Applying to colleges and Universities Abroad

Dear fellow Aksharites,

Warm greetings! It is your senior, Kushagra, this side. I graduated from Akshara in April 2019 and will be joining the University of Toronto in the fall. I’d like to share some experiences and insights regarding applying to universities and colleges outside of India. I mainly focused on institutions based in the North American continent, but please remember that countries and their institutions have their own guidelines for applicants from other countries, which should be read very carefully. Additionally, many students decide to take the help of a counsellor while applying. It definitely helps to do so, but be wary of the heavy costs involved in that route.

Now, let’s examine the factors which lead to a successful application.

  • The Why Factor:

You must be extremely clear on WHY you want to pursue an education abroad. This is the statement which ultimately keep you going through the tough and gruelling process of applying, as you’ll see below. This “why” statement should also reflect in your essays, which are an integral part of your applications as well.

  • Academics:

If you are aiming for universities that rank amongst the top institutions in the world (e.g. Ivy league, OxBridge), you definitely need to have top-notch academics. Work a little harder each time to maintain your grades. Beware of the academic drop that students generally face while in 11th grade.

Colleges in North America generally ask for 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade’s half yearly transcript as a predictor of future academic success. Basically, you want to ensure that you are maintaining a rising or steady graph of A1s throughout these 4 years.

  • Extra-Curriculars

Here is where Indian students generally get confused on what to do. Due to academic pressure from 9th onwards, we usually start drifting away from all our hobbies. This is something you want to avoid, as it can have a detrimental effect on your applications. Extracurriculars are as important as your academics. This is because extracurricular activities are usually built in the school system abroad. To compensate for this, take one or two things that you are passionate about, and continue them in a serious and formal manner.

For example, I had been learning and practising on the piano for 14 years when I applied. I also had a waste-management related start-up in which some governments had expressed their interest.

Internships can be a very viable way to fulfil this requirement. For example, if you are medically inclined, try interning at a hospital. They are usually receptive to this type of help.

Just like academics, the key here is to be consistent and ever improving.

  • Testing

There are numerous exams which you can take to prove your academic proficiency. The main exam that you take will be the SAT or the ACT. Both are equally prevalent. However, some colleges may accept one and not the other. Please read their guidelines very carefully. These exams usually test your English and Mathematics skills. There is also an essay writing section on these exams which is optional and may or may not be required by your college.

The second type of test you will be taking is called the SAT subject tests. These are subject specific tests which can greatly boost your application and, in some cases, are even required by universities. It is recommended that you take at least 2-3 subject tests, with one being in Math and one in a science subject.

The third type of tests you will come across are called AP tests. These are subject specific also but differ from SAT subject tests in the sense that they are college-level tests. This means that they test material which is taught in college. These tests greatly boost your application as they convey that you are ready for a college-level education. These tests can also grant you credits in some subjects, which means that you might not have to take courses at university which overlap with these tests in terms of syllabus. This can bring down college costs and even speed up your degree.

In my case, I took 9 exams spread out over 3 years. It goes without saying that a lot of planning will be needed here, as exam syllabuses may not align to what is being taught at school.

  • Essays:

Essays are the most important part your entire application. They allow the admission officers to judge your mindset and decide whether you are a good “fit” for the college. There is usually a main essay which is sent to all the universities you have applied to. Naturally, you’ll want to display your best self. The available prompts for the main essay is released in February every year, which gives you ~10 months to work on it. Please make use of this time. In addition to that, universities may or may not ask for additional essays. Students have chosen to write about almost everything imaginable. Try searching up “<Your college name> + successful essays” on the internet for some examples. Many students choose to invest in professional editorial services for this, as did I.

  • Letters of Recommendation

This is another tremendously important part of your application. Many colleges ask for at least 2 letters of recommendation from academic teachers. They might also ask for letters from non-academic mentors. This is radically different from the type of LORs we expect to receive and submit in India. Try searching for “successful recommendation letters for US undergraduate programs” to get an idea of the format and the word count expected.

Please get started on these early on, to give teachers some room to wok with you on them and make the process less stressful for everyone. I’d recommend asking for LOR’s in mid-August for the October (Early action/decision) and December(regular) deadlines.

LORs are basically meant to show the colleges that your teachers approve of your mindset, behaviour and performance in class. They can also mention some of your larger achievements and projects.

These are just some of the aspect of applying to universities outside of India. Accidents and emergencies do happen, so a lot of planning is required before undertaking this venture. I’d personally recommend getting all your testing out of the way in 9th and 10th, so that you have room to focus on your extra-curriculars and school studies in 11th and 12th, which are much more important.

As I’ve mentioned before, it is a tough process gathering all the required qualifications and documents. It is easy to get demotivated and depressed in between. Just remember your “why” statement and know that you will definitely be rewarded for your efforts in late March/Early April, which is when the application cycle ends,and colleges release their decisions.

If you are ever in doubt, Google is your best friend and please try to stick to official sources only, instead of relying on someone’s opinion. Don’t hesitate to reach out to colleges via phone or email. They are usually very warm and helpful with students looking to apply.

Wishing everyone all the best!

Kushagra Goel
Aksharite batch of 2018


Choosing Journalism Career Path

“I Still Believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon! “ – Tom Stoppard.

 It dawned upon me in class X, that words  exude  power. The speech by Mark  Antony in the  Shakespearean history play ‘ The Tragedy of  Julius Caesar’ made me realise the influence of words on people. This realisation aided me to find my true passion – Writing! But  like  any other normal teenager, I was confused. I was  facinated by both writing and astrophysics, I allowed myself to try my hands at both. After spending a few years in   pursuing  my passion in  astrophysics, I realized  that writing fascinated me more and that I was destined to be a  writer.  Fortunately ,I  attended the Scribido Journalism Workshop where I met two travel bloggers amongst many prominent writers. I was immediately attracted to the duo.  I found their experiences thrilling and  they had a story for every place  that they  had visited. Interacting with them, I decided to pursue travel journalism and after  standard 12 , started in pursuit of courses that  would take me closer to my dream.

To be a good journalist, I also wanted to enhance  my language , hence I  decided  to pursue English literature.  My  family and friends  advised me to  venture into psychology to have better interpersonal skills and character development, which is essential for a journalist. Thus I stumbled upon my current course – a triple Major in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature in Kristu Jayanthi College, Bangalore.

 Kristu Jayanti college is an autonomous college,  affilitiated  to  Banglore University. Ranking 12th in the country’s top colleges, it is an example of innovation in education. The college provides an all round development for students, with a perfect balance between academics and extra curricular activities. With over 500 events in a year, the college gives ample opportunities to students to showcase their talents in the fields of academics, arts and sports.

It was one of the most joyful moments in my life when I  took  admission  into Kristu Jayanti, and a step closer to my dream of being a travel journalist.  The role that Akshara International School played for the same is no less! My time at Akshara was the most fruitful years of my life. The school gave me the opportunities and guidance to explore my talent of writing. My experience here taught me to express myself freely and to stand up for what I believe is right. Activities like the journalism workshop,  participation in Pune International  Literary  Festival   and Ted Club helped me hone my skills. Throughtout my time, I  got  opportunities  to understand myself and this has led me to choose my current course and career path.

To my juniors who aspire to be writers or journalists, my advice would be to make use of all the opportunities that the school provides . These experiences will surely help you find your true potential and passion.

My passion for travel and writing fortunately go hand in hand and has given me this opportunity to show people the world through my eyes and words.

Adithya Rajesh
Aksharite batch of 2018

From the campus of Banasthali Vidyapith

It has always been my child hood dream to become a computer science engineer.  An admission in Banasthali  Vidyapith will help me achieve it. It’s only been a few months but I know that I’ve come far from where I was, as a person.

 My maternal aunt recommended Banasthali Vidyapith, women’s university in the Tonk district of Rajasthan. My mother was not very sure about this college, but my father was in favour of this university. My father was confident because it was the answer to all his worries. Since I am a girl, my father’s first priority is my safety. Banasthali being an ‘All Girls College’ solved this problem.   Today my father is a very happy that I study in a safe campus.

 After much discussions at home, I decided to join this college. My mother was still a little hesitant, however, the first visit to the college change her opinion completely. She is a happy mom too.

Placements of a university are a major concern for both parents and students. Banasthali boasts of good campus recruitments every year. I am also very proud to  mention  that the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) ranked Banasthali Vidyapith 91 overall in India in 2018, 64 among universities and 23 in the pharmacy ranking The University has strong footprints in international ratings too, with four Star Rating in QS-International Ratings. Some of our notable alumni  include – Avani Chaturvedi, the first woman fighter pilot of India, Ms,Sunita Godara, marathon runner, Ms, Meira Kumar, speaker of Lok Sabha  and Ms, Kamla Beniwal, governor of Gujrat.

Today both, my parents and I, are satisfied with this university and we haven’t regretted it since I applied here.  To begin with studying in an ‘All Girls College’ was very different, but I guess I feel now, it is so fun and loads of freedom. I recommend my fellow Akshara girls to apply here after class  XII.

Before I sign off, let me tell you my college boasts of gliding and flying club and  of course we have own Radio Station too.

Anshika Singh
Aksharite  , Batch of 2017

Scope of Metallurgy and Material Engineering

I am Shuvannita Dey, a 2nd year student of the Indian Institute Of Engineering Science And Technology, Shibpur (formerly named BE College, Shibpur). I am currently studying Metallurgy and Material Engineering. It is a 4 year Bachelor of Technology course like the other engineering courses.

This branch of engineering generally focuses on the physical and chemical behaviour of metallic elements, intermetallic compounds and different kinds of alloys. This engineering deals with all type of metal related areas. The course covers hydrometallurgy, mechanical metallurgy, heat treatment of steels, welding metallurgy and many more. Besides the basics of engineering, the program also provides students with the knowledge of designing, manufacturing and production of various metal products starting from cars and bikes to buildings and planes.

There are a lot of opportunities and scope of development in this field. It is one of the best fields if one is interested in research works. Job offers and recruitments in this field are generally from all the core companies. We convert the earth’s minerals and resources into advanced alloys used in surgical implants, computer chips, superconductors, automobiles, and aircraft. The different advanced alloys are used by NASA and ISRO in space stations, shuttles, and the Mars Rover.   It focuses on sustainable design, recycling existing materials and engineering new recyclable materials that function in an environmentally responsible way.

Some Notable alumni are B. Muthuraman, the ex- Vice Chairman of Tata Steel and Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google LLC.

Metallurgical Engineering also has scope in defense, aviation, and nano-science. Developments are being done in metal extraction processes, production, and processing technology. Material development remains at the forefront of all technological innovation. Microalloyed steels with the addition of Ti, NB, Bi, Se, Ultra low carbon steels (ULCA), for high formability. Maraging steels are some of the product development in steels.

There are a lot of developments taking place in Metallurgy and Material Science in the recent years and it is definitely a good branch to opt for.

Shuvannita Dey


Sitting in library of Durham University in UK, I often reminisce my student life and how teachers at Akshara groomed me for challenges in life.

The small class size of 20 ensured a strong bonding between students and teachers. I shared a personal rapport with each teacher. The International teaching experience of my English teacher, Sonika Ma’am made each English teaching session go beyond the text books into discussions on global issues and current topics. She gradually opened us up to critical and original thinking and how to present our viewpoints. We were encouraged to read classics and they got discussed in class. Thus gradually most of us got hooked on reading and “Kindle” became an integral part of our lives.

 The Social Science classes with Panchtapa Ma’am were so much fun. I found an adroit teacher and a compassionate counsellor in her. She helped us handle not only exam pressure but also adolescence issues. I think batch after batch remembers her strictness and the ‘holes she leaves in our hearts’.

 As I crumble on the basketball court here at Durham sometimes, I can distinctly hear the voice of my sports teacher Sujata Ma’am at Akshara cajoling me from the sidelines. She instilled in me the spirit of hard work, preparation and team spirit.

Thank you my dearest teachers for  creating in  Akshara –‘ a learning space’ – ‘where there is a zest to learn,  hunger to achieve , room for making mistakes  and capability to handle success and failure with dignity and pride’. Today when I compete for grades with the ‘World’s Best’ at my law school, my heart gets filled with gratitude to my teachers at Akshara for shaping me up for this career.

Vedika Rathore
University of Durham, UK
Alumni, Akshara International School