Student: Stepping Stone by Saira Khan

Over the past few years the United States has implemented essentially what is a student exchange programme in Pakistan that allows up and coming Pakistani students to study in America.

Implemented by the United States Education Foundation in Pakistan, the programme offers a wide range of scholarships and financial aid. Working as an Educational Advisor with the head advising team in Karachi for the USEFP, Sabrina Moheet is an integral part of this programme. When a student comes to you looking to study in America, how do you decide where to place them?

As an Educational Advisor, I meet with students and discuss their academic as well as professional goals. Once I have a better sense of where they see themselves in the next ten years or so, we select universities and programmes that are best suited for the candidate.

Once the universities have been selected, the student and I then begin working on each component of their application (i.e. essays, application, standardised test preparation material, identifying the best recommendation writer, etc). After being admitted into their universities, our organisation then helps students prepare for the visa interview. We offer mock interviews as well information sessions with US visa officers. In your opinion, what is the biggest hindrance in studying abroad for Pakistani students?

Chatting with applicants, I often hear them complain about the lengthy process that is associated with admission into an American university. There are several components to the application, but students must understand two things: one, this helps our admission committees in the US make a decision as to whether or not to ac cept a student given the ‘complete picture’ in stead of a few test scores and transcripts. Secondly, we are trained to help students identi fy universities that are better suited for them and then we guide the student as they complete each step of the application.

For many students the biggest obstacle after having been admitted into the university is fund ing. Such students should look into programmes like Fulbright Scholarship which fully funds all costs associated with the educational programme (tuition, transport, rent, etc.). In exchange, stu dents must come back to Pakistan upon gradua tion and work for an equivalent number of years in Pakistan to help develop the country. What are a few things students should keep in mind when applying to a school in the US?

Students absolutely must know their dead lines. It’s unfortunate to see students scramble into our offices in search of a university that will accept them into their programme, two months later. We advise all students to start planning for colleges/universities nearly 18-12 months in advance. The visa alone is now taking four to five months. Students must calendar in deadlines and be mindful of these as they proc ess their application.

Regarding college essays, what do you think is the biggest mistake a student can make when writing one?

Just recently, a student asked if I would recommend a book to her that would elaborate on college essays. Days later, she came in to see me with a draft. I was horrified. Her essay was almost exactly like one of the samples that were provided in the book. Students should be aware that admission officers read thousands of essays and are well-trained in their profession. Plagiarism is simply not tolerated. How important is the essay?

It is hard to quantify the importance of the es- say in the admissions process. When I was ap- plying for my masters to Cornell University, my mentor/coach had told me that on the average, one-third of the application weight is given to the essay. If you deconstruct the admission application, almost every part of the application has a qualitative value with the exception of the essay and letters of recommendation. Both of these documents add a far more personal dimension to the application. When writing a college essay, what should students focus on?

As simple as this may sound—the most common mistake our students make is that they fail to address the topic directly. Most universities give students a word limit. For instance, if the word limit is 500 words, many students will spend nearly 350 words setting up their story and then cram the actual an swer in the remaining words. Finally, being able to craft the essay creatively is also a critical component. Any tips on college essays?

Start early. If students start early, they will have more time to draft and re-draft their written sample.

Courtesy: Dawn, Pakistan – Sunday April 04, 2010

About Ahmad Amirali

I am an educator by profession, pursuing my further career in teaching and learning. I love to read and, even more, love to share what I read.
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