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Starting Early

Starting Early

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.


While families typically focus on college admissions after 10th exams have been completed, these days some parents start thinking about college as early as grade 8. This is the time when students in some international schools have to make a decision about boards, curriculum or changing schools. But what can you really do at grade 8? It is possible to settle on a stream or course of study (e.g. arts, science, commerce and further drilled down to engineering, medicine, etc.) and ensure that the chosen curriculum is well suited to the students goals.


However, some families find it stressful to decide on a career trajectory so early (at 14!). If you are in this category, don’t worry, nothing is ever set in stone. You can change your mind later. Competitive colleges are mainly looking for students who took the most challenging courses offered in their school and made the most of the available opportunities and resources.


Some other important early preparation tips to follow are: 1. Write, 2. Read, 3. Talk. Writing is a weakness for almost every Indian student I have worked with. Developing a habit of written expresion early is the best advice I can offer. Approaching college applications with confidence about writing the required essays will make the entire process less stressfull.


Reading as much and as widely as possible will expose students to good models for communicating their own ideas. By all means stay up to date on topical Indian news and periodicals, but also read up on global news and ideas (The Economist and TED talks are 2 great sources) which will help you cultivate a broader perspective. You can practice your writing in the voice of your favorite authors and experiment with your own voice long before you have to finalize your college essay.


At this early stage it is also important for parents and students to talk to school administration, counselors and teachers about study abroad plans. The school is a crucial ally in this process so nurturing a supportive relationship is key. A recent article outlining the advice of renowned college counselor, Katherine Cohen, elaborated her emphasis on the importance of teacher reccomendations. In a seminar Cohen explained that  “Early on in high school your children should find a teacher they like and go that extra mile… They should spend time with that teacher, cultivate that relationship. Let that teacher know what they’re interested in. They should be enthusiastic in class, add to the discussion, speak up—help the teacher make that classroom an exciting place. Each and every day they should ask themselves, ‘How am I contributing to this class?’ And spend time outside of class with the teacher, if that’s possible.”


So while it may seem important to set children up early to perform well in their exams and decide upon a future course or study, it is the softer factors of developing relationships with teachers, expanding the students perspective through reading and practicing essential written communication skills that can ultimately make the difference in college admissions.

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The fundamental role of independent educational consultants is to help students explore college opportunities and find the right place for them to succeed academically and socially. IECs don’t get students admitted—they help students demonstrate why they deserve to be admitted at appropriately chosen schools. They help students find colleges they might not have heard of—often out of their region—and they help students put their best foot forward.

Here are 5 things families should consider when looking to hire an IEC:

  1. Does the IEC belong to a professional association such as IECA with established and rigorous standards for membership?
  2. Do not trust any offers of guaranteed admission to a school or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships.
  3. Ensure that the IEC adheres to the ethical guidelines for private counseling established by IECA.
  4. Find an IEC that visits college, school, and program campuses and meets with admissions representatives regularly in order to keep up with new trends, academic changes and evolving campus cultures.
  5. Do they attend professional conferences or training workshops on a regular basis to keep up with regional and national trends and changes in the law?