Blog 15

What Is The Price You Pay When You Don’t Pay A Price

Over a year ago, a parent and acquaintance called me to understand what kind of career counselling services we offer at LifeVidya. I explained to her in detail about our focus on clarity, self-awareness, contextual understanding of the family and the current occupational environment, and how our effort is to help the parent and teen feel more aware and empowered. I also shared about the book that was published in 2022 talking about the real-life journeys of many students and young people we worked with in the past few years.

Get your copy of Helping Our Teens Land On Their Feet

There was a long pause at the other end of the call. Sharing parts of the conversation below.

Parent: “But can you pls tell me the name of an actual career counsellor?”

Me: “What is an actual career counsellor according to you?”

Parent: “Someone who builds student profiles, helps draft the SOP (statement of purpose), works on letters of recommendation, fills the forms and you know all that! All the form and paperwork for admissions.”

Me: “Hmm… Does your daughter know what course or career she wants to pursue?

Parent: “No, she is very confused. The only thing she says is that she wants to go abroad!”

Parent: “I will be frank with you. She is a very average student; has trouble concentrating and studying; has not really shown much interest in extra curriculars etc. Me and my husband have very busy careers so we cannot really sit down and help her, though we do try, and we really love her. So, I need someone to help with all the paperwork etc.”

I understood her predicament as a parent, and I knew that as a professional this was not something LifeVidya encourages students and parents to work on.

There is an underlying request for a student profile makeover without the real effort and grit that it takes to do genuine internships and accumulate knowledge and experience.

The student was studying in an elite, high profile school in a north Indian metro. There was pressure to go abroad and study and a preference for foreign education over the Indian systems that many students find very uninspiring. I could understand the parent and student journey; however, this was not aligned to LifeVidya philosophy. So, I made the following suggestions to her:

  1. Please try to help her find what she is keen to pursue as this will be a significant investment of time, money and energy for all of you
  2. Please encourage her to build her profile as per the course requirements genuinely, this will build her confidence, emotional resilience and help her excel in her field later.
  3. Please try to apply directly at the college website as they have admissions counsellors online too and the process is quite streamlined though it will mean you doing some of the paperwork etc.

The parent never got back.

We politely said our goodbyes and I could read another layer of the social problem of teens lacking emotional resilience. The truth is we are all being programmed into accepting only quick fixes to our problems.

Except that in many cases, the problem just got bigger, or the problem got postponed. Here are the possible next steps:

  1. Teen goes abroad and enrols in a course at the tender age of 17 years in a culturally alien environment. The parents are economically very well off and the teen has a great time as they don’t need to work part-time jobs etc. It is a great exposure and learning experience for them. Often, they return to family owned or financed businesses. (Fortunate scenario if the teen likes the choice of careers or course)
  2. Teen goes abroad with some funds, tries to find part-time jobs to earn and fund part of their education. After learning life lessons, a lot of grit and hard work they find careers or jobs. (What many middle-class parents and teens aspire for)
  3. Teen goes abroad and finds himself or herself emotionally unable to cope with the workload at school as well part-time work. Teen breaks down and might want to fly back feeling lost and stressed. (Frequently observed and very traumatic for the teen and parents)
  4. Teen goes abroad and finds that the course is not to their choice, somehow it was packaged and sold well and now they are stuck, want to return. (Often observed and very traumatic for the teen and parents)
  5. Teen completes the degree course successfully, has a good time, but finds that the institute or college is not very recognised or given much value for employment. (A more recent phenomenon and traumatic for the teen and parents)

Teen goes abroad to find that the letters of admission were fake, and it was all a scam as the agents were unscrupulous imposters. (Very traumatic for the teen and parents)

Click here to read a newspaper report on the fake admission racket.

Let’s look at the all-too-familiar scenario when we look for admissions abroad. You may come across an ad that looks like this…

Misleading Admission Ad

Many such ads are placed by people who call themselves career counsellors, but who are in fact admission agents.

Many of these agents may have commercial tie-ups with universities abroad vying for students from the Indian market to pay international student fees.

They work on a commission-based system with the universities and ensure their students get admissions. The students and parents feel quite satisfied as they have got rid of the paperwork, stress and outsourced the problem to an agent.

Can you outsource psychological assessments and conversations to individuals working on a revenue sharing model with an educational institute? Isn’t there a conflict of interest looming large here? Many agents posing as career counsellors offers these services free due to institutional affiliations and commissions.

Now, think when you don’t pay any price to receive the assessments, admissions, and profile building services of a career counsellor, what is the price you are really paying in the long run?

Is this person really a career counsellor or an admissions counsellor/agent? Are you part of an admissions target for a university or institute? Do you really stand to benefit? Please pause and think…You may be the student being bought!

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