Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Look Beyond University Rankings

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education

A few weeks ago US News and World Report released their college rankings for 2014. Most of the media coverage of this dubious event has concluded that not much has changed, especially among the top 10 colleges. This is important to Indian students for whom US News is sometimes treated as a sacred text. Indian applicants focus is so narrowed on the top 10 (maybe 20) ranked colleges that its almost impossible to convince them to consider applying anywhere else. This is often blamed on a ‘status conscious’ or ‘brand obsessed’ perspective. While this tendency is exaggerated, I offer some reasons why even more supposed practical reasons for sticking with the top 20 are unfounded.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

What to do after 10th?

Previously Published in the Hindustan Times Education Supplement

I realize September is not normally the time students think about plans after class 10 exams, but if you are considering studying abroad either in 11th or after 12th, there are some things you may need to plan for now. Once your 10th exam results start to come in around next April, you will have a wide range of choices ahead of you. 

Extracurricular Activities

Previously Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

The application season is officially upon us. As students prepare – some late, some far ahead – most seem to worry about the extracurricular component of the application.

In my experience, extracurriculars are not something you can easily fabricate or embellish. And extracurriculars are not something that can overcome flaws in your academic or testing record. The only exception is if you are a recruitable athlete or musician, a rare situation for most Indian applicants. But even in the case of the amazing squash player who is recruited on an athletic scholarship to a top ranked college, his or her marks will also be very competitive.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Protecting Your Downside

Previously Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement 

At the end of one of my earlier columns (May 15th) I advised students to ‘select realistic back-up options.’  As I start preparing students for the upcoming application cycle, I find that this advice needs more detail. First of all the list of realistic options students have is almost always the same and secondly, it is rarely ever ‘realistic’. It seems like the colleges people choose as back-ups are the colleges where they have heard of other Indian students getting admission. I beseech all students who are applying this year to dig deeper into what is really important to you and apply only to colleges you want to attend. There are plenty of options.

Starting Early

Previously published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Lately I am seeing a lot more people tuning into the foreign undergraduate college admissions process early. This is a good trend! Preparing early is the best way to help you feel in control of the process and reduce stress at the last minute. If you plan early, you have the confidence that no matter what the outcome, you did the best you can. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Test Optional Colleges

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Very soon students who took the SAT on June 1st will get their results. For students who have scored well, this will open a new chapter and give clarity on U.S. colleges within the dream, target, and safety range. For students who did not score well, it can be an extremely discouraging moment in the college application process. But don’t despair – while the U.S. has traditionally been the leader in the pesky standardized test requirement, lately several colleges have revised their policy and introduced ‘test optional’ applications for very good reasons. 

MBA Success

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Every year I am contacted by MBA applicants who have no good reason and no real chance of being accepted into top global programs, yet they want to ‘try’ despite my strong discouragement. MBA admissions are not a lottery. You don’t just buy a ticket and hope for the best. Top global MBA programs (e.g. Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Chicago, INSEAD, LBS, Kellogg, etc.) have serious requirements against which applicants are evaluated. 

Singing your Praises - Recommendations

Originally published in the Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Whether you are applying for undergraduate, graduate or MBA, most foreign universities require at least 1 letter of recommendation (LOR) in order to get  an objective perspective on you beyond grades and test scores. Unfortunately many students treat the process of requesting LOR’s as an afterthought. This is a mistake because colleges often use recommendations to tip an already good application into the admit pile. Looking at it this way, LOR’s are as important as essays, but students rarely spend the same amount of time thinking about LOR’s as they do essays.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Is It Worth It?

Originally Published in Hindustan Times, Education Supplement

Over the last few weeks the US college admissions press has been buzzing about claims made by former US Education Secretary, William Bennett, that there are only 150 colleges worth attending in the US. Mr. Bennet has a number of reasons for making this claim, but Indian applicants tend to approach the equation over the value of a US education slightly differently. 

It's Not Too Late

Originally published in Hindustan Times, Education Supplement

It’s not too late! If you don’t have a plan for college either for June in India or for August abroad there are still options. Despite the promise of what the future holds, many students reach this time of year with a feeling of dread or disappointment. Due to poor planning, overconfidence or simple bad luck some students do not have an inspired plan for their first year of college. If this is you, there is still hope for study abroad options. 

Chance Me

Originally published in Hindustan Times, Education Supplement

“What are my chances?” Is a question I hear often. Unfortunately, I do not have a crystal ball. It is difficult to answer these kinds of questions, especially for US colleges and MBA programs, because so much goes into the admissions process on the part of the applicant and on the part of the evaluators. I hate to discredit any of the applicant’s hard work, nor does anyone ever really know exactly what a particular admissions committee wants at any given college, in any given year. With Indian applicants who are used to a ‘cut off’ system of college placement, the idea that you could get perfect scores and still not be admitted is confusing. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Test Time! How to Prepare for Standardized Tests

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

With free time at hand over the summer vacations, many students are planning to buckle down and study for their standardized tests. Whether you are planning to take the SAT, SAT2, GMAT or GRE, you need to make the most of the summer break to study and crack these exams.

The Value of College Fairs

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement
I just love college fairs! Recently (April 20th) I attended a US college fair in Mumbai with admissions representatives from Case Western University, University of North Carolina, University of Virginia, Emory and New York University. What I love about these fairs is that the reps are so friendly, approachable and eager to help. They have been sent to India by the colleges they represent, specifically to share information about their programs, answer your questions and cultivate relationships with schools and individual students who can help them attract the student body they seek. Their only agenda here is to be helpful! 

Start your essays NOW!

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement
Summer breaks are upon us! My consistent advice to students is to start their essays over the summer. Of course most do not; most of us are procrastinators, but success in the college application process takes discipline, and requires students to change some deeply ingrained habits that support laziness.

Admissions Results Analysis

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement
During the first few weeks of April the press around the world has been buzzing with post-mortem perspectives on U.S. college admissions. First, the news came out that the Ivy League and other competitive colleges had received a record number of applications -- leading to even lower rates of admission among these already highly selective institutions. In 2012 Harvard accepted 5.9% of its applicant pool, this year it was 5.7%. The same is true for almost all colleges ranked within the top 10.

Making the Most of Your Campus Visit

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

If you have already been accepted into colleges and are trying to choose one, or
if you will be applying later this year and want to make an informed target list,
it is always best to visit colleges to get an idea of what to expect. 

You've been admitted! Now what?

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

For undergraduates who applied to the US, the official notification cut off for
admissions letters is April 1st. That is only three days away! (MBA and Post-grad
applicants are also in the midst of regret/accept letters)  How can you prepare
yourself for the experience of joy, disappointment and ultimately decision?
Below are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate your way to the end of
April when you’ll have to confirm your attendance and pay your deposit.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Post College Plans

Originally published in Hindustan Times, Education Supplement

The question I most often get asked by readers of my HT column is about what to do after college – MA, MBA, work experience?  As I see it, these queries stem from 2 different situations – 1. Students who joined a course in a subject, which, after 3 years of study, they have discovered they do not enjoy, and they do not want to pursue higher studies or work in the same field; and 2. Students who want to pursue a route consistent with their college studies, but who do not feel they have enough experience or knowledge to get the job they want after college.

Know Your Resources

Originally published in Hindustan Times, Education Supplement

There are an impressive number of free or low-cost resources available to Indian students who want to study abroad. However I find that students are often unaware of the help they can get. Below is a review of the valuable study abroad information services in English-speaking countries. You should look into these if you are planning higher studies outside India in the future.

Following Up

Originally published in Hindustan Times, Education Supplement

Happy New Year! Most college applications for the US and the second round MBA applications have been submitted by now. There are a few stray applications that are due in Mid January or February, but for the most part all should have been submitted. And for UK universities the UCAS deadline is on January 15th. So now, with the bulk of the work behind you, what should you be doing until April 1st when you get the decisions?

Planning Ahead in Jan for Class 11

Originally published in Hindustan Times, Education Supplement

If you are in class 11 and planning to study abroad in 2014, there is a lot you can do now, in early 2013, to enhance your application. A common question at this point is, “What should I do over the summer before entering 12th? Take an internship? Start a new extra-curricular activity? Publish a book?” 

Moving On After December

Originally published in Hindustan Times, Education Supplement

The last few weeks of December is an emotional roller coaster for some applicants. Since at least December 10th admissions decisions have been coming in for undergraduates who applied in early decision or early action programs and for MBA applicants who applied in the first round. I use the roller coaster metaphor because whether you have gotten good news or bad, you must now shift gears and think about what’s next.