Possibilities Pakistan has entered the Dell Social Innovation Competition, and is competing for the prize ($50,000), which will be used to fund the printing of their magazine and the expansion of their services. You can help Possibilities Pakistan win the prize by voting at: www.possibilitiespakistan.org/vote.
One reason so few Pakistani students are able to receive a quality education abroad is a lack of college application guidance in Pakistan. Each year, Pakistani students who are highly qualified and should be accepted to excellent colleges and universities abroad are unable to capitalize on their potential because they cannot navigate the increasingly complex college application process. Thousands of students each year receive either no counseling at all, or pay inordinate amounts of money to for-profit counseling companies that do nothing more than provide a copy of the free American Common Application. Most of these students are at a serious disadvantage when trying to continue their education.
In April 2009, a team of Pakistani and American undergraduate students studying at renowned universities around the world decided it was time to change this state of affairs. Together, they created Possibilities Pakistan, a free, equal access college counseling service available to all on line. The goal was simple – level the playing field.
Possibilities Pakistan is a non-profit project that aims to extend free guidance facilities for undergraduate education to all Pakistani students. It is a network of over two hundred dedicated students studying in stellar universities around the globe who are working together to help Pakistani high-school students applying to college find and apply to the right schools for them.
There are two halves to Possibilities Pakistan, a guidance service offered by those who have already succeeded at the application process, and a magazine that steers a prospective college student through applying to college. Both can be accessed at www.possibilitiespakistan.org.
The guidance service is run via email. Applicants send in their queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Each applicant’s questions are put through to an appropriate member of the team, one who has faced a similar circumstance to the applicant and can appropriately answer his or her question. This ensures that applicants are never left out in the cold, unsure of how to manage confusing technical details of college applications like transcript deadlines and letters of recommendation. To date, over 200 students have taken advantage of this service, and many have received excellent placements at foreign universities.
Possibilities Pakistan also provides a free, 150-page online magazine which has been compiled with the help of high school guidance counselors, college students, and admissions office representatives from renowned international universities. The magazine starts off with a guidance section, which breaks down and discusses the complicated elements of the application process. Detailed subsections are dedicated to recommendation letters, transcripts, college essays, personal statements, SAT scores, college rankings, financial aid and pretty much anything you might need to know about getting into a foreign university. It also includes a ‘University Perspectives’ section, which has been compiled with the help of the extensive team behind Possibilities Pakistan. In this section, each of members of the Possibilities Pakistan team reviews his or her school in a manner designed to address the interests and concerns of Pakistani applicants. University of Pennsylvania, Caltech, Wesleyan University, College of Wooster, University of Nottingham, University of Glasgow, Mcgill University, University of Toronto, National University Singapore and Nanyang Technological University are all reviewed, along with many others. To date, the magazine has been viewed by thousands, and the organization is currently in the process of trying to print the magazine and distribute it to schools across the country.
Possibilities Pakistan isn’t about beating the system; rather it’s about laying bare the entire application process and helping to guide prospective students to acceptances at the schools of their dreams. It is free, high quality, and available to anyone. As a weak education system and socio-political problems pull Pakistan down, the need for a bright new class of young people ready to bring new ideas to get Pakistan back on track becomes more apparent by the day. However, the unfortunate reality is that to be the movers and shakers that Pakistan needs, our youth will need to receive a quality of education that is often not available at home and that is becoming increasingly difficult to begin abroad. Possibilities Pakistan hopes to change this reality. Ultimately, the aim is to bring about a revolutionary change by establishing free educational guidance for all Pakistanis.
The author is a student at the Lahore School of Economics and the Director of Marketing and Outreach for Possibilities Pakistan.