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Lokvani's College Workshop Event, A Splendid Success

Nirmala Garimella

When a Lokvani email arrived in her mailbox two weeks ago, announcing a college admission workshop, Anuradha Patel did what any busy career woman would do. With a son at high school, she put it aside promising herself she would open it the next day. It wasn’t until another friend called her urging her to join, that she decided to attend the session. Today, she is happy that she was there and admits to being better informed of the admission process.

For Sunita Srinivasan, college is a long shot away. She is in her junior year at high school, has AP courses under her belt, is active in various committees and has a good GPA average. Yet, when it is time to apply for admissions in her senior year, she will be better prepared, thanks to an introduction to the process from Lokvani’s highly successful workshop on college admissions.

As Allan Clemow, Director of Admissions, Tufts University put it. “Every time a senior bumps into any of his friends at the supermarket, at every family barbecue or even at a birthday party he is confronted with the ubiquitous question, “Where are you applying to college? Are you taking an early decision? What are your top choices for, and what will you major in? The students are stumped and so are many others who are feeling the same anxiety.

To remove some of this anxiety, Lokvani took the initiative to sponsor this one of a kind free workshop. Getting into college is more competitive than ever and the process can be frustrating and confusing to many. Anderson Hall at Tufts University was abuzz as high school students and their parents in a sizeable number turned up for the workshop that was organized in a very informal setting. Dr. Anil Saigal, Chair and Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering introduced the speakers for the day.

Allan Clemow, Director of Admissions, Tufts University, engaged in a lively and interactive session with the participants and talked on the strategy for dealing with admission to various colleges. He outlined a collection of tools to find and apply for the schools that were right for each candidate. Admitting that a student had to process a lot of information, he provided some pointers. Splitting the process into two, he informed the students and parents that while academics were part of the spectrum, extracurricular activities was another. On an average students’ applied to 7 to 8 schools and got admitted to 4 of them. Many students look for connections to various disciplines and to take advantage of this, he explained that choosing specific courses rather than asking for a specific subject to major in was an ideal choice.

He also advised the students to seek their guidance counselor and gather information. Listing out an application strategy and a campus visit prior to the interview also can prove useful. Many admission offices looked at how best the students have utilized their time during the final three years in college. The College essay, another important criteria was talked at length.

Drawing on his personal experience he related with humor on how a student sent in a box of all his achievements and certificates from Kindergarten to High school. Definitely not what the admission officer was looking for!

To get a first hand experience from the students point of view, Lokvani invited Vikas Goela, a sophomore at Harvard, Shirali Pandya a sophomore at MIT and Manasi Singhal a sophomore at Dartmouth to share their personal experiences. Vikas Goela, who had attended Philips Academy before joining Harvard gave pointers on the essay that he wrote. He also felt that fewer but more focused extracurricular activities go a long way in helping the admission officer know about a person’s interests. He also spoke on his own job experience of working at Stop and Shop and a start up company that helped him develop a fresh perspective to people and life.

Shirali Pandya admitted that her first visit to MIT with a friend did not appeal initially but after joining the institution grew to love it. According to her, the first impressions need not necessarily be the last one and asked the students to be open minded. She also highlighted her interests in classical music and her choice of essay of ”what it meant to be an Indian American,” as her personal strength.

Manasi Singhal strongly urged the students to do what they believed in strongly. Working in Committees, volunteering, doing a research project all helped in her case. Her love for history, participation in the debate team and her summer job experience were areas that she felt, held her in good stead.

There were plenty of questions from the participants. Varun, a junior at Framingham high wanted to know the difference between early action and early decisions. Anusha, from Salem High school asked about the advantages of graduating in 3 years and talked on her experience of taking courses at the local state college. Rita Shah, a parent asked the question uppermost in the minds of many parents, the ways and means of getting a scholarship. A few other parents were keen to know more about fund allocation and financial aid.

With comments ranging from very informative, good initiative, well organized, Lokvani’s sponsored College admission workshop at Tufts University turned out to be a well attended, interactive and helpful event. Ashwin, a junior at Sudbury High school liked the idea of the perspective from a private school and a public school. At the end of it, it seemed as if the participants were eager for more on the issue. Here are some of the comments:

Very beneficial especially parents discussion. Also liked students view point. Thanks for organizing this.
It was great. Learnt quite a bit. Keep up the good work. I know it is a lot of work for you but it is very helpful to community at large. – Ashok Saluja
I liked the materials discussed here. Please do it again on financial aid.
Very good initiative. We like more of these.
It was pretty informative. May be you could focus more on the Indian-American experience in the future.
This program is very good and I hope you can do twice a year at different locations. Also if you can invite business people who give financial aid to students.
As an applicant, this seminar was very helpful. I got different views. It is a great program.
Excellent session. Very informative. Thanks a bunch for organizing this.
A very good workshop. IT gave different perspectives from an admissions officer and the students.
Avery well organized program and well coordinated. It was very nice to hear the perspectives from the students about their experiences. Thanks you very much for all your efforts. – Pradeep Dilwali
The meeting was very helpful. I would prefer a more detailed one on one interaction.
I thought the meeting was helpful in the application process and how admission officers think. – Rohit Malhotra
Very useful. Informative. Great perspective from both sides of the picture. Please keep up the format of discussion – the more input from the new college entrants, the better. – Vijay and Radha Kumar

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Vikas Goela, Allan Clemow,Shirali Pandya

Vikas Goela,Allan Clemow, Shirali Pandya

Manasi Singhal

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