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Laleh Haghparast, founder of Princeton Academic Consultancy (PAC), has devoted her career to helping students achieve their potential. From the children with autism and ADHD she worked with as a special education teacher to the students she has counseled as an academic advisor, her mission has been clear: Figure out what each child needs to succeed and then find a way to make that happen.
PAC is an organization that serves as an intermediary between international students and the American universities, colleges and high schools that seek to enroll them.
“The focus is on opening the doors of education in America to students from around the world,” says Haghparast. “Our mission is to provide the students quality educational programs, as well as offer schools highly motivated students from foreign countries.” And Haghparast is well poised to enforce that mission, as it’s one she is very familiar with.
Haghparast started her teaching career in 1995. She ran family education courses for parents of children with behavioral and educational challenges, which led her to a job as an academic counselor at Hadah High School and College in her native Tehran, Iran. She was soon promoted to vice principal in charge of administrative academic affairs, where she directed the admissions and recruitment department. It was here that she got her first glimpse into the challenges students face when trying to get into the schools of their choice.
Haghparast then moved to Dubai, where she became a special education teacher working with children who have autism, ADHD and other learning challenges. She developed a math and literacy program specific to the needs of her students and helped meet their social and emotional needs as well.
From there, she was hired as student counselor at the Canadian University of Dubai. Because of her previous experience, she was promoted to director of admissions and put in charge of recruiting new students.
“I am grateful that I had always line managers that could recognize my skills and abilities,” says Haghparast. “I was passionate about the welfare of students and I always strived to be creative, well organized and to get things done in complex situations.”
It was in 2013 when her wealth of experiences inspired her to strike out on her own and fill what she saw as an unmet need: Helping international students navigate the American university system.
For high school-aged students, Haghparast helps match international students with host families in cities such as San Francisco, Boston and Chicago. They then can enroll in a public high school (as non-citizens, they must pay the cost of their education) or private day school. Boarding school opportunities are also available.
For college-aged students, Haghparast not only matches students with the right school for their interests, but helps them apply for scholarships at more than 100 universities. Scholarships average $10,000 per year for PAC students.
“We are determined to make sure that all students have an enriching educational experience,” Haghparast says. “We put all of our effort into meeting the expectations of every student.”
After college, PAC provides access to a one-year post-graduate program that includes an unpaid internship at an American company. This program increases their chances of finding permanent work in the United States. In Los Angeles, PAC runs programs in business, hospitality, engineering and biotechnology. In Silicon Valley, areas of study include bioscience, business, education and engineering.
Haghparast has also experienced the American education system firsthand, earning her master’s of science degree in psychology from University of Phoenix.
“University of Phoenix planted the seeds of knowledge and helped grow them in my mind,” Haghparast says. “It granted me more knowledge, helped me make better decisions and do well.”
Her education extended beyond the academic. Haghparast had to learn how to become a master juggler in order to accomplish all she set out to do academically. “To have significant academic performance at the University of Phoenix I had to consider time management, which was so tough,” she says, but with the understanding that it’s an important element in any career success.
All the work was worth it because it brought her to her ultimate goal of helping as many students as possible to find the success they deserve.
“It is really a precious feeling I think, when I look back, that I can see my footprints in someone’s successful life,” Haghparast says.
Cynthia Ramnarace specializes in health, personal finance and lifestyle issues. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest; O, the Oprah Magazineand American Baby.