Supporting school-based college counseling in India: Jim Rawlins guest op-ed

By 2026, the K-12 international school market will almost double, reaching 16,000 schools teaching 8.75 million students,” reports Sara Custer, in this week’s PIE News. Now, for those of us working in roles where a commitment to serving students is at the core of everything we do, this should cause us to pause and reflect.

Why? Because, it appears that the increasing global interest in “foreign university degrees” (or what for the purposes of this post we will refer to as “liberal arts style undergraduate education”) is one of the key drivers.

Sara Custer again, “Traditionally populated by children of expats, international high schools are now catering to the teenagers of wealthy locals,” and “Overwhelmingly, the surge in international schools has been and continues to be fuelled by demand for a top foreign university degree.”

Looking specifically at India, International Schools Consultancy Group, one of the leading companies collecting data on the international high school sector (and one of the sources for the PIE News articles), puts the current number of international schools at somewhere just over 400. Given my experience from similar dynamics in China over the past decade, I would add to that number many high schools teaching curricula related to domestic qualifications with a significant and growing cohort of students interested in investigating opportunities in liberal arts style undergraduate institutions, foreign and domestic (for example, O P Jindal Global University).

All of this is background for our guest post today by Jim Rawlins, former president of NACAC, and current Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management & Director of Admissions at University of Oregon. The essay is actually a re-printing of an op-ed Jim wrote for the June issue of one of India’s leading education publications, EducationWorld, highlighting of the role of school-based college counseling in India.


Guest Op-Ed by Jim Rawlins
“Counselors Need to Broaden Horizons”
EducationWorld Magazine, Vol 18, No 6, June 2016, page 60


More than ever before, school leaving students and their families, are expressing interest in enrolling in universities and higher education institutions (HEIs) abroad. Therefore, school principals and counsellors need to raise their knowledge and awareness of HEIs overseas and connect with their admission representatives and offices. Simultaneously, they need to develop the skill-sets of their teachers and counsellors to help and advise students aspiring to study abroad.


Quite rightly, international post-secondary education is regarded as highly beneficial for students interested in rising to leadership positions domestically and overseas, because study abroad will equip them with creative, multi-disciplinary and innovative education that is the prerequisite of business and professional success in the newly emergent global marketplace.


With several thousand options available in the US and elsewhere, a school’s counselling unit needs to be sufficiently knowledgeable to help students explore and prioritise options. It also needs to be sufficiently competent to help students submit strong, persuasive applications to most preferred universities/HEIs. Over time, school counsellors need to develop strong and durable ties with college admission offices, even if the vast majority of them have not had the experience of higher education abroad.


Reaching these goals involves collaboration across schools, and international boundaries. For that reason, my colleagues are excited about attending the 2016 IC3 Conference, which will bring secondary school leaders and counsellors face-to-face with global university representatives in Mumbai later (August 31-September 1) this year. The conference will provide a great opportunity for school leaders to connect with several of the world’s best higher education institutions, and ensure these HEIs learn about the strengths of India’s best secondary schools. Simultaneously, Indian school leaders and counsellors will get an opportunity to interact with their counterparts abroad.


For school students in India who might be looking for a great engineering programme at Georgia Tech, or a strong programme in green chemistry or environment sustainability at the University of Oregon, or a global affairs programme at Yale, there’s no substitute for connecting directly with the institutions which offer these disciplines and learning about the type of undergrads they prefer. Moreover, many US colleges which are renowned abroad for specific programmes are often domestically more famous for the broader education they provide. As principals and counsellors in India learn more about what American universities and HEIs offer students by way of broad learning and varied curriculum, it will help them reform and upgrade their own curriculums to empower their students to think across multiple disciplines.


In the United States, a long history of collaboration between secondary school counsellors and university admission officers has built mutual understanding. The major professional organisation of counsellors, NACAC (the National Association for College Admission Counselling), has been in existence for over 75 years now. Its 15,000 members include a growing number from abroad, and its personal outreach programmes and website ( make it easier than ever for counsellors in India to join this community, and benefit from it.


During the past seven decades, NACAC has learned that success in helping students to enter the most suitable programmes and HEIs requires cooperation between school administrators, teachers, community representatives, government officials, parents, students and trained school counsellors to enable and facilitate student development and achievement.


This planning must begin early, not as an eleventh hour exercise. Counsellors must advise students set on entering particular universities not only on which final classes to attend in secondary school, but ensure they start doing so several grades earlier.


Acquiring counseling expertise requires more than signing up for seminars and conferences. School counsellors need to visit universities in the US and elsewhere. For instance visiting us in Eugene, Oregon, would enable Indian school counsellors to not only learn about highly regarded majors offered at the University of Oregon, but also interface with our faculty and get an insight into our institutional culture, climate, geography, and access other information which they could communicate to their students — even something as simple as where to find an energising cup of tea.


Whether through the 2016 IC3 Conference or other platforms, NACAC and its international affiliates, CIS (Council of International Schools), and other well-connected professional groups, I invite school principals and career/college counsellors to derive the benefits of reaching out and connecting with universities and HEIs abroad, especially in the US, to ensure the success of your students in a variety of settings. We look forward to Indian students coming to America to realise their hopes and expectations.


Jim Rawlins is director of admissions at the University of Oregon, USA and former president of NACAC


For those interested in learning more about the growth and development of school-based college counseling in India and the surrounding region, you may want to attend the 2016 IC3 Conference (31 August – 01 September, Mumbai, Taj Lands End Hotel). Hosted by KIC UnivAssist, with the support of content and media partners including The College Board and EducationWorld, the conference will connect 75+ of India’s leading high schools with 50+ world-class higher education institutions by bringing together school directors, principals and counselors with admissions officers from around the world.

EducationWorld is a leading education news magazine in India with a readership of 1 million countrywide. Promoted with the mission statement to “make education the #1 item on the national agenda”, every month EducationWorld spotlights institutions of learning in India and abroad, offers career counseling advice, education related news from around the world, insightful columns from columnists and interviews with educationists. Led by Dilip Thakore, founder-editor of Business India and BusinessWorld magazines, and co-founder/managing editor Summiya Yasmeen, EducationWorld is a publication of DT Media & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.

2 Replies to “Supporting school-based college counseling in India: Jim Rawlins guest op-ed”

  1. Another great opportunity for high school counsellors is the 2nd EARCOS-CIS Institute on Higher Education Admission and Guidance which will be held on Friday 30 September and Saturday 1 October 2016 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.

    1. Steve: Thanks for posting the information about the EARCOS-CIS Institute on Higher Education Admission and Guidance. Great to see you at Rutgers!

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