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American Colleges Embrace Ethos of Commission-Free Model: Patriek Karayil

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American Colleges Embrace Ethos of Commission-Free Model: Patriek Karayil

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In an interview with EduKida, Patriek Karayil, President, American Colleges, discussed the journey, challenges, commitment and more

What inspired you to transition from a successful career in the corporate world, including stints at NASA, Motorola, and Dell, to a prominent role in international education?
The decision to shift from a thriving corporate career to a role in international education was merely a chance opportunity. I was a career CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) for large organisations, and I got asked to be the CMO for a large Ed-tech company. It was there that I got to see firsthand that the various challenges that I encountered during my study abroad experience had not only continued to persist but had magnified. After many years in the international education space, and engaging with nearly 50+ universities on their admissions and enrollment side, it was clear to me that the root cause of today’s challenges was largely due to the significant information gap and the absence of unbiased guidance for students aspiring to study internationally. Motivated by a desire to address these challenges and empower future students, the decision to establish a not-for-profit called American Colleges was made to provide comprehensive, unbiased, and student-centric support.

In your personal journey as an international student, navigating the transition from an F1 visa to H1-B and finally obtaining U.S. citizenship, how has this influenced your passion for guiding others in similar situations?
Going through the decade-long journey from an F1 to H1-B to a green card to citizenship, was an eye-opener. It wasn’t just the personal challenge of navigating complex immigration pathways, but the realisation of these challenges that persist today for international students sparked a desire to guide others. However, it was not until many years later, when I worked in the education sector that cemented this desire. I had directly worked with over 35+ U.S. Universities on your admissions and enrollment side, I had liaised with visa officers, and I had engaged firsthand with over 10,000 students from India. I saw that college counseling has become a big business and that many times students are not receiving comprehensive and accurate information that is in their best interest. Witnessing these nuances and challenges faced by international students, I felt a compelling need to offer guidance, focusing on their welfare over monetization. This experience has shaped my commitment to genuinely support students, ensuring they make informed decisions for a successful educational and personal journey in the U.S.

In what ways does your leadership style at American Colleges reflect your empathetic approach, commitment to integrity, and student-centric vision?
Leading American Colleges, my style is characterized by the student-centric approach. Each decision and initiative is grounded in a genuine understanding of the unique challenges students face. This empathetic approach ensures that our guidance goes beyond advisories, becoming a tailored support system. Operating under a not-for-profit model underscores our commitment to integrity, refraining from accepting university commissions to maintain an unbiased stance. Our emphasis on free resources reflects the student-centric vision, making quality education counseling accessible to all, irrespective of financial constraints.

How does American Colleges, as a not-for-profit organization, address the gap in international education counseling, especially regarding transparency and affordability?
As a not-for-profit organization, American Colleges addresses the counseling gap by reshaping the landscape of international education guidance. Our commitment to transparency is evident in our refusal to accept commissions from universities, ensuring impartial advice aligned solely with the best interests of the student. Additionally, our goal is to operate without levying a burden on the student by focusing on disseminating free information through our YouTube and social channels. Our not-for-profit model allows us to focus on affordability, offering the majority of our resources for free. This emphasis on accessibility and transparency seeks to make reliable and unbiased information widely accessible, addressing the gap that often hinders students from making informed decisions about their education.

Can you elaborate on your challenges when transitioning from the corporate world to education, adhering to a non-profit model, and navigating the digital landscape?
Transitioning from the corporate world to education wasn’t a drastic shift, given that Higher education institutions today operate with a business mindset. This is particularly pronounced in the context of international student recruitment, which has evolved into a significant big business. However, adopting a non-profit model presented unique challenges. Operating without the cushion of large budgets meant we had to be mission-driven and innovative. To maintain our commitment to not charging students or taking university commissions, we allied with the American Education Board. This partnership provided the necessary support to sustain our operations. Embracing the digital landscape, we focused on utilising platforms like YouTube and Instagram to freely disseminate information, empowering students to make informed choices best suited to their personal and academic goals.

What key milestones have American Colleges achieved under your guidance, and how do these accomplishments contribute to the organization’s recognition as an expert voice in international education and immigration?
Under my guidance, American Colleges has achieved significant milestones contributing to its recognition as an expert voice in international education and immigration. Our collaboration with the American Education Board stands out, providing us with valuable insights into university policies and visa regulations. Operating on a not-for-profit model and deciding against university commissions has established us as a trustworthy source of unbiased advice. We actively engage with policymakers, advocating for student-centric policies. These accomplishments collectively position American Colleges as an expert voice, combining deep insights, transparency, and advocacy for students’ needs.

How do you envision the future of American Colleges, particularly in terms of expanding digital presence, content offerings, global collaborations, and maintaining a focus on affordability and accessibility?
The future of American Colleges is envisioned as a dynamic evolution, characterized by a multifaceted approach. We aim to enhance our digital presence, utilizing technology to expand online resources, masterclasses, and engagement platforms. Global collaborations through the American Education Board are integral to our vision, fostering diverse insights and enriching the depth of our guidance. The focus on affordability and accessibility remains steadfast, with strategies evolving to meet the changing needs of students in the digital age. The goal is to ensure that American Colleges continue to provide high-quality, accessible, and unbiased education counseling to students worldwide.

How does your passion for chess influence your perspective on life, and in what ways do you see parallels between the strategic intricacies of the game and real-life scenarios?
I play chess for the fun of it. I just enjoy it. But beyond the entertainment, it’s fascinating how this game, much like life, requires a blend of tactical thinking and long-term planning. Each move on the chessboard demands careful consideration, akin to decision-making in real-world scenarios. It teaches the value of patience, and understanding that sometimes immediate sacrifices lead to future gains. Similarly, in both chess and life, adaptability is crucial; one must be ready to alter our approach in response to unforeseen circumstances. This game of intricate strategies mirrors the complexities of navigating personal and professional landscapes. I also like how it reinforces the importance of thinking several steps ahead, as is the case with international education while being adaptable to change. Getting admitted to an understanding is not the end, it is only a means to an end. This viewpoint only comes when you start thinking beyond the short term, something any chess player can attest to.

Can you provide insights into your commitment to not accepting commissions from universities, ensuring that the guidance provided by American Colleges is always in the best interests of the students?
My commitment to not accepting commissions from universities is central to the ethos of American Colleges. This stance stems from a keen awareness that taking commissions, which is commonplace in the industry, often leads to compromised integrity. I’ve witnessed this too many times and are determined to set a different standard that embodies – a non-profit model, emphasising free resources that are accurate and comprehensive while providing the highest levels of standard, maintaining our objectivity and credibility through our association with the American Education Board, providing specialised guidance like our masterclasses where we keep charges minimal to maintain accessibility for all students.

How do American Colleges plan to continue being a prominent ally for international students at every stage of their academic journey, and what specific strategies are in place to achieve this goal?
American Colleges is committed to being a steadfast ally for international students at every stage of their academic journey. To achieve this goal, we are implementing strategies that encompass various dimensions. Leveraging technology for real-time guidance, we engage with students through on-ground events, webinars, online communities, and social platforms. On-the-ground events provide direct interaction opportunities, ensuring face to face support. The commitment to free resources, unbiased advice, and advocacy for students’ needs remains the cornerstone of our strategy. By actively participating in policy discussions and staying attuned to evolving dynamics, American Colleges aims to continue being a reliable and unwavering ally for international students navigating their academic journey.

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