To Kenyan Parents: An Argument for Sending Your Child to a US College

Context

I’m Chege, a 4th year student at Princeton University. I write this on behalf of the folks behind Kenyans Applying to US Universities. We studied at Kenyan high schools then joined universities in the US for our undergraduate degrees. We’re helping Kenyan high school graduates who wish to do the same.

This post is directed to Kenyan parents/guardians who have child in high school that is about to sit for their KCSE. It’s never too early to start thinking of possible next steps.

If your child has already graduated from high school but has not started applying to schools in the US, it’s a bit risky for them to start now. The applications and required exams need are time-consuming. That said, if they wish to start the process right now, please email us so that we can get them up to speed as best as we can.

When I talk about US universities, I’m only referring to the ones that provide full (or close to full) scholarships to international students based on their financial need (i.e. how much the family can afford). There are scholarships that require the student to be an athlete or maintain a certain GPA, but I’m not well-versed to advise on such scholarships.

What is it going to cost?

Item Cost (USD) Cost (KES) Remarks
SAT I 89 or 106 8,939 to 10,646 SATs are the equivalent of KCSE. The SAT I tests on Reading, Writing and Math. 89 USD is for Reading and Math only. Some schools don't need the Writing portion.
SAT Subject Tests 111 or 133 11,148 or 13,358 Subjects include Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc. 111 USD is for 2 subjects, 133 USD is for 3 subjects.
Application Fee Between 50 and 100 per university. 5,022 to 10,043 per university If you these costs are too much, you can request a waiver. Universities usually grant this waiver.
Miscellaneous ~75 7,533 SAT Prep Books, Internet Access
Total Between 275 and 314 Between 27,619 and 31,536 We’ve not included the application fees because most applicants request waivers. We recommend applying to 8 schools.

Should you and your child take such a bet?

US universities cost ~27,000,000 KES for the 4 years. The bet costs ~29,000 KES. There are other costs down the road like air tickets, visa fees and immunizations, but once your child has a full scholarship at the world’s best universities, the rest tends to fall into place. For instance, Princeton paid for my flight.

The universities that provide scholarships tend to accept between 4% and 15% of their 30,000 or so applicants. A good portion of the 30,000 applicants are quite qualified. Luck plays a role in the admission process, but again, looking at the students who get accepted, it’s impossible to point out who got lucky. It’s a matter of giving your best shot and crossing your fingers.

First gauge your child’s current academic ability. Getting an A- or above in KCSE is a good indicator of performing well in the exams needed for admission. However, unlike in Kenyan universities where academic merit is the sole factor, US universities consider a combination of academic ability, achievements, letters of recommendation and personal essays.

It’s also crucial that your child also wants to attend a US university. Introduce them to the idea, but don’t force it on them. The application process requires a lot of deliberate effort - parental influence can only take them so far. If your child wants this, but you’re not enthusiastic about it, give them your support either way. Striving to obtain a great education is a noble goal.

Why didn’t I know about this?

Most of us went to Mang’u, Alliance, Starehe, Maryhill, etc. The teachers at these schools tend to be knowledgeable about the application process. In my case, my teachers even connected me with alumni that had attended Harvard.

By providing information and guidance to a larger audience, we hope that more students decide to try their luck at these college applications.

What about attending local universities?

If your child is taking Medicine or Law, then a Kenyan university is probably the better choice. Medicine and Law are not offered as undergraduate degrees in the US.

The applications open on August 1st, and close by January. The first set of admission results are out in December 2018, and the second set of results come are released in March/April 2019. If your child gets accepted, they’ll start school in the US in September 2019.

A well-crafted college application takes time and effort. Some students choose to attend the first year of class at Kenyan universities. Others defer enrollment in order to give college applications their full attention. I was in the second group - I joined EaSEP at Nandi Hills and later worked as an SAT Tutor before joining university.

Closing Note

Our parents are proud of the decisions that we made three years ago. You probably will too. If you have the means to take this bet, please do!

Feel free to shoot us an email at 2016collegeessays@gmail.com, or on our Facebook Group.