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Dream big with education at a small liberal arts college

 

What is a liberal arts education?

 As an Indian student growing up in a typical Indian household, the children of the 80s and 90s grew up listening to a single refrain: ‘become a doctor’ or ‘become an engineer’. The more ambitious ones went for the bureaucratic services. With the change in millennia, the refrain remained the same, with one fresh entry: IT. Suddenly everyone wanted to be a software guy and head for the fabled goldmines in Palo Alto and the Bay Area.  Indians became the world’s IT intellectual repository, powering Microsoft, Google, Apple and now Facebook. In this race to meet some new technological landmark youngsters (and even parents) often forget the original purpose of education. The purpose of a college degree is not to find ‘a’ well-paid job. At least that is not, or should not, be the sole purpose of a college degree. Rather it is the widening of mental horizons, the procurement of knowledge and information, development of potential and personal talents, and the ability to prepare oneself for a career and fit into a wide variety of roles and positions. And this is where a liberal arts education makes its entry. A liberal arts education (which ironically has nothing to do with liberty or the arts alone) is the high priest of academia, opening minds and possibilities to a wide variety of subjects from the social sciences (economics, history, law, politics, sociology, psychology, etc) to the natural sciences (chemistry, physics, geology, computer science, biology, anthropology, etc.) and everything in between.

How is a liberal arts college different from a national university?

This would probably be your follow up question. While there is no right answer to the question: which of the two is better – a liberal arts college or a large national university – it is easy to outline the differences in the two systems.

  1. Liberal arts colleges are as a rule smaller colleges with a much smaller student population, small class sizes and a close-knit student community.
  2. Due to smaller student populations, the student-faculty ratios are also small ergo faculty know their students better, forms bonds, allow for more personal interaction and provide students a more intimate ambiance within which education is imparted.
  3. An interesting feature of liberal arts colleges is their lack of post-graduation and research options. Liberal arts colleges focus primarily on undergraduate education.
  4. As opposed to large universities where lectures are often given by teaching assistants, as professors are more invested in postgraduate education and research, you would learn directly from professors and leading experts in the field.
  5. Thanks to smaller sizes, there will be less competition for leadership positions and more opportunity for you to shine in your chosen fields of activity and share greater camaraderie with your peers.
  6. There will probably be fewer research opportunities available – these are usually the highlights of large universities where the focus is on research.
  7. Also, unlike large universities, some of which are well-known for their athletic and sports teams, liberal arts colleges are not known for their prowess in the field of sports.

Why would it be good for me?

If you are among that increasingly rare species who believe that college is for learning, not to ready yourself for a job in four years’ time, a liberal arts college is probably where you would fit best. Such an education as some academicians will point out readies you ‘for life’ as opposed to ‘a job’. Given the wide scope of learning it incorporates, liberal arts students come out of college well prepared for various jobs. A solid body of learning across disciplines and subjects is their strongest suit, consequently making them eligible for roles within a wide variety of fields. For instance, a student who took up English Literature and communications in college would during college intern at various organizations – a newspaper/magazine, a media production house or TV channel, a website, a music company, etc. She could finish college and then work at one or several of these places during her career and rise through the ranks to head a division in a managerial position. She did not necessarily have to have been a business management student to get there. In short, a liberal arts education is just another, often more fun, way of reaching the same goals, perhaps with a higher purpose and with a well-rounded personality. It can be the difference between an educated and knowledgeable person; the thin line separating the high skilled from the skilled and versatile; the professional from a global citizen.

So, if you are a person who is passionate about learning and interested in a wide-ranging field of subjects, keen to develop your knowledge and skills, haven’t yet decided your choice of profession and are looking to explore your options and suitability, a liberal arts education could well be the key that unlocks the mystery of what your future holds.

Which colleges could I apply to?

 USA

USA offers very good liberal arts colleges. Among the most well known of these are Pomona, Amherst, Wellesley, Williams, Claremont McKenna,  Bowdoin, Middlebury, Barnard, and Grinnell.

Canada

The list in Canada may not contain names with universal recall like in the US, but these are nevertheless great institutes of learning. Some of them are Humber, Trent, University of Ottawa, and York.

UK

The UK also has a shorter but nonetheless impressive list of liberal arts colleges. These include King’s College, Richmond, University of Bristol, University of Edinburg and Winchester.

Studying Matters of the Mind


You will admit, psychological thrillers make for the most interesting genre whether to read or watch. There’s no doubt that the human mind while being among the most complex organs, is also the most intriguing. Unraveling its secrets, understanding its complexes, finding that fine line between sanity and insanity is a project that can consume a lifetime and then some. While the world around us modifies rapidly, the human mind too continues to evolve in response to stimuli. Studying it is both a satisfying and humbling experience. Whether you are someone who likes to reach out to other human beings or someone who wants to understand themselves better, studying psychology can be the answer to many of your quandaries. A major in psychology is not only gratifying in itself but can also open doors for several other lucrative careers for you. As a psychologist, you will study the human mind and behavior and learn to analyze how human beings behave, how they think, how they feel, how they communicate and express their emotions. Here’s looking at the essentials you need to be aware of before taking the plunge.

Which colleges can I apply to?

There are many, many great colleges you can choose from, not just in
USA, but also in the UK, Germany, Singapore, Australia, and Canada. Psychology is a popular major and many universities offer stellar courses in the subject. If you are looking at the US, there are several other great options. Apart from the popular choices – Stanford, Columbia, and Princeton, you should also consider University of California, LA (UCLA), University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), Duke, New York University (NYU), University of Chicago, Northwestern, University of Virginia (UVA), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC), and Carnegie Mellon (CMU). Liberal Arts Colleges like Carleton, Reed, Grinnel and F&M are also good options to explore among several others.

In Canada, University of British Columbia (UBC) is a stellar choice as are University of Toronto and McGill University – all very popular with foreign students.

Outside of the US and Canada, you can consider the London School of Economics, which has an excellent psychology major. If you don’t mind gloomy weather, are a Rowling fan and feel the tug of the Scottish Highlands, you can consider the University of Edinburgh too.

Among some non-conventional choices for Indian students in Europe are KU Leuven in Belgium and Humbolt University of Berlin if you are feeling particularly adventurous. The universities of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia also present themselves as great options.

The National University of Singapore should certainly be on your list of options. We can list at least a hundred other options for you but can’t, due to space constraints. Here’s your cue to Google it!

 What Courses can I take?

Psychology is as vast and varied as the human mind. Looking at the subject in its entirety can be a little overwhelming considering the various areas it covers and the academic depths it explores. It would probably be a better idea to get your bearings first before wading into this expansive field. Consider personal preferences and have at least some notion of what your future aspirations are before taking your pick. UChicago, well known for its research initiatives, offers some very interesting courses in psychology; consider these: Bright and Dark Side of Empathy, Multidisciplinary Perspectives in Morality, Social Neuroscience and Child Development in the Classroom. Each of these relates to a different branch of psychology and can put you on very different career paths. UNC-Chapel Hill has various opportunities for undergrad research and will give you an excellent taste of a future in academia. Besides, it has fascinating courses that bear immense social and practical relevance, such as Drug Addiction, Fact & Fiction, Health Psychology and Families and Children. If you are keen to explore options closer home, NUS beckons with some relevant courses. Apart from Abnormal Psychology (which is offered in nearly all colleges) you can look at studying upcoming areas such as Industrial and Organizational Psychology, or consider Trauma Psychology or Paediatric Psychology, or even the Psychology of Ageing. As you can well deduce there is a separate branch for every human developmental stage from infancy to old age, then there are individual, group, industrial or even social mindsets that you can study besides looking at abnormal psychology that explores the dark crevices of the mind where ailments such as neurosis, psychosis, schizophrenia and manic depression lurk. You can also look at providing therapy to school-going children through child development and adolescent psychology. With a wide range of options to choose from you will have to delve deep into your own mind to find what you really want!

 Where can I work? As what?

As a psychology graduate, you will have expertise in understanding the human mind and behavior. You can use this to not only understand and control your own emotions and responses better but also turn it into a lucrative career either as a psychologist, an academician who focuses on research or use it as a tool to advance your prospects in other fields. Be warned, however, nearly all careers, while rewarding entail further study – completing a master’s degree and often even a Ph.D. and in many cases enough internship experience before you can strike out on your own. Among the most apparent career choices, of course, are those of school/career counselors, clinical psychologist, and human resource personnel. You can be employed in schools, hospitals, clinics, and large corporates. Another career option is that of a marriage or family therapist. For those who are lured by crime and punishment, working as a forensic psychologist can be as exciting as it sounds. Your job would be to figure out whether or not an accused is sane or not, if there are behavioral abnormalities then what the possible treatments are, whether a witness in a legal case is credible or not, etc. Forensic psychologists usually work with the police or maybe employed by lawyers or investigators. Given the rising number of sporting opportunities in and beyond cricket in India and abroad, you could also make an exciting, glamorous and lucrative career for yourself as a sports psychologist. Sports psychologists focus on the mental health of athletes and are usually employed by sports teams and are a part of the team entourages much as a physical therapist is. They also provide counseling to sportspersons during stressful periods, career shifts, etc. Another upcoming opportunity is that of an industrial or organizational psychologist or an I-O psychologist. They are employed by corporates or large organizations to provide psychological support and counseling in the workplace. I-O psychologists not only work to keep a stable and productive work environment but are also trained to match employee suitability to roles and resolve employee-related issues in the workplace.

So if this sounds like something you would like to pursue, go ahead and explore the options suggested and live the life of the mind.

 

The Important Elements of Economic Study

What do Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, Oliver Hart, Paul Krugman, and Robert Engle have in common? They are all Nobel laureates who devoted their lives to the study of economics. Economics is what makes the world go round. Quite literally. From historical evidence of ancient civilizations using a barter system for trade to the current slump the world economy is headed towards owing to the Covid-19 epidemic in China, economics has a finger in every pie. Especially today, given the impact of globalization where a single event in a Far East country can lead to consequences that are global in nature, the relevance of the subject hardly needs pointing out. It is no surprise then that economics is one of the most popular major choices among international students today. An inter-disciplinary subject that provides students not just a historical perspective, but a lens through which to observe the present and predict the future, it is also one of the most exciting and stimulating subjects you can take up in college. In this blog, we will help to put you in the right direction with regard to the universities you can consider as an economics major, the courses you could potentially look at and what your future prospects are as an economics major.

Which colleges can I apply to?

Given the popularity of the major and the history, depth, and reach of the subject, its department is considered of great relevance in most colleges. In addition to the Ivy Leagues – Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, Stanford,  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Chicago, University of California, Berkeley also have world-class economics programs. Some of the liberal arts colleges also offer a strong major in economics, the popular options are Williams, Wellesley, Claremont McKenna, Barnard, Wesleyan and Pomona. The UK also boasts of colleges that have stellar economics departments with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) leading the pack outside of the US. The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge have excellent courses in the subject too, as do University of Warwick, University College London and London Business School.

Colleges in Canada too have strong economics majors so if you are considering a wider choice before you make your final pick, you can also consider the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia and McGill University.

What Courses can I take?

Like well-aged wine, the scope and reach of the subject have improved over time. Depending on where your true interests lie, there is a very exciting list of options waiting to be unearthed. Are you an economist who is also a closet techie, for instance? How about looking at the Microcosm of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, a course that is exclusive to Stanford. If psychology is the other subject that sets your brain cells abuzz, consider courses such as Networks and Human Behavior or Behavioral Economics. You are actually spoilt for choice – from taking up courses in Game Theory or Macro or Micro Economic Theory to carving a niche for yourself by directing your economic interests towards a particular area/field of study – you can explore gender, family or addictions (yes!), media or public from an economic perspective. There are courses that specialize in the economics of   China, and sectors such as health, private equity, international trade, and e-commerce; the list goes on ad infinitum.  It is therefore advisable that you research courses thoroughly before you decide on your applications – which college provides you the courses that are best aligned with your current interests and future plans? Analyze all aspects before making a final choice.

Where can I work? As what?

As an economics graduate, there is a wide array of options and opportunities that open up for you. Accountancy, banking, business, finance, data analysis, public sector jobs to academia and media – the world is your oyster. An Economics major opens up opportunities for lucrative careers in investment banking with large multi-national banks, as well as in financial and business consultancy. You could consider devoting a few more years to education to become a chartered accountant or complement your economics degree with an MBA that will open up various senior-level opportunities for you in banks, financial institutions, and corporates. You can consider jobs such as those of a market analyst, investment analyst, or credit analyst also employed in investment banks and financial institutions as well as private equity funds. You could even consider a degree in law to take up corporate law, which is both satisfying and monetarily rewarding. You could also consider a career as an accountant, auditor, stockbroker, actuary or data scientist. Economists are highly valued by governments for policymaking on a national and international scale. And if writing and glamour beckons, you can even consider working for a financial newspaper, magazine or TV channel.

The Next Frontier in Technology- Artificial Intelligence

When Dan Brown wrote Origin, he wasn’t so much predicting at the future as documenting the present. Google, Alexa, and Siri are today a part of our lives and we all use them without batting an eyelid. Two decades ago, suggesting that something like would be an essential part of our lives may have seemed ludicrous, but we all know that the day is not far when machines will rule our world. From medical science to the military and from offices to elderly care, we are already beginning to depend heavily on AI. That as a tech geek you should want to be a part of this revolution sweeping the globe is not surprising. Indeed several universities and colleges have revamped their CS departments to include courses in AI.

If you aspire to make a future in this ‘futuristic’ arena, you are sure to have several pressing questions you would like answered:

  1. Where can I study AI?
  2. What courses should I be taking?
  3. What are my options after graduating from college? Where will I find a lucrative job?

In this article, we will try to answer these questions for you.

Which colleges can I apply to?

 The short answer is: many! From Carnegie Mellon, which was among the first to start a course in AI to MIT, you are spoiled for choice. Carnegie Mellon tops the list of colleges with its groundbreaking and interdisciplinary course, followed closely by Stanford where this area has been studied and researched since 1962! MIT gives a lot of money and attention to its AI division and their Computer Science and AI Lab is among the best labs in the college. University of California, Berkeley has a robust AI department as does Harvard that also boasts an AI research center. Yale, Cornell, University of Maryland, Columbia, University of California LA, and Georgia Tech are some other incredible options. With significant research opportunities, large and accomplished faculty and increasing student strength, these are among your go-to options.

Which courses can I take?

While there is no dearth of options – from short-term certificate courses available of Coursera and similar platforms to degree programs, we would recommend aiming for the top guns. While it is impossible to list all the courses and programs available, we would like to draw your attention to a few that are top of the list. Carnegie Mellon’s BS in AI is among the Big Boss of majors you can apply for. Cornell’s Computer Science department offers numerous courses that can be of interest to you: Data Science for All, Autonomous Mobile Robots, Foundations of AI, Practicum in AI, Social and Ethical issues in AI (which we believe is a very relevant and essential component of this field), and Machine Learning for Data Science. USC Vertibi provides excellent undergrad research opportunities in Robotics and Autonomous Systems and among several other things they focus on niche areas such as healthcare, environmental monitoring, and machine learning and algorithms for control of humanoids. We recommend deep and thorough research before you take your pick.

Where can I work? And as what?

While the simple response to this is: the tech sector, obviously, there is actually an increasing demand for people who know their bots from their apps. According to job hunt sites such as Indeed, the positions open to you include machine learning engineers, data scientists, algorithm developers, deep learning engineers, and computer vision engineers among others. Job opportunities lie in companies as varied as Facebook and OCBC legal and compliance, according to another job hunt site Glassdoor. As always, the Bay Area remains among the top destination for job seekers with not only big established names but also a host of start-ups on the lookout for young engineers well versed in AI and machine learning. Among the highest-paid of these jobs are those of big data engineers, data scientists, data architects, information systems security managers, and data security analysts.

Advice for Parents During the College Admissions Process

The Vow for Parents: I will remember that my child’s college experience begins with this process of applying, and will be supportive but will also let them take charge.

College admissions are stressful for everyone involved. The applicant of course but also, teachers, counselors and especially parents. So since its holiday time (and deadline time is approaching) we feel there is an immediate need to talk about the role of parents in college admissions.

1) Don’t take charge:

In many cases, college admissions will be the first time that your child is taking the lead on planning their own future by making mature, responsible decisions that will have an impact on their whole lives. They may be 18 years old, and talking about their future, but we recognize its difficult to think of them older than 18 months sometimes.

Recognize that this process is difficult but is also a learning experience for your child. They learn to plan, to make mistakes and to grow from them, all skills that are essential to their success in college.

Parents accompanied their children at their kindergarten interview but parents should not be attending their college admissions interview. Your child is going to college thousands of miles away, maybe in another country, you can let them go to an interview in the same city alone without accompanying therm. And it’s not just the interview, don’t write emails to admissions officers on their behalf and certainly don’t write essays.

Failing now, when they have a support system of family and mentors, is safer than failing later, so let them stumble, don’t take over the process. A good role may be stepping up as their assistant, helping them track dates on a calendar, organize their papers and reminding them about the big milestones coming up.

2) Talk to them, but also listen:

One of the best ways you can support your child is by communicating! So, set up a time to chat about college but don’t plague them about it every day. Don’t let college take over every conversation because you may overwhelm them and end up sabotaging them in the process.

You can help. In fact, you SHOULD help, you know your child best. You can get excited for them but when you drop them off at the college or at the airport, they will be the one making friends, taking classes, and growing up. Right now, this may be the best chance to listen.

Remember that your child is as stressed, if not more, as you are about college admissions. Choose a day and time every week to check in with them but spend the rest of week listening to what stresses them. Beyond those weekly discussions, you should listen to their concerns. But your own questions and concerns should be saved for your weekly check-in (and around deadlines). Remember, too much advice can be overwhelming.

3) Don’t compare

Every parent knows how amazing and gifted their child is. And as a parent, you want every person to know that. For that reason, we see parents fall prey to the comparing their children to others.

Don’t compare your child to Mrs. Sharma’s son Rahul who went to Harvard and get caught up in an arm’s race. Each college is unique and just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t good for your child. You brought up your children with different values than Mrs. Sharma, each decision you made is slightly different, so why not let the college also be different instead of copying someone else? Help them find the place where they can make the most of their opportunities.

Which also means, don’t try to push your way into getting your child preferential treatment during the college admissions process. More times than not, this tends to backfire. Admissions committees do not appreciate anyone who tries to take advantage of the system, and they also frown upon parents who come across as “helicopter parents” because that often means the child isn’t ready for college. Instead, let your child, be a child while they are going through this difficult time. Help them relax so that they can focus when they need to. But more than anything, remember, it’s their college decision. Be your supportive self but let them take charge.