Why I decided to become a high school counsellor – Buket Ayaz

A fortuitous opportunity to provide some students with university advice was the key factor in motivating Buket Ayaz to pursue a career in college counselling

Seeta Bhardwa's avatar

Seeta Bhardwa

THE Counsellor
19 Oct 2023
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Buket Ayaz

While working as an English teacher in the US, Buket Ayaz was approached by a group of students who knew that she would be able to draw upon her own experience as a Fulbright Scholar to help them apply to their own international scholarship programmes.  

Although Buket always knew she wanted to do more than teach English in international schools, this experience of helping students on to the right path gave her the motivation to move into college counselling.

Now a counsellor at the Nord Anglia School in Dubai, with a range of qualifications and accreditations under her belt, Buket has established herself as the only AICEP-certified educational planner in Dubai. This qualification involves a rigorous assessment process, requiring applicants to demonstrate knowledge of and commitment to college counselling.  

As a certified education planner, Buket must complete 75 visits to schools and universities over five years – something she believes is a great way to build networks and learn about new institutions. In fact, Buket believes all accreditation or CPD programmes for high school counsellors should mandate school and university visits as part of their curriculum, to ensure all counsellors have the opportunity to make global connections.  

This would also help senior managers at schools understand the value of school visits and allow their counsellors time to conduct such trips.

Additionally, Buket says it is important to receive training in different curricula because the support required for A-level students is entirely different from the support required for an International Baccalaureate student. Counsellors also need to understand how different school systems then feed into the different university systems.

One of the biggest challenges for students these days is the influx of information, Buket believes; she argues that “students are struggling to analyse everything they come across”. As is often the case when one is presented with too much choice, students are simply settling on the most well-known universities, rather than sifting through all the available information.   

A common refrain that Buket hears from her students is “I heard that…[is a good place to study]”. However, they often lack the research or knowledge to back up their choices. Her tactic is therefore to ask students to go right back to the beginning and think through the very basics of what they want to gain from their university experience – and what kind of institution can help them achieve that.  

Given that there is just so much information available about higher education, university counsellors also need to update themselves constantly. “It isn’t the case that you can rely on information you’ve learnt before, as university systems and application processes are constantly evolving,” Buket says.  

“If I don’t have the answer, I know my fellow counsellors will. We are not competitors; we are collaborators.” She is referring to the strong network of counsellors in the UAE, connected over WhatsApp and Facebook.

Buket would like to create a similar network globally, in which high school counsellors can share answers and advice across different curricula and different application systems, to ensure all counsellors feel supported.  

When asked what advice she would give to someone looking to pursue college counselling as a career, Buket says: “College counselling is not for someone who wants to sit behind a screen and just look at admission requirements and advise accordingly.  

“This is a full-on learning experience, daily. There is also a lot of responsibility attached to this job. You are helping create a person’s future.”