AD­VICE

Want to pur­sue a de­gree in a univer­sity abroad and don’t know where to be­gin? Fri­day’s ed­u­ca­tion ex­pert, Sanjeev Verma, knows what you should be do­ing to ace that en­try

Friday - - Contents -

Ap­ply­ing to for­eign uni­ver­si­ties can be tricky. Ed­u­ca­tion coun­sel­lor – and Fri­day ex­pert – Sanjeev Verma shows the way.

Fi­nal exam re­sults don’t seal your fate Most US uni­ver­si­ties work on pre­dicted grades and herein lies the im­por­tance of the school coun­sel­lor. Un­less the ac­tual grades are rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent, US uni­ver­si­ties are quite con­tent to base their ad­mis­sion on pre­dicted grades, SAT scores, es­says and ref­er­ences.

Your sub­jects are key to ac­cep­tances More than the cur­ricu­lum, it is the se­lec­tion of sub­jects and their level which mat­ters. Whether the stu­dent does stan­dard or ad­vanced level could be an im­por­tant fac­tor in the ad­mis­sion process and also be in­stru­men­tal in get­ting cred­its in the first year. The In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate cur­ricu­lum, be­ing ap­pli­ca­tion- and re­search­based, pre­pares the stu­dent well for col­lege stud­ies and I have known many stu­dents who did not strug­gle with the method­ol­ogy of ed­u­ca­tion in their first year. That said, coun­tries such as Ireland tend not to give equal weigh­tage to the CBSE cur­ricu­lum.

It’s never too early to start col­lege and ca­reer plan­ning To align your in­ter­est with your skill sets, it is best stu­dents start to think about their ca­reers in their last year of mid­dle school, so by the time they en­ter high school they have se­lected their sub­jects and are rea­son­ably cer­tain of what ma­jor to pur­sue in col­lege. Psy­cho­me­t­ric tests are ex­tremely help­ful in help­ing de­cide what ca­reer path to choose.

Ap­ply­ing to the US? Book learn­ing won’t get you far In­ter­ests and achieve­ments out­side academia are im­por­tant for top US uni­ver­si­ties and along with aca­demic grades will form the ba­sis of ad­mis­sion. For other coun­tries, the em­pha­sis is more on aca­demic grades. Se­lec­tion of a US univer­sity and work­ing to­wards it tends to start ear­lier than other coun­tries, pri­mar­ily be­cause in top US uni­ver­si­ties your grades form only a por­tion of the ap­pli­ca­tion. Equally im­por­tant, if not more, is what you have done out­side the class­room. While it may not be pos­si­ble to change a per­son, it is def­i­nitely pos­si­ble to im­prove his/her re­sume but this takes time. Use sum­mers for in­tern­ships, com­mu­nity ser­vice, lead­er­ship and team-fo­cused work. It is pru­dent to start as early as pos­si­ble. Don’t for­get the weather Myr­iad fac­tors mat­ter in the se­lec­tion of a univer­sity. Fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions along with post-grad­u­a­tion ca­reer prospects play a lead role. Pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties in the US tend to be on top of the pyra­mid with Bri­tish, Cana­dian and Aus­tralian ed­u­ca­tion cost­ing less. Other im­por­tant fac­tors would be the rep­u­ta­tion of the fac­ulty in the univer­sity for your cho­sen sub­ject, whether the univer­sity as­sists with in­tern­ship and work place­ment dur­ing the pro­gramme, and the na­ture of jobs be­ing of­fered to their grad­u­ates. Other fac­tors like the lo­ca­tion, weather, fam­ily, dis­tance from home and alumni should also all play a role in the fi­nal de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

Be a jack of all trades Top uni­ver­si­ties are look­ing for fu­ture lead­ers and, along with out­stand­ing grades and SAT scores, an ap­pli­ca­tion must de­mon­strate an out­stand­ing all-round stu­dent – with lead­er­ship skills, vi­sion, out­stand­ing achieve­ments out­side the class­room, com­mu­nity ser­vice and ex­cel­lent ref­er­ences. Uni­ver­si­ties are look­ing for di­ver­sity and stu­dents that will add to their aca­demic rigour.

Schol­ar­ships are spo­radic Ob­tain­ing a schol­ar­ship can be ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive. Stu­dents need to iden­tify the na­ture of schol­ar­ship of­fered – nee- or merit-based – and work ac­cord­ingly. Schol­ar­ships are also of­fered by or­gan­i­sa­tions based on vary­ing pa­ram­e­ters like na­tion­al­ity, sub­ject and coun­try of study. Schol­ar­ships from Ivy League uni­ver­si­ties and Oxbridge for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents are also very few and far be­tween.

There is a col­lege for ev­ery stu­dent Exam stress in not un­usual and def­i­nitely has ad­verse ef­fect on the men­tal health of stu­dents. School coun­sel­lors and par­ents can go a long way in as­suag­ing these con­cerns. Stu­dents must be made aware that, while im­por­tant, exam re­sults are just an­other mile­stone in their lives. There is a col­lege for ev­ery stu­dent, not­with­stand­ing the grades, and with cor­rect ad­vice and coun­selling ev­ery stu­dent will find the cor­rect path.

Help is al­ways around the cor­ner Should your school not have coun­sel­lors, stu­dents can al­ways seek as­sis­tance from pri­vate coun­sel­lors. Hav­ing said that, the se­lec­tion of a pri­vate coun­sel­lor is ex­tremely im­por­tant and par­ents must zero in on coun­sel­lors who are guided solely by the in­ter­est of the stu­dent and have the knowl­edge to of­fer mean­ing­ful ad­vice.

You, not your univer­sity, are the au­thor of your suc­cess Univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion pro­vides the skills re­quired to be suc­cess­ful in your ca­reer. Ob­vi­ously stu­dents from pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties tend to have a head start on ac­count of cam­pus place­ments with re­puted com­pa­nies and net­work­ing. Even­tu­ally, how­ever, it is your per­for­mance at work that will de­ter­mine your suc­cess.

Don’t be blinded by science While STEM (Science, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing and Maths) con­tin­ues to be the mile­stone for par­ents, lib­eral arts is of late be­com­ing a sub­ject of choice for quite a few toppers. Per­son­ally, I am very much in favour of this pro­gramme, as it teaches stu­dents to think an­a­lyt­i­cally and holis­ti­cally and you will be sur­prised at the num­ber of CEOs who read lib­eral arts at univer­sity. We do not pro­vide hu­man­i­ties the credit it de­serves. History is not only about dates and facts; it is about us­ing the lessons of the past to make a bet­ter today and im­prove our to­mor­row.

Gap years aren’t hol­i­days Pro­vided a stu­dent uses their time con­struc­tively, a year out is looked upon pos­i­tively by uni­ver­si­ties. A stu­dent should have a well-de­fined agenda for the year with a clear set of goals – it’s not just about hav­ing a hol­i­day. Lots of stu­dents feel that this year of be­ing in­de­pen­dent helps them ma­ture con­sid­er­ably. It is also pos­si­ble to ask for de­fer­ment af­ter get­ting ad­mis­sion.

Sanjeev Verma is the CEO of In­tel­li­gent Part­ners, a Dubai-based ed­u­ca­tional con­sul­tancy, and is on Fri­day’s Ask The Ex­perts panel ( you can email him your queries on fri­day@gulfnews.com). He grad­u­ated in Eco­nom­ics from St. Stephen’s Col­lege in Delhi and has over 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in Mid­dle East and in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion.

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