I woke up a little earlier than usual because it was going to be a busy day at work. An early morning outreach visit, advisees in the afternoon, and a college-search workshop to wrap up the day – a little bit of everything that makes EducationUSA what it is.
A Department of State network, EducationUSA promotes U.S. higher education among students all over the world by offering accurate, comprehensive and current information about opportunities to study at accredited post-secondary institutions in the United States. That morning I started my day doing exactly that.
My colleague and I travelled to Wah Cantt, an hour and a half outside Islamabad, to talk to high school students about how they can go about pursuing higher education in the U.S. in five easy steps: 1) do your research, 2) arrange your finances, 3) submit an application, 4) apply for a visa and, 5) study in USA.
Students in Pakistan often have misconceptions about how difficult it is to apply to American universities; they have reservations about how they would be received as Muslims in America; they have concerns about whether their qualifications will hold merit in the West; but most concerning to me is how students in Pakistan have often been misled and misinformed about how one can game the application processes for American universities.
EducationUSA advisers look to address these and other concerns that prospective students may have during outreach to school campuses. At Wah Cantt, students were concerned about finding the right schools to apply to and confused about why one shouldn’t apply exclusively to Ivy League schools. They also desperately wanted clarity on exactly what it is that an American university looks for in an admissions essay.
“They want to hear your story in your admissions essay,” I said, “Identify your strengths and showcase them in your essay.”
Pakistani students are often so used to being judged entirely by their grades and test scores that they often forget that having talent, ideas and passion can be just as helpful for getting admission to an American university as a good SAT score. We wrapped up our outreach in Wah by plugging a follow-up essay writing workshop the following month and made sure that interested students had someone at EducationUSA to talk to about all the facets of their application to a U.S. university.
Back in the office, I had an advisee waiting for me. Asim was one of the very first students I advised when I joined USEFP in August 2017. I worked with him from start to finish, through the entire application process, and today he needed me to take one last look at his list of universities to make sure he was applying to schools where he could legitimately expect some level of financial aid. I had worked with him to research universities and come up with a balanced list of universities, helped him develop a timetable to meet the necessary deadlines, and identified resources for him to use to prepare for the GRE. During our sessions we talked about which professors he could get recommendations from and helped him through seven drafts of his personal statement as he struggled to share his larger-than-life ambition in less than two thousand words.
While all of that is standard, run-of-the-mill work for an EducationUSA adviser, the beautiful thing is that he told me that I made his dreams possible. Imagine that – I figured I was just doing my job. It’s hard not to feel good about yourself when you can believe that what you do can really make a difference in someone’s life.
Prospective students have a certain energy about them which can be infectious. They’re looking to follow their dreams of a Western education. They’re looking to explore life and take on new adventures. Most of all, they are people with purpose.
Education in Pakistan is a funny thing. If you look at the numbers, you will see that there is a critical shortage of teachers, schools, supplies and institutional support for students, but at the same time the numbers also show students with perfect SAT and GRE scores, not to mention perfect MCAT scores. A lot of students I’ve engaged with and advised are hardworking and determined and have been successful not because of their schooling, but despite it. It is these same students that have inspired me to find my own purpose – to help promote international education in Pakistan.
USEFP operates EducationUSA Advising Centers in Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi, which are part of a global network of hundreds of advising centers in more than 170 countries around the world supported by the U.S. Department of State. All of USEFP’s EducationUSA advisers have first-hand experience of studying in the United States and provide accurate, comprehensive, and current information for no cost about how to apply to U.S. colleges and universities through one-to-one advising sessions and various programs and events addressing the application process.
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