Recruiting and Working With Nigerian Students: An EducationUSA Q&A

In the course of my interactions with admissions personnel and recruiters for U.S.-based higher education institutions seeking to recruit Nigerian students, I hear the same questions over and over again. Some of the most common include:

Q: How do I authenticate academic documentation for Nigerian students?

A: The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) Direct online results checker, https://www.waecdirect.org/ [1], can be used to verify the results of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for prospective undergraduate students. The five WAEC countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Gambia) operate separate WAECDirect sites. To enable you to verify all WASSCE results, students must buy a ‘scratchcard’ and send you the serial/PIN number. The minimum admission standard for university eligibility in Nigeria is at least five credit grades of A1-C6, including English and math.

Verification of documents for prospective graduate students depends on transcript review. Official academic documents for prospective graduate students can be obtained directly from the issuing institutions, or students can also be required to obtain credential evaluations from third party providers. Skype interviews, extra essays, or additional tests are also effective ways to further evaluate student qualifications. Genuine students will not protest going the extra mile.

Q: Beyond the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, what standardized tests can we require students to take?

A: Do not hesitate to require tests of applicants, consistent with your institution’s policy. In general, Nigerians will willingly take U.S. admission tests such as SAT/ACT, GRE/GMAT, TOEFL/IELTS/PTE.

Q: What should I tell prospective students about agents, private counselors, and other ways of finding out about institutions in the U.S.?

A: Private counseling businesses in Nigeria range from the ethical and sophisticated to fraudulent scam operations. It is usually not difficult to tell the difference, but when in doubt, refer the student to EducationUSA [2], which runs programs in the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and Lagos, for current guidance on all accredited institutions in the United States. (In general embassies representing other countries are a good source of reliable information on accredited institutions.)

Q: What advice can I give students about seeking visas?

A: Student visa issuance in Nigeria has improved markedly over the past decade, and genuine students can generally make a case for their visa eligibility. EducationUSA advisors are available to ensure that students understand visa requirements and go to their interviews well prepared. Student visa applicants should be able to explain how they made their educational and career plans, and how they will finance their education.

Q: What types of financial documentation should we ask self- or family-pay students to provide?

A: Students whose educations are supported by family funds should ideally be sponsored by their own parents. Sponsorship from more distant relatives or others is less credible. Funds should be held in an account in the parent’s or student’s name, not under the name of a business. At their visa interviews, students should submit original bank statements for the past six months, in addition to documenting sources and amounts of income. Schools that anticipate difficulty with payments may request advance payment if the situation warrants. Such funds should be held in escrow and returned to the student if the visa is not issued.

Q: How can my institution best support Nigerian students once they are on campus?

A: Firm but fair” works as well with Nigerians as anyone else. Insist that all students participate in international student orientation, so that they learn and abide by your system’s rules about academic integrity, helpful resources, etc. If students arrive on campus less than fully prepared for the workload, assume that this is not due to lack of will or ability, but to weaknesses in their home education system. Students from developing countries bring grit and resilience to campus, and know how to deal with challenges, but they have to be told what your system’s expectations are. Mandatory study skills courses have proven invaluable for many students.

Q: If students are unable to cover their tuition due to currency exchange issues, how should we proceed?

A: Decide on your policy towards students whose tuition payments are delayed due to regulations on currency exchange or currency exports, and then enforce it. If students have to take a semester back home in order to raise funds and return in good standing, so be it.

EducationUSA and the U.S. Commercial Service are partnering to hold Nigeria’s 17th annual College Fair in Lagos and Abuja (continuing to Accra, Ghana) in late September, offering an ideal opportunity to visit the country with full U.S. government support.