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The best way to know if a university is right for you tips from expert Holly Singh

Holly Singh, who oversees many aspects of the international student experience at Arizona State University, shares some great practical tips regarding rankings, choosing a school, and much more
BY Uma Asher |   10-11-2017

Holly Singh has been in the international education field for over 19 years. As Senior Director of International Students & Scholars Center at Arizona State University, he oversees many aspects of the international student experience, including compliance with government regulations. He has been engaged in collaborative programming to support the unique needs of international students and scholars.

Before starting at ASU in April 2015, he was Director of International Students and Scholars and Executive Director of the Global Leadership Institute at Valparaiso University. There he oversaw many facets of the international student experience, and was engaged in innovative programming in international education. He also helped expand on the university’s strategic vision of internationalization by pioneering a summer global leadership program for high-school students, among other things. He received the Martin Luther King Jr award from Valparaiso University in 2013 for his role in promoting diversity and inclusion.

He grew up in New Delhi, India, and came to the United States as an international student in 1991. He took time out during a hectic work trip to India to share some tips and perspective with BrainGain Magazine readers in an email interview.

Smiling photo of Holly Singh, Senior Director of International Students & Scholars Center at Arizona State University, wearing a yellow ASU t-shirt and maroon Sikh turban
Holly Singh, Senior Director, International Students & Scholars Center, Arizona State University

1. How is a diverse student body beneficial to international students and to the university?

At ASU, we believe in the importance of developing global citizens, students who understand the complexities of the world and its diverse cultures. We aim to have a student body that matches that diversity. Our commitment to excellence and accessibility means that we have students from over 130 countries and from various income and cultural backgrounds.

When students learn alongside, and make friends with classmates from other parts of the world, or other cultural or religious backgrounds, they are learning what they will need to navigate the world – and they’ll be learning it from each other. It’s extremely important to understand that someone might look at a situation or a cultural norm from an entirely different perspective. Doing so helps student develop what we often refer to as soft skills. They become better communicators, they become more empathetic, and the listen better. Students who are exposed to diversity have a better propensity to solve challenges collaboratively. Not only are these skills a critical advantage in the job market, but also they are important live skills to develop.

 

2. US News & World Report ranks ASU the highest on innovation, ahead of Stanford and MIT. What does this translate to in terms of a student’s experience at the university?

The main innovation at ASU is that we place the student at the center of everything that we do. Our decisions are made with a single question in mind. “What is best for the student?” That mindset and structure has allowed us to adapt and remain flexible to the needs of our students.

So in practicality, that means that when a student gets here, we do our best to allow their ideas and their goals drive their experience. Do they want to start a business? If so we tell them they can do that while enrolled and we’ll provide the mentors, support, and even funding to startup if their idea has promise. If a student wants to double major in design and engineering, they can do so as a dual degree-seeking student. If a student wants to conduct research, we work to match them with faculty who are doing so.

As our world and learners change, so must we. That’s how we have remained the top university for innovation for the past 3 years in a row.

 

3. What advice would you offer to potential applicants to help them determine whether they are a good match for ASU academically and financially? Can students expect financial assistance?

ASU is committed to make education affordable for our students. Scholarships for international students are available. I would advise students to reach out to us and simply ask us any question they have. We can help connect prospective students to current students so they can hear directly about the student experience. Follow ASU on social media to get an idea of what life is like at ASU. The best way to find out if ASU is the right fit is to create as many touch points with us while you are weighing your options. I am confident that students will find that ASU representatives are friendly and genuinely interested in helping them make decisions. No question is a bad question.

 

4. What does ASU typically look for in applicants?

There are a few characteristics that we look for in both graduate and undergraduate students. We want to enroll students who have a thirst for knowledge and are open to learning a wide range of topics. We want to create master learners, people who are capable of learning anything. We look for students who want to make a positive impact in the world through their lives and careers. We pride ourselves on being a friendly, positive environment. We want students who want to help out their fellow classmates. We also want students who excel academically. We believe that there is no better university to stretch your knowledge and abilities, and we have the resources to help you grow. ASU loves self-starters.

 

5. Over the past few months, headlines about visas, travel, health care, and diversity concerns have led to uncertainty in the minds of many prospective international students who would love to study in the US. What has been ASU’s response?

My team at the International Students and Scholars Center, as well as my colleagues around the university, work day in and day out to provide a welcoming home to our international students. We can help a student navigate the steps you need to take to enroll and arrive at ASU, but we take the support further and create opportunities to celebrate our diversity. We host international fairs and celebrate important holidays. Our Diwali festival, Jhankaar, for example, was attended by over 1,000 students – and not just our students from India.

Through ongoing communication we also make it clear that we are here to listen to the concerns of our students and answer their questions. We have held forums with students to listen to them and have made immigration lawyers available to them to answer questions. Regardless of what a student may hear in the news, it is our goal to help our students understand that ASU is, and will always be, a welcoming home for all students, regardless of their background.

 

6. How does ASU support students to prepare for life after graduation, in terms of gaining practical work experience and finding a job?

We are extremely proud of our internship and job placement efforts. ASU has career services that provide everything from resume writing workshops to on-campus interviews with top employers – apart from central university career services, Fulton Schools of Engineering and WP Carey School of Business also have their own career services. We help students connect with successful alumni and mentors. Among our many accolades, the Global University Employability Survey 2016 ranked ASU in the top 10 for graduate employability. Additionally, Business Insider ranked ASU in the top 20 schools in the nation to land a job in Silicon Valley. Our networks are huge and our partnerships with major employers are strong.


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