More than ever a substantial number of Kenyan high school graduates are opting to study abroad, reincarnating the famous ‘Airlift Program’ of 1959. The drive behind this sustained yearning for an American and other education is multi-fold but core to it is the fact that overtime and more so a US education has become a hallmark of quality higher education preparation. What is different though is that unlike 1959, when Tom Mboya with the support of the African American Students Foundation (AASF) succeeded in airlifting 81 East African students to different American universities, currently, the diversity of similar programs and the numbers of students being admitted across many elite universities in the United States has grown tremendously. As of 2016, there were more than five major Kenyan-based organizations dedicated to similar airlift programs, and more than 200 Kenyan students studying in the Ivy Leagues alone.
As the numbers of study-abroad enthusiasts grow, it is expected that more qualified students will be locked out of admissions into prestigious schools. The situation will likely be exacerbated as most highly competitive colleges churn through remarkable applications each year, in turn seeing the need to squeeze admission rates to whittle down to the finest applicants. Harvard University, for instance, tightened its admission rate from 6.2% in 2015 to 5.9% in 2016, reflecting just how hard it is becoming to get into such a school. A brief survey of student admission profiles over the past few years further shows that colleges are contending with a deluge of high calibre and often strategically-designed applications from aggressive applicants in China and South Korea, where an American higher education is the Holy Grail of academic achievement.
For a typical straight-A college applicant from Kenya, the current college application landscape is daunting and needs smarter approaches. This is given the fact that largely the existing public education system (often referred to as 8-4-4) does not thoroughly prepare applicants for the American college admissions process, thus undercutting most applicants’ profile. Majority of high school graduates lag on critical thinking skills, including framing and synthesizing concepts across disciplines and manipulating basic math concepts like linear algebra and calculus. While the education system might be to blame, the situation is not unique to Kenya and applies broadly across many countries globally.
What, therefore, needs to be done to prepare Kenyan applicants for a US college education is to sufficiently prime them for scholarly rigor and global citizenship while covering best practices in both the admissions process and steps after matriculation. The ideal admissions process should provide adequate preparation on standardized tests to ensure applicants secure highly competitive scores, and thorough review and development of superior writing abilities for applicants to present high calibre applications. Critically, after admissions, matriculants need support in polishing their critical and integrative thinking to prepare for demanding college curricula. This can be done through further strengthening of writing skills and development of advanced structured thinking needed for the college intellectual environment, as well as adjusting of the mindset to accommodate fresh ideas – what could be termed as ‘learning to unlearn’.
This is where Upstart Consult comes in and demonstrates proficiency. Our mission is to make the journey of college application both efficient and rewardingly effective. Efficient in the sense that we provide proven steps to a successful application, and rewarding as we increase the chances of applicants getting admission into and thriving once at world class colleges. While the promise for 100% success rate is quixotic given externalities of college admissions beyond our control, we provide well-developed tools for preparing applicants to lock in step with what admission officers consider as benchmarks for desirable candidates.