Career counseling fills in what some schools leave out
* Not all schools in Karachi offer college or career guidance which can be a daunting process to go through for any teenager
By Tooba Masood
KARACHI: Asad Ali of the CAS School claims that most students don’t aim lower than Oxford or Harvard universities, only the cream of the academic world.
But chances of being offered admissions to these seats of learning are as slim as some of the waists teenage A-Level students (including boys) sport these days. What happens to the rest of the student body? If you know you aren’t going to get into Oxford or Cambridge, how do you choose from the other array of options?
“While many of us will be offered a place at university, a majority won’t be able to get in without proper college counseling,” said a Bahria College student.
College applications - such as the combined Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) form for the UK - are usually just the tip of the iceberg. Choosing a good school which you can afford and which offers the right subjects and is located in the right place is the first headache. A headache college and career counselors usually help you deal with if you are lucky enough to have access to them.
There are many schools in Karachi that do not provide college counseling. “Our school doesn’t,” said Zohair Syed from the Karachi Public School (KPS), adding that they are instead referred to the British Council or encouraged to email the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for help and assistance.
It is thus no surprise that the US, UK, Canadian and Australian education authorities are investing more in approaching students in Pakistan. On Saturday, the British Council, Pakistan organized on such session at a local hotel where a sizeable number of students, mostly medical and engineering hopefuls, turned up.
Walking around the main hall with his mother, private student Syed Mustafa Ali said that the session had opened a window of opportunities for him and his fellow students. “As a private student it is difficult for me to coordinate with the universities. Counseling sessions help students like me [who are not in school] understand university requirements,” he said.
According to BCP Karachi Manager Rakshanda Khushal, the British Council has always tried to help promote education among Pakistan’s youth. “We also tried to promote studying abroad on radio shows such as Ace Encounter with Fasi Zaka on Radio 1 FM 91,” she said.
Perhaps an indication of just how important foreign students are for the UK was the presence of British High Commissioner Robert W Gibson at the session. “I have just come back from Iraq,” he said in his speech. “It is interesting to see how students in Iraq work hard to get into good universities. In the same manner, students in Pakistan work equally hard to get admission in a good university.”
He also explained that UK degrees are very “flexible”. “I didn’t earn a degree in Law or Sociology but in Zoology,” he said. “The UK has always enchanted students from all over the world. Our target this year is to attract 100,000 students.”
For some students, the counseling sessions are an opportunity to inquire about scholarships and grants as not everyone can afford an international BA degree. “We work very hard, not just to get admission but focus higher on scholarships,” said Farwah Sharif of the Lyceum School, adding that he felt it was important to have a good college counselor at school.
The City School’s Mustansir had also turned up to find out about scholarships and felt that after attending he had a better idea on how to handle his applications.
The British Council session also attracted teachers such Physics lecturer D’Souza who turned up to find out about Science and Technology programmes he could later inform his students about.
“Young Pakistanis make up a huge percentage of the student population in the UK,” said BCP team member Martin. “It is important for them to be aware of all the pros and cons of the situation.” Part of this effort involves inviting alumni to give the students perspective on university life. “I think the British Council trying to help students who are really focused in life. When I was going to university such facilities were not available. We had to research and apply ourselves now the students are guided through step by step,” said Saima a University of Bath alumnus.
But, as expected, not all students went home happy. Naheed from Bahria College and Syed Khan from Karachi Public School felt that while the effort to reach out to students should be applauded, they were not entirely impressed. Menaal went as far as to say that the counseling session was “quite useless”. “Everything was too general,” she argued. “They only focused on students applying for Science subjects. What about those who want to major in history or politics?” Others students such as Rida Salman agreed with her assessment, claiming that the session should have had more information on scholarships.
Nonetheless, some teachers who attended the seminar were very pleased as they claimed that their schools did not have enough information about university applications. “This is something we have been waiting for. Around the age of 18 or 19 a student is not very clear headed about what they want to do. Sessions such as this help them decide and gain focus,” said a Bahria College teacher.