Applying to universities can sometimes seem very complex but in reality, it’s very simple. You just have to fill in a few forms, collect some documents, sell yourself as a student to the university in about 500-600 words, and have 2-3 important people, who like you, say good things about you. That’s all it really is, in simple terms.
A lot of applicants, like yourself, are in dilemma as to whether or not they need a counselor. Honestly, it’s a matter of personal choice. I will highlight all the services that a counselor helps with (in my experience). You can decide whether or not you really need a counselor.
So, to start, a counselor is a person (working for a company or individually) who has experience in the education sector. This means that they have been dealing with applications, essays, university requirements, etc. and can help present your profile in an appealing way to the admissions officers. They are especially useful for someone who has a weaker profile (no judgement, we’ve all been there).
The fundamental task of a counselor is to get you an admit and this is what they advertise about themselves as well. They tweak your profile in a few places to put you in a better light. This list is a gist of all the tasks a counselor helps you with:
- Finalizing your course (if you’re not sure)
- Finalizing universities for you based on your preliminary profile
- Finding the tests you need to take and setting target scores for you (in case you haven’t taken your competitive exams till then)
- Once you have obtained the scores, they help you make a final list of universities.
- Check all the requirements for all the universities.
- They help you write your essays and letters of recommendation. This is the main reason a lot of applicants consider counseling. More about this later.
- They handle application form filling and keep track of any supplemental essays or documents needed.
- They keep track of all your admits and rejects, and help you decide your final option.
- They also help with scholarships.
- And finally, they help with the entire VISA process.
Basically, they are there to hold your hand (figuratively, of course) from start to finish of the application process.
Despite all this help, the major tasks are still to be done by you, like collection of documents (like transcripts) from your institute and asking for letters of recommendation from your professors and/or managers. The average fees taken by a counselor is INR 15,000.
Now, I will tell you how to do all of this on your own as well. This part includes some shameless Yocket-promotion, but I can’t help it, I really liked their tools :P
- You can take up aptitude or career quizzes to help you understand your interests. There are a lot of free resources available online that have proven to be very useful.
- Based on your courses, search for the top universities and note down their requirements. Make an excel sheet to keep track of everything, from university details to to-do lists and everything.
- Give the competitive exams such as GRE and TOEFL/ IELTS with full preparation.
- Use Yocket’s Grad School Finder to help in finding universities based on your profile. Refer to this article to find out how to use the Grad School Finder.
- You can then start filing applications for the universities that you have finalized. There are a lot of factors to keep in mind before finalizing your universities, but we shall keep that for another article!
- Essay writing is not a difficult task. On most university websites, specific questions will be written as a basis on which you can write your essays. Again, there are a lot of free articles on the internet to help improve your writing skills. A lot of individuals free-lance in just SOP and essay writing. So, this is a cheaper way to ask for help if you feel like you need it.
- Filling forms is pretty straightforward. In case you do get stuck, you can check out Yocket Discussions and find peers who will help you with the doubt. Or you can simply write an email to the university asking for help.
- You can keep track of your admits/rejects via your email address or the university portals. I recommend making a new email ID for the sole purpose of admissions so that any important emails are not missed.
- You can search for scholarships online or on the university websites. EducationUSA is a free resource available for US applicants. They help with a large part of the application process as well.
- The VISA process also can be done by you. It’s not very difficult. Refer to 1-20 and Visa articles by students who have experienced the same.
As you may have observed, almost everything that a counselor does, can be done by you. Incase you feel like you’re too busy with college or at work or just simply cannot do this on your own, you can by all means go ahead and hire a counselor. It is completely up to you as an individual.
Seems like you have a bit of brainstorming to do. Go ahead, consider all factors and make an informed decision.