Recently, a friend and I talked about how obscure some international opportunities can seem because people who have walked through those doors are not the most enthusiastic about sharing their experience. See, this is not about man-know-man, (or woman-know-woman) or even having connections in that Nigerian sense. It’s simply the idea that if you have practical tips that might be useful to others seeking some opportunities, why not share it? No. Some folks, it seems, prefer to keep all the goodies to themselves so that only a few people recycle through the same opportunities.
Anyway, in collaboration with TLR, we’ve decided to begin to clear up some of these obscurities by sharing practical tips for applying for grants, graduate school or even just business services.
Yes, what better place to start than with a Graduate school application. Getting an international degree gives you exposure and increased marketability. But more than that, you access resources on a scale you may not have been open to. The good thing is you can do it. Doctoral or Graduate degrees are not just for ‘Efikos’ as we call them, or children of professors. If you are curious about a certain area and willing to engage with it at a rigorous level of discourse, then you are ready.
So where do you begin?
Like I said, you need to have a research interest that appeals to you. This can take a process of time to think through and find out what other scholars have written about it. You don’t need to have all the clarity in the world, you just need to have a question you want to ask. If it is a question you tackled in your undergraduate days and you want to explore further, then it’s great. So do your research. Find out what other scholars have written about your area of interest and decide what small area you can contribute in terms of the general knowledge of the subject matter. Keep in mind that without knowing your potential research interests, the admission committee might not take you seriously.
Next, Find Professors and Schools
Most people think you must get a compilation of schools that you like. But it goes beyond that. You need to go to the faculty page and specifically look for professors whose research intersects with yours, even if not directly, at least in some small measure. This is where the work really starts because you must read some of their works and think of how it connects with your research interests. See, there’s no point applying to a school with no one to potentially mentor or supervise you. Also, if there’s no strong sense of affiliation, even the admissions committee will be skeptical about your interests.
Now, Contact Those Professors
Yes, everybody talks about writing cold emails. But you don’t have to think about it as a marketing material. Instead, think about it as an informal email of introduction where you share your research interests and how it connects with their work. Note that many of them are super busy so you won’t always get a response, or you won’t always get a response on time, but their responses can be very helpful in making a case for yourself at the point of application.
In the second part of this article, we will talk about your application statements and how to make sure yours is as competitive as it can be.
Are you thinking about applying to Grad school? What part of the process is more hectic for you?