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Applying to college? (By M.A. Malik Farooqi) Dawn News

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Applying to college? (By M.A. Malik Farooqi) Dawn News
« on: May 09, 2008, 02:16:13 PM »
Applying to college? (By M.A. Malik Farooqi) Dawn News

When students finish their final year of school or college, they should feel a sense of accomplishment, of joy and have a zealous approach to whatever may come next. But alas, this is not the case.

Even before the beginning of the final exams, there is the headache of submitting applications for your college-to-be. Keeping my own experiences in mind, I will deal specifically in this article with medical and science colleges such as the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Aga Khan University (AKU) and the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), which arguably are the best colleges in Pakistan for their respective fields.

Let’s start off with AKU. The application forms become available on February 4 with March 7 as the last date for submissions. Okay, no problem. But there is a catch — the admission test is on April 6, the same time A-level students have their mocks. Mind you, that’s not the least of it — all the questions in the admission test happen to be Intermediate-based.

So basically there’s no slack for the A-level students as they somehow have to revise two years of Intermediate too while appearing for their mocks.

If you are an Intermediate student and are reading this, just know that you aren’t that well-off either. Okay, so there won’t be any headings or essays in the entrance or admission test, but instead you’ll be facing multiple choice questions (MCQ), for the first time.

And when you’re done with all that, it takes the AKU almost a month to publish the test results. Now that is a bit long, considering everything’s computerised. Plus, once you’re short listed, they want documents upon documents about your extracurricular activities, academic achievements and of course volunteer work.

Now let’s talk about getting into DUHS. They are the ones with the most complicated and arduous application instructions that I have ever seen. First of all they have a very short time period in which you can submit your applications (around 15 days). Second, their forms are only available with specific UBL branches, half of which don’t have them — I had to go all the way to Saddar to get mine. Third, they have up to 19 documents which you have to submit in “hard board files” and I quote “no fancy plastic files” — from things like your domicile, how much volunteer work you’ve done (again!), etc.

The worst part however is that if a student has done O-levels/IGCSE from any country other than Pakistan, he or she does not qualify as an open-merit candidate for DUHS and must apply as an overseas candidate to the Dow International Medical College (DIMC), which has a totally different campus but most importantly it has a tuition fee of US$10,000.

“How on earth are my parents supposed to pay S10,000 every year! I mean it’s been three years since we moved here from Saudi Arabia and my family generates all its income in rupees. And this, just because I did my O-levels abroad?” says Sameed an A-level student.

There are many others in the same boat as Sameed who would really want to join DUHS on open merit but have no say in the matter. To them the people at Dow University simply say: “It’s our policy. We do not change our policies.”

Other universities say that if your parents generate their income in Pakistan, then you are a local candidate. This should also be the case with DUHS. However, they do provide you with a carbon copy of your answer sheet which you can take home and review with the answer scheme which they publish online. They also publish the results faster than AKU, which is a remarkable feat considering the larger number of students who take their test.

In the United Kingdom, pre-medical students are expected to appear for only one test — the UK clinical aptitude test (UKCAT), which is simply a test of critical thinking, abstract reasoning and mathematics and which applies to all the universities there.

It is the same in the United States, where you just have to give the standardised SAT Reasoning Test (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test). It may be lengthy but at least you only have to give it once and it applies to all universities across the country and you can sit for it three times a year.

NUST, which also includes the Army Medical College, had always kept its admission test one week after AKU’s but for the first time this year, it has been shifted along with the admission process to June, after the final exams. It is so good to know that there is at least one university here that has heard the plea of a thousand students.

We can only hope that keeping this as an example, other universities too not just shift the date of their entrance or admission tests to after the culmination of the main exams but also form a generalised admission test, which is applicable to all the educational institutions here.