Gen Next Education’s team of college counselors are seasoned professionals strategically located across the country to serve the unique educational and advising needs of students and families in both India and the Middle East. They also function as liaisons to and extended team members of our university partners. Our Spotlights provide a platform for them to share a bit about themselves, what’s trending in their regions, and what drives their passion for international education.
Based in Delhi, Ms. Palak Chugh has been at Gen Next since 2017 and covers our northern region, which spans Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttrakhand, Delhi-NCR.
TELL US BRIEFLY ABOUT YOUR ROLE AT GEN NEXT.
My main responsibilities include providing college guidance counseling to high school students; building, maintaining and sustaining high school relationships and counselor network, implement GNE’s career development program: Blueprint for Success (BFS) across high schools in India.
It should be noted that Palak is also a seasoned veteran of our signature recruitment program, India Calling. Universities interested in connecting with the students and learning firsthand about Palak’s region, check out our events calendar.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT WORKING AS GEN NEXT EDUCATION COUNSELOR?
I have always believed that as a counselor, you are learner for life. The opportunity to be a part of every student’s journey is very fulfilling. You end up dreaming, aspiring like them. Their goals become yours and their failures are also yours. Its one big family and in the end some of these students also become good friends.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?
Everyday there is a new challenge and that is what makes our job as Career Counselors fascinating. One of the main challenges that we encounter on a daily basis is to break the stereotypes that continue to exist in the domain of International Education, as they have the power to influence the impressionable minds of our students. Myths around exploring the option of studying abroad- grades not being good enough, safety, expensive education, not getting placed etc. need to be addressed with the utmost sensitivity and confidence. Real-life examples are often shared with students and parents which enable them to reflect on any preconceived notions.
WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING IN THE NORTH?
In addition to interest in the US and Canada, I am fielding more questions about higher education and availability of scholarships in European countries, Singapore and Australia. It’s exciting to be able to help students with all of these avenues.
Secondly, an increasing number of students want to explore some unconventional career paths like in the Fashion Merchandising, Fine Arts, Film Making, Sports Management. This is a shift from past trends where fields in math and sciences really dominated.
Finally, parents are very keen on knowing how to develop a ‘profile’ for their child- in terms of having the right internships, community service projects, extra-curricular activities. They want to start planning in advance as they think this might fetch more scholarships or will help secure admission at their preferred university.
WHAT IS ONE QUESTION YOU GET ASKED MOST OFTEN BY PARENTS? HOW DO YOU RESPOND?
One of the most common questions or concerns parents have is – ”Will my son or daughter get a job after completing their degree?”. The basic response to this question is that almost every university has a career center which helps students get access to information about several internships and jobs. At the same time, various job fairs are held on the campus and the student can then truly take advantage of this opportunity and present themselves to prospective employers. It is important that parents here realize that students will have to work hard in their 4 years of education not only academically but also in building up their professional network and employability. Doing internships, participating in university club/societies, doing research work will all work towards building their portfolio.
WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE STUDENTS/FAMILIES BEGINNING THEIR STUDY ABROAD JOURNEY?
There is no substitute for hard work. Also, be adaptable. Moving to a different continent, experiencing a different culture, interacting with people coming from different walks of life can be overwhelming. One must be adaptable, accepting and optimistic to deal with these life changing moments.
Simultaneously, parents need to cultivate self-sufficiency in their children. Independence is the key and the sooner the student learns to conduct his/her life, the better it is.
WHAT DO STUDENTS AND PARENTS OFTEN FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY APPLICATION PROCESS? HOW DO YOU HELP THEM OVERCOME THIS CHALLENGE?
Shortlisting of universities is perhaps the most challenging aspect in the entire application process. Parents and students often tend to include universities based on its ranking, popularity or hear-say. As Career Counselors our job is to make them understand the concept of ‘best-fit’ university. A student needs to include universities where s/he would benefit from and could add value to classroom discussions. An in-depth research goes around the universities then- their admitted class profile, faculty, research opportunities for international students, career placements, and then an evaluated decision is made to finalize the university list for each student.
WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU READ THAT YOU WOULD RECOMMEND TO A STRANGER?
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics by Tim Marshall. It uses these crucial ten maps to talk about significant geo-political strategies that govern the world we live in. As a fan of history, politics and geography, its a must-read to truly understand borders, leadership, international relations and wars, especially in today’s day and age.
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE YOUR STUDENTS TO LEARN ABOUT YOU?
That I love to paint and I am a hoarder for scented candles and bookmarks!
THANK YOU, PALAK, FOR YOUR CANDOR AND VALUABLE INSIGHTS INTO YOUR REGION AND THE STUDENTS AND PARENTS YOU COUNSEL.