Go for the course that’s right for you and not one that’s got the right social cachet...

FOR INDIAN students aspiring to go to America,we got in touch with US education experts who have a lot of useful advice to offer.

“The best part of the U.S. university system is that you have a wide range of courses and pricing options to choose from, so first educate yourself about what you want and what options are best suited to your career goals,” says Suresh Kumar, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Trade Promotion and Director-General, US & Foreign Commercial Service. The U.S. has 14 of the top 20 universities in the world listed across respected independent surveys, so there’s no doubt about the quality of the education you’ll get, but you’ve got to choose right to get the most out of the system.

An alumnus of St Columba’s, Delhi University and the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Sciences, Mumbai, and a former journalist, Kumar should know the aspirations of Indian students better than his peers back home in America. His daughter is a Harvard graduate and a Rhodes scholar; his son studied at Stanford. And he has held top executive positions, including president of Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide consumer pharmaceuticals division, as well as done stints in academia, besides being the Thunderbird School of Global Management’s Distinguished Executive in Residence.

As you’d expect of a first-generation immigrant success story and father of two highly qualified young people, Kumar chalks out a strategy for applying to U.S. universities. He does it by giving an example from an area he’s familiar with — MBA programmes. “If you study business, choose a specialisation according to your interest, skill sets and potential,” he says.



Of course, everyone dreams of going to Harvard Business School or to Standford, but their intake rate is 13 per cent and 7 per cent respectively of all the applications filed in a particular year, Kumar points out. So, before applying, do your research and find out which programme is best for your area of interest. If you, for instance, are in love with the idea of counting beans for the rest of your life and making piles of money early on in life, it won’t help your career track if you enroll for an MBA programme that’s prepares its students to become marketing whiz kids. Kumar calls it “understanding the price benefit”. He would recommend Thunderbird, which is in Glendale, Arizona, for students interested in the area of global management.

But Kumar isn’t in the country to offer free career advice. The delegation of 21 universities he’s leading represents what he describes as the “width of choice” that the American system offers. Their visit coincides with the U.S.- Indian Higher Education Summit in Washington, D.C. between HRD minister Kapil Sibal and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. India students, whose numbers added up to a little less than 105,000 last year, represent 15 per cent of the international student population on American campuses. In 2010, however, they were dislodged from the No. 1 position by their Chinese peers, whose number has gone up to 127,000.

To Indian students, Kumar’s message is to check out undergraduate options in the United States; to the government, he points to the impending need gap in higher education — if by 2015 we achieve the 15 per cent gross enrollment ratio target set by Sibal for higher education, then the infrastructure in place can absorb only 28 million of the 33 million students who will seek admission into undergraduate programmes. “We are here to fill up at least a part of the gap,” says Kumar, his words echoing the sentiments of the delegation that’s come here with great expectations.