Episode 61 Transcript

Welcome to Episode 61 of the Business in
Morocco Podcast today we're going to be
talking to Marouane El Khiyari,
who is the founder and director of
College Assist which is a company that
helps students prepare and apply to
college and universities overseas
welcome to the podcast Marouane thanks for
joining us today
hello I am thank you for inviting me I
am looking forward to share more
informations about the business what we
do and just share like more informations
about the opportunities to study abroad
with other Moroccan and international
students that's great let's let's start
a little let's start out with a little
background of the business your business
called college assist tell us where are
you located
who are your customers and what type of
services do you offer
okay so College Assist is actually
located in Rabat area we started three
years ago and we are planning to open a
second Center in Casablanca very soon
the services we work actually with high
school students and university students
from tenth grade to 12th grade and
university students applying for their
masters and PhD we help them through the
whole process from preparing the exams
need like the SAT TOEFL is GRE GMAT and
everything related to the application
from the council and on which schools to
choose to helping them through the
essays and preparing for the interviews
to increase their chances to be accepted
and looking for scholarships as well
that's great and about how many students
do you help per year per year after our
two years we help more than 150 students
so each year
I mean just this year we had more than
hundred students apply in this year
that's great
tell us a little bit about yourself
where where did you grow up and where
did you go to university and what did
you study
okay so I actually grew up in robots I
went to American School Scalia Atlas I
did my baccalaureate in mathematical in
mathematics and physics and then I chose
to go to Bocconi University is a
university located in Milan
I study the bustling international
economics management's on Finance that's
great Italy Italy is having some
problems these days hoping they're gonna
they're gonna get better soon but this
virus has really hurt them in the north
of Italy specifically right and where
you went to school yeah actually I am
still in contact with so many of my
friends who are still living there right
now this situation is pretty difficult
but everyone is trying to stay home
until late this epidemic goes away so
it's the same here same in Milan it's
more critical there but what we can do
right now is just stay home and try to
do as best like the best weekend's us
from home in this period yeah yeah
that's right so tell us what did you do
after University talk to us about how
you arrived at this type of business and
and what motivated you to start a
business helping other students go to
university overseas okay so it's almost
started when I was actually thinking
about what I'm gonna do after I
graduated from high school so during my
11th grade
I started looking at my options from
apply into the u.s. I was actually very
interested in a plan to like an
english-speaking University but during
that period I didn't find like any
guidance or help here in Morocco or
especially in my city Rabat so I mean I
tried to figure my things prepare my
let's eat EMI TOEFL and I made it to
Hakone University the choice actually of
going to Bologna is started at the
beginning my focus was on the US so I
was preparing to go to the US and
everything but for my major because I
wanted to study business I was just
looking for the best university I can
get for business and then when I looked
for the best universities in business
Buchan is actually ranked number seven
for what so going to Milan was something
I never thought off but then discovering
all the opportunities all over the world
you realized like there is so much Moses
in the US or France or Morocco but like
there is other countries that offer
cutting-edge education with a lot of
like opportunities that students can
like get and go like to study there so
after I got like my bachelor degree I
decided to take some time off go back to
Morocco see how is the market because
like my dream was always to starting my
own business so I decided to have like
this first experience here in Morocco so
I came back to a couple of months start
working with like couple of students
here and there and then I realized like
people are still having the exact same
problem no orientation they like they
don't have that guidance in order to
figure out what they can do in the
future except from staying in Morocco
and just taking the final exam then
trying to get the best school they can
get from the different options they have
here otherwise just go to France I know
of all those opportunities so I create I
tried like to create the system and like
do as much research as possible and this
is how college success was born and from
there I mean this is our third year we
helped more than 100 students go to Lake
universities all over the world from
Asia US Canada UK France Italy
Switzerland like yes so many countries
and they got like some of them got like
full scholarships
others more than 50% scholarships and I
think the value of the scholarships they
received is more than
like 200 million deer house which is
like actually a lot of money so yeah so
when you were researching the process of
going to Bocconi in Italy or choosing a
different university somewhere overseas
did you have someone to help you or did
you just have to figure that whole thing
out by yourself I mean in that spirit
there wasn't really like a center
specialize in and this type of service
what I thought about there in the spirit
to try to figure things out is that like
I was taking English classes in a center
here I Robot so I was going to like my
American teachers asking them about like
how can we make it there and I their
students also interested in applying
like to these universities there was
actually like a club of all the students
here in robust applying to US
universities this was also a long time
ago so I'm talking about like 2013 so in
that spirit we're like just I think no
more than 40 students applied to the US
and like still it not really all knew
each other we were trying like to just
like study for the exams together trying
to figure things out we like help of
asking like people who went through the
same process but yeah we just had to
figure it out on our own and what would
you say was the most difficult part of
the whole process if somebody needs to
prepare themselves to to go over to
University what's the biggest challenge
to to going overseas honestly I would
say like there's many challenges for us
as Moroccans the first challenge is to
start working on like your lake hear
English like from I think 8th or 9th
grade as early as possible because like
go into a moroccan school or a school
like your level in English is not that
good
I mean it's normal but it's not what you
need in order to prepare exams like the
SAT or the TOEFL
and for most for most students here in
Morocco we start thinking about the
future in like our last year of high
school so like the 12th grade but like
for to apply to the US or like all these
English speaking universities the
process has to start like much before so
in the chance or eleventh grade because
it takes more than a year to prepare the
SAT like yeah figuring out what is the
best college for you right in the essays
so it's a whole process that like needs
at least a year in order to be done
perfectly so the challenge is actually
like to start thinking about this
process a long time before like you
start working on it and I mean the
preparation has to start at least a year
before because even now like the
challenge that we have with Moroccan
students is that like we get students
like just six months or three months
before the deadline and they want to
work on everything so the applications
are not that perfect
so yeah I mean this is the first time
working on the English as early as
possible and thinking about like what
they want to do earlier then like three
months or four months before like their
last year and start preparing their
expertise the competing like or doing
like as much conferences and having like
a perfect application it takes time it
takes like at least a year or two before
like being like getting to the deadline
so let's say for example there is a
moroccan student in tenth grade so they
just started 10th grade they have three
more years until they will go to
university if they come to college
assist talk to us about what their
journey will look like from the
beginning all the way to the point where
they get on the plane and fly overseas
ok so I would say if our students will
come lake and the easy and south grade
she's in tenth grade the first thing is
that they're gonna have like a chest
that they take the moment they arrive to
know their levels because like we have
different levels some of the students
they start like with English classes
before they move to the SAT classes the
the first like exam we start preparing
is the SAT because like it takes time so
we start like let's say 50% of their
time they're gonna be working on the SAT
once a week for example and preparedness
because the SAT exam like as you know I
don't know but like it's taken only four
times a year so having that opportunity
to try and take it like at least three
four times before like they're it's
actually like great for them to prepare
and practice so they're gonna be working
on their SATs we start to develop like
other aspects of their profile from like
public speaking doing activities because
like in just like we also organized
events like anyone's which is the
conference like it's a presentation of
the United Nations and the students get
the chance to debate prepare the events
from like everything related to the
preparation of like an event having like
more than a hundred and fifty students
there so they get a lot of experience
from this and they learn a lot from that
also we do like volunteering work and I
believe the students they get like a lot
from these experiences and they learn
more doing these experiences and getting
to practice their English between them
or like with other like English speaking
groups that we received from all over
the world and I believe like these
experiences that are not today available
in Moroccan horn France schools help
them like prepare in advance and having
let's say a perfect profile and being
ready by the time they get to the 12th
grade so we starts working on the SAT
and on their profile from activities on
everything else
and we certainly helping them figure out
what they want from like what are their
interests what are their strengths and
weaknesses so that they can use that in
order to figure out what school is best
for them what is the best major for them
so that's when they get to the truck
they have a clear idea about the school
they want to go to about the process
they are ready for it in order to get
the best school possible with as much
just scholarship like that they need
hopefully like a hundred percent very
much yeah for our for listeners who may
not know what these college entrance
exams look like in English D for the SAT
or the AC T there's usually one part
which is mathematics and there's another
part that is reading comprehension
grammar so it would be the English
language so even as a native speaker
when I took the test it was not easy and
so I completely agree with what you're
saying that if you do not speak English
as a first language you are going to
need a lot of preparation and hard work
and practice in order to get good scores
and so we know that good grades and good
scores on these tests are very important
but in your experience what else is
important in a college application
besides the test scores and grades I
would say that like for all the top
universities all over the world it's not
just about the grace because everyone
who is applying to these universities
they have good grades so these
universities started looking for like I
would say well-rounded students
so not just the academic profile but
also the extracurricular activities the
essays like the importance of the essays
is that like students get to express
what they think how like they see
everything around them what are their
goal
because today like universities they're
looking for individuals who are looking
to change the world lake with like big
dreams and they're working on that to
show like through their activities I
would give the example of for example a
student like who was like interested in
international relations and these and
his last two years of high school
working with like Syrian refugees here
in Morocco so he acquired a lot of
experience from that like he got he got
training first from D U and C HR I think
it's called and yeah so it's a UN Lake
division that focuses on working with
Lake refugees here in Morocco and he got
a training and have been working with
Lake different families to integrate
Morocco with like the legal procedures
and everything and he learned so much
from that and he was like so passionate
about like what he was doing but he used
that during his applications and that's
helped him actually get into Harvard so
this is one of many examples like that
we have but I believe that academics
like a Callen freeze for us here in
Morocco and especially in the French
system we only care about the grades but
in the english-speaking universities
what is good is that like you get also
to express your personality show your
passions and they actually encourage you
to follow your passions and to do what
you like most only like what is the best
thing that you can do and just go for
that even though you don't like it
because they believe and I actually like
believe that as well if you want to
succeed in something you have to do
something that you like and you actually
enjoy do it in order to get like the
best results possible right so you at
college assist you offer a program for
students that will help them through the
entire process tap test preparation
preparing to do the essays having a
well-rounded application making a
decision
what type of college you want to go to
which country what do you want to major
in what do you want your focus of
studies so you basically offer a
complete solution of services do you
also offer individual services maybe if
I don't want the whole package I can I
can take a test prep course or what are
your other services that you offer
actually that's a very good question so
our services they range as you said from
the full package that would include full
preparation from the moment they arrive
on the council and how they want to
choose like their schools and the
complete preparation from A to Z and we
offer also appropriate is partly just
the exams for example the TOEFL exam the
IELTS exam we have a lot of plans we'll
just come for the exam because it's
needed for let's say someone want to
apply to a job for example or like
university students who have like their
application ready but that exam is
needed in their application so we
prepared this exam separately as well
and we were to like because we are like
working actually with students who who
and professor there's got actually
chopped scores in this like these exams
we got to develop like a perfect course
that would help them not only like work
on the exercises and everything but also
giving them tips on how to get the best
scores possible and we had students who
got for example for the TOEFL exam which
is out of 120 we got scores of 118 and
more than we have like more than 70% of
our students that get more than 100 in
the TOEFL which is what it's needed for
most of the top schools and same thing
for the aisles so we focus on like
during our preparation of the exams to
get like the highest course possible not
just to offer a general like training
program for these exams and just teach
what's on the books but like we focused
on preparing and organizing courses that
increases the score and getting the
highest score possible so our
preparation would be like it's more
focused on like increase getting the
highest score possible than to just
offer like training and preparation for
these exams mm-hmm yeah that's great so
you've mentioned that you're you've been
doing this for about three years and
you're located in Rabat and you had some
plans to expand the business the
business you had a vision so what I want
to ask you is what was your vision for
the business let's say in the beginning
of the year in January when you know
things were normal and you were just
progressing what was your intention what
was your vision for the business
I'm just 2 or 3 months ago this is a
very good question actually because as
we know everything changed so two or
three in three months yeah I think just
two or three months ago the vision was
completely different because like yeah
we had a first Center here in Rabat and
we were thinking of like just expanded
in the business so open in a second
Center in Gaza another one maybe in
Marcus tour Tangier I was also like
working on the possibility of opening a
couple of centers abroad so it was
always about like the physical centers
we're gonna have in different cities and
I was just like focusing so much on that
on getting like clients in different
league centers and just trying to expand
the business like let's say physically
and getting like the students on site in
order like to give all those services
and of course like right now with
everything that is happening the whole
vision change because like as we really
last couple of weeks ago is like the
activity completely stopped in the
center everyone is staying home so that
helped us like rethink the whole vision
of the business
and how we do things now like we are
developing like an online platform
giving classes online and this was like
actually a great lesson because like
each made me realize that the expansion
can be like much bigger if we think
about the online expansion because just
in this few weeks for example that I've
been like given counseling online using
like the social platforms and social
networks like Instagram and Facebook I
realized there is a lot of Beeman's from
different issues I was never thinking
about right now we are working with
students from Magnus from Agadir and a
lot of like small cities but we were not
even thinking about and probably
wouldn't be working with them if we
continued like the vision differently
and now it's not just about like having
centers in a few cities and now we are
thinking about like how to help like
students from all over Morocco so how to
make like our services available to
everyone and this period like yeah it is
a difficult period for everyone but it
was a great lesson and I believe we're
gonna come back after it is like even
stronger and I would say like this was a
time for us to rethink and Romanus
everything like in the business in order
lake to have a better outcome hopefully
in the future yeah this is something
that we've talked about on the podcast
that as an entrepreneur as a business
owner you have to be flexible you have
to be tough you have to be willing to
change what you're doing to meet the
market and to meet the needs of the
customer and we are definitely going
through a very difficult time right now
and a lot of things are going to change
the way the business is done you know
this idea of social distancing or doing
more things online mobile payments
online courses all of these things are
going to change however there are
some things that are going to stay the
same which is education health care you
know food water electricity fuel there
there are a lot of things that are going
to stay the same but maybe the way that
these products and services are
delivered is going to change and I think
it's a a great indication of your
business that you are willing to explore
these new ideas and to deliver the
services that your customers need in a
new way that it's good for them but is
also just dealing with the fact that
we're not meeting in large groups in the
near future hopefully things will get
back to normal here soon where we can
meet they'll open the cafe's and we can
have classrooms again but as
entrepreneurs we need to deal with the
world in which we live and I think
that's great that you're developing
online courses and way of delivering
your service services through the
internet that will help your business
endure for the long term and also now
you can offer your services to a wider
variety of customers all over Morocco in
and other areas of Africa as well so I'm
excited to see how that unfolds let's
talk a little bit about we have a
student so we gave an example of the
student who's who's in tenth grade and
they start with your company college
assist and they go and now they're at
and 12th grade they've applied to a
university overseas and they're they're
ready to go what are the options for
them in terms of how to pay for tuition
you mentioned scholarships does the
Moroccan government have assistance are
there loan programs that are available
talk about the payment process for for
college overseas okay
actually it's on like East Student
situation I'm talking about like
scholarships and financial aid
unfortunately
until now Morocco like doesn't have that
many options that help actually students
for their college education they they
have some options actually for friends
but that's it so for the US and other
parts of the world it's basically like
the scholarships but the university
offers especially so if first choice for
my students is the u.s. and the only
reason for that is that these
universities actually can meet up to 100
percent of the students needs so some
schools they offer marriage based
scholarships which are the scholarships
based on their academic performance from
exam scores and transcripts and there is
financial aid which is based on the
students financial situation okay so the
financial situation of yeah so the final
the financial aid the universities offer
it's based on the financial situation of
the family so those students have to
feel like these detailed applications
concerning the expenses the family has
they show their income statements and
everything needed the university
actually offers a bunch of money based
on that to help the students because in
the u.s. like something that is very
good they don't want the money to be
like an obstacle for the student to get
like an education which is something I
hope one day we're gonna have also here
in Morocco because we have these great
students with like great academic
performance and they're not able like to
go to these top universities and the
only obstacle they have is math so
knowing nobody stopper tuna tease I
believe is gonna change like the life of
so many students here in Morocco
especially in small cities we worked
with like for example students in meknes
who couldn't afford for example paying
anything like for his education but he
was able to actually like
prepared there he's s t-h-e he got like
a great for the SATs out of a thousand
six hundred right now it's not like the
old city was out of 2400 and he got a
thousand five hundred sixty which is
like one of the best scores we had in
Morocco and he got accepted in some of
the top universities and got offered a
full scholarship that he did for
anything even his flight his flight was
paid for so sharing this like
opportunities and getting like more
students here in Morocco to learn about
all this
I believe like it's gonna change like
their vision to education completely
because right now they're like they
block themselves studying here in
Morocco because they believe they can't
afford anything else but like once you
see all these opportunities available
like the whole world is accessible you
just have to work hard and prepare
everything needed for your application
and anyone can make it literally anyone
that's great talk to us a little bit
about your team are you are you the only
founder who else are you working with to
provide these services to to these
students okay so yeah I am the only
founder of college assist but we have a
team of more than eleven teachers people
working in the center all the teachers
we have are either like professors here
in Morocco or like students who went
through the same process and got
accepted in some of the best
universities with full scholarship so
for the SAT even and they know like the
chips and how to score the highest
scores of for example for our TOEFL like
just like in this period for our TOEFL
preparation we have a teacher who got
and then 18 out of 120 on the exam so
they know every single detail they know
how like to tackle like the simplest
detail to like increase the score and
same thing for the SAT and the TOEFL
even our like courses are made by likes
to list so they know like the difficulty
students face they're like they went
through the same problems because I
would say like a general course made by
like an english-speaking person is much
different from of course made by like a
Moroccan or like in a person that like
had to say those difficulties like for
us it's completely different like let's
say for most of the people in the SAT
the problem would be the math but for
Moroccans is more the critical reading
or the grammar part which focus on the
English and how to tackle those
questions and try to understand them in
a way in a way like to increase the
scores in the shortest and most possible
does something we've been like working
on and developing our like content in
order like to help students as much as
we can to score like the highest scores
in the shortest amount of time because
like time is always like a challenge in
these preparations yeah that's great
it sounds like you have a really great
business you offer something that's
tremendously valuable got a good
business model so we know they have a
website college a system a where else
are you located on social media and how
can our listeners contact you if they
are interested in learning more about
your your company and the services you
offer actually they are also available
on Instagram and Facebook we have a
Facebook page called assess Morocco also
on Instagram but like I would stay
Instagram is the last form that we use
the most because I believe is the place
for most students here in
Morocco are used in and this is the
platform we use to communicate with our
students share content videos Flake
testimonies from like students advice
even like we're organizing alive every
Sunday in which like every time we have
a topic last time it was like a
discussion with different students from
all over the word Moroccan students who
went through the same process they were
given advice like for others we have an
Instagram live about like the business
schools what are the opportunities
available so we try to share as much
content as possible for like different
students to know about that and and yeah
like even after this period now we're
preparing we're gonna be have it blog
because we have like a YouTube channel
as well as we weren't active than most
on these platforms but right now we're
preparing us we can have like one video
every week on YouTube trying to share
content motivation and just how student
like not all these opportunities as stay
motivated like it's more like other
guidance and motivation to these
Moroccan students to show them that like
anyone can make it and anyone like can
go get like some of the best university
like degrees in the word and learn get
the best education possible and maybe
one day like start to business and yeah
there's no like limits to the dreams on
what someone can accomplish
no matter the background yeah that's
great I'll put all of this information
in the show notes for the podcast so if
you're listening just go to the show
notes and you can click on the link to
college assist dot MA or find them on
social media
marwan we thank you for joining us today
thank you for talking to us about your
business we wish you the best of luck
and stay safe
prayers and well wishes for you and your
family to stay healthy and safe during
this this virus thank you very much Ryan
for the interview

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