Episode Title: COVID-19 & Beyond. Nitin Jain of Oncourse on Counseling for College Applications. Part II.
Episode summary introduction: Every year US Colleges accept over quarter of a million students from all over the world. As high schoolers eye their future and try to navigate the uncertainties wrought by COVID-19 and unrest, they are looking for guidance.
College Counselor Nitin Jain, Co-founder of Oncourse, India talks about the impact of COVID-19 on College Counseling.
In particular, we discuss the following with him:
Topics discussed in this episode:
Memorable Quote: “”
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Transcript of the episode’s audio.
Every year a quarter of a million students from all over the world make their way to the US for college.
As high schoolers eye their future and try to navigate the uncertainties wrought by COVID-19 and the unrest, they are looking for guidance.
The aspiring students turn to College Counselors in their local towns and cities, hoping the Counselors to guide them and offer them a steady hand, as they chase their college dreams.
Here is Part II of our conversation with Nitin Jain, Co-Founder of Oncourse, a successful college counseling service, based in Gurgaon, India. Nitin shares his counseling experiences counseling students in India, South East Asia and the Middle East.
Over to Nitin!
So let's switch gears a little bit and come to the present or the present day challenges, right? I mean, so we've got this huge Coronavirus pandemic raging across the world now, the globe, and it's changing things in quite dramatic ways.
So I wanted to kind of get a sense from you as to how the counseling business is impacted and how it's changing. And what are your thoughts about how it goes forward when you know what's work... you know, what has to change? What doesn't, what is not impacted? That sort of thing.
Right, right. I'm glad you bring this up. Because obviously, when the whole situation unfolded, the first couple of weeks, we were all sort of wondering how is this going to work out? What are people going to do?
You know, but as things have evolved, we've noticed that things are settling in as far as this business is concerned. In fact, there is a lot more realization that, in fact, students and parents need this even more than before. I think, just the fact that they need a lot more advice on the different options that may be available.
In fact, it requires a lot more experience and ability to integrate various issues together. So it's no longer just a conversation about which college is the best, and where I need to go. I think you need to integrate it with macro-economic events, you need to, you know, integrate it with options available across continents, you know, you need, you need to be flexible in your approach, and therefore a lot of awareness, a lot of ability.
So I think parents do realize that they need engagement. They cannot have a scenario where they can do it themselves. Clearly, because I think the variables have changed even more, made it more complex. So the way we look at the counseling business, I think it's here to stay options. It's a temporary phenomenon that all of us hope you're dealing with and and given that it once the initial sort of thing settles in, I think students and parents would be back to kind of explore a lot more options this time round and not just one country specific.
Now, is there the question, the other part of the question is, is it scaring off people? Are students, parents that initially might have been gung ho? Are you finding that they are, you know, a little less enthusiastic, probably not at all, about studying abroad or is that you're not finding much change there.
Initially, there was a lot of skepticism. So if you ask me for the first two weeks of the lockdown and everything, there was just just a lot of, you know, momentum towards it, especially with the seniors coming back from the US and everybody talking to them. But I think as more and more time has passed, and students-parents have kind of sad and engage in a lot of online content, whether in school or otherwise, they're aligning themselves with this, I think, I think the fact still remains that they recognize this as a temporary phenomenon. I think they feel like eventually they will need to explore options outside India, because the demand supply situation in India specifically is heavily railed against them. Therefore, they do, do recognize the need to go.
I think what will become important and what is seeming like after talking to a lot of parents is the sheer fact that they need to generate more and more options. I think they need to be flexible they need to and which is why they they're talking to us the class of 2024, for like the fall 2020 going people are really, really talking, and so it's the next year actually, the 2021 admission cycle pitfall is also talking a lot. But I think to your point I feel they, they recognize the need that this will going on, studying abroad is likely to stay there for a long time and they just need to adapt themselves, initial shock apart.
And sometimes, it may be an opportunity more than anything else to get in now because you might have lesser competition, for example, because fewer people are applying to from other parts of the world.
I think there's a divided house there. And while I I agree with some part of it, there is also some part of me that tells me that, and this is coming after talking to the students who are leaving, who's supposed to leave fall 2020 - the number of deferrals are certainly going up. I don't know how colleges will react to the option of, you know, flexibility of offering the number of deferrals.
So we see that number increasing, given that the number of spots for international students for fall 2021 maybe a little bit curtailed, it may be balanced with a slightly lesser number of applications. I don't know how this whole thing will play out next year, but which is the reason I feel one needs to be flexible in approach, try and apply to a whole category of schools, not just be fixated on some of the top schools, but try and sort of hedge yourself across...
I agree. I agree. I mean, the, the biggest thing is, depending on how far 2020 turns out, you know, if it's online, bunch of people might take a pass, and then in that case, you know, 2021 becomes crowded or they may come back and spring. I mean, at this point, colleges are all over the map as well. So there's really no, no clear understanding of how it one it is…[going to turn out].
You know, you can't blame them Venkat, because I think there is lack of clarity, but I think colleges have made one thing very clear whether they do an Online term and start in spring, or some of them are even proposing a change of academic calendar where we may, we may see a slight delay in the start and making that up through the summer. And you know, the concept is well, initially people are talking of gap years deferrals, but a lot many students and parents actually are not convinced of sitting at home for one year, given the lack of opportunities a typical deferral or a gap year does provide in India, right. I know, back in the US for you guys, there are a lot more opportunities people would have for gap year.
So I think eventually, my sense is a lot of students and parents would align themselves to an online term or a slightly delayed start and fall 2020 should augur well now that's the hope.
That’s probably true. I mean, I think also gap here means that you can do something and chances are you won't be able to do much, except stay at home and you know, maybe do some online stuff in which case, it's probably not worth taking that, you know, that year off.
So, so very good. Um, I think that we've sort of covered the main topics we sought to cover. Is there anything else you'd like to add? Anything? Anything... Any other insight or point ?
Yeah...one of the things which is close to my heart in terms of ...and you know, that's one of the things you even touched upon and was in terms of how do you set expectations with parents and students?
I think that, that, that that's an area which, which something is always a point of debate that does come out when students and parents say that “Listen, I want to go to the Ivy Leagues only, I can also deal with the Stanford, MIT, Caltech” in the same breath. So, So given that I think that's an area where we need to extensively figure and work out with the students and parents over a very long period of time.
I think every time there's a milestone cross, we set up the next milestone and figure out what has been left out.
You know, what one of the other concerns that I've had is that very often parents and students don't view fitment into a college as seriously as I do for a brand. And and that's the other challenge, you know, because as you would recognize, I think the mapping of what kind of college works for you, whether it's a smaller liberal arts college, whether it's a city college, or remote location works or not, are you okay with 40,000 students on campus versus being a smaller fit. So a lot of those discussions also need to sort of happen with the student, they need to do talk to alumni of those students, which is all what we do as part of our engagement as well. And that setting expectation is the large part of the journey the counseling bit, which often gets lost out in...
...And it's also that I know, that is that is one of the toughest things as well. I mean, it's very difficult telling a 16 year old, something like that, right? I mean, if it is that, hey, this is probably not the right school, these are the other ones. So, you know, it is very tough. And at the same time, you have to be, while you want to make sure that you ensure success. You also don't you know, want to be sure that you don't lead them down the garden path. So,
No, absolutely. And data helps Venkat.
So, you know, having worked with over 1500 students over this period, right and every last class we have almost 200 to 300 data points about what worked, where did it work? This profile, similar can get into business schools, these are the kind of weakness offers they got. I think sharing and collating data and doing analysis on that also helps considerably in sort, of setting that expected.
Of course, of course. Science and data, absolutely help.
Okay, fantastic. Hey, this was awesome. I really appreciate your taking the time and doing this podcast for us. So I will, you know, process it. And we'll, we'll get it done.. Thank you very much
Thank you very much for, thank you very much for hosting. And I hope you found...
No, it was great. It has been great. And I'll be in touch and you know, definitely. We'll talk more on some of the other topics which we couldn't get into, but for now, take care and be safe.
Right. All right. Thank you. Thank you Venkat.
Hope you enjoyed Part II of our podcast with Nitin Jain of Oncourse. I particularly enjoyed his perspective on the impact of COVID-19, as well as his insight on College Fitment for students.
Thank you so much for listening to our podcast today. If you missed Part I of Nitin Jain’s discussion on the Immersion Approach to College Counseling, please be sure to check this podcast out.
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