Behind the Scenes of Career Counselling and Admission Consulting | Q&A with Priyamvada Agarwal
Choosing a suitable career path is still an acute problem in India. Even today, parents force their kids to choose from only from three or four conventional options like engineering, medical, commerce, law, and MBA. Additionally, the competition of getting into the top colleges is extremely high in India. Career counselling and college admission consulting are great options for kids and parents. However, the concept of career counselling and admission consulting are still pretty new in India. In this article, we speak with Priyamvada Agarwal, a University of Cambridge graduate, a highly successful SAT/ACT trainer, and an extremely sought-after career counselor in Kolkata with clients from all over India and abroad.
Due to the large population and a limited number of tier 1 colleges, the problems of decreased awareness, parental and peer influence, and confusion are pretty intense in India. India is gearing up to be the youngest country in 2020 at an average age of 29. This means, as of now, there are more young people in India as compared to the rest of the countries.
Stoodnt’s vision is to help every student in high school, college or an employed graduate, irrespective of their background and geographic location, with an opportunity to realize their aspirations of a successful professional career, growth and personal development.
Stoodnt.com aims to connect Students (and Parents) with the Right Counselors in order to provide personalized guidance to each and every individual based on their profile, interests, skills, experience, and aspirations.
Career Counselling and Admission Consulting
Q&A with Priyamvada Agarwal
About Priyamvada Agarwal:
Priyamvada is a proficient career consultant, educationist & test-prep trainer from Kolkata, who has been shaping the lives of her numerous students since 2010. Priyamvada is an extremely sought-after trainer for courses on soft-skills development, English speaking, English grammar, personality development, communication skills, interview abilities, English for use in Business, English for the purpose of immigration, confidence building and overall profile enhancement along with teaching other test prep courses.
Apart from holding a Masters degree from the University of Cambridge (UK), she is also certified by the British Council for IELTS (Academic & General Module), by ETS (Education Testing Systems, USA) for TOEFL, and by the Pearson Group for PTE.
Over the years, she has interacted with and trained thousands of candidates for IELTS/TOEFL/PTE and Verbal section GMAT/GRE/SAT/ACT; and have been providing soft-skill & life-skill training to innumerable people through the skill-enhancement workshops that she conducts in MNCs, Private Firms and leading Colleges in India.
Coming from philanthropic family background, her involvement in many CSR and community service activities has been vivid, especially in the field of skill-development, transforming into reality. Priyamvada strongly believes in empowering individuals through capacity building and increase in social awareness while developing communication skills.
Tanmoy: What prompted you to go for a Masters in Education and Counselling at the University of Cambridge and how was your experience at Cambridge?
Priyamvada: It was the most unexpected step of my life, but it turned out to be amazing. During the last year of my college in Kolkata, I did an internship as a project coordinator for a financial literacy project. Eventually got into conducting workshops and turned into trainer over time.
During those 9 months of internship my interaction with various age groups of students and homemakers, who considered me their mentor and shared their dreams, aspirations and asked me for career advice, made me realize that I could look at studying further about counseling and make a profession out of it.
Experience at Cambridge was world class – I learned so many new methods of teaching and learning and also the cultural exposure made me get out of my shell and breath new air and see the world with a new vision.
Tanmoy: Did you work with any mentor(s)? According to you, how important are career coaches or mentors?
Priyamvada: Yes, I worked with and under a mentor for 4 years. He taught me skills and life tacking ways which no book or course could ever teach me. His willingness to let me do things independently helped me gain confidence and opened new avenues for me.
I strongly believe having a mentor or career coach in the early days of our career helps enhance ourselves to such a level that we fear no hurdle coming our way ever.
Tanmoy: Apart from career counselling and college admission consulting, you are also into test prep guidance and soft skills development. How did you get into that field?
Priyamvada: After Masters, when I started providing career and admission counselling, I was pulled into taking the tests myself so that I could share my real time experience with my candidates. After taking these tests, I was drawn to getting myself trained to teach these test preps and soft skills because it helped me not just be a guide to a candidate while he/she works towards there career but be involved in developing and nurturing them in a more profound manner.
Tanmoy: Any particular advantages when it comes to the first-hand experience of study abroad, and especially attending a brand like the University of Cambridge?
Priyamvada: Yes, it is always an advantage to have studied and lived at a branded University like Cambridge – the experience and exposure both at learning and living is beyond putting in words. Also, it made me believe that dreams can come true if you work hard with determination and focus.
Tanmoy: What kind of admission counselling cases do you enjoy the most?
Priyamvada: I am a person who loves challenges in life – I am open to all kinds of cases but yes I enjoy the most is dealing with UG applications in Liberal Arts and MS applications in the field of Business and Engineering over others. I am passionate about teaching, so test preps for the verbal section always take the priority.
Tanmoy: How exactly would you describe your method of counselling and helping students?
Priyamvada: I don’t believe in psychometric tests, therefore don’t use them because I feel that these days whenever we attempt to answer a questionnaire we do it very consciously because we are in the run to impress others. This results in the real picture about the strength and weakness not coming out clear.
Counselling for me means communication in the most transparent manner. I feel for anyone to decide about their career or life, is to transparently put across their strengths and weakness to a listener who can add value and suggestions to carve the pathways forward.
Tanmoy: you have got great success while counselling students offline (face-to-face) and online/remotely. What are your thoughts on remote counselling?
Priyamvada: As I mentioned previously, counselling means communication. So using the technology around, I don’t find any difference in offline or online counselling. In fact, I am happy I am available to all around the global.
Tanmoy: Did you ever face any problem while dealing with students/parents outside Kolkata/India?
Priyamvada: Touch wood not as yet. If you want to be available globally, invest time in learning the use of technology and make life easy. I cater to students outside my city using – Skype, FaceTime, Emails, Google drive, WhatsApp, Dropbox, and many more such tools.
Excerpts from a few Testimonials from Students and Parents:
I wholeheartedly recommend Priyamvada. I was fortunate enough to work with Priyamvada for my Son and take advantage of her expertise in the field of career consultancy. She could read the interest and capabilities of my Son and advised the right path. I found her to be dedicated, professional and truly caring about her clients and their success. – S. Kannan (Mumbai)
Wow a jump from 500 to 760 in the verbal section for SAT was like a miracle. I had taken classes for SAT elsewhere but the result wasn’t great so I decided to redo the verbal part again. Ma’am was too good – she made vocabs so easy for me and the reading section turned from boring to humorous reading. I would say she has a magic wand. – Rohan (Kolkata)
Priyamvada is a wonderful person with a fantastic attitude. She mentored my daughter Tishya for SAT English and it was more than just coaching. We were so fortunate to get Priya introduced to Tishya and everything worked out so well for us. My daughter has become a huge fan of Priya and looking to be in touch with her for her career guidance. Wishing Priya much more success and our sincere thanks for a job well done! – S Ravi Kumar (Jakarta)
Took my GRE training for 2 months with Ma’am. The material was apt and superb which helped me study what was needed for the test and her way to explain the basics was best bcoz it helped me tackle any and all types of question during the main test. Lastly, her way to monitor the mock test was perfect. She managed my time and helped me score well. Thank You, Ma’am. – Aakash (Pune)
Tanmoy: You work with more than 1,500 candidates (students and working professionals) in a single year. What does keep you going?
Priyamvada: I feel proud when I see my candidates achieving their dreams under my guidance. The smile of these candidates is far beyond the monetary compensation which satisfies me from the heart. This is what drives me.
Tanmoy: What do you do when you are not counselling students?
Priyamvada: I am an avid reader and foodie.
When not working, I would either want to plug in music and go traveling to exposure to nature and food.
Alternatively, I get drowned into a book closing everything around me.
Tanmoy: What would be your advice to school/college students who aspire to be professional counselors?
- First major advice is that please define your role well, you are going to be a career advisor/counselor/mentor and not a future prediction guru.
- Second advice, have the patience to listen and let the candidate talk their heart out first and then analyze the matter and give advice don’t just assume. Every case is different from the other.
- Third advice, please study and gain knowledge before you speak or suggest, just don’t talk for the sake of it, someone’s career and future is at stake.
- Fourth advice, don’t impose your thoughts, ideas or decisions on the candidate, make them understand your viewpoint and let them take their own decision.
Tanmoy: You moved on to start your own venture Education & You. What are your biggest takeaways as an entrepreneur?
Priyamvada: After quitting my job in 2014, I wanted to open my wings and fly a little high and that is when Education & You, came to my mind.
I wanted to open an institute which is just not a regular service provider for career counselling and training but is also a platform where service is provided in the most personalized and customized manner with the pinch of personal experience being shared which can help in nurturing someone’s career in a more profound manner.
This pinch of personal experience and customize the designing of every training session makes all the difference.
Tanmoy: Two cents for the students or working professionals who are at the crossroads of their career paths.
Priyamvada: It is never too late to decide when you want to change the course of life, but whenever you decide then the right guidance and proper planning need to be down before jumping to pursue it.
Education in India or Abroad – both are highly recognized but the difference is in the delivery pattern. Ideally, a student should give himself/herself a year and a half before they leave India to pursue higher studies abroad as a lot has to be learned and inculcated before going.
Author: Tanmoy Ray
I am a Career Adviser & MS Admission Consultant. Additionally, I also manage online marketing at Stoodnt. I did my Masters from the UK (Aston University) and have worked at the University of Oxford (UK), Utrecht University (Netherlands), University of New South Wales (Australia) and MeetUniversity (India).
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