Gen Next Education works with hundreds of high schools across India and the Middle East, providing a range of services tailored to their needs. These include, but are not limited to, providing support for existing college and career counselors on staff, or serving as in-school counselors, or preparing students (and families) for college through virtual or face-to-face workshops along with one-on-one advising. As representatives of universities across the globe, we also act as a conduit between students and those higher education institutions.
Full-time counselors and the administrators or those staff members carrying the responsibilities of college and career counseling atop their other duties are critical partners for Gen Next. They are also our mentors and colleagues, serving as wellsprings of valuable knowledge and insight. Our Spotlights are intended to shine a light on the counselors–whether official or de facto–in our network doing the essential and often unsung work of preparing students for their future studies and careers. Through this platform they will also share some of their go-to strategies and resources.
Ms. Shikha Vij is the College Counselor at Step by Step School in Noida. She has eleven years of professional experience and is constantly updating and expanding her knowledge and skill base. How does she stay up-to-date on university admissions? Ms Vij pointed to a number of accessible resources, including articles on Inside Higher Ed, the admission blog from Georgia Tech, niche.com, and College Confidential.
Step by Step, a private school with over 2200 students, runs three curriculums (CBSE, IGCSE, IB). The majority of its students seek out higher education opportunities in India and/or abroad. According to Ms. Vij, students interested in study abroad are increasingly drawn north. “Ireland is the flavour of the year due to proximity to India, no standardized test requirement, internship opportunities, and post-study work visa options.” Other popular destinations for Step by Step students include the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe, UK, and Singapore.
As with any post, college counseling offers both challenges and rewards. “Getting parents to think beyond rankings” tops her list of challenges. But those challenges are forgotten when she is able to help a deserving student into a right-fit college.
We all know the critical role that parents play in the college selection and application process and require a different tack than students. When asked how she on-boards parents as partners in her advising, she cited, “[c]onstant discussions.” According to Ms. Vij, it takes tremendous effort and even debates before parents understand that each student has their own path and college journey.
“Parents also have their own anxieties. I encourage the parent to do their own research and share resources with them so as to allay their fears.” One example of this was when a parented expressed concern about the diversity context of a European university. Ms. Vij was able to connect them with an alum so that they could obtain answers to their queries. “One needs to remember we are all on the same team.”
For parents at Step by Step, financial-aid and security rank as top concerns. We have no doubt that Ms. Vij is effectively leading both parents and students through the often challenging, occasionally worry-inducing, and always exciting process of study abroad.
Stay tuned for future Spotlights on counselors doing the important work of supporting and guiding students as they make weighty decisions about college and career. Whether your primary responsibilities center on college and career counseling or you are wearing it as an additional hat, please know that Gen Next is here to help you. Send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or would like more information about our services.
NOTE: The above interview was conducted in February of 2020.