. Every UK university sets its own requirements for admission, and they vary widely. Unfortunately, there are over a dozen different English tests that may be accepted. If you already have high scores on the TOEFL, ESOL or another test, ask if they will accept that. If not, research schools online to find a school that will accept your test scores – or test again.

Should I take a gap year?

Gap years are becoming increasingly common in the UK. If it’s good enough for Prince William, it’s good enough for you, right? A gap year is a year off between secondary school and university. In past generations, wealthy Englishmen spent their gap year traveling throughout Europe. Today, young people of all classes take gap years. They often work or pursue a special interest during their gap.

For an international student, the gap year allows you to study English or brush up on any academic areas that you might be weak in. If you need to study for British exams such as the A-Levels, this is the perfect time to do so.

If you applied to UK universities and weren’t accepted during your last year of secondary school, consider applying again. Often, if your grades were good in your final year, you’ll be accepted. You’ll be showing school administrators what you have accomplished, instead of what you might accomplish.

Give some thought to these questions, and then figure out the best way to make your dreams of a prestigious UK education come true.

Australian Admissions Checklist

If you dream of attending an Australian university, here’s how to make that fantasy come true. Australia has a centralized application process for students from Australia and New Zealand. Students from other countries must apply to individual universities, so it’s best to start the process earlier.

Three Years Before You Enter University Research universities and identify courses you are interested in Research scholarships Contact universities by email or mail Learn entrance requirements at each university. Locate the nearest office of the Australian Commission on Educational Research (ACER) All schools in Australia are regulated by the state or territorial government. The higher education tax system in Australia ensures that the brightest students are able to attend university, without worrying about the cost.

For this reason, the most intelligent students, not the richest, usually go to state universities in Australia. On the other hand, private universities may have more financial aid available for international students. Compared to similar programs in the United Kingdom or the United States, it is much cheaper to live and learn in Australia. The cost of living is low, and students can work up to 20 hours per week.

Two Years Before You Enter University Take the STAT in October or November Apply for scholarships, grants, loans and funding from your home country Apply for scholarships, grants, and other funding from a variety of sources:

  • The Australian Government
  • The Australian States and Territories
  • Australian Companies
  • The United Nations
  • The World Bank
  • International Student Loans Begin working on your personal statement or Statement of Purpose (SOP)

Since the STAT measures ability and not knowledge, there’s no advantage in taking it later. Take it in October or November. If you don’t score well, you can always take the test again next year. Australia offers a variety of scholarships for students in high-demand professions. Usually, the students must agree to work in Australia for a specified period after graduation. Contact each Australian state for more specific information.

One Year Before You Enter University Take the IELTS or TOEFL English tests, if required. Complete your personal essay or Statement of Purpose (SOP) Complete applications for each university on time. Receive an offer letter from one or more universities and select one Make sure you have funding in place for your education. Apply for a preliminary assessment of your student visa, if required Get health insurance coverage through the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) Get a medical exam, if required Pay at least one semester’s tuition, if required. Receive your eCoE from the university Apply for a student visa Receive your student visa The school year for Australian universities starts at the end of February and runs until November, so plan accordingly.

If English is not your first language, most Australian universities will require that you complete an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test, or a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam. Depending upon which African country you come from, you may be required to have a preliminary assessment for your student visa. Once this is complete, you can get health coverage, pay your tuition and receive the electronic Confirmation of Enrollment (eCoE) from your university. With that in hand, you can officially apply for your student visa.

Your student visa will not be issued until you have met any financial requirements of your university, and obtained health coverage through the OSHC (Overseas Students Health Cover.) OSHC is designed specifically to provide health coverage for international students, and their families, while studying in Australia. The rates range from $300 for a single student to $1,000 for a family. OSHC covers medical and hospital care, but not dental care.

America’s Top Colleges – Part I

Looking for the top colleges in The United States? You are not alone! Many people are interested in knowing which schools are considered the best of the best, and they may even be interested in getting their application in. Even with acceptance rates of 5.6% percent, like at Harvard University, it never hurts to throw your hat in the ring and see if you are one of the chosen ones.

Determining the best colleges in America actually depends on what criteria you use. Some reports, like  U.S. News & World Report, evaluate colleges and universities on 16 measures of academic quality. They allow you to compare at a glance the relative quality of U.S. institutions based on such widely accepted indicators of excellence as first-year student retention, graduation rates and the strength of the faculty. while the FORBES list, of America’s Top Colleges, is focused on the direct benefits schools provide their graduates. They look at alumni salaries, debt after graduation, retention and graduation rates, debt load upon graduation, alumni salaries and signs of individual success including academic and career accolades.  Both lists are worth checking out and using as tools in your research.

Here is a list of the top-ranked universities in America (some involve ties) that appear on both lists in no particular order:

In addition to some of those listed, the ones ranked as best colleges by student reports include Williams College, Amherst College, United States Military Academy, Swarthmore College, and Claremont McKenna College.

The top colleges in America come at a hefty price tag for those who get selected to attend. While Princeton University has a 7 percent acceptance rate, 2018–2019 tuition and fee rate is $49,055. Meanwhile, the University of Chicago has an 8.8 percent acceptance rate and their 2018-2019 tuition and fee rate is $54,825. However, generally speaking, the price is worth the return on investment when it comes to listing one of these schools on your resume as your alma mater.

African Leadership Academy: Raising the Bar for Secondary Education

To bring about future peace in Africa, most would agree that good leadership is necessary. This was also the founding vision that the team of founders had when they decided to open the African Leadership Academy in 2004. Located on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa, the non-profit academy is focused on instilling a sense of excellent leadership in Africa’s next generation of adults.

To date, the African Leadership Academy has already raised over $1 million, because supporters believe so much in their mission. The school is a coeducational boarding school that focuses on those students ages 16-19 years. Students at this age are perfect for teaching leadership skills to, which can become a key factor in helping to keep peace in the region.

Initially, the school recruited 100 students for enrollment. But, since that time, interest has increased, along with the enrollment, which is at 250 students, or 125 per year. The two-year intensive program for these teens focuses on helping to shape and prepare the students so that they can transform the continent in a positive way.

For many African students, it comes as a relief to learn that money is not a factor in being selected for this academy. Just because someone can pay doesn’t mean they will be admitted. There are scholarships available and the admission is based solely upon merit. The students are kept in small classes, of no more than 12 students, and focus on a curriculum that includes African issues, entrepreneurial training, and leadership development. Attending the program also helps the students to gain access to some of the best universities around the world.

The African Leadership Academy is certainly living up to their mission and is raising the bar for secondary education in Africa. Their impact on the lives of the students that attend the programs, as well as the country, will be long-lasting, as they develop the next generation of peaceful leaders.

United Kingdom Top Colleges – Part I

If you are thinking about getting an education in the United Kingdom (UK), you will likely be making a wise decision. The UK is considered to have some of the best colleges in the world. Rich with history, culture, and plenty of great places to visit, the continent offers many wonderful places to get a university education.  The following list is not exhaustive or scientific.  It’s just the first part of our coverage of European Universities.


Some of the top colleges for International Students in the United Kingdom include:


  • University of Cambridge– located in Cambridge. More than 25,000 undergraduate students currently attend the university, including over 5,400 international students. The university is celebrating its 800thyear and running.
  • University College London–  located in London. This multidisciplinary institution is located in the heart of London. They currently have over 11,400 undergraduate students, including over 3,000 that are international ones.
  • Imperial College London – located in Kensington, London, this university opened in 1907 and has over 8,300 undergraduate students, including almost 3,000 international students.
  • University of Oxford located in London, this university also has 800 years of higher education tradition under its belt. Currently, it has over 12,000 undergraduate students, including over 1,500 international students.
  • University of Edinburghlocated in Scotland, this university is over 400 years old and was founded in 1583. Their undergraduate student enrollment count is over 15,600, including over 2,000 international students.
  • University of Bristollocated in Bristol, this university is one of the most popular and successful universities in the UK and enjoys a high international ranking.They attract students from all over the world, creating a rich and exciting international community and are located in a vibrant, dynamic city with a reputation for creativity and sustainability.


Whether you live in Africa or Europe and would like to attend university there, you will find excellent universities to choose from. There is something for everyone in the UK. The hardest part will be narrowing down which school is a good fit for your career goals and current circumstances!

Online Education Provides Opportunity

 Have you been thinking about getting a degree, but still want the convenience and flexibility to handle everything else in your life? The answer, for many people, lies in online education. If you haven’t yet considered earning a degree online, now is the time!

The future of education is online education. Millions of people have turned to earn a degree online. By doing this, they reap benefits which include being able to do your work and attend classes when it is convenient for you, saving time so you don’t have to drive back and forth to a college campus, and more.

Online degrees are rapidly becoming the way that people choose to handle earning their education. And part of the beauty of it is that you are not bound just to schools in your own backyard. You can be anywhere in Africa and earn a degree in countries around the world.

If you want the flexibility that earning a degree online provides, contact multiple schools to gather information about the programs they offer. Compare their online format, what they require in terms of weekly assignments, and what their tuition rates are. While some schools charge a higher fee for online classes, others do not, making their convenience cost no more than attending classes on campus.

Online education is a simple solution, especially for those who may have a job or other duties they need to fulfill in addition to earning an education. With a little discipline and a goal, you can earn a degree online, often in less time than on-campus classes would take.

If you are worried that you will not have the technological savvy needed to earn an online degree, don’t worry! While you are not alone in that fear, most people find they have no problems once they get started, as the courses and delivery platforms are designed to be user-friendly.



5 Tips for Choosing a College

Once you have made the decision to go to college and earn a degree, the next step is to figure out just what college you are going to attend. While, for some people, that may be an obvious decision, for others it will take some research and investigation before they can decide.

When it comes to choosing the right college for you, keep these five tips in mind:
1. Programs. Do they offer what you want to study, or do you feel like you are going to have to compromise? You want a college that will allow you to focus on the area you want to specialize in.
2. Location. If you are earning a degree online, your options are wide open. You will have many places to choose from, both within Africa and abroad. If you are earning a degree on campus, you will need to make sure that it’s not so far away that it becomes burdensome.
3. Costs. While the price of an education offers a good return on investment, you will need to compare tuition costs. Some schools, especially private ones, may charge much more for the same degree.
4. Guidance. You want to select a college that is going to offer you support and guidance. Many incoming freshmen need that support in order to avoid falling through the cracks.
5. Job placement. Good colleges should offer you support in finding a job after graduation. Check to ensure they have a student services department or job placement program, to help you get started working after you earn your degree.

Choosing a college at which to earn your degree may seem like a daunting task. But once you research the information above, that choice should become much clearer.

How To Get A Job At the United Nations

I just happened to be writing a paper while listening to TED Talks and came across this video of this amazing person, Tanya De Mello,  who seems to understand International development work in the simplest terms and disseminates some great advice for any young person interested in a career in International Development.  While she doesnt give us overt steps to getting a job at the United Nations, she presents a case for the type of person that should be applying to these jobs.  Individuals with purpose, a mission to tackle real problems and a willingness to just go and do it.  Take a listen and find her bio right below the video.

Whether acting as a United Nations Field Officer or as a local student volunteer, Tanya De Mello’s work has always been focused on building communities. Whether it’s through creating community service initiatives at universities, managing humanitarian aid donations in Senegal or assisting with refugee relocation planning, Tanya excels at bringing people together around shared ideas to build vibrant communities. Her commitment and zeal for enacting change has earned her several distinctions, including McGill’s prestigious Scarlet Key Award and Princeton’s esteemed Donald E. Stokes Award for leadership and academic excellence. Between co-founding two Non-Governmental Organizations and working for the United Nations, Tanya finds the time to kick-start new initiatives such as the Community Action — a community-led group that organizes charity fundraisers for legal aid and student to work not just in the community, but with the community.One recent project called “Community Captured”, was a photo display that addressed the complex dimensions of pressing social issues, while inviting community members and organizations alike to participate in the process of creating change. And what’s the common denominator that underlies all of her achievements? Tanya firmly believes that efforts taken to bring about change, even at a very local level, can be as transformative as the largest of international development projects. Start small, but start now — that is what will make the greatest difference tomorrow.

Australian Government Scholarships – Tips for Success

The Australia Awards team receive thousands of scholarship applications every year – all from talented and accomplished people hoping to make a difference in their home country. It’s a very competitive process. They’ve put together some tips to help you reflect on your application and think about how to prepare if you’d like to apply again after being rejected.  This is also useful to first-time candidates interested in presenting successful applications for funding their study in Australia. Continue reading