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#SaraChats: Ivy League Dreams for your child? Meet Pooja and Shashank of Ivy Dreams

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Bookosmia Spotlight

Hey everyone! Your best friend Sara here.

What do you need to do to make it to the Ivy Leagues? Is a career in social sector possible? Find your answers in conversation with Pooja and Shashank, from the worlds best institutes, social entrepreneurs and founders of Ivy Dreams.

#SaraChats: Ivy League Dreams for your child? Meet Pooja and Shashank of Ivy Dreams

Sara: Hi Pooja and Shashank. You have so many prestigious brands  between the two of you – Harvard Alum and Mason Fellow, IIM Cal, IIM Lucknow. Clearly you cracked the right approach to make it to the big IVY leagues. What  worked for you and where do you think our youngsters need support when preparing for the IVY leagues?


Pooja: What worked for me was that I never thought that it is too late to do  anything. I did MBA from IIM Cal with my 3 year old son who lived with me in  the hostel. We also made a big decision to return back to India from US. I don’t  come from an IIT still I could crack IIM Calcutta. So it is mostly about the  mindset and your past need not dictate the present or your future.
Youngsters today are really smart individuals and have access to too much  information. They need support in identifying their goals and also the  opportunities to accomplish those goals.

Shashank: I fully concur with Pooja. What worked for us was a combination of three things. Firstly, a clear sense of purpose in which our education from Ivy League institutions had a role of play. Secondly, the willingness to work hard to make our dreams come true and thirdly, a clear step by step strategy to achieve our goals, not just in terms of admission into the institutions of our choice but also in life.

In terms of support to the young, talented, and ambitious youth of today, I believe that many now have the courage to tread the road not taken.  However,  they lack clarity of purpose, due to which they are unable to define their goals, including the place that further education has in their life journeys as well as the strategy to make their dreams come true.



Sara: Pooja, you opted out of the lucrative placement process at IIM Cal  after having worked for many years in the US to give in to your calling for social change- starting your own school at a grassroot level near Lucknow in UP. Shashank is also a TFI fellow and has been an edupreneur and  political  entrepreneur. So many youngsters want to bring about a change  in the society but worry it is not a lucrative career option. Do you think that is changing in India with big names like Oxfam, non profit fund houses and HNI support?


Pooja: Yes, it is definetly changing in India with India being the focus area for big names like Oxfam, Bill and Melinda gates foundation etc. These organisations pay well and have good career options. So you get the best of both world, working for a cause which is close to your heart and also have a good career financially. 


Shashank:  While I agree with all that Pooja has said, I would like to say that another big change has been the realization that “we need to be the change that we want to see in the world”. That has led to many young individuals start social ventures as well as social businesses that create further opportunities for public service. I believe the youth of today is more willing than yester years in taking the risk of entering public service be it through social service, activism or politics.



Sara: Your company Ivy Dreams prepares students to apply to Ivy League  colleges and already has an amazing 67% success rate in the first year  itself. What do you think is the right age and preparation needed for kids  who are clear they want to study in the best universities of the world? 


Pooja : I don’t think age is a criterion here as IVY colleges offer a wide range of options from undergraduate to graduate courses. There are so many options  available right after class 12th. First thing a kid needs is to find a course that  he/she wants to get enrolled in, then identify what the university is looking for, develop those competencies and build their profile apart from preparing for the exams like TOEFEL, SAT, GRE as required by the university.


Shashank: I would like to frame my answer in terms of the goals of the  individual we are working with. Getting an IvyLeague education is an enabler to an individuals goals but not the goal itself. The earlier an aspirant and their family are able to determine the educational outcomes from the desired education, the better they can plan for the precise education intervention as well as the means to fund the same. An aspirant has to strategically work towards building a winning profile which includes curating experiences, building skills, enlisting recommenders and formulating a Statement of Purpose which truly gives the admissions committee a sense of the intent and the effort behind the application. Lastly and perhaps most importantly,  working on obtaining the financial means to sustain an education abroad can be make or break hence a financial strategy also needs to be put in place. We through IvyDreams help in the entire life cycle.


Sara: A lot of companies have marked their content free during the lockdown. Are there any good courses you would recommend to make good use of?

Pooja and Shashank:  The courses especially MOOC’s need to be specific to the courses being targeted. Harvard Edx for example is offering a lot of online courses across competencies which are free or at affordable prices.


About Pooja Mishra and Shashank Shekhar Shukla
Their consulting  venture  IvyDreams helps talented young individuals to delve deep into their  aspirations to ascertain what is that they really want to achieve out of their  education and then we work with them to identify courses, universities that  suit their specific needs. We then prepare a personalized strategy to identify  the loopholes in their profiles and work to fix them.

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