Investigation: Beware of consultants!
Illustration: Gouri Nanda
What this correspondent discovered was shocking - most foreign education consultants tend to provide free counselling for specific countries, while charging a hefty fee for counselling if you are looking for some other country. Why is this? Read on to know more...
I was recently bitten by the study abroad bug, but was clueless about GRE, GMAT, which country should I select, which exam, when and how to appear, how much money do I need, etc. I had hundreds of questions! I browsed the internet and found thousands of sites but none provided the basic information I was looking for. But interestingly, all were interested in my contact details. After researching online for a week, I decided to contact a consultant.
I visited a few consultants’ sites, submitted my details and got a call from one counsellor within 30 minutes of submitting my details. He explained to me about his company and told me that he was booking my appointment for 11 a.m the next day at his head office.
I wondered about the phrase ‘booking appointment’. Is this a big deal?
Next morning at 9 am, I got a call from the same company reminding me of the appointment.
Wowâ¦I am in need of advice and here is the advisor who is treating me like a special guest reminding me about my appointment !
I reached the office at the appointed time. The conversation with receptionist went something like this:
Receptionist: Which country are you looking for?
Me: I don’t know any thing. I want to understand about countries as wellâ¦
Receptionist: Fir bhi koi country to socha hoga aapne? (Still, you must have thought about some country?)
Me: Nahin (No). I need basic guidance.
Receptionist: What exactly is your budget?
I’m thinking: why she is asking about budget when I am saying I need guidance. Anyway, I replied that I can pay 50 lakhs rupees.
Receptionist: Good. Fill this form and wait for your turn.
In the waiting area, I found myself surrounded by hundreds of students and parents waiting for their turn. In a minute, I was served coffee and offered a comfortable chair. I noticed two to three counsellors entertaining parents.
Yes, it is entertaining! Check the conversation.
Entertainer: So buddy want to study abroad? (The entertainer always speaks to the student, but his attention is geared towards the parents)
The student: Yes.
Entertainer: What are you doing nowadays?
Student: I have completed my BTech.
Entertainer: Oh wonderful. Which college?
Student: XXIT (name changed)
Entertainer: Wow, XX Institute of technologyâ¦fantastic! That is a great college. Which branch?
Entertainer: Very good, so you understand the meaning of GATE?
Student: Yes, Sir.
Entertainer to parents: Wow, exceptional. He is fantastic. You should really send your child to the United Kingdom, he deserves it!
I was wondering - why did he say the UK? Why not any other country? Also, why was the entertainer’s response to everything the student says was- ‘wow’, ‘wonderful’ or ‘fantastic’?
Simultaneously, a lady was talking to her daughter. Lady to daughter: “Beta you should focus on one country rather than jumping from US, UK, Canada etc”. Immediately anther entertainer within earshot jumps into the conversation. He said to the kid, “Aapne vo suna hai na jase arjun ne fish ki aakh main tir maara tha (You must have heard the story about Arjun aiming his arrow on the fish eye). You too must focus on one country – UK.” The excited mother immediately caught on. “See, what Sir is saying. Focus on just one country, UK.”
The UK seems to be the only country worth going, according to people here.
After waiting for approximately 45 minutes, one counsellor called me.
Counsellor (looking at my profile, which I filled at reception): Wow, you have secured good marks.
Me: Yeah (I had filled 90%+ marks at all levels)
Counsellor: Okay, so let’s start. I will explain to you about UK in detail first and then discuss how you should start.
Me: But why UK ? Madam, I need guidance on other countries as well. I want to understand which country I should go for and why? I don’t know anything.
After a lot of thought, the counsellor took a paper and drew a line in the middle. She wrote UK on one side and the US, Canada etc on the other side, and gave me 20+ reasons why UK and not others was the best option. For instance, the UK fee structure is less than that of the US, you can complete MBA in one year, etc.
She also told me that she would help me for free if I applied to the UK and for others I had to pay for counselling fees starting from Rs. 35,000 as well as college application and GMAT fees . "But for UK, it’s easier as you don’t have to pay counselling fees, no application fees, can apply without GMAT score and so on," she said. At the same time she told me to have a GMAT mock test (it’s paid) that will help her to identify my level and also suggest appropriate colleges.
Me: I don’t want to give this test. Suppose I get 500 marks?
The counsellor reluctantly forwards my application to the US counsellor. The US counsellor wrapped up everything in two minutes (explaining their fee structure etc) whereas the UK Counsellor gave me nearly 40 minutes.
I came down to the waiting lounge feeling confused. After spending approximately three hours all I know is that the UK is the place to go. I visited three more consultants. At one place, Australia was the suggested destination. Another insisted on Canada. The last consultant I visited cleared the scene for me. I was shocked to find out that the counsellor earns between 50,000 rupees to 150,000 rupees as a commission from the university where he sends students for study.
To be fair to them, none of them guaranteed that they would get me admission to a foreign university. But the way they made it look so easy for a particular country tells the real story. I’m not saying that you should not choose a study abroad counsellor but choose smartly. Do your research or else you may end up with a college that has a lower standing when compared to your scores.