Against all odds

– Samarth, Vanderbilt University

To say that Samarth’s academic journey has been challenging is an understatement. He grew up in Pathankot, a small rural town in northern India where 24/7 electricity and Internet access is still a dream. A lack of both resources and finances prevented him from participating in science and technology enrichment activities. To all outward appearances, Samarth was limited by his circumstances.

But the challenges did not deter Samarth from pursuing his passion for science and technology. He made a brave decision in 9th grade to leave his family and live independently in the city of Chandigarh to avail of better opportunities. Here, he affiliated himself with Panjab University’s physics department where he worked on an upgrade project for CERN’s Compact Muon Solenoid. Samarth was the youngest member on this team of brilliant minds, and he wasted no time imbibing their knowledge!

In 11th grade, Samarth had to return to Pathankot. Remarkably, he decided not to give up on the project in Chandigarh. So, every weekend Samarth would take a 10-hour long bus journey from Pathankot to Chandigarh, making sure to be back in his hometown in the early hours of Monday morning to go to school.

Samarth’s efforts have not been in vain. He was accepted to Vanderbilt University, USA on a full scholarship! He advises prospective applicants to be positive, work hard and take the time to write essays that are personal and compelling.

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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?