BusinessIamA professional college admissions consultant from the United States. I spent six months in India helping high school students apply to American, Canadian, and British universities. AMA!
Mar 4th 2018 by AppHelper • 30 Questions • 55 Points
I am Ben Stern, founder of IvyAchievement, a college admissions consulting company. I started the company in 2015 helping people on Reddit (/r/ApplyingToCollege and /r/CollegeEssayReview) and TopLawSchools. I secured a round of funding for my company in April 2016, after a successful admissions cycle. I traveled to India May-July 2016 to get a better idea of Indian families' needs and give presentations at hotels and schools. I returned to India in November 2016 to work one-on-one with clients throughout the American college application season, which is mostly done by February. I took a third trip to India in October 2017 and stayed until mid-January of this year, spending the vast majority of my time assisting students and their families with applications.
I've spent a total of around eight months in India; two mainly marketing and six mainly working directly with families. I've visited Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Kanpur, Jaipur, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Bangalore.
In addition, I've helped students from Kochi, Ludhiana, Bhubaneswar, Raipur, Patna, and a few other cities remotely. I have been hired by NRIs (non-resident Indian citizens) in Indonesia, Singapore, the UAE, Bahrain, and Hong Kong.
I've written several blog posts about my observations in India and what I learned there:
One of my professional goals is to help families by shedding light on the international admissions process. To that end, I assembled an international financial aid guide, the first to combine international financial aid and admissions selectivity data. I also conducted a survey and analysis to determine how competitive the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign is for Indian students seeking to study computer science there (it has one of the most sought-after programs). I report my results here. And because CS is so popular with Indian and other international students, I generated a ranking of computer science programs based on employment outcomes. In general, I like to apply a blend of qualitative and quantitative analysis to admissions strategy.
My clientele is not limited to Indians and my expertise is not limited to international admissions--I've had clients of various ethnicities and countries of origin, including China, Singapore, Italy, Belgium, Azerbaijan, the United States, and Canada.
A few notes about this AMA:
- I attended Columbia University and Yale Law School, so feel free to ask about those as well!
- Don't expect an answer to "chance mes" ("here are my grades/scores/extracurricular activities, what are my chances at xyz universities?"), "reverse chance-mes" ("here are my stats, please recommend some universities"), or requests to compare specific colleges/programs. But if particular questions of that type get upvoted enough, I may answer.
- I'm doing this AMA here rather than /r/ApplyingToCollege because I was banned there for some controversial (and honest) positions. In any case, I think my experience is unique and would be interesting to a general audience. I don't think any American professional admissions consultant has spent as much time in India or dealt with as many Indian families as I have.
Proof: Website contact page
Edit 5am IST: In case you're wondering how I have so much time to spend on this AMA, it's that most of my clients (and prospective clients in India) are in the middle of exams.
How rigorous is the Indian school curriculum as compared to the American counterpart (AP)?
Your question comes with a few assumptions I'll address before answering. First off, there are multiple Indian school curricula, and exams are conducted in 10th and 12th grades. The curricula are set by CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination), which administer tests nationally, and individual state boards, for example Maharashtra (where Mumbai is located) and Tamil Nadu (where Chennai is located).
Second, the AP isn't exactly a "counterpart" to the Indian curricula. Many high school classes are built around the AP curricula, but the AP doesn't serve the same purpose.
CBSE math is roughly as advanced as Calculus BC, but includes topics besides calculus and differential equations. CBSE English is nowhere near as rigorous as AP English Language or Literature. English essay composition is not taught or tested and original literary analysis is not encouraged (there are pre-defined answers that examiners are looking for).
Because of they way they're graded, it seems board exams take more time to prepare for. Every percentage point counts in 12th grade board exams, which is different than the 1-5 scale that gives some leeway.
I encourage admissions professionals to review the curricula of applicants. I may add some links here later. I don't think a good summary of the curricula compared to AP or IB exists, and that's something I'll look into doing.
Edit: changed calc AB to calc BC.
Have you considered the market for Myanmar as well?
We have a lot of rich(relatively but some can be Megarich) students who don't actually attend a US curriculum schools but answer A levels.
Fewer than 1,000 undergraduate students go to the US from Myanmar, so it's not a particular market I've explored, but I'm certainly willing to talk to you and anyone else interested. Basically, if I get three clients in a place I'll visit. This year I spent three weeks in Bangalore this past season because I had four clients there and it's a good market.
I am from India and I am really freaked out for my CBSE board exams . Do you know of any students being rescinded from their ivy league ED college for two or three scores in the 70s but an average in the high 80s? According to you, what score do you think is bad enough to raise red flags?
I don't know of any such rescissions. However, I had a client with a score in the mid-70s who got a warning letter from an Ivy League school he already put a deposit down on. It was really scary.
An average in the high 80s will be ok. How would you have three scores in the 70s but an average in the high 80s? That is mathematically impossible unless it's like three 79s and two 99s.
The client you're talking about, who got into penn, got in for the class of 2022? How many applicants get into penn with financial aid from India?
Yes, ED. The number is not high, but I expect it to be higher this year. Penn is need-aware, but it's increased its financial aid budget for international students from countries other than Canada and Mexico (for which it is need-blind).
Dartmouth is officially need-aware, but its international-student financial aid award statistics are comparable to the need-blind schools. In addition, they promise to match any "peer school" (officially Ivies but also the top New England LACs), which is the kind of thing a need-blind school does. Because of this, I encourage international applicants to apply to Dartmouth with aid. Last year, three of my four clients who applied to Dartmouth got in, and both who applied for aid got in and received offers.
I don't expect Penn to be quite as generous (their budget still isn't nearly as big per international student as Dartmouth's), but this year I was more willing to suggest applying for aid at Penn. I've had three clients get into Penn this year (one from India, one from the US, and one from Italy). The one from India who got in is also the only one who applied for aid. We'll see what happens with my RD clients!
Why do colleges send out likely letters? What does it mean to get and to not get a likely?
Sending likely letters is a way to recruit. Everyone wants to feel loved and desired, and a likely letter does just that! It gets kids excited about the school and more likely to get into the mindset of attending before they get their other acceptances. That's why they're especially used for athletes, STEM students, and minorities.
How would you say gap years in general are viewed for international students? More specifically, gap years where a student will work to earn money. Is it better to take a year of regular study in the specific home country before applying abroad for instance?
In an AMA I did on Facebook, someone asked what the result of a gap year is. My answer:
More maturity, less stress, and a better college application.
If you enroll in a college, most schools in the US will require you to apply as a transfer. This is significantly more difficult than freshman admissions. It's much better to work.
Can you chance me for unis if I pm you my stats and ECs? Please?
Ghanaian here . Have completed undergrad BA computer science and management, please what is possibility of getting a fully scholarship for US, Europe , UK , Canada. Could you assist me ?
Hi! Such a thing is certainly possible and would depend on several factors. You may sign up for a consultation on my website.