Study in USA guide for Rwandan students
Going to the United States for higher studies can be a complicated, unfamiliar and expensive process but it is possible. There are over 3,500 accredited colleges and universities in the U.S. and they vary in terms of quality, competitiveness, size, character and cost. To help prospective students understand the process of applying more clearly, answers to the most commonly asked questions are outlined below.
Study in USA
How can I go to the U.S. to study?
There are many steps involved in going to the U.S. to study.
1.You must have a strong academic background, solid financial support and very good English language skills.
- If you plan to apply for a Bachelor’s degree program, you must have completed at least 12 years of primary and secondary school or the equivalent of an A Level Certificate in Rwanda.
- If you want to apply for a Master’s degree program, you must have had 16 years of education in Rwanda (the equivalent of the U.S. Bachelor’s degree), i.e. a B.A. degree, a B.Sc. in Engineering or Agricultural Engineering or an M.B.B.S.
2.You must decide which colleges or universities you want to apply to. Your selection will probably be based on several factors:
- Does the school offer a good degree program in your field, how competitive is it, how much does it cost, does it offer financial aid, how big is the school, where is it located, is it accredited?
- The Embassy library has many reference books and university bulletins to help you compare institutions and make the best choices for you.
3. You have selected approximately 10-15 institutions that interest you, you should write to each university requesting application forms and more information about admission requirements and the specific program you’re interested in. This process should be started at least one year before you plan to enroll. Most students enter U.S. universities in August/ September, but some universities also admit students in January and March.
- All students should take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).
- Most applicants for undergraduate study also will need to take the SAT while most graduate students will need to take GRE.
5. After you have received information and application forms from the universities, you need to select schools to officially apply to.
- Send completed application forms, along with all other required documents, directly to the college or university’s Admission Office.
- Be sure you know each school’s application deadline date.
- Required documents usually include certified copies of your school transcripts (Certificates and mark sheets), test scores, letters of recommendation, the application fee, and documents showing you have enough money to pay for your education and living expenses.
- Transcripts should only be certified by the Notary Office (Notaire), Ministry of Justice.
- There is also usually a fee for applying to an institution, whether or not you are accepted or choose to enroll.
When you have submitted everything the school requires, you will eventually receive a letter from the college or university either accepting of rejecting your application.
If you are accepted, the college or university will send you a letter of acceptance and an I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for Student Status Visa). You must have this form before you can apply for a visa.
What do the terms Undergraduate and Graduate mean?
An undergraduate is someone studying for a U.S. bachelor’s degree at a college or university.
A graduate student is someone who is studying for a U.S. master’s degree, a Ph.D or a professional degree in such fields as law, medicine, etc.
Can I gain admission to a college or university without the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)?
All students from Rwanda must take the TOEFL examination. Almost all universities require the TOEFL for foreign students from countries where the medium of instruction is not English. By preparing for and taking the TOEFL, you will know your level of standard spoken English, and also have a chance to improve your English language skills before going to the U.S. Good English is a very important factor in success at an American college or university.
A few universities will conditionally admit students without a TOEFL score, but these students must sit for an English examination at the university before they can enroll in classes. If their scores are not high enough, they must take English as a Second Language (ESL) courses before they can enroll in a degree program. These courses are very expensive and can delay the start of your degree program by as much as one year. Even if you plan to take an ESL course, you should sit for the TOEFL exam before you go! If you do not submit a valid TOEFL score, your chance of admission will be reduced. You must enroll for the TOEFL test in advance.
What score do I need on the TOEFL to be admitted?
Each college or university decides what TOEFL score it requires. Many schools want a score 550 paper-based or computerized 213 or above, although some require only 500 paper-based or CBT 173 and others require at least 600 paper-based or CBT 250. However, an acceptable TOEFL score depends entirely on the requirements of each institution.
What other examinations do I need to take?
Each university or college decides what tests it requires. In addition to the TOEFL exam, tests frequently required are:
SAT I: This test is for undergraduate applicants. It tests general academic aptitude and educational background.
SAT II: These tests are for undergraduate applicants and cover knowledge in a specific field. They are often required of engineering students, financial aid applicants, and those applying to very competitive schools.
The Graduate Record Exam (GRE): This test is for graduate applicants. It tests verbal, quantitative and analytical skills. GRE Subject Tests evaluate knowledge in specific fields.
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): This test is usually required for graduate applicants in business administration or management. Note that GMAT, a Computer or an Internet Based Test is not available at the American Embassy Kigali Testing Center. However, for all MBA program applicants interested in GMAT registration and testing, the Contact Information in Kampala for two Education Testing Services, ETS representatives (Centers) is available in the library.
Is it important for the university to be accredited?
Yes, very important. The U.S. government does not accredit or control colleges or universities. Instead, there are six regional accrediting associations which accredit institutions that have met basic standards in their academic programs. There are also professional associations which accredit individual degree programs at a university in fields such as engineering and business administration. These accredited colleges and universities are listed in the book Accredited Institutions of Post-Secondary Education published yearly by the American Council on Education.
Don’t assume the university is accredited, even if it says it is. Check to make sure. If the institution you choose is not accredited, your degree will not be considered valid and courses that you have taken will not be transferred to accredited universities. Your degree will be worthless. You may also experience difficulty obtaining a visa.
Tuition Fees ,Expenses & Financial aids
How much money do I need to study in the U.S. for one year?
The amount of money you need depends on which college or university you choose to attend. Tuition for one year at most public universities is now between U.S. $11,000 and $20,000. Some of the most expensive private colleges and universities cost as much as $50,000 per year.
Be sure your sponsor has enough funds available for at least your tuition and expenses during your first year in the U.S. Your sponsor should also know how he/she will support you for subsequent years of study.
Can I get financial aid from the college or university?
Financial aid for undergraduate students:
It is extremely difficult for a foreign student to obtain financial aid for undergraduate studies (bachelor’s degree), so you must not expect it. The competition is intense and you must be an outstanding student. Usually only private colleges and universities offer financial aid to undergraduates. Financial aid seldom covers more than tuition, so a student must be prepared to pay his/her living expenses (U.S. $6000 to $8000 per year) even if he/she does get a scholarship.
Financial aid for graduate students:
Students studying for a graduate degree (master’s, doctorate) have more opportunities for financial aid from both public and private universities. Often the financial aid comes in the form of research or teaching activities. These awards may cover tuition expenses and provide a monthly stipend.
When to apply for financial aid?
Applications for financial aid should be made to the university at the same time as your application for admission. The deadline for financial aid applications is usually in the month of January or February preceding September admission.
Who can be my financial sponsor?
Most students are sponsored by family members living in Rwanda or in other countries. A few students are sponsored by family friends or local organizations. Your sponsor must submit financial documentation showing that he/she has sufficient funds to pay for your educational expenses. In addition, your sponsor must state that he/she is willing to support you for your entire course of study.
Can I get a job while I’m studying?
No. The terms of your visa do not allow you to work unless you are employed in an on-campus job or in practical training sponsored or approved by the university. On-campus jobs are difficult to obtain and do not provide enough funds to cover tuition or living expenses.
How do I go about getting a visa?
Visa applicants must appear in person at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali with a completed Non-immigrant Visa Application form. See Embassy web site for complete information on the application process for non-immigrant visas.
You will also need evidence that you or your sponsor have the dollar funds available to cover the full cost of tuition and living expenses for one year (listed on the I-20 form). You must also show that you have access to these funds.
If the university is supporting you with a scholarship, fellowship assistantship, loan or on-campus employment, you will need a letter from the institution indicating the amount and kind of support provided. This must match the information on the I-20 form. If a sponsor outside Rwanda will pay your expenses, your sponsor will have to provide an affidavit of support and proof that he/she has sufficient funds.
So if I have a passport, an I-20, and funds for one year of study, will I get a visa?
This is not enough. You must also show the Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy that you are a bonafide student with the academic background and knowledge of English necessary to undertake a full course of study at the institution you have chosen.
Finally, you must show the officer that your permanent residence is in Rwanda and that you intend to return to Rwanda to live, after you complete your studies in the U.S. You can demonstrate that Rwanda is your permanent residence by offering such evidence as family, social, professional, financial, or other ties or commitments here which ensure your return.
Isn’t it true that even the best students are not given visas because the Consular Officer thinks they will stay in the U.S.?
No. There are many legitimate students who want to study in the United States and plan to return to Rwanda who obtain a visa without difficulty. The U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section issues visas to many Rwandans planning to study in the U.S., but admission to a university or college does not guarantee you a visa.
Where can I get more information?
Each student’s situation and needs are different. We recommend that if you want to study in the United States, you visit the Educational Advising Center at the Embassy Library, #2657 BLVD de la Gendarmerie, Kacyiru (use the entrance to the Visa Section). There you will find catalogues, guides, video-tapes, test registration bulletins and advice from a student Advisor.