India-born Ivy League alumni and students come together to raise funds to fight COVID-19

Make a donation to a cause fighting COVID-19 and get a one-on-one counselling session with industry professionals and alumni of top institutions across the world

May 10, 2021 06:31 pm | Updated 06:33 pm IST - Kochi:

Group of Graduates during commencement. Concept education congratulation in University. Graduation Ceremony ,Congratulated the graduates in University during commencement.

Group of Graduates during commencement. Concept education congratulation in University. Graduation Ceremony ,Congratulated the graduates in University during commencement.

Rather than feel helpless when the second wave of COVID-19 hit the country, US-based Princeton alumni Shreyas Lakhtakia and Julu Beth Katticaran turned “the negative emotion of being away from India into a positive one by offering help”. This eventually led to the formation of Students Fight COVID (, a fund-raiser for COVID-hit in India.

The initiative has grown to over 200 students and professionals [India-born] joining the bandwagon to offer consultations for students applying to Ivy League schools as well as other premier institutions across the world, irrespective of stream or degree programme.

In exchange for one-to-one counselling, participants are required to donate to a COVID-19 charity. So far they have raised ₹11 lakh, says Shreyas adding that their ‘moonshot goal’ is ₹1 crore.

Shreyas Lakhtakia

Shreyas Lakhtakia

As alumni of these institutions, they offer guidance on career choices and how to get into these colleges. “Many of us have had the privilege of studying in prestigious universities across the world including Princeton, Harvard, Wharton, Oxford and Cambridge. The experience has given us insights into the admission process at these universities,” says Julu, who is set to graduate from Yale Law School this year, after which she will start work at a law firm in New York, USA.

She adds, “Though this began as a small initiative, the mentor base has enlarged significantly. In addition to students and young alumni from Ivy Leagues, it includes graduates and successful professionals from other countries as well.”

Helping one another

So far they have helped students from countries such as Singapore, Canada, the US and of course, India.

“We are early in our careers and don’t have much of our own money to give, but we realise that our education and professional opportunities afford us many privileges. The idea was ‘can we leverage this privilege indirectly?’ — to raise money in the fight against COVID-19. This is an effort to help India by helping one another,” says Shreyas, a data scientist with a healthcare technology firm in New York.

Initially, it began with small groups of students and alumni such as Shreyas. “This initiative began as a de-centralised effort — at least five others wanted to do something similar. Initially, Shreyas saw their ideas and believed that he would simply be serving as a mentor. But recognising the inefficiency of having multiple initiatives that try to accomplish the same thing, he took on the responsibility of unifying and centralising these efforts. As a result, we now have one initiative and several mentors,” says Julu, who has been helping with structure, branding and disseminating information.

Julu Beth Katticaran

Julu Beth Katticaran

She adds that consultation sessions range from helping applicants prepare for standardised tests such as SAT, GRE, GMAT and so on. “We also provide advice on applications at top tier firms such as McKinsey, BCG, and Bain,” she says.

While the minimum amount [donation] ranges from ₹2,000 to ₹4,000 depending on the duration of the counselling sessions [30, 45 and 60 minutes respectively], they also make an exception for students from economically-backward classes or are part of the fight against COVID-19.

Participants can donate to any charity that is fighting COVID-19, “but if the applicant has no preference, we provide links to a few specific ones. We also try to make it easy for professionals based outside India to donate by sharing links to campaigns that accept foreign funds,” Shreyas adds.

Applicants are asked to share the proof of donation before scheduling an appointment, “We ask for receipts to be shared just so we can be sure we are spending our time to support organisations on the ground,” he says.

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