Choose to choose an education consultant

Choose to choose an education consultant

CAREER GUIDANCE

Choose to choose an education consultant

It goes without saying that an education without direction results in a useless pursuit of success. The accelerated growth of industry and commerce over the years, coupled with the necessity to survive comp-etition, has brought about a growing need for organised education and career guidance among the youth of today. Making the right choice early on and choosing a course that would help shape a career seems to be a crucial part of a student's life. Needless to say, it is this need that has led to the development of educational services and counselling that can help students in their choice of career and courses.

To some degree, education consultants offer the kind of advice that can be helpful for any student who has a vague idea of what he wants to do: they provide him with a list of colleges that have courses related to subjects he has majored in, help organise paperwork, give him a thor-ough understanding of what he might need to prepare for and suggest alternative options in case his interests vary. They offer the basic guidance that is necessary to help students make a choice. However, deciding whether the choice made is right, one that can really help student is, at times, questionable.

Rithika Gupta, 27, who had used the services of Chopra’s Consultants for her study overseas, is one of the many students who think that counselling services are a double-edged sword. “If you ask me, I think there are two kinds of people who use counsellors - people who know what they want to do, and people who don't know what they want to do. I knew what I wanted to do. I applied to colleges in the United States based on my own research. I sought help only because I didn’t like my offer and didn’t have enough time to do my own research to go to Britain,” she says.

When asked how she narrowed down on colleges that the consultancy had offered, she is positive. “They helped me in finding colleges that offered the niche course that I wanted to do. Later on, it was easier for me to do my research and make my choice. But, checking for the reliability and safety of my choice was not possible,” she adds.

Rithika’s opinion is one that is seconded by plenty of students who have been exposed to the process of admissions early on in their undergraduate years. Revathi Sreekumar, 26, who consulted IDP Education for her higher studies in Australia, underlines the importance of counsellors. “They counselled and provided me with all the information I needed. I didn’t know about visa procedures and was confused about my choice of college, but they guided me through completely. I think it is a safe option for those who don’t know anything about life overseas,” she says.

The opportunities going abroad might bring with it are a major push factor for most Indian youth who wish to broaden their horizons. The promise of a better life, higher standard of living and a global experience leave many starry-eyed and hasty to move from their home country. So, is there a chance that most students misunderstand the purpose of educational counselling and think it is an easy way to cross shores? Not surprisingly, yes.

Santosh Neelangatil, an education consultant from the Merit Higher Education Consultants, who has been in the field for over fifteen years, paints a better picture of the role an education consultant plays. “The role of an educa-tion consultant is to help students fine-tune their choices and guide them in their decision  making. Almost 90% of students who come to us do not know what they want to do. Our duty is to offer students the various options available to them in their field of choice. However, making the final choice is the student’s respo-nsibility. The reason why some students find themselves doing something they dislike is because they do not have a clear picture of what they want to do,” he says.

“For instance, the concept of going abroad is misunderstood as a promise of job security. This is the most popular misconception among today’s youth. We, as consultants, make no promises of job security because that relies on the individual alone. Going abroad will help you develop as a person, and I always tell students that returning to India to use their skills in our booming market is a very good option too,” he adds.

Santosh’s words probably hold true to thousands of students who apply to universities abroad every year. The New York Times (Nov 5, 2010) recently questioned the application inflation that seems to trap millions of students. Why did universities enco-urage more than 40,000 applications when a class needs hardly a third to fill? “Mission and marketing has long defined admissions, many believe the balance has tilted too far toward the latter,” it says. The Wall Street Journal (Nov 11, 2010) questioned the trend as well — “Students who migrate to other countries to study won’t find it as easy to settle abroad as they once did, nor may they want to. India, with its spectacular growth rate, has been a land of much greater opportunity in the past few years than almost any other,” it reported.

Perhaps, this is why others like Mahesh Kumar, 25, should not be disheartened if education consultants do not deliver. After spending much time poring over universities in Europe, he found himself in a fix when the consultancy demanded a huge sum of money without a promise of admission or placement. “I had wanted to apply to a university in Scandinavia, and the consultancy I went to made me pay a lot of money. I went through the website and realised that Europe’s educ-ation system is transparent and we don’t need consultants. It is easier to talk directly to someone at the university,” he says.
Most students avail the services of an education consultant only for guidance on courses and universities abroad. According to Nikhil Kariappa, an MSc in microbiology from Manipal, “The scope for education consultancy, as far as India is concerned, is very limited as most students rely on rankings or advice from family or friends. Also, admissions in India are still very referral-based as far as engineering, management and medical colleges are concerned.”

Sriram Sundar, another applicant who used the services of IDP, is of the view that some students use these services because they are mostly free and there is someone to do their organisational work. However, this might not help if people only look at it as an easy way out. While no one can deny the need for guidance, it is necessary for students to realise that counselling offers nothing but a helping hand in the decision making process. There is nothing entirely right or wrong in what a consultant offers because it is in the context of informative guidance. It is up to students to derive inputs from this guidance, and make a choice. General perception among Indian students is that consultants open doors to great careers. This perception has to change. What education consultants offer is a chance for students to understand their career goals and direction better.

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