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Episode Notes | Transcript | AskTheGuest

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Michelle Setiawan of Sekolah Lentera Indonesia: Guiding Students to Colleges Abroad.

Episode summary introduction: This episode sheds light on college-bound students at Sekolah Lentera Indonesia, a K-12 school, who are looking to study abroad.

Michelle Setiawan, who is a College Counselor at the school, gives us an overview of the school, the students, their college choices, and how Michelle & the counseling team help students navigate the college application process.

In particular, we discuss the following with her:

  • About Sekolah Lentera Indonesia (School) and Students
  • Where do SLI students go to study abroad?
  • College Counseling
  • How students choose the destination country
  • Resources available to Counselors

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Introducing Michelle Setiawan, Counselor at SLI [0:36]
  • SLI School & Students [4:18]
  • Areas of College Study and US Destination Colleges [7:02]
  • Counseling at SLI [8:59]
  • Why do students pick the US? [12:59]
  • Resources available to Counselors [14:53]
  • The US College Application [16:31]
  • Impact of COVID [23:01]
  • Close: Uncertainties [25:46]

Our Guest: Dian Michelle Setiawan is University Guidance Counselor at Sekolah Lentera Indonesia (SLI). Michelle has been a part of the SLI university guidance counselor team for 3 years. Michelle got her undergraduate education in Seattle University, Seattle, Washington.

Memorable Quote: “So sometimes lining up students and the parents, expectations of things are hard. And, yeah, that's probably one of the things that I am still struggling with.”

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

<Start Snippet> Michelle  0:12  

For the majors out there, usually preferred to pursue is, business is the one of the top one. And also the STEM is becoming more and more popular. Engineering and Mathematics are rising in the last three, four years.

Venkat  0:36  [Introducing Michelle Setiawan, SLI]

Today we are going to Indonesia to talk to Michelle Setiawan who is a College Counselor at Sekolah Lentera Indonesia, a K-12 school in South Jakarta.

This is a unique opportunity to get some color and insight into college-bound students at this school who are looking to study abroad.

Michelle gives us an overview of the school, the students, how Michelle with the counselling team guides students through the college readiness and application process.

We also get a peek into, how and why, students and parents choose their destination countries and colleges.

So, without further ado, here’s Michelle Setiawan!

Venkat Raman  1:27  

So let's get started. Let me start by welcoming you to our podcast, College Matters. Alma Matters. Very, very excited to have you on this podcast. Would love to hear all about what you do. And how you're helping students in Indonesia, find their homes in different parts of the world, at least colleges in different parts of the world. So, so maybe the best place to start is maybe a little bit about yourself. Tell us who you are, your professional background, and then we can dive into all the stuff that you do.

Michelle  2:11  

Alright, okay, so first, let me introduce myself. My name is Michelle. I'm currently working at the Sekolah Lentera. It's in Jakarta. And I'm part of the university and the counseling team here in the school. So I used to study in Singapore and the States prior to working, spend about six years in Singapore doing my high school and then moved to the States to pursue my bachelor's degree. I did finance and marketing. When I was for my bachelor in Seattle, yeah. Yeah. So that's a little bit about me.

Venkat Raman  3:01  

Sure. And then after that, what do you do? Did you go back?

Michelle  3:05  

Oh, yeah. So after that, I graduated 2008. So that's when the US market crash? Yes. Yep. tough time, looking for a job and state. So I went back to Indonesia, I first I work in a developer company, doing housing and properties. Then, after I did that for about five years. Then after that, I moved to work in the school. And at first, I was doing more on the marketing, since it was my background, too. Then I joined part of the counseling team, there are three of us, including the principal to and one other counselor. So first, I learned from looking, learning from them, then eventually helping the students too right now.

Venkat Raman  4:09  

Maybe you can tell us a little bit about the school then. Sure. And a little bit of history and give us some sense of the students as well.

Michelle  4:18  [SLI School & Students]

Right. So again, Sekolah Lenetera, Indonesia is a school in Indonesia. It's located in the south Jakarta. And we've been in existence since 2001. So it's been 20 years ago. And it's the curriculum that we're using here is Cambridge. So we're a part of the Cambridge International examination center. And so we do IGCSE and A level for the certification of the high school. And so that's our program.

And yeah, mostly Our students go to the States, or Australia or UK, that's the most popular destination of our students who graduated here. And yeah, we're a fairly small school, about four or 500 students from grade one to grade 12. 95% of them being Indonesian and 5% of the students body is from different countries, India, Japan, Korea. We do actually have quite a few Indians in our school.

Yes, so coming back to the Cambridge, they do a IGCSE and A level. I know it is pretty rigorous. It's part of a rigorous program, too. So once they they're in university, they, they are able to adjust pretty well, to the system of where they are doing their degrees.

Venkat Raman  5:55  

Now, what's the background of the students in general? I mean, I know you mentioned that tonight, what percent of them are Indonesian? Other than other than sort of nationalities or ethnicity? What kind of maybe even economic or other kind of background?

Michelle  6:14  

Oh, yeah. So mostly is middle upper, middle high class as a nation, not in terms of Finance? And, yeah, some of their parents are also they did study abroad to some of their parents. Yeah. Yeah. That's one of the reason why many of those students wants to go abroad when they're pursuing for their degree. So that's the financial background.

Venkat Raman  6:50  

Are they you know, generally interested in STEM? Or the liberal arts are a mix of that. What, what, is what is, sort of the area of study that you find most common?

Michelle  7:02  [Areas of College Study and US Destination Colleges]

Yeah, most common about, for the majors that they usually prefer to pursue is business systems, one of the top one. And also this then is becoming more and more popular. Engineering and Mathematics are rising in the last three, four years. Okay. That's probably the top two areas that they're their preferred to.

Venkat Raman  7:31  

What kind of colleges in the US do they typically go to, from there? What is typically, a class of you said 500 students K through 12? So it’s what 20-25 students per class, right? Something correct? Yes. Yeah.

So you know, we have a class of 20, let's say 20, or 25, What, what kind of universities do they go to in the US?

Michelle  7:56  

Okay. In the US, I think there's this stereotype from Indonesian students that they prefer to go to the California area, or one, if the East Coast is Boston, that's the two top cities or states that they prefer to go to so many of our students are in California. Seattle, is also a Top three place. Yes, is it on the west coast, it's the Washington or California and that's the top two states, and when it is in the east coast of Boston is like that top area with the students to go.

Venkat Raman  8:41  

Very nice. So they want to be on either coast. Okay.

Venkat Raman  8:50  

Give us some sense of what kind of experience you've had so far, you know, over the last few years, in terms of counseling,

Michelle  8:59  [College Counseling at SLI]

Okay, so usually, the process whereby we do is that we do hold a one on one or a group consult with our students starting from grade 10. So starting from grade 10, we get to know what they plan what, what they want to do. And we also talk whether their parents have a certain expectation for them to do. And we start narrowing down their options because it's usually pretty broad. When it comes to the students here. Their their options sometimes go to drift in three continents, like whether they want to be in Australia, where they want to be in the US or they want to be in the European, one of the European countries. So it does go quite a huge options. We try to narrow it down for them and help them to figure out where they want to go. And also sometimes we do talk to the parents Because parents do have expectations of their child, and they act to them in a middle ground of where is the best place for them to pursue their degree. And also their major too.

Venkat Raman  10:15  

Sure. I know that three of you provide counseling now, do students also engage outside counselors? I would call what we call private counselors, or do they just depend on, on you on your you and your team for counseling?

Michelle  10:33  

Okay, so here and only here, they call it the agents or? Okay, yeah. So the private counseling is called agents here. So some of them they do engage in outside counselors. Yeah, one of the reason is because they do help, not only with the application, but they also help with the housing and the visa process. So that's one of the reasons why they hire. And some of them they do work directly with the university or colleges itself. So it does give them a little bit advantage of if they it's, it's the university that they want to go to.

Venkat Raman  11:18  

What are the parameters that drive students towards the US or Australia or UK?

Michelle  11:24  

Okay, top three reasons.

Michelle  11:30  

First, it's gonna be the program that they're pursuing. Where is where they fit the best?

Michelle  11:41  

And also the financial. Yeah. Yes, financial is a big party.

Michelle  11:50  

Also, another thing that is pretty big right now is actually safety issue.

Venkat Raman  11:56  


Michelle  11:57  

Yeah. I think that's the top three reason, decisions.

Venkat Raman  12:03  

So for safety, are you talking COVID kind of safety? Or are you talking health safety or personal safety?

Michelle  12:13  

Well, COVID said, safety is big too right now. Yeah. And then personal safety for students of some of the parents here. They do. Like what I mentioned, just now they're they they studied abroad, too. So sometimes they're more comfortable in that certain area, because they know the area or they have some families there, or friends. So that's why they prefer to send their kids to places where they rough idea of word, how it's like, they're really full of it. They feel safe when they're sending their kids alone there.

Venkat Raman  12:53  

Absolutely, absolutely.

Venkat Raman  12:59  [Why do students pick the US?]

Is engineering and business considered sort of the top programs for the US, or how do you think students think of that?

Michelle  13:06  

Yes, yes, I think many of the students still do see you as as one of the best place to get education

Michelle  13:18  

The US is always renewing or their programs, and they're always adding new programs in their majors. So it's always one of the top priorities of where the students goes to for pursuing their degree.

Michelle  13:39  

And I think part of the process is when they're designing for where to go as the school program itself, whether they have the internship program after that, and then whether they have and how's, the program itself, certain school have are more practicals and certain school are more theoretical in terms of the way they teach. And yeah, they look into that. Some of them they do want to have working experience after de graduate. So yeah, that's one of the things that they look forward to.

Venkat Raman  14:19  

Absolutely, absolutely. So I guess the OPT program on the US would be quite attractive. Yes, for atleast the STEM and other people.

Michelle  14:30  

Yes. One of the things of course, that they're looking for.

Venkat Raman  14:37  

So that sort of brings up a question of what what are the different resources that you guys use? You know, as part of your counseling, what kind of tools and resources do you have that that you're able to use and how do you keep current?

Michelle  14:53  [Resources available to Counselors]

Okay, so, in online Of course, there's a lot of information. We do check out many of the university's website, we do talk to the admission officer that is, sometimes they do have admission officers here in Indonesia or Southeast Asia. So we do talk to them engage with them, they do hold seminars, and open houses for them to share new information regarding the university itself. And we also engage with the embassies. So yeah, with the American Embassy, those really and the UK embassy, we do have, like, gathering with them, in order to get more updated news about the situation of the country itself, and also the new process, or new rules that they have. And we actually do with the private counselors, the agents, we're actually very in touch with them. So some, some of the big companies, you're there a few, we we held workshops, for the students with them, so that they're able to share with them any new updates or new majors that is up and coming, or the new process of the application. I think that's the top three places where I could find information.

Venkat Raman  16:31  [The US College Application]

Let's talk a little bit about the application itself, let's say to the US. So I think one of the, one of the big things a lot of the universities here look for are the extracurriculars, for example. So what kind of things do your students do by way of extracurricular. What's you know, when do they typically start engaging in those kind of activities You know, in high school?

Michelle  17:05  

Okay, we start giving them more extracurricular activities, starting from grade nine itself. So many of the student events, we, we let them plan it out, we let them execute the events itself for them to learn about the leadership and for them to learn about teamwork and everything. And it will be good on their resumes to to have all those activities that they do throughout their high school. Yeah. And then we do have competition. So we join many competition like the Asian C8. And then. Okay, I skipped my mind, the debating competitions. That is, yeah, and we do have the we join many competitions, whether it's sports, whether it's for academics, for them to experience more. And one of the unique thing that we do here in SLI is that our grade 11 and grade 12 students have to find an internship or mentorship program as part of their requirement for graduation. Right. Yeah, it's one of the ways that we want them to learn more about the professional world or the things that they're interested towards so that they're able to get gather more information, and they're more firm when it comes to making decision of what to do.

Venkat Raman  18:41  

Now, in terms of sports, you obviously have all the facilities in school as well, right? I mean, yeah. Okay. Now, what about volunteering? Is there is that quite prevalent and big?

Michelle  18:56  

Yes, yes. Volunteering. So we do have our annual charity run. That's the whole school charity run. So even start, even the grade one students, they do have their charity events. Yeah, it's one of the things that we do just as part of the school to volunteers, and to help out our community. So yes, this is big, and it's some of the students they do create their own small organization, as part of their school student council team. To help out the community. One of the things that they just did recently is to donate clothes, books and food to orphanage nearby. So that's one of the things that they did this year as part of their community projects.

Venkat Raman  19:59  

That's pretty good. That's pretty outstanding.

Michelle  20:01  

Yeah, thank you.

Venkat Raman  20:05  

What are what are some of the challenges that students have with the application? You know, there's obviously picking colleges, there are essays to be written. What, what do you think, stresses your students the most in that process?

Michelle  20:22  

I think in terms of that, the essay is probably one of the big parts that stresses them the most. Despite them having probably outside help, or our English teachers are available for them to help check their essays. And as helping them to brainstorm and everything, it's still, I think part of the biggest challenge that they have, I think, is a confidence thing, right? They wrote it already and they think it's good, but you don't know whether it's good enough for the admissions officers!

Venkat Raman  21:02  

How many, how many colleges do you think a typical student applies to, in the US, at least?

Michelle  21:07  

In the US, okay, so I do ask them to do at least five to seven colleges to apply to practice seven, at least. And some safety schools, some schools that they know they can get in, and some dream schools that they want to. But some of them do apply to more. I know a student, actually a few students who applied to, like 20 colleges around the world. takes a lot of effort. A lot of Finance.

Venkat Raman  21:40  

Yes, yes. But you know, you have to do what you have to do.

Venkat Raman  21:50  

Do students typically apply for financial aid? Is that something that you see or not very often?

Michelle  21:56  

Yeah, in terms of being an international students, it's not the easiest thing to get financial aid, for scholarships to help their finance, but it's not something that is easily available to international students. So especially in their freshman year, is a lot harder. I think one day go to their sophomore or their junior at does the options does. It's more available. Yeah. Because of their grades because of their activities that they do. So yeah. It's more available once they reach to their second or third year.

Venkat Raman  22:40  

Okay, now, what do you what did you see, you know, with this COVID a situation? How has the application process been different last year? And this year? What, what kind of challenges that our students facing? What are the things that they have to overcome?

Michelle  23:01  [Impact of COVID]

Okay, oh, part, one of the things that changes during this COVID time is that some who have plan a prop to go abroad has to dampen that plans. And then these, some of them they studied in Indonesia instead because of the uncertainties and also the financial issues. And also, another thing is that they don't want it to be online, with different hours. Yeah. Because it This poses a lot of things right, when it's morning here, and then it's at neither, this creates a lot of hassle. Well, yeah, some of them, they do prefer to study in Indonesia first, for at least the first year or two, then if things get better than they, they'll look for university depth, their credits can be transferred to. So that's one of the different things that I see with the application this year. And then another thing that is a challenge with this pandemic is that many of the the standard dice test was canceled like that, yes, si t. And then some schools, this still requires that as far as application, so yeah, hinders them to apply to a certain University.

Venkat Raman  24:27  

Last year, out of the students who were accepted in the to us University. How many didn't go I mean, say out of, you know, 15 students got in, or how many how many did not did not go as and decided to do something else. Rather than be online. I think about 20% different their acceptance. Okay. Yeah.

Michelle  24:57  

I think but then again, still, because it's still ongoing, they might join and they're sure to because to postpone it too long, it's not too good to wait.

Venkat Raman  25:10  

We're sort of nearing the end of our podcast. I just wanted to see what thoughts are anything that you think we should talk about, that we haven't touched on? Something that, you know, challenges that exist or up, you know, what kind of things that you are not getting enough of what you're missing, by way of information or counseling. Anything that anything else that you want to share? I just thought I'd let you talk about it.

Michelle  25:46  [Close: Uncertainties]

Okay, so well, the things that as I think, especially this part, this during this time, the part that is missing is the uncertainties, I guess, with the many rules that are changing almost. On a sudden basis, it's tricky for us to counsel the students itself. And here, for example, as of today, Jakarta is in lockdown again. Okay, yeah. cases go up. So we're in lockdown again, then, like what I mentioned yourself, last year, the SCT was cancelled this year. No news has ceased. That's cancel, but you never know because of the lockdown. So that's the tricky part. When it comes to applying during this time, yeah. And then, of course, not being aware, or having a face to face. lectures, poses a lot of the decision making when it comes to whether to deferred college nowadays, or whether to just go and do online. So that's a tricky part. With the changes, that is also certain. Yeah. And also, I think one of the other challenges I know I mentioned about the parents just now. Yeah. And it's actually becoming a little bit harder. Nowadays, with all the many informations that is available, and yeah, with the problem with too many information is that it can sometimes confuse a seed right to pick up where to go or what to do. So sometimes aligning the students and the parents, expectations of things are hard. And, yeah, that's probably one of the things that I was still struggling with.

Venkat Raman  27:50  

That's understandable. So it's a challenge. In general, right, all counselors face that sort of challenge. So it sounds like your biggest challenge really is COVID related, right, all the uncertainties because of where COVID is, and it's, you know, in different situations in different states in different parts of the world. So till all that stabilizes, in some sense, there is going to be that uncertainty.

Venkat Raman  28:23  

You know, Michelle, this has been extremely, extremely interesting and beneficial, you've provided a great deal of information, a lot of interesting aspects to consider. And I just want to close with one thought that as part of our podcasts, we have done a lot of alumni podcasts for different colleges in the US. And that might be another resource that is available to you, to your students and your parents and everybody. So that's something to consider. So just thought I would share that information as well.

Venkat Raman  29:00  

So thank you so much, Michelle, I appreciate you taking the time, and I stay safe. You know, you just mentioned the lockdown, so stay safe, and I will talk to you soon.

Michelle  29:13  

Alright, thank you for having me.

Venkat Raman  29:15  

Sure thing. Take care. Bye.

Michelle  29:17  



Venkat  29:25

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Michelle Setaiwan.

Michelle painted a clear picture of how would-be International Students are navigating the college process and the role counselors play and the resources that are available to them.

I think there are some great insights that could help US Colleges with their enrollment efforts.

For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at [].

I want to thank Jemmy Chayadi from Jakarta Indonesia for connecting me to Michelle.

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on forward slash podcasts [].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit forward slash almamatters [] to check us out.

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

Podcast for High Schoolers, US Colleges, College Podcast, High School Counselor, High School Students, College Admissions, College Application, Extracurricular, International Students, Applying to US Colleges, International School, Jakarta, Sekolah Lentera Indonesia, Advice for High School Students.

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