Study in the USA: Achieve the American Dream – Part 1

By John Nkemnji, Ph.D.*

Prof John Nkemnji

Experiencing the “American dream” is the fancy of people, not only Americans, but many youths around the world. Ambitious youths around the world who face challenges to achieve their full academic or career potential in their native countries seek solace in other countries that can afford them with better opportunities. The United States of America is one of those sought after countries.

This article explores opportunities that are available to those who seek refuge in another country to make a better life for themselves. Two of the best ways are 1) legally coming to study in an institution of higher learning and 2) immigrating through the annual Diversity Visa Lottery (DV) program. Enrolling in an institution of higher learning is possible if you have enough funds to pay the cost of tuition and board, scholarship, or sponsor. The DV Lottery program is less expensive and relies on chance. Additionally, if you immigrate via the DV Lottery program, you can still attend school.

Pursuing a student visa is an expensive pathway to moving to the United States. Applicants must prove that they have adequate funds to study in a program that is not readily available in their home country.  Depending on the length of study, they may be required to show proof of at least twenty thousand dollars.  Some people who do not have adequate funds attempt to enter the United States indirectly through another country. This method can be expensive, risky and unsafe as their journey can be faced with unknown circumstances. Once the costs of procuring documents and transportation fees are added up, it may end up costing just as much as providing evidence of funds available for study in an accredited school abroad. There have been instances when immigrants have died during their journey abroad or have been deported back to their home countries.  

It is always best to immigrate legally as it ensures a safe path and avoids legal challenges. One must plan ahead when studying abroad. It takes time to apply for admissions, gather documents, seek a visa, and arrive in time for the start of the academic program. Many schools have application deadlines for students from other countries because the mailing system is usually not as fast or reliable. You may have to resubmit missing documents and wait for a favorable reply. Using an online school application process is convenient if you have reliable internet connection. A high degree of honesty and transparency is valued in the USA.

All schools require evidence that you will be able to succeed academically in your field of studies such as transcripts of your prior academic work, recommendations from teachers, and standardized tests (e.g. TOEFL, SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT) depending on the initial screening. Results of the tests will be required before final admission is granted.

An encouraging note about seeking to study abroad is that many schools know the benefit of enrolling students from other countries. The qualified applicants come to enrich the total learning experience of other students on campus. Students from nations with different values and belief systems enrich American culture. Over a million students from other countries are enrolled in US colleges, according to the Open Doors report. I know schools with about 5000 students who count over 500 students and staff from other nations each year. That gives a ration of about a tenth of the population originating from other nations.  International students contribute a lot to the economy of the USA and support many jobs in a variety of important fields.  A great number of researchers, doctors, professors, engineers, computer scientists, nurses, and other highly priced workers are students or personnel from other countries.

Students enter the country through a number of visa programs ranging from the popular F-1, M-1 to J-1. The F-1 visa is issued to full-time students seeking to study at an academic institution while the M-1 visa is issued to students for a vocational or non-degree granting institution. The J-1 visa is for sponsored graduate students or students on cultural exchange program who will be returning immediately to their homelands after their program completion. It is not necessary to know more about the visa types.

The order of names and the way dates are written is peculiar to systems like the Arabs, Chinese, British, French, and the US. You need to become familiar with the US system.  The name format in the USA system is usually in the following order: FAMILY, MIDDLE and FIRST. If you have just two names or more than three names, use your common name as your first name and your Family/parents’ name as the Family name. You may omit the middle name and other descriptors like: nee or espouse. Your parents’ or the popular name used by the family is FAMILY Name.  The name you were given at birth is your MIDDLE name and your ENGLISH or CHRISTIAN name is your First name. Do not leave the space for FIRST NAME or Family name blank because these names will be your core identity in your new nation.  Some students from the Middle East with difficult to write or pronounced names adopt a popular English name while studying in the USA and relegate their real name to official documents.

The order in which dates are written is also different especially when using numbers. Americans depict dates using the following format: Month/Day/Year.  Admission and application forms usually have spaces in blocks requiring you to enter a letter or number in each block while leaving an empty block between words or numbers.

*Dr. John Nkemnji is Professor Emeritus, Educational Technology. He is an educational consultant and a proponent for life-long learning. This is the first of a two part series

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