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Success! Two counsellors take delight in their students’ triumphs

By Jeremy Handcock, Vienna International School and Arsalan Humayun, Beaconhouse School System, Pakistan

Edited by IB staff 

University and careers counsellors are driven to help all students achieve the absolute best outcomes after graduation. As Jeremy Handcock, a UCC with more than 20 years of experience says, “It is always very gratifying when a hard-working and deserving student wins a place at a top university but, for me, it is equally gratifying when a less academic student manages to get a place at university by sheer hard work and perseverance. Any college counsellor worth his/her salt can find a university place for a student who has got 40+ IB points. The real challenge is finding a place for a student who didn’t receive an IB diploma and has no money!” 

Handcock firmly believes that everyone deserves a chance, and his story of supporting a student who didn’t possess the advantages that most international school students possess, but still fought her way through to achieve success, is inspiring. The student was hard-working, mature, responsible, reliable and, in short, a joy to work with. The only downside was her grades were a little on the low side and she was restricted to applying to Scottish universities because they were free. He says, “I was determined to find a place for her so she could continue her studies.” 

Because the student was limited to searching for her higher education institute in Scotland, Handcock narrowed the focus to a community college in the city of Aberdeen that offered a course that, upon successful completion, would allow her to transfer to the Robert Gordon University and proceed to study for a bachelor’s degree. This was the perfect solution, the only problem remaining was that the course had already started that same week, so she would have missed the first week of lectures. Undaunted, Handcock called up the college and discussed her case. He stayed strong in promoting the student’s strengths, until finally, “I will give your student a place.” 

Handcock says, “I was so excited for my student. In all my years as a college counsellor, I can scarcely think of anyone more deserving of a place to study.” The student went on to get a bachelor’s degree from the Robert Gordon University, and she sent Handcock a heartfelt thank you note with her graduation photo. 

Whether a photo, a text message or a handwritten note, UCCs receive expressions of gratitude from students often. On New Year’s Day, Arsalan Humayun, a counsellor since 2019 at Beaconhouse School system in Pakistan, received a message from one of his students thanking him for his support with his university applications. Humayun notes, “At that time the student was experiencing so much stress and anxiety that he doubted his ability to be accepted into his desired university. 

Of course, the message made Humayun smile and was an important reminder that his work makes a significant impact on his students’ lives. Its messages like these, from students or parents, that keep all UCCs motivated to come to work each day. 

Humayun notes that it is important for him to keep learning so that he can better support students. He wants to hone skills in active listening, research, interpersonal communication, and problem solving because each student will be different and will require a different level of counselling. He has completed certifications from LinkedIn Learning including:  

  • College prep: Writing a Strong Essay 
  • Discovering Your Strengths  
  • College Career Coach 

In just over two years that Humayun has been helping students complete their university applications and identify career paths according to their aptitude and future goals, he has become even more passionate about his role and profession. During the short time I’ve been at Beaconhouse School System, I have helped students get over $22 million dollars of scholarship funds and gain admission to top universities.” One of his proudest achievements is helping one of his IBDP    students gain acceptance from MINERVA University. Minerva has a 1.9% acceptance rate, making it tougher to get into than Harvard University. 

These two stories show the passion and satisfaction that UCC professionals experience throughout their careers. As Humayun emphasizes

I cannot think of a better profession than career counselling! 

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