A Bangladesh-born undergraduate student in Canada, Siam Sifat, knows well how difficult the process of applying to international universities can be.
Three years ago, he went through the experience himself. Now, living in Canada, he often receives requests from a lot of people to help with university applications. Without proper information, a lot of his friends and acquaintances end up at educational consultancy firms.
However, many of these organisations, he says, do not actually work towards maximising the benefit of a student. Students should be matched to universities where they can realise their potential. Instead, these organisations suggest to students the universities with whom they have a beneficial relationship. Students are also presented with very few options to compare and contrast universities.
Moreover, such services are very expensive. "In fact, many agencies charge more than one lac taka for their services, which is mind-boggling," said Siam.
Siam's personal experience with the challenges and difficulties associated with the desire to study abroad led him to form Applystart – a startup that helps aspirants find universities that suit them best.
"The process of finding and applying to universities abroad is unnecessarily complicated. It's a big decision and it could drain a lot of time and resources," Siam remarked.
He wanted to establish a platform where students can simply browse a website, check the prerequisites and pick the preferred school from among the most popular ones.
Siam is currently a third year student in Marketing at York University, Toronto, Canada. He co-founded Applystart with Mohammad Immam (Chief Technology Officer), Mohammad Tasinuzzaman (Chief Design Officer), and Ahsan Rohan (Principal Software Engineer). This four member group has been working for almost a year now with the project, and Siam, as the Chief Executive Officer, leads the startup.
Before going to Canada for higher studies, Siam used to work at a local consultancy agency in Bangladesh. He knew many of the aspects of how such agencies work in real life. In June this year, planning inconspicuously for a year, they went public with their endeavour.
The startup streamlines the process of finding and applying to universities, saving time and resources for aspiring students.
"We are there for them from the very beginning, providing everything from e-counseling to assistance obtaining visas. Our user interface is fairly easy to understand. There are alternatives provided, and comparisons among different educational institutions, so that students can choose the institution that serves them best."
"ApplyStart also gives candidates access to examples of scholarship applications and sample essays, which they may find useful to have a better understanding of what should be included in their own applications. As we continue to get feedback and expand our knowledge, we will continue to make improvements and offer more resources."
The website is currently in the beta testing phase. It collaborates with partner educational institutions located all over the globe and the revenue it generates comes from these institutions.
ApplyStart is able to give its partner institutions with overseas students a commission that is around 30% lower than what is offered by consultant firms, and this has piqued the interest of various universities.
In January 2023, the website will become accessible to the public. Already, over five hundred students have registered their interest in using the website, and that number is steadily growing each day.
"The Middle East, India and Nepal are all on our list of potential new locations for our business," said Siam. "After observing the success in Bangladesh for two or three years, we are going to go worldwide."
"We are working in an industry from where students will move on to work in large businesses. We want to generate a favourable impression about Bangladeshi students, and we want to develop a brand value for our nation as a worldwide talent creator."