Using AI to Support Counselling

by

Dhaval Mehta, Founder & CEO, TNI Career Counselling


Dhaval Mehta

Dhaval Mehta Is the Founder & CEO of TNI Career Counselling (TCC), one of India’s leading brands with expertise in Global Admission Guidance and Career Counselling. A Computer Science and Economics Graduate from University of Michigan, Dhaval founded TeacherNi – a Digital Platform for Institutions with a Learning Management System in 2014 which was later acquired in 2017. This development pivoted the plans and TNI CAREER COUNSELLING (TCC) was conceptualised and incepted in 2016 after Dhaval successfully pursued and completed his Certification with College Advising & Professional Development from Columbia University. Today TCC is a one of its kind impact focused tech inclined Education and Career Counseling brand in India that caters to over 12 countries for undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, having served over 5,000 students worldwide and thrives with a network of over 1200 institutions globally.

 

In the career & Higher Education counselling domain, we get to meet bright young minds with countless queries. Most of these queries are around the career path, job markets, and the preparation approach for the higher education application process. The students that we have met particularly meet us after attending a college fair or a webinar regarding studying abroad. They come with a ‘too much on the plate’ kind of situation and we make sure they take back with them a decisive and confident attitude.


With a vast array of career options available choosing the right career path is often difficult. Whether the students are in high school or college or are working professionals or confused between pure science, engineering, medicine or Masters or Ph.D. or MBA or even an unconventional course, as counsellors we make sure to discuss their plan in detail and advise on the right path of career for them.


Our bid starts by providing the student with a career report defining their expertise and experience. These days many counsellors use AI-based solutions to create a career report. It gives us more analytical and apt results. Based on the interest, career values and motivators, learning styles and skill sets that are found strong we generate an initial understanding of the students strongest career areas. The gap analysis also helps us guide them on areas of improvement, but their strengths is what we focus on for profile building strategies. Post this an initial counselling session with an experienced counselor/mentor results in a two way dialogue that provides clarity on career options, types of courses, country and university options. Eventually the combination of initial input, AI & gap analysis and initial counselling session helps in building a roadmap for success including shortlisting universities and courses. This allows to further prepare them for entrance tests like the SAT, GMAT, GRE or IELTS and profile-building strategies. Undergraduate students can also give AP exams to support their application and earn college credit, and so identifying the right APs early on is important.


Post guiding the students through the preparations for the tests and selection, we connect the students with extracurricular partners and non-profit organisations based on our initial analysis. After this we involve expert mentors to guide them with questions on careers, the application process including resume building, essays, recommendations, campus life etc.


This selection, test preparation and application process sometimes takes 6 months to a year and we stay like a shadow with the students. Having said that, the global pandemic and the unprecedented lockdowns have made our challenges tougher. Thus, encouraged everyone to adapt digitally sound platforms to support the whole application process. We have moved to an online dashboard and app that is being beta tested so students can sign up for services, review their shortlisted colleges, progress on the application, upload documents, maintain their information, receive notifications and hear community leaders talk about careers and universities.


With difficulty in connecting, the boom in the number of educational fields, and having exposure to the sea of information to come up with the apt college or course, AI-equipped mediums can be a one-stop solution to overcome these challenges.


AI can evaluate student profiles on the basis of grades, fees, scholarships, job opportunities available and help students and parents identify the ROI of the courses they are thinking of pursuing. AI can also help the admissions department analyze the student’s profile much quicker and help them with a better assessment of a student if he/she should be admitted.


A lot of the student enrollment activities remain the same year after year. Automating these kinds of activities with AI-integrated solutions benefits educational institutions. Personalized communication with students can help them enroll in universities with ease.


Around-the-clock, an integrated chatbot can answer their many queries before admissions and streamline the entire process of application and enrollment. This would free teachers and other staff from administrative and repetitive work that deserves to be automated.


Challenges and Industry Scenario


If we look at today’s scenario, India needs 1.5 million career counsellors for 315 million students to maintain a globally acceptable student-to-counselor ratio. However, we have only an estimated 1 lakh professional career coaches. This is where initially AI comes into the picture. With such a huge shortage of counselors, tech support in the career counseling industry can prove to be of enormous support.


Even though the pandemic has led to the slowing down of international students’ movement and delayed admission process, the market is expected to bounce back with full force in 2021. The number of students that went to study abroad in 2020 was 2,61,406 versus 71,769 students who went in the first 2 months of 2021 i.e. till Feb 28, 2021. Compared to 2019-20, the volume of international applicants has increased by about 9% this year according to data from the Common App, as of January 22, 2021.


Undoubtedly, every sector would prefer international talent in the post-pandemic phase. It will constantly rise to the top in nations like the USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.


Best Ways AI can be Leveraged by Career counsellors i.e. How can AI help?


1) To take inputs from students about their Nationality, interested study area, level of study (UG/PG/MBA, etc.), Preferred Country, Preferred University, which year you want to study (intake), Budget, Academic History, Internships/Work history, Community Service Experience, Other professional qualifications (eg. CFA), Full time experience if any, Scholarships / Financial Aid, PR, Extracurriculars, Accommodation, etc.

2) Based on the following inputs made by students the platform can quickly come up with a list of universities the student can apply to. Later, if the students still face any problems the counsellors can solve them through personal mentoring.

3) The platforms can help them connect with the required/correct mentor match quickly who will help you build your profile so that your chances of getting into your dream university are maximized.

4) AI-equipped solutions can be used to evaluate test scores. Analyzing the required score for a certain university shortlisted for the student and matching them with the right tutor for test prep. In addition, prepare the students for extracurricular and scholarships, if required.

Many of the consulting organizations are working on building this website, which will have the features like free student accounts wherein they will be able to avail help in some steps of the application process. An AI bot to answer student’s queries then and there and help the counsellors better evaluate your profile.


Adapting AI-integrated solutions will not only help create brand awareness among the students, parents and universities but also will widen one’s student base.