June 14, 2024

How I got a scholarship to attend UWC-USA as an international student from Namibia

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Kaino from Namibia 🇳🇦

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How I got a scholarship to attend UWC-USA as an international student from Namibia

Get to Know Me

Hi everyone! My name is Kaino. I am from Namibia, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, I am in my first year at Armand Hammer United World College of the American West, also known as UWC-USA.


Background Info About the United World Colleges 

The United World Colleges (UWC) is an international network of schools and educational programs with the shared aim of 'making education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.' Founded in 1962 by German educator Kurt Hahn, UWC promotes intercultural understanding. Currently, there are 18 UWC campuses located on four continents worldwide. I attend UWC-USA in Montezuma, New Mexico, which was established as the fifth UWC campus in 1982. All UWCs follow the same curriculum—the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP)—an internationally accepted educational program for 16-to-19-year-olds. Additionally, some UWC schools and colleges offer students aged 16 to 19 the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP), which allows specialization in a specific field.

The colleges
The colleges

A Little About Applying to UWC and My National Committee

There are primarily two ways of applying to the United World Colleges: either through a UWC national committee or through the UWC Global Selection Programme (GSP). 

If you need a scholarship (financial aid) to attend UWC, then applying through a national committee, like I did, is the path for you. The UWC national committees (NC) are groups of people - mostly volunteers - who are responsible for finding and selecting students with potential in over 150 countries and territories. Most students apply to UWC via their UWC national committee. This way, they are assessed within their own national context by people from their own country, and, if they are offered a place, they will usually receive financial support based on their needs. The only downside of applying through your NC is that you are not guaranteed entry into the UWC school of your choice, although some NCs allow you to rank the campuses according to your preference. In the end, you are simply expected to go wherever the committee nominates you, if accepted.

I applied to UWC via the Namibian National Committee. To be eligible you need to be: 16-18 years old, a Namibian citizen, a Grade 10 graduate, active in community projects, and embody  the UWC values. The application process involved filling out a form with essays, providing recommendation letters, and submitting necessary documents. Successful applicants proceed to assessment days involving interviews and tasks. If successful, you're nominated to a UWC campus and await a formal offer. The application process is highly dependent on your national committee. Some committees have applicants take exams or even have debates.

For the GSP, on the other hand, you can apply through this route if you do not need a scholarship to attend UWC. Applying through this route allows you to apply for entry to a single school or up to five schools, unlike the NC route. Only 15 UWC schools offer admission through the GSP, and getting in is not guaranteed through this route either.

My Highschool Before UWC

Back in Namibia, I attended an international school and was about to write my IGCSE exams when I applied to UWC. My national committee required applicants to have completed grade 10 before applying. I was an exception because the IGCSE curriculum is considered equivalent to grade 11 in schools following the national curriculum. 

Why I Chose to Apply

People apply for entry to UWC for various reasons. For some, it’s the opportunity to be away from home and experience another country for the first time. Others are drawn by the academic opportunities provided by studying at UWC, such as the Davis scholarship. Personally, I applied to UWC primarily for the experience, as I would have still followed the IB curriculum at my international school in Namibia. The chance to belong to a diverse community and explore other cultures and places greatly appealed to me.

The Application Process

The application process and period for each UWC national committee is different. For UWC Namibia, applications are accepted for slightly over a month, approximately. The application form was online, and we were asked for personal information along with some form of identification (for example: a birth certificate). 

I also had to ask my teachers for recommendation letters (one academic and one non-academic) as soon as I decided to apply. The first was from my biology teacher, and the second was from my Model United Nations coordinator. It is important to ask for these early, as there is no later date for recommendation letters to be sent in. Your application needs to be completely finished before the submission date. Personally, it took me the entire month to prepare and submit my application, as I was writing mock exams then.

The last section of the online application was the essay portion. One part was about our motivations for applying to UWC and how we embody UWC values. The next prompts were about our extracurricular involvement (cultural activities, sports, and volunteering). Then there were creative writing questions like "What is the biggest lesson you have learned in life?" and "What would you change if you were the principal of your school for a week?"

I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the second stage. This stage was a 30-minute interview with four people who are familiar with the UWC mission. Two weeks later, I was notified by the committee that I had been accepted. My application was then sent to the UWC USA admissions team, who would make the final decision. At this point, you are essentially guaranteed a place, but there are some cases of people being rejected by the college after being accepted by the national committee.

Resources, Rankings and More

To enhance my application, I watched YouTube videos created by current UWC USA students, providing advice on applications and interviews. However, these videos should serve as a guide, as most questions can only be thoroughly answered by you—the committee wants to get to know the real you.

Regarding rankings, during my application cycle, my national committee received the following offers:

  1. Up to Fully funded for UWC USA

  2. Up to Fully funded for UWC ISAK Japan

  3. Partially funded for Li Po Chun UWC

  4. Partially funded for UWC Costa Rica

  5. Unfunded for Waterford Kamhlaba UWC

Not all national committees disclose their offers, so this information helped me rank my preferences. Before my interview, I researched each available college to gain insight. Ultimately, I ranked them based on finances and my preference for a campus located in a primarily English-speaking country. UWC USA’s programs appealed to me, and I have no regrets about ranking it first. Additionally, I explored vlogs, TikToks, and Instagram pages to visualize each campus. The available subjects at each college also influenced my decision.

The UWC USA Campus
The UWC USA Campus


Here's an overview of the scholarship offers available for UWC students:

  1. All-Inclusive Scholarship: They cover everything: tuition, room and board, books, IB exam registration fees, curricular field trips, project weeks, visa and travel expenses (flights to/from the school and one return flight for the holiday between year 1 and 2), pocket money, and any other reasonable extra expenses to be incurred by the student.

  2. Full Scholarships: They usually cover tuition, room and board, books, IB exam registration fees, curricular field trips, project weeks.

  3. Up to Fully Funded: They usually cover tuition, room and board, books, IB exam registration fees, curricular field trips.

  4. Partial Scholarships: They usually cover parts of the tuition, room and board, books, IB exam registration fees, curricular field trips. 

I received the "up to fully funded scholarship" from UWC USA. It's entirely need-based, allowing students to pay what they can. My scholarship covers tuition and boarding fees, while my health insurance and caution fee are covered by my parents. Additionally, I receive a $500 stipend annually, depending on financial need. Some colleges also offer unfunded positions to national committees. Application fees through my national committee were waived, but this may vary based on your specific committee.

The IB

Coming from an international curriculum, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) wasn’t a significant change for me. However, what makes the IB challenging is the volume of work you must complete in a two-year period. Unlike A Levels, where you typically study 3 to 4 subjects, the IB requires 6 subjects (2 to 3 at Standard Level and 3 to 4 at Higher Level), along with the IB core components (Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge, and Creativity, Activity & Service).

IBDP students choose a course from each of the following six subject areas. Here are mine!

  1. Studies in Language and Literature: English A Literature (Higher Level), Language & Culture (Standard Level)

  2. Language Acquisition: Language & Culture is an interdisciplinary subject for both group 1 and 3. Taking two group 1 subjects removes the requirement of doing a group 2 subject.

  3. Individuals and Societies: Environmental Systems and Societies (Standard Level)

  4. Sciences: Chemistry, Biology (Higher Level)

  5. Mathematics: Mathematics Analysis and Approaches (Standard Level) 

  6. The Arts: (instead of a course in the arts, students can opt to study another science, individuals and societies, or a language acquisition subject)

Effective time management is crucial—you’ll need to prioritize among the three S’s: Study, Sleep, and Social Life.


My Experience So Far

The first few weeks on campus were, honestly, great! It was so much fun getting to meet new people, even though keeping track of so many new names was overwhelming. I didn't really experience any sort of culture shock as I was coming from an international school. The only difference was that I had to live with them this time. The main "shock" was the varying levels of personal and environmental cleanliness among my peers.

For my CAS, I do: 

  • Food and Shelter: I help pack clothes at the thrift store in town, distribute boxes of food, and assist in the preparation of hot food for breakfast.

  • Partners in Health: This CAS is funded by an NGO and mainly involves health-related activities. At the beginning of the school year, we raised money to help fund a maternal clinic in Sierra Leone. We also held presentations on public health and black health.

  • Kitchen Duty: I help in the school kitchen. Looking at my list now, I definitely need more creativity credits, so I will probably take up dance for CAS next year. 

Right now, I have a fluctuating balance of the 3 S’s. Sometimes I prioritize sleep, other times I focus on my schoolwork, and go for social activities when I am done.


Tips for Future Applicants

My main tip is to be 100% honest on your application. The national committee has to decide whether UWC is truly a good fit for you, as a lot of people arrive here and realize this is not actually the right path for them. If you are accepted, it would be best to come with an open mind and create your UWC experience for yourself, not based on what other people have told you.

Well, that is the main gist of things. If you are an incoming first-year student at UWC USA, I cannot wait to meet you. For future applicants, good luck on your application journey! ✨

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from Namibia 🇳🇦

Duration of Study

Aug 2023 — May 2025


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