African Students – How to Get Into an American or Canadian University

College age students studying together.

How to Get Into an American or Canadian University as an African Student
So, you want to go abroad for studies? Here’s how.
Do you want to go to school in North America? You’re definitely not alone. International students make up about 5 percent of all students enrolled in post-secondary education in the United States, and the numbers for all of North America are growing. With over 150 universities in the United States and 26 in Canada in the QS World University Rankings, there are plenty of highly rated institutions to choose from. Here’s how to get started.

Take Your Time

Don’t expect to rush through the process. In fact, many experts recommend starting about 18 months before you intend to start university. Many school systems on the African continent finish high school at age 17, and taking a year off to complete all the testing and polish your application is a good option.

In some cases, depending on where you are, you may actually begin to take courses in secondary school that will be recognized by American and Canadian universities, and may allow you to skip certain prerequisites. It’s called the Advanced Placement Program, and you can find out whether there’s a school near you online offering AP courses here.

The Application Process

In Canada, the application process generally involves only academic transcripts, an admissions essay, language proficiency, and some may also use SAT scores. The way you will apply depends on where the institution is located. Some Canadian provinces have a single online portal for applications, such as Ontario, where in other provinces, you will have to apply to each university separately on their own system.

You can research Canadian universities and colleges at including scholarship opportunities.

The application process for American universities is more involved and will generally require more time. Along with the basics of academic credentials and an admission essay, you may be required to provide letters of recommendation from teachers and others, and proof of extracurricular activities that are relevant to your educational goals.

Most colleges and universities in the United States and some in Canada use the SAT, a standardized test that measures writing, reading, and math skills. There are a variety of tests that measure English language proficiency, including TOEFL, MELAB, and PTE Academic. If your education was given in English, you may simply be able to provide proof of that in lieu of tests.

You may have to submit your school records to what is called a credential evaluator who will assess not only your credentials, but the institution you received them from, and the curriculum you studied.

One advantage of the American system is the Common Application a one stop shopping portal for college applications. You can research colleges and programs, and find out about financial aid, as well as begin the actual application process.

Once you’ve gotten a letter of acceptance, you can apply for a student visa. You’ll have to show that you can support yourself during your stay, and you may have to provide a police certificate to show that you have no criminal record.

Applications for student visas can be completed online at:

For Canada, click here.

For the United States, click here.


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