Are counselors a must while planning to study abroad ?

With globalization becoming worldwide phenomena, and global compatibility becoming more of a norm than an exception, the purpose of going abroad to pursue higher education is no longer succeeded by a “why” but a “how”. What role do consultancies play in helping students pursue their education abroad? Is it an absolutely a must?
The question should would better read as “ what role should consultancies play “.

The purpose of a consultancy is not limited to just getting students admitted to an institution of higher education abroad. Given the vast number of apparently enticing quick fix choices on offer, it has become imperative to be highly selective about the destination country, the institute and the courses on offer, else there is a good possibility that a student may find himself in a redundant career after having invested a lot of time and money in the venture. One should learn to distinguish between agents and consultants. An agent is one whose chief source of income happens to be the commission he gets from the universities he has ties with, thus his loyalties and are more likely to lie with the institutions abroad rather than the student in India.

A consultancy or consultant is more of a career maker i.e. it should offer solutions that do not cater to just short term needs but should take into consideration the long term perspective, that is future career prospects, student aptitude and interest and in short advise students about the best course of action rather than the easiest course of action, because often the end result of the later is frustration.

The efficacy of a consultant must not be judged by its ability to produce admits with least input from students, students should be made an active part of the process providing constant inputs and feedbacks.

The major purpose of consultancy is value addition. So while choosing a consultancy the focus should be on the actual benefits he/she stands to gain rather than the ad-ons. In other words the experience, knowledge and credibility of the consultant in question, but credibility being a matter of perception therefore the student should go about with an unbiased mind. For example many consultancies like other businesses, high light success stories, but twenty students with full financial out of the two thousand who availed their services does not speak of a great record, rather go for a consultancy where for example 50% of the twenty students acquired financial aid, even if the number of students enrolled were comparatively paltry. Second they should look for a personalized consultancy service, often enough, the entire process of consultancy becomes a check list of assembly line processes, with each process adding little value to the application, there being no concerted effort to build the student as a brand and focus on his/ her USPs. A strict appointment system does not always work in such cases because more often than not numerous course corrections are required before applying, the consultant should be at hand to advise.

Where well established consultancies score over students going about it on their own, are in their vast experience of interaction with thousands of students over the years, because often enough a students source of information happens to be his friend or family circle which is often limited. The inputs are often colored with personal perception and a tendency to justify ones own mistakes by blaming it on extraneous factors, for example the highly erroneous impression that US visas require a twenty to thirty lack bank balance for six months, else it is impossible to come by.

The other factor is analysis, a consultancy with its vast resources and well established network not only draws on data and facts, but also analyzes them to arrive at the real picture. For example, “studying abroad especially in America is an extremely expensive proposal and is not meant for middle class students”. Analyzing the figures officially released, there were around 80,000 Indian students who flew to USA last year to pursue their higher education. Now it is a commonsensical point that majority of these students happen to be from middle class families with parents in service, it is inconceivable that even 10% of these aspiring students let alone 80,000 will have had twenty lack to splurge for education, because this amount often happens to be the life’s savings of an entire middle class family. It may sound surprising but children of State Transport Bus drivers, second grade clerks in MTDC have successfully completed their degree from the US of A, and to clear up the point they were average or above average students, with their parents having no “additional” sources of income.

The answer to the second part of the question, as to whether consultancy is necessary, is It is not a must for any student merely seeking to get away to any country and any institute as long as it is outside India. But it is a must for any discerning, serious, career oriented student, because the repercussions of the smallest of decisions are often felt many years down the line.

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