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2nd Innings at College Counselling

“What college do you go to?” – an urban-millennial version of asking “what do you do?”. Urban high school seniors are obsessed with discussing which University they will be spending their years after graduating high school. They take pride in talking about their offers from Princeton and Cornell, whilst their friends listening might be feeling anxious not knowing where they would end up attending college. The boom in Indian students wanting to study abroad is a recent phenomenon. Specialized and off-beat courses, thinner populations and better work opportunities, it’s no surprise that young and driven high school seniors are packing their bags and looking to take their career fleets offshore! Meanwhile, as more and more students are graduating high school with top grades and admission into Indian universities has become more competitive than ever, cut-offs are set at 97%, or even 98%. Where were the rest to go? In the past decade, these factors have come together and stemmed the rise of a new and lucrative industry in India – College Counselling.

And with no surprise, several former foreign university graduates have set store to bite a chunk off this booming industry. As an experienced graduate from a premier educational institution in the UK and having some tenderly experience counselling underprivileged students in India as part of my Educational Management NGO, I saw myself ready to jump into the pool and be a part of this niche market of counselling India’s study abroad aspirants. Soon enough, I began my journey as a college counsellor. After all, it is a reasonably straightforward model to adapt to, isn’t it? Ask the client for their grades; build their profile; get them to take their SATs; reach out to college coaches or academic admissions offices, and voila! – you have for your client an offer to study at a premier foreign university! Right? Wrong.

Including everything from beauty schools to Harvard, there are around 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States alone. And this is the cornerstone of most college counselling shops in India – that no matter what, they will get their client an admission somewhere – not forgetting that it will almost always be backed by an incredible sales pitch of a stress-free college counselling ride straight to the Johnston Gate at the Harvard Yard. Of course, you are not allowed to ask how many of their past student-clients actually found their way to a top academic brand-name school or received a high athletic scholarship at an NCAA Division 1 or 2 school. Premier international educational institutions receive excessive and extremely competitive applications in every admission cycle. Without ample expert oversight on your application or a constant development of your profile through the application building process, your application would not get picked out of a pool of other hundreds of similar applications for your dream University. The modus operandi for most such counselling firms is to pick up the details from A – the client, and make sure it gets passed on to B – the University. A dictionary would define someone who operates like that as an agent, but isn’t it interesting how their websites claim they are counsellors? Just a few months of being in the industry, I realized that it was not exciting to be a part of the 3-star service club. I have witnessed friends and colleagues become victims of irresponsible and overpromising counselling services, and it is startling to see how most of these service providers don’t realize how sensitive their industry is. A poor educational counselling service could potentially offset a bright career. I was convinced that I wanted to make a transition to a premium and rewarding name in the business, so to say, a “Ritz Carlton” amidst a bunch of Holiday Inns. Therefore, I was constantly tracking rival companies in the industry and saw a stellar pattern of one single firm’ Credo -Addedsport. Genuine care for their clients, strong emphasis on premium personal service, and taking a proactive interest in the constant development and growth of their clients. Soon enough, I became a part of team Addedsport. I was excited to see how a company sustained such a stellar record of getting over 500 student-athletes placed whilst earning a scholarship value of over $10.6 Million for their clients. With successful admissions in schools like Harvard, Stanford, Princeton & Yale, and an average scholarship rate of 65% for their student-athletes, I was desperate to learn the secret to the firm’s success. Within a few weeks at the firm, I had my questions answered. The company functioned on a set system of rules and templates that serve as the foundation for their student-client’s success. The company had a team of specialists for every role, and before they were allowed to interact and contribute value to any client’s engagement, each one was rigorously trained for their roles by the leaders of the company themselves. AddedSport was setting fortnightly goals for each of their engagements – making the usually intangible process extremely transparent to track. The company believed in making the subjective process of client servicing in counselling as objective and tangible as it could get. At every point, the client and their parents were thoroughly briefed, informed, and completely familiarized with the progress, and were therefore aware of where the client stood in terms of the application process and the next steps for the coming week – both for the company and the client. The extraordinary nature of client communication was sometimes overwhelming even for the clients themselves! Not something you usually hear in the service industry, right? Exactly. The supremacy of their service is therefore also evident in their market share; their admissions record; and their rate of serving siblings and friends of former clients! You wouldn’t let your loved ones dine at a Holiday Inn if there’s a Ritz Carlton across the street, right? My experience at Addedsport has taught me that there was no hidden secret to their excellence. They were stellar simply because every peg in the wheel was dedicating a hundred percent into the process of ensuring success for their clients. Because for the team at Addedsport, they do not see college counselling as just a business, it is their passion, and they live it every day!

Karan Sharma Business Development Associate