Applying to international universities is a daunting task that demands much of our attention, dedication, and financial capabilities. This exuberates in our country due to information asymmetry and telling differences between various international institutions across the globe.
So, the journey to our dream universities is long and needlessly arduous. ApplyStart, an online service website, aims to assist the aspirants in this regard.
The service inspires the aspirants to dream big every day, with its mission being to make international university applications easier, cheaper and faster.
They have connected all top universities on a single web platform, allowing everyone to apply anytime, anywhere. The Financial Express has talked to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ApplyStart - Siam Sifat and explored the platform’s inception, operations, and goals.
Siam, a third year student at the Department of Marketing at York University, Canada, has seen the hassles and hurdles of applying overseas with his very eyes. So, he decided to create a platform where aspirants can apply easily without cost.
“Easily accessing your dream universities is your right,” he told the scribe, “studying abroad is a big decision, it changes your life completely, so it should not be so hard accessing the universities.”
“I have seen the suffering, so I wanted to create a platform where the students can go to the websites of the universities, see the requirements and choose the desired universities from the most popular ones. And I wanted it to be free.”
The predatory behaviour of many consultancy agencies worried him as well. The services provided by the agencies are most often not at all worth the high amount they charge.
“I have seen agencies charging as much as one lac taka,” he continued, “this is insane. The students go through a lot, getting substandard services despite paying high charges is the last thing they should be thinking about.”
“We have begun working on ApplyStart for a year now. I have three other founders with me - Mohammad A Immam who is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Mohammad Tasinuzzaman as the Chief Design Officer (CDO), and Ahsan Rohan as the Principal Software Engineer.”
All of them are international students, and they know what the students have to go through to get there.
“Our desire is to make the application process easier and simpler for the aspirants for free,” Siam said while talking about his motivation, “when I was working in a local consultancy agency, I used to talk to the aspirants and their parents. I used to see aspirants running to the agency after doing seven-eight classes of IELTS or GRE a day. It hit me hard.”
The obstacles to applying abroad:
The students face many obstacles while applying to international universities. And the obstacles are manyfold and come in various forms and degrees. So, Siam was asked about the problems.
“There are mainly two ways of applying abroad,” he replied, “and both the ways have different sets of problems. One way is going directly to university websites, but it is, in reality, a very complex and overwhelming process.
“There is so much information, and not everything is for the aspirants, as the websites have application procedures for domestic students as well. So navigating through the ocean of information is hard. Moreover, it is different for every country.”
And when students can not do it, they go to the consultancy agencies. But the process is long and slow. One needs to go three/four times only to start the process. And sometimes, many consultancy agencies are plain and simple scams, not worth the money or the time.
“I have heard that students have to remind the agencies about finishing the work or the deadlines. There is no competitiveness, so the industry is faulty, and therefore the service is bad.”
ApplyStart to the rescue:
So what does ApplyStart have to offer to the aspirants? Siam mentioned that it saves time.
“ApplyStary is the one-stop solution for applying abroad. Starting from E-counselling to visa support, from the start to the end, we have their backs. Our user interface is really simple, and there are options for info gathering and comparing with the other universities to find the best one out there for the students.”
The navigation process is simple and similar for different countries. The students can live to track their application progress at every step.
ApplyStart also provides the access to sample essays and sample scholarship applications so that the applicants can get an idea from those samples. One of the key features is showing the choices according to his/her budget. There are filters that will help them to single out their choices.
“We also help them to avoid mistakes that hinder their acceptance. There is also a feature for setting reminders for deadlines where we will send emails to remind them of deadlines. The best part of the website is that it is all automated and digital. As we take feedback, as we learn more, we improve and add more,” explained Siam.
Opening the website for all:
The website is still in its beta stage. The website works with the partner universities around the world from which it gets the profit.
Since ApplyStart can provide the partner universities with international students at about thirty per cent less than the commission the consultancy agencies can, the universities are interested in it.
The website will be open for general use in January 2023. Already more than five hundred students have applied for the website, and the number is rising every day.
“Our plan is to expand our services to India, Nepal, and the Middle East. After seeing the progress in Bangladesh for two or three years, we are going international,” Siam remarked on their future plans.
However, the ultimate vision is well beyond the field of business. Siam and his partners want to create a brand image of Bangladesh as the exporter of high-skilled individuals and talented students in the international arena.
“We are working in the industry from where students will go to work in big corporations. We want to create a positive perception about Bangladeshi students, we want to create a brand value of our country as a global talent producer.”
“We have been receiving amazing traction from students,” said Siam, “within one week of launching, we received more than five hundred students. We have received such organic support, and that too without any PR. We are amazed to see it. The university partners are amazed as well.”
The best inspiration for the team is the fervour that they have been welcomed.
“Many students have texted us too. They are seeing it as a blessing. The love and support have been tremendous, and it is the biggest inspiration for us.”
Initiatives like ApplyStart that assist aspiring students to pursue their dreams of studying abroad should be lauded and supported by the community to inspire the students to dream big and add value to their society.