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14August2014

Take An Expert’s Advice

by 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.

For graduates, if a good mentor is available at work or among seniors who have recently gone through the application process, an outside counselor may not be needed. The most important components for getting through graduate applications with sanity (and hopefully success) are diligence, planning and realistic time-lines. Some applicants can execute all of this on their own, but others need external support to help stay focused.

 
For undergraduates, in cases where students are enroled at a reputable international school, a private counselor is not usually necessary and is sometimes even prohibited. If the school has assembled an accomplished team of counseling professionals, then families should feel confident that the student is in capable hands. Excessive anxiety about whether school counselors are misguiding students is not productive. Try to establish an open dialogue with counselors at school so that everyone’s concerns and perspectives are understood early on in the process.
 
In situations where the school or junior college does not have an experienced and accessible college counselor, a private counselor can clarify concerns about the confusing process. Whether helping families prioritize college choices or understanding logistics and processes of the application, an outside counselor often acts as a support system that gives comfort to families who do not have experience with higher education outside India. Counseling professionals can leverage their backgrounds, networks and experience to help relieve anxiety and give students and families the confidence to navigate the process.
 
Another common scenario that might require a private counselor is if a student has taken a gap year or wants to apply as a transfer student. In this case the student may not have ready access to the college counselor from their previous school and external support can be quite valuable. A professional college advisor can help students understand additional requirements, as well as help ensure that materials are not left out – e.g. recommendation letters, transcripts, school counselor reports, financial documents, etc.
 

Whatever your situation, if you are considering outside help for your application, do your homework. Professional counselors should have a demonstrated track record and be willing to share references. They should not write essays or recommendation letters (a counselor’s handiwork can be easily identified by admissions committees if essays all start sounding too similar). But most importantly, when choosing a counselor, trust your instincts. If someone doesn’t appeal to you, move on. No matter how popular a counselor is, if you cannot develop a rapport, the relationship will not be fruitful. In the end a counselor can only help you showcase what you already have, so find the one who believes in you. 

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2 Comments

  1. Donna George

    Hi thanks for the advice; there is always a confusion among students as to what career path they should choose. However, this post simplifies the overall task of education planning.

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