This month we salute Alika Mathur. Alika is the founder and principal consultant of Alika Mathur Consulting, a university and college advisory and admissions consultancy for Kenyan students applying to study in the US and Canada.
1. You have a background in PR and corporate communications what drew you to education?
I’d worked in admissions when I was in college in the States, which is where my interest in the process began. Over the years, I would often be asked to informally advise students applying to university in the U.S. and Canada, but it was only after I returned to Kenya I realized how much of a need there was for a specialized resource to help students through the application process.
2. What is an average day like for you?
My ‘average’ day changes according to the season! At this time of year, with looming application deadlines, my day starts with checking in with students to make sure they’re on track. Much of my day is taken up with reviewing the various components of their applications – from essays and recommendations to making sure crucial information is completed correctly.
3. How did you go about building a sustainable business model for Alika Mathur Consulting?
I knew I needed help in this process, so I hired Renee as my coach. We’re working on how I can find new clients, and be able to overcome pricing objections from potential clients. Renee informed me that I’m not selling my services, but my clients are buying their results. This has helped me reframe my business pitches.
4. How do you go about marketing your services to your target audience?
Most of my marketing success has come through word of mouth; mostly through parents or students who I have worked with, or by the power of WhatsApp ‘mom groups’. Since trust is such an important factor for parents working with me, they rely on the confidence they get from references from other parents.
5. How do you balance the needs of the students and the anxiety and concerns of their parents?
That’s one of the biggest challenges I face. I do try to hear concerns from both parties without ‘taking sides’. More often than not, parents’ concerns are either practical (“Will my child find a job after graduation?”) or emotional (“Will my child adjust and settle in?”). I usually meet with students one-on-one so I can build a rapport with them, and I’m better able to find the balance between what they and their parents ultimately want out of their university experience.
6. What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Knowing I’m helping students make a decision that they’re happy about at one of the most crucial junctures of their lives. I love hearing from students during their first semester of university, telling me how much they’re enjoying the campus, or how much they’ve already learned from a professor they’ve admired for years.
Ultimately, it’s not only about sending students to top-ranked universities, but about them being somewhere where they will thrive and excel, and be happy for four fundamental years of their lives.
7. What kind of challenges do you face in your work?
Helping parents understand the need and the value of working with a consultant through the college application process; I’d often have great initial meetings with parents, but the struggle came in actually getting them to ‘commit’.
8. How did you overcome those challenges?
Focusing on the experience I have in the field – I’ve worked in the admissions office at a U.S. university, I’ve conducted admissions interviews and organized admissions events for potential students, and I attended university in the U.S. at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I can bridge the gap between what universities are looking for, and what students want to achieve.
9. What are some of the most important lessons you have learnt in entrepreneurship?
How to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities – marketing, administration, finances!
10. How can interested parents reach you?
The best way is to reach me via email on [email protected]