How to Apply to Schools Abroad and Get Full Funding

How to Apply to Schools Abroad and Get Full Funding

I hope we never lose touch with each other

Original graduate school stories of Emmanuel Akintunde and Samuel Arawu as compiled from an online session with them on StrikingCVs.

Emmanuel Akintunde was a PhD student/Graduate Research Assistant at University of
Nebraska-Lincoln, USA. Samuel Arawu had his MSc. at University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada.

Financial Aids for Graduate Studies

There are different financial aid options to help prospective graduate students (MSc and
PhD) in funding their graduate studies. Typically, students are partially or fully funded by
one or a combination of the following sources:

  • Scholarships
  • Fellowships
  • Graduate Assistantships (Research and/or Teaching)
  • Student Loans (might not be applicable to you)

But one of the most explored financial aids by most Nigerians especially in USA is the Graduate Assistantship.

A Graduate Assistantship is a salaried student employment opportunity for graduate students. As a graduate assistant, you work for a set number of hours (most like 20 hours) per week and in return receive a tuition waiver and, often times, a monthly living stipend.

In simple words, you don’t literally pay tuition fees and you collect some monthly stipends. I’m sure that sounds great.

How to Get a Graduate Assistantship

I will streamline this for those planning to come to US using my experience. The process is likely obtainable in other countries especially Canada.

Graduate Assistantship is very competitive. Hence, you need to strategically position yourself in a way to get one. I will be talking on the following:

  • Standardized Tests (GRE, TOEFL/IELTS)
  • Documents (SOP, Transcripts, CV, Passport, Letter of Recommendation)
  • Getting an advisor (or who you can typically call a supervisor)

Standardized Tests (GRE, TOEFL/IELTS)

I think this should be the first step. The earlier, the better. Most schools in USA will require
you to write GRE and TOEFL.

For some, only TOEFL will be required depending on the school, department and program.

GRE has three sections: Verbal, Quantitative and Essay Writing.

Personally, I think a 2 – 3 months preparation is good enough to ace the exams.

A link that contains all the preparation materials you would need.

TOEFL/IELTS is a test of your English proficiency. United States seems to recognize TOEFL
more. Canada and UK recognize IELTS more.

Moreover, TOEFL is cheaper and I learnt it is easier. I will recommend TOEFL if your focus is USA. A 3-weeks (adequate) preparation should suffice.

I ran away from GRE after school because I was just unnecessarily scared and lazy. I decided to finally write when going to UK or Canada with full funding wasn’t forth coming.

USA seems to have more funding than any other country. In my own opinion, I will readily
recommend US if you want to do PhD with funding.

Documents (SOP, Transcripts, CV, Int’l Passport, Letter of Recommendation)

While preparing for your tests, you can also start working on these documents. Get a
passport (International passport).

Draft out a good CV (that is academically inclined), get your (student) transcript from school and start drafting out your Statement of Purpose (SOP).

SOP is an essay you write about yourself, academic background and exploits, reason(s) why
you are going for graduate studies and your subsequent plans after getting the degree.

There are several templates online you can get to guide and help you draft yours. Get terrific LoR (Letter of Recommendation) from your lecturers. Be sure to patronize lecturers that will write great stuffs about you. It boosts your chances.

Getting Advisors

In my opinion, this is where the major work is. This is where the great deal of work is and this is where some people give up. A lot of people just apply to schools without talking to advisors. Most times, they don’t get admission except you have a very exceptional profile.

Some get admission but no funding. Of course, some are always lucky to get admission with funding.

To increase your chances, I always advise people to write professors with relevant research
areas first, get their consent before applying to their school. With that, you increase your
chances of admission and funding and reduce the chances of wasting your money in

So, let me quickly point out the reason you need an advisor. The department won’t give you
an admission for a graduate research program if a professor in the department has not agreed to “supervise” you.

Hence, you need an advisor to be admitted into the department.

So the question or issue at hand is how to get an advisor.

How Do You Get an Advisor/Supervisor

  1. Check out schools in the US. Use google to check ranking.
  2. Write out like 20 schools.
  3. Check their website for their requirements. If you meet the requirements, proceed.
  4. Check the faculty members with research areas that align with yours.
  5. Write them a very catching mail. In your mail, blow your trumpet. Don’t be humble about it. Tell them you will like to work with their team and ask for available funding opportunities
    you can avail yourself to. See a template at the end.
  6. If they don’t reply, send a follow up mail after a week.
  7. I advise you track your mails to know whether they have read it or not. Check out on how to track mails.
  8. The Reality: Some won’t respond, some will tell you no funds, no openings, and so on… Just
    keep pushing! Never stop mailing professors until you get one! That’s how to win this game!
We are cheering you on. You can do this! 💪
We are cheering you on. You can do this! 💪

A Template for Emailing Professors

Email Subject: Prospective Ph.D Student – University of Delaware – Structural Engineering.

Dear Prof. Otugeme,

I am currently applying to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at
University of Delaware for the PhD program in Structural Engineering (Spring 2025
Admission). I had 120 as my TOEFL iBT score (30R 30L 30S 30W) and 340 in my GRE (Q170
V170 AWA5.0).

I’m presently rounding up my Master’s degree Program (Structural Engineering) at the
University of Lagos, Nigeria. I expect to have concluded my Master’s degree before the Spring
2025 admissions. I finished my undergraduate degree with a CGPA of 5.00/5.00
(approximately equivalent to 4.0/4.0) from the department of Civil and Environmental

While thoroughly exploring your school’s graduate programs in Structural Engineering, I
discovered your profile which indicates your specific interests in laboratory and field-testing
of structures and Structural Health Monitoring. I am eager to expand my knowledge in this
research area.

I read the summary of some of your articles and I find the various investigations interesting
and highly significant. I will like to join your topnotch research team in carrying out other
investigations and similar works. I also request your indefatigable mentorship and
supervisory support for my PhD application.

Kindly find attached a copy of my transcript and curriculum vitae for your review. I also like
to inquire about funding opportunities I can avail myself to under your supervision.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to your positive response.

With Regards,

Emmanuel O. Akintunde
Civil & Environmental Engineering (Structural Engineering)
University of Lagos, Nigeria

Follow-up mail Template

Dear Prof. Mary Abiodun,

I write to follow up my previous mail regarding my request to have you as my supervisor for
my prospective PhD program. I do hope you have some time to discuss or reply. I can be
contacted on Skype (Skype Id: StrikingCVs) if you would like to set up an interview.

Kindly let me know if it would be helpful for me to provide any other additional information
as you move on in your decision.

I understand your busy schedules and thus can’t thank you enough for your time and

With Regards,
Emmanuel O. Akintunde
Civil & Environmental Engineering (Structural Engineering)
University of Lagos, Nigeria

More Questions and Answers on Graduate School Application

Q: Can you get Graduate Assistantship for a Masters program after you been given admission and I-20

A: Yes, you can. It may be difficult but it’s very possible. I have a friend here who
got his assistantship when he arrived.

Steps to take:

  1. You can ask the department if there’s any professor who has an assistantship to offer.
  2. I advise you go extra steps to mail the professors in your department. Sell yourself to them and inform them that you have an admission already.
  3. Talk with people in your department. Someone can have the info you need. Information is

Q: What if your GRE wasn’t so impressive?
A: There are different options:

  1. Look for schools that will still appreciate your GRE score.
  2. Write it again. Its determination. Personally, I know two people who wrote it more than once.

Q: Can a medical personnel (Pharmacologist) access this same opportunity?

A: I don’t think otherwise. You should be able to access the same opportunity. Pharmacology is great. There are funded schools. Check EMORY.

Q: Please share some tips for embassy interviews.
A: Here is a good link.

Samuel Arawu’s experience on his exploit for his PhD at Imperial College, London.

One major thing I’ve learnt from my scholarship hustle is that, if you don’t get a scholarship,
it doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified. It might mean you’re the right candidate for them. So, regardless of your GPA you hustle.

Here’s the deal.

I saw the application 3 days to deadline, and I did something drastic.

Most people applied but they missed the details of getting a supervisor. Attention to details is key.

A friend had 4.76/5.0 B.Pharm NAU, MSc biochemistry in Kenya 5/5, she still didn’t get it. Simply because she applied without a supervisor.

By God’s grace, I’ve learnt a very exciting skill of writing SOPs and contacting supervisors, I can share my Imperial College SOP.

But these things come with plenty sacrifice.

One of the ways to contact supervisors is on research gate.

Can you notice that you can see virtually everyone affiliated to different schools in your
area on research gate?

MSc with assistantship is possible with a good GRE and a wonderful first degree with some
hands-on internship experience.

Like if you volunteer to help out in a research for 2 weeks, you’re permitted to be on the paper. That’s why there are what is called research groups.

Back to the basics. What I do is: I’m on research gate. Every time a paper related to the
areas I indicated pops up, I’ll be notified. I’d read the abstract, then I’d send a mail to the
author requesting for a skype informational chat so we can discuss the paper.

During the discuss, I’d ask few questions and how I got them. I’d Google issues on the topic
matter and from the abstract, I’d know whether or not it’s been solved.

That’s how I got the Profs at Imperial College, London and Carleton University, Ottawa.

I have declined Carleton already because I want either a top school or PR + job (PR is
Permanent Residence).

So if you’re not on research gate, you can swiftly do the above as God directs you.

Talking about standardized tests, my friend just got a PhD in the USA without GRE & TOEFL.

I don’t like writing tests and I’ve not written any. I want to write IELTS general just for PR

For those in biological sciences, I can recommend schools without GRE & TOEFL in the USA. But you must suffice the lapse with say, a good GPA and publications.

Hopefully with these, you can get other things done… I look forward to hearing more testimonies.

Remember: If scholarship isn’t for poor people or intelligent people, it’s for smart people. There are no rigid rules, just put your heart to it and boom! you’ll get one.

Arawu Samuel

Also read: How to Get International Scholarships for Postgraduate Studies

PS: Interested in studying abroad and don’t know where to begin? Start Here.


  1. Adeyemi Oluwatosin

    Thank you so much for this concise information. God bless.

    1. You're welcome. Thanks for giving it your time.

  2. Abdulwahab Azeezat Oyindamola

    This is a great write up👍 thanks for sharing this

    1. Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Samuel

    Thank you this was helpful to some questions I’ve been troubled with regarding getting fully funded scholarship

    1. Splendid. Happy to know this was helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Damilare Akinremi

    Thank you for putting up this wonderful piece. God bless.

    1. 🙏 Thank you.

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