Study abroad but make informed decisions

Study abroad but make informed decisions

It is the dream of many Indian, why, Asian students, to study at a world-class institution. And as American author Horace Greeley supposedly once said, “Go West, young man,” students these days are also looking towards the occidental world for higher education.

But often, in such circumstances, there are big challenges with respect to the planning and execution of the process. Stoodnt, a startup based out of Palo Alto, USA, is now looking to expand to India to tackle this problem and ease the process for hundreds of students. In an interaction with Deccan Herald, Ajay Singh, chief executive officer of Stoodnt, addresses some issues:

Who is your target group?
We are aiming to reach out to students both at the undergraduate and graduate levels and even at those who are looking to go abroad for training programmes. We are starting with Indian students looking to come to the US, but at the same time, we are also providing opportunities to American students because the admission process is getting more complex by the day, just as the competition is getting tougher.

Your observations with respect to the knowledge and level of exposure of Indian students...
There are some students and parents who have a certain amount of exposure to American colleges, especially if you look at Tier-I cities. Or even parents who have family members outside the country have some exposure. The challenge we see is, even with exposure, every child has a unique interest and background. The real trick for them lies in picking the right college that will fully fit their requirements. Sure, everyone knows about Ivy League schools. But there are also several hundred programmes and colleges that are really good. Applicants must be made aware of this fact too.

What would you tell students who are looking to go abroad at 18 (for college)? What are the pre-requisites?
If you have aspirations and dreams of studying abroad, the first thing you must ask yourself is — what would you like to do and what do you enjoy doing? Because college is about learning, having fun and building skill sets in your area of learning. First thing is, for a student to know what they like. Once that is set, the rest can be built upon.

If a student wants to study abroad but is unsure of what to major in...
If you look at the education system of many countries, they do not force you
towards a particular degree. You have the liberty of trying a different number of classes before actually deciding upon your major. So, my personal advice is to leverage such an opportunity to one’s
advantage.

How does one plan finances? It is a major factor given the decreasing number of scholarships.
It is true that the number of scholarships have gone down in the last few years. In such cases, students must take help of counsellors and tools that provide them with more information. They must connect with colleges to know more about
financial aid etc.

The process itself is so tedious. So how do you suggest a student go about it?
It mostly begins with shortlisting the colleges. For some, it starts earlier than that — as early as Class 10 or 11 may be. Some kids like to get a head start with resumes. Next in line comes the thought process about the requirements of each of these colleges they are applying to. And then come the GPAs, SAT scores and essays, getting the right references from teachers, letters for financial aid etc. If these are meticulously planned, the process can be executed well enough.

What are the typical mistakes made during an admission process?
The first one would be what students and parents both make — going with the brand name by opting for the most popular colleges. The key is to pick what is right for them, and not what has fame. The second error lies in not trying to build a holistic application for the college. Like, a student might have a great numeric achievement, but may not put forth the right statement of purpose. And the third mistake lies in that students do not look deep enough into financial aids. Even with limited scholarships, there is always some room for deserving students.

Finally, what next after admits? How does one zero in the best college?
Picking the right college is a difficult decision. In such times, having a counsellor who can help them choose a college objectively helps. Also, students must know where to fit in and which college would offer the best environment for them to succeed.

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