April 19, 2024

Embracing Unexpected Opportunities: How Three Gap Years and a Change of Plans Led to Studying in the USA


Ufuoma from Nigeria 🇳🇬

Campus Image of Oklahoma Panhandle State University
Embracing Unexpected Opportunities: How Three Gap Years and a Change of Plans Led to Studying in the USA


Hello! My name is Awadje Ufuoma Stephanie. Stephanie, to be precise, and I am currently a freshman at Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Oklahoma.

My High School Experience and an Overview of the Nigerian Education System

I graduated from Queen’s College in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2020, where I followed the national curriculum. Graduation requires the completion of 2-3 external exams, specifically the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE), and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). The UTME is particularly important if you plan to attend university in Nigeria. The WASSCE or SSCE signifies the completion of secondary school, while the UTME is used for admission into Nigerian universities.

The Nigerian education system allows students to explore various subjects for the first three years of high school. After this exploration phase, students narrow their focus to either science, humanities, technical studies, or business for the final three years. I chose to focus on science. For the WASSCE, which is the exam most non-Nigerian colleges accept, I had a very good result.

The Setback

In my first attempt at the UTME, I scored 238 out of 400. When applying to Nigerian universities, your UTME score is combined with your WASSCE grades to provide a cumulative score. Each university has its own cumulative score threshold or "cutoff mark" for various majors. I initially applied to the University of Benin as a medicine major, but my cumulative score did not meet their cutoff mark. Since the UTME is only valid for the specific academic year in which you write the exam, I had to take a gap year.

Most Nigerians are aware that the UTME is flawed as an exam, with multiple mistakes in the questions and answers, errors in marking, and even instances of a 6am exam starting at 4pm due to server issues. Unfortunately, such mistakes affected me when I took the exam again and scored 237 out of 400. Additionally, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, which administers the UTME, has no formal appeal process, so there was nothing I could do.

I decided to wait another year and took the exam again, this time scoring 299 out of 400. I applied again, but this time to the University of Lagos as a nursing major. To my dismay, my cumulative score did not meet their standards either.


At this point, I felt overwhelmed by the Nigerian education system. Coincidentally, I was led by someone to an organization in Lagos which provided me with information on university options in other countries. At this time, I found myself torn between the United States of America and Canada as potential study abroad destinations. Ultimately, I chose the USA because it seemed more accessible.

Resources Utilized

I primarily navigated the college application process with assistance from MET (Management and Education Training). This Lagos-based organization I was referred to provides Nigerian students with the necessary guidance to pursue higher education abroad.

My College Selection

The universities I considered included Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Jacksonville State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Extracurricular Activities and Stats 

I had a GPA of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale. I didn't need to take any English proficiency tests, as many U.S. schools do not require them from Nigerian students. I took the SAT and scored 1230 on my first attempt. My primary extracurricular activity was being a part of my school's orchestra.

My Reason for Choosing OPSU

I selected OPSU primarily because it was the most affordable among all the schools that accepted me.

My acceptance
My acceptance

Financial Aid

The financial aid at OPSU is quite substantial. I was awarded a merit scholarship based on my SAT score, which significantly eased the financial burden. Additionally, my application fee to OPSU was waived.

My Experience at OPSU So Far

I'm currently a freshman majoring in biology at OPSU. Although OPSU is a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI), it has a diverse student body with a significant number of international students. Presently, I am mainly involved in the Student Government Association. I also started offering on-campus Afro Dance classes and am in the process of establishing an African Student Union.

OPSU Campus
OPSU Campus

Post-Graduation Plans 

Upon the completion of my current studies, my plan is to return back to Nigeria. Once there, I intend to pursue further education in the healthcare sector by enrolling in a reputable nursing school🏥.

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from Nigeria 🇳🇬

Duration of Study

Aug 2023 — May 2027



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Oklahoma Panhandle State University

Oklahoma Panhandle State University

Guymon, US🇺🇸


✍️ Interview by

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Christabel from Nigeria 🇳🇬

Gap year student interested in bridging cultures

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