“Just like one size does not fit everyone, one answer does not answer all queries. We address every student in an individual capacity to connect them with the right people who can help them overcome situations they themselves have gone through,” Ali Khalid Chaudhry of Possibilities Pakistan told The Express Tribune.
Chaudhry explained that Possibilities Pakistan started out as an idea in August 2009 to facilitate students seeking admissions in local and foreign universities. Within two years, it turned into an organisation with more than 300 volunteers at various universities.
In 2009, he said, he was looking for options to continue higher education in a foreign university. Though he got admission to Wesleyan University in Connecticut, he said, there was a lack of guidance and counselling for students catering to foreign universities.
This led Chaudhry and his friend, Shah Jahan Burki, a Wheaton College undergrad student, to create a community of volunteers, who had managed college application processes in various universities.
Chaudhry said that the idea received a good response from students in foreign universities. Within months, several Pakistani and foreign students had volunteered as guidance counsellors, offering free advice and guidance to students, he added.
Possibilities Pakistan has so far helped some 200 students with free counselling through counsellors in 70 universities around the world including Oxford University, the University of Cambridge, London School of Economics (LSE), Warwick University, University of Toronto, McGill University, MIT, GIK Institute, NCA and LUMS.
Students email their queries to Possibilities Pakistan and are then given a personalised response from volunteers who have shared a similar experience or problem.
Schyan Zafar, an Oxford University graduate, works as the project manager. He said students are guided in various areas, from university application procedures to the selection process.
Recently, Possibilities Pakistan conducted College Day 2011 at the Lahore Grammar School in collaboration with the school’s Peer Tutoring Club (PTC). The event was attended by more than 150 students, who were guided by a team of over 30 representatives from various universities.
Uzair Sukhera, who completed his masters from Cornell University in 2011, said that Possibilities Pakistan provided him with a platform to put his experience with student groups to use by actively participating in their venture.
Taimoor Zahid, 18, said initially, it seemed impossible for him to go abroad because of financial constraints. He said Possibilities Pakistan provided him free counselling with alternate options. Zahid will join the Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar this fall.
“In Pakistan when anything is offered for free, it is natural to be a bit sceptical. But we assure students of our authenticity and that the free counselling is meant to make up for the lack of educational guidance to students and nothing else,” Chaudhry explained.
A grad student at the LSE, Arsalan Yousaf, who was attracted by their free services, contacted Possibilities Pakistan, from where he received “constant and valuable” feedback. Yousaf too now serves as a project manager at Possibilities Pakistan.
Chaudhry said some problems were still there but hoped to overcome all challenges. “We are planning to print a guidance magazine which will be circulated free of cost in 100 schools in Lahore and Karachi.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2011.
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