When Faisal Khan went to the United States for his MBA on the Fulbright Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship, he was surprised at the lack of students from Pakistan. “Pakistani students are no less talented than the ones I met in the US. That made me wonder: why weren’t there more Pakistanis at top universities across the world? Was the problem a lack of knowledge about scholarship opportunities or a deeper one? “.
One thing that stood out in the conversations Faisal had with students, both prospective and current ones, was the lack of proper guidance and mentoring for applications. “I decided I wanted to help people who felt lost and hopeless about their future”. His initial efforts bore fruit as several of his mentees got admission in their preferred programs.
Encouraged, Faisal decided to organize his efforts. He used groups on Facebook to share knowledge and connect with people looking for help with their scholarship applications as well as GRE and IELTS tests. In 2016, Scholar Den was born.
Scholar Den assists people with their applications and helps them get admitted to universities in the US, Europe, and Canada. Over time, the startup has built a network of more than 200 mentors, who assist students in everything from GRE preparation to writing the perfect Statement of Purpose.
Since its inception, Scholar Den has helped more than 600 students get partial and full scholarships. Its mentors have assisted over 20,000 students over the last three years. What’s perhaps most impressive is that out of the roughly 450 people who have been selected for the US Fulbright scholarship in the last 3 years, over 350 were part of the Scholar Den network at some point in their application and interview process.
Faisal thinks part of the initiative’s success is down to its business model. While most services are free, Scholar Den added the option for mentors to charge for providing expertise last year.
90% of our services are still free. We run 6 Facebook groups with more than 93,000 members where we give out advice and provide guidance for no charge.
Right now, the range of services offered varies from help with standardized tests like the GRE and IELTS to resume, visa and scholarship guidance. The startup isn’t only gaining traction with students. Earlier this year, Scholar Den was selected in the LUMS Accelerator program and is also taking part in the NUST-run Global Accelerator Program in the US.
The team has also partnered with the HEC to lend expertise and support in the US-Pakistan Corridor Project.
Another partnership is in the works with The Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering, and Management Sciences (BUITEMS). “Every year, over 1000 engineers graduate from Balochistan but only 5% find relevant jobs. My aim is to send them abroad on scholarships so they can secure their future”, said Faisal.
Through its network of students and mentors, Scholar Den has built a strong support system for people who want to study abroad but are unclear about the application process or need help whether it’s with crafting the perfect motivation essay or explaining a job gap.
So what’s next for the startup? Faisal says,
We are working hard to expand our network and make new partnerships. In addition, we are also working on products like a GRE app which will be a one-stop solution with practice questions, tutorials and powerful analytics for preparing for the GRE exam.