Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Mark your calendar: Application Deadlines

A message especially for parents and students who are applying for undergraduate colleges with December 31st deadlines or MBA applicants aiming at round two deadlines: If you do not have your essays in the final stages, your recommendations well on their way and your official transcripts in hand, it’s too late! I am so surprised this year with how many people are waking up late in the process. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

Decoding MBA Admission Results

Originally Published in The Hindustan Times Education Supplement

For global MBA applicants, round one results are starting to come in. Unfortunately it is the rejections that come first. For a lot of people, plans for getting a Global MBA are part of a lifelong trajectory, the next step in their professional process.

If your round one MBA application results are not what you had hoped, there are some useful strategies for moving forward.

The first thing you need to do is step back and look carefully at your application to try and understand what went wrong. Did you rush through the application and complete it at the last minute? Maybe you should schedule your time better on round two applications. Similarly, did you ask your recommenders too late? Recommenders need ample time and direction to complete the letters of recommendation if they are to be compelling. We typically advise applicants to approach recommenders 3-4 months before applying and to schedule at least two meetings to discuss recommendation content. Also, have you applied with too little work experience? If so, maybe push your applications off til next year.

Next, look at your list of colleges. Were you too ambitious? Were you more focused on winning the lottery than finding the right fit? Reevaluate your goals and find programs that are seeking students like you. Sometimes this is a matter of academics that are lower than admitted averages, but often it is simply a matter of the program not being able to meet your needs – have you applied to Wharton with a post-MBA career goal of working in the social sector? Of course Wharton takes a few students in this category, but very few. They have to keep in mind their placement rates and, for Wharton, it is much easier to place students in management consulting than the World Bank.

Maybe you applied to Wharton because you think it is not “worth it” to apply to MBA programs outside the top five. This is a reasonable cost-benefit analysis for many people. Ask yourself if you really must go to business school, no matter where the program is ranked. If you cannot stomach the idea of paying up to $100,000 per year at a lower ranked college, then do not apply in round two and start focusing on other ways to enhance your professional trajectory.

While there are no guarantees for a successful application in round two, you can still make a conscious effort to work harder on your applications this time. Retake the GMAT after proper preparation. Start your essays early so you can brainstorm and solicit feedback from a wide set of friends and colleagues. Spend time learning about the different programs. Each top-business school around the world has a different ethos and mission. Read blogs like Clear Admit and Poets and Quants to learn more about these differences and try to network with alumni to understand how they pitch and position their programs.

Finally if you had an interview call in round one and still were not admitted, then focus on polishing your interview skills. The best way to do this is to get someone to conduct a mock interview and record it. Critique your own interview playback to find areas for improvement and ask a few others to watch it and give you feedback as a well. This is a simple exercise, but it adds significant value if you are preparing for interviews.

And finally if you cannot prepare a better application in round two, then consider waiting until next year. Qualified re-applicants can be successful if they submit good applications the second time and if there has been note able career growth. Whatever you decide, do not waste your time and money submitting a sloppy application. Take your time and do your best.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?

A worried parent recently said to me – “The school is limiting the number of U.S. colleges to which my daughter can apply to ten.”  My response: “Ten?! That’s a lot of applications!”

Friday, 21 November 2014

Is A Global MBA Worth It?

As the 2014-2015 international MBA application cycle chugs along, many potential applicants are wondering, “is a global MBA for me?”  Understandably, the significant investment of funds and time required to complete an MBA abroad are reasons enough to consider alternatives. After all, if you can do an MBA in India for a fraction of the cost with nearly the same return on investment, why would you go abroad? Or you may be wondering if the type of role and exposure you will get post-MBA could have been achieved by simply working an extra few of years (while earning all along).

Thursday, 30 October 2014

College or MBA Admissions Interviews Coming Up? Some Useful Tips

You might be getting ready for your interview with admissions officers, other university representatives or alumni in preparations for your studies abroad. While the purpose of the interview is to help a university better understand where an applicant may fit into the campus environment, it is also a wonderful opportunity for you to ask questions, convey your sincerity and things that can’t always be put down on paper. 

Some useful tips and reminders we often share with our clients…

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Angel B. Perez Says Apply To A College Early Decision Only If You Are Absolutely Sure

At Pitzer, we grapple with how many students to admit early every year.  While we want to leave enough room for students who find Pitzer through the Regular Decision process, we do find that there are significant benefits to admitting students through Early Decision.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Oxbridge Applications

Originally Published in The Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Students interested in applying to the UK’s prestigious Oxford and Cambridge Universities (aka: Oxbridge) must hand their applications in by today (Oct 15th)! Once the application is submitted the next step in the process is to figure out whether an exam is required for the course to which you have applied. Testing requirements and dates vary by course so check this requirement carefully.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Transfer Applicants

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

At the age of 17, college students are young and inexperienced, which sometimes leads to uninformed or hasty decision about education after 12th standard. But not to worry – even if you have started college in a subject or at an institution that leaves you uninspired, you may still have options abroad as a transfer student.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Global MBA Programs Are Mixing It Up

Applicants to top MBA programs abroad are already scrambling to get their materials organized. This year the process starts earlier and involves a slightly different set of components than in years past. So, what’s changed?

Unique Programs Offered By Colleges

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

If you are planning to study in the US for a bachelor’s degree, putting together a list of colleges is not an easy task. The standard advice is to choose around 8-12 colleges with subsets of “Dream, Target, and Safety”. While this and other conventional wisdom, will lead students and their families to tried and tested colleges, I would like to share some more interesting options. 

The Use Of A Test

Originally Published in The Hindustan Times Education Supplement

In India there are so many different tests, that often we forget to ask about their varying uses by the institutions which evaluate them. Whether it is the CAT, JEE, NEET, CLAT or even ICSE and HSC board exams, these tests are primarily used for entrance or placement. That is, a particular score acts as a cut off – if your score is below a certain number, you cannot be admitted. For the most part, the tests in the US and UK are not used in this way – they are only one data point that is used in relation to several others to determine admissions. The names themselves indicate that the scores are assessing aptitude or achievement at the point when the student takes the test. They are not entrance exams; rather they are used as an indication of a student’s capacity for a particular level of academic work.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Take An Expert's Advice

Originally Published in The Hindustan Times Education Supplement

As parents and students begin to ponder the future, many families wonder whether they should hire a private counselor or take guidance from a third party to help plan their education. The answer to this question varies for applicants in different situations. For example, most MBA or graduate students applicants seek outside advising to substitute as a mentor through the application process – someone who can weigh-in on recommender choices or program selection and overall congruity between career goals and educational plans. For undergraduate applicants, however, families often require guidance on both the big picutre as well as the nitty gritty of applying, financing and lifestyle considerations.

Learn the Lingo

Originally Published in The Hindustan Times Education Supplement

A lot of lucky students are about to embark on their adventure to study abroad. The next few months will be full of new experiences and friendships, as well as cultural faux pas. For those headed to the US for studies, I’ve solicited a list of unique word usage from a couple of students who have been studying there for the past two years. Below is a primer on some of America’s campus-related idiosyncratic language usages, which can be quite different and confusing to an Indian student. This should provide some guidance for students and a trip down memory lane for any parents who have ever lived or studied in the US.

Colleges Information

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

I often repeat that there are thousands of colleges to choose from across the world. And there is a ‘right’ place for every student. Furthermore, there are multiple modes of discovering which college is right for you. Thankfully the internet now offers incredibly helpful information at our fingertips. But the rich and replete information offered online also sometimes has the effect of flattening out the differences between various colleges, especially for a student who has never visited a college campus.

Get Started On The Essays Now

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Previously I wrote about how MBA applicants need to focus on balancing their commitments at the office with the work required for applications. The same is true for undergraduate applicants, but the scheduling process is slightly different.

Campus Safety Abroad

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement.

Recent news about the tragic mass killing at The University of California at Santa Barbara unsettled those with an eye on higher education abroad. As an alumna of this notoriously scenic university, with its freewheeling, peace-loving ethos I have been especially rattled. We are all asking, how a young student, who is at one moment exploring new ideas and environments, making friends and living it up in the prime of his or her life, can suddenly be shot down in cold blood by a deranged, bitter maniac? There has of course been much said about the state of gun control and mental healthcare in the US since the incident. And of course there is a great need to address both of these serious issues, but on the minds of many students (and their families) who are heading abroad for studies after the summer is the question of campus safety.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Common Essay Mistakes

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

A lot of applicants plan to spend their summer working on essays. These are an important component of every student’s complete application package and the more thought and time that goes into writing them, the better. Students who start early are able to try out different stories, refine the telling of those stories so that in the end they represent an applicants authentic voice as much as possible.  Rushing through the process of essay writing and submission results in incomplete expression and a superficial view of who the applicant really is. As all admissions representatives repeatedly emphasize, the essays are the only part of the application where they really get to know the applicant as a person, beyond the numbers, scores and resume. Understanding what matters to each applicant, how they spend their free time, where they have faced their biggest challenge or success, helps to differentiate one applicant among many.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Planning For Your MBA

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

It’s the height of summer applicant aspiring to do their MBA abroad are getting serious about applications for the end of the year. But applications are due sooner than usual with Harvard Business School as the first out of the gate with a September 9th deadline. Other applications are due starting in early October and for many programs the essay questions have already been announced. With these compressed timelines, the stress on young professionals who want to pursue the valuable MBA credential is higher than ever.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Post-Bachelors Degree Plans

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Finished Final year Bachelors, what to do now?

It is that time of year, when I hear from many students who are finishing their final year bachelors and planning for further studies abroad. Concerns of recent graduates range from ‘I am totally confused’ to ‘I know exactly where I want to study, but I do not know what steps to take.’ I have outlined some basic steps that students should take to understand what options are available.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Latest news on The New SAT

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

News has been buzzing over the past week with reports and analysis of imminent changes to the SAT. Last week, David Coleman, President of College Board, which owns and administers the test, revealed the details of the proposed changes. In the new version of the test, the writing section will be optional, scoring will return to a 1600 point scale, guessing will not be penalized and the content of the verbal and math sections will be revamped to reflect more practical material.

March Waitlist Strategies

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Over the past few weeks many applicants were notified that they have been offered a spot on the college’s ‘waitlist’. For some this is a sign of hope – it is not a rejection. For others it is a torturous postion – limbo between yes and no. Whatever your view, the main question is what an applicant should do if they find themselves on the waitlist of a college they want to attend.

Deeper College Visits

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

As summer approaches many families are planning to visit college campuses abroad. Whether you are touring a foreign country and visiting every campus where you hope to apply, or you are just stopping by a nearby campus while on a family holiday, you are one of the lucky few with a unique opportunity, so be sure to make the most of it.

Application Agents

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

There have been a few stories in the news recently about the rampant cheating and forgery of international college applications by Chinese students. According to reports, China’s single child system produces highly competitve, anxious parents with rising incomes, who are preyed upon by aggressive agents that promise to take care of all the requirements for the college application. These agents practically guarantee success and all the parents have to do is pay the fee for service. Furthermore, it is argued, that while the US percieves the falsification of credentials an egregious violation of the honor system, Chinese families see nothing wrong with it because it has always been culturally acceptable/required to cheat. Of course all of these explanations reduce the problem to simple cause and effect and misaligned cultural value systems, which if eliminated, would make the problem go away. 

Interpreting Results

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

At times the admissions decisions of foreign universities can seem completely random. The process is so opaque that it practically suggests a silver lining to India’s cut off system – at least you know where you are getting in and why.

Foreign Education in India

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

At times the admissions decisions of foreign universities can seem completely random. The process is so opaque that it practically suggests a silver lining to India’s cut off system – at least you know where you are getting in and why.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Back to Basics

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Sometimes I find myself so caught up with helping students through the study abroad application process, that I forget to address a basic question – why should an Indian student study abroad in the first place?

Each student has his/her own reasons for wanting to study abroad. Let me go through some of those in brief.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Medical Studies Abroad

Originally published in Hindustan Times Education section

I get a lot of questions about medical studies abroad. Whether it is for residencies or questions about undergraduate medicine courses, the fact is that these are difficult to answer because the system of medical education in India is, in many ways, very different from the rest of the world. 

Interview Prep Part 2

Originally Published in Hindustan Times Education section

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about preparing for interviews. After talking to a few people who have gone through the process, I realize that my advice needs some more detail. Here are some specific questions that you might expect in college, MBA or scholarship interviews.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Red Pen College Tours!


We're hitting the road!

Join us as we explore colleges on the
West and East Coasts of the United States. 

US university tours custom-designed for Indian applicants
Departures in May and in June 2014
An open mind and a sense of adventure

The Red PenIndia's premier boutique university admissions advising service, is pleased to announce US college tours this summer in conjunction with Thomas Cook India. The tours are ideal for Indian students who are considering undergraduate studies in America.

On this Travel & Learn Program, The Red Pen's experienced counsellors, Kim Dixit and Kavita Mehta, will accompany students on campus tours, arrange admissions information sessions and facilitate meetings with current students to give a first-hand experience of campus life at some of America’s most popular institutions. Kim and Kavita will also address unique issues faced by Indian applicants during tailored workshops before, during and after the tour. 

Two tour itineraries are being offered - the West Coast and the East Coast.  The dates are continuous - making it easy to participate in one or both tours.

  • On the West Coast check out Stanford University, University of Southern California, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles, University of California-Santa Barbara, California Polytechnic State University and the Claremont Colleges. West Coast Tours start on May 10 and June 7.
  • On the East Coast visit Harvard University, MIT, Boston University, New York University, Columbia University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Amherst College, University of Massachusetts, Drexel University, Swarthmore College and Rutgers University. East Coast Tours start on May 20 and June 17.
*Note, specific institutions are subject to change. 
Check out the brochure for more details.  Space is limited! To reserve your spot, call 022-6609-1212 or email travel&

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Fostering Independence

Originally Published in The Hindustan Times Education Section
I’m not a parenting expert and I have no training in child psychology, but as a person who gives advice to college applicants on how to succeed, the topic of raising responsible and and self-reliant adolescents seems appropriate. I see too many 15 to 17 year olds who are eager to attend the best colleges, but who have never been allowed to make a single mistake or take an independent decision. These children are “packaged” by the time they apply to college and colleges are not interested in perfectly packaged students. They are interested in students who can handle life’s realities.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Study in Canada

originally published in The Hindustan Times Education section

At a recent MBA college fair, I met several representatives from Canadian universities. Though I am from the USA, I knew very little about the education system of our neighbors to the North. In the session I collected some compelling facts about studying in Canada. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Top 5 Things You Should Always Do For An Interview

Originally Published in The Hindustan Times Education section

Interview season is upon us. Some early applicants have already had interviews, while others are preparing for calls after the new year. Top 5 things you should always do for an academic interview.

Why College X?

Originally published in The Hindustan Times Education section

Many colleges abroad ask you to write an essay about why you want to attend their program. “Why Princeton” for example, is a particualry daunting one. These questions are also sometimes combined with questions about yourself, e.g. explain “why you have chosen Carnegie Mellon and your particular major(s), department(s) or program(s).” But all these types of questions require the same deep and insightful research on the part of the applicant. 

Timing Your College Applications

Originally published in The Hindustan Times Education Section

December 31st has a special meaning to applicants planning to study in the US in 2014.  The general perception is that unless you are applying early decision, you submit your applications around December 31st and then wait until the end of March to get your decision. Well, the reality is that there are a bunch submission opportunities before December 31st that can yield good news long before March 2014.