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Everyone On Toes For Foreign Admission Due To Uncertainty Amidst Current Situation: Deepak Matrani

In an exclusive interaction with BW Education, Deepak Matrani, Founder, deepakmatrani.com, talked about the firm and more.

How will the latest US Visa suspension impact the students looking forward to studying abroad? 

For students, there is no direct impact of the decision. The latest proclamation signed by US President Donald Trump has suspended the entry of certain aliens as immigrants and nonimmigrants through December 31, 2020. The entry through H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa programs has been suspended. 

H-1B visa is issued for specialty occupation, H-2B visa for skilled and unskilled workers. Category L visas are for intra-company transferees and J visa category is issued to foreign citizens for participating in exchange programs. 

Out of these, H1B is the most popular category and Indian skilled workers, most commonly from the tech industry plus a major chunk of visas issued under this category goes to Indian nationals. 

The proclamation has no mention of student visas, which are F-1 and M-1 visas, therefore, there is no direct impact on students who are looking forward to taking admissions in US Universities. 

Though the move does not affect the students planning for admissions directly, it does act as a mood dampener since it has come at a time when the world is reeling under the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.    

What about the Indian students currently studying in USA? 

Those who are currently in the United States with a valid visa will not be affected. F-1 is the most common type of student visa. Students on completing their graduate or undergraduate courses look for a change in the status of their visa from F-1 to H1B category. 

Typically, there are two routes to the same. The students, on finding an employer for sponsoring the H1B visa can get the visa status changed directly. Alternatively, many students participate in Optional Practical Training (OPT) program which is a 12-months work period that allows them to gain experience in the field of their studies. In the intervening period, they can look for an employer and then get their H1B visa sponsored by them. 

The current visa holders who are in the US can get their visas extended or get them changed to a different type of visa. The move will have no impact on them. 

How is the current situation restricting job prospects and will that have a bearing on students' decision to study abroad, particularly USA? 

When students plan to take admissions in foreign universities, they base their decisions on several important factors and job prospects is one of those. Higher education in foreign universities is expensive and therefore return of investment is considered when making a choice.
Today we are staring at a global economic slowdown with major institutions and credit rating agencies lowering forecasts for global economic growth amidst the coronavirus pandemic. We have seen a hike in job losses world over. Going forward, chances of employability looks thin and may have a bearing on students’ decision to study abroad. 

Talking particularly of the US, students currently studying there will face less competition when entering the job market because no aliens would be entering the country with H1B Visa due to its suspension. 

How has the scenario changed for standardized tests like SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE among others? 

There is a lot of uncertainty on when and how these tests will be conducted as we grapple with the pandemic situation. Most of the universities, including all the Ivy league universities, have already become test-optional. On the other hand, applicants for tests like GMAT and GRE have reduced. 

Most of the exams have been postponed in view of the situation. Official dates for some of these exams are there in place but how and when they will successfully be conducted still remains a question. 

I suggest that students should continue to prepare for these exams since great scores give them an edge when competing with students from all over the world. 

What suggestions do you have for the preparation of such standardized tests? 

We should not just view the standardized tests from the prism of the requirement to get admissions in foreign universities. In fact, these exams are a bridge between students and the course they opt for. For foreign students, a great test score proves that they are good for the course and help them land in a good college. Unfortunately, because of the circumstances, there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty but my advice would be to continue preparing for the exams. 

Since students have time now, they must utilize it properly and prepare for the exams. Once the situation gets better and conducive for exams to be conducted, they'll have the confidence that they are still in the league. 

Given the charm of studying abroad, how should students plan their academic future amidst the dual challenge of pandemic and Visa policy change?

I suggest that students should plan their career keeping in mind the long term scenario. Studying abroad gives students exposure, a highly competitive environment to hone their skills and better job prospects. When they graduate from reputed institutions they are able to compete better in every part of the world.

As far as the current situation is concerned, students must make most of the time that they have right now. Besides, the expectation of USA's economic recovery is also high. Amidst this situation, e-learning will become popular and even after things improve, the institutions may opt for a blend of offline and online learning keeping in mind the best practices. Students may not be able to go back to their colleges in the foreseeable future but that should not undermine their resolve to study in reputed academic institutions and acquiring skills for career development. 

Apart from students, admissions in foreign institutions involve various stakeholders like counsellors, teachers, test-taking agencies and parents. How are each one of them affected? 

Admission abroad is a lengthy and effort-oriented process. The situation we are finding ourselves in is affecting everyone involved in the process.
Starting with counsellors, they are on their toes now keeping themselves updated with the developments taking place in the view of the pandemic. Application requirements are changing, some colleges have become test-optional, certain applications are on hold. They have to brace themselves to deal with anxious parents and anxious kids. The queries must have exponentially increased. 

For teachers, keeping students motivated has become all the more important as the uncertainty looms large. Nobody knows when will things normalise and when they do, teachers may be required to re-teach students for standardized tests. Hand-holding the students is required now more than ever.

The ultimate responsibility of conducting the exams rests with test-taking agencies. They are yet to chalk out plans for successfully conducting the tests with social distancing and other best practices. Online examinations come with their own unique challenges. The test-taking agencies have to align themselves with these testing times. After all, no test is better than a bad test.

As regards the parents, the situation now requires them to become much more active. They have got to check all the official websites first hand and keep themselves updated with the latest developments related to changing admission processes and application requirements. They must coordinate with kids, teachers and counsellors with diligence and overlook the entire admission process. At the same time, parents must keep their kids motivated.  



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