Katherine Ernst Mehta is the CEO and Founder of Edvanta Consulting (also the co-founder of Xtraview), where she works with international high school students across India, Singapore, Indonesia, and the UK to help them navigate the US undergraduate admission process, and gain admission to their best fit colleges. Katherine graduated magna cum laude from Kenyon College, Ohio, where she majored in Anthropology, Dance & Drama. She built a career in international education after first coming to India as a student and researcher in 2009. She has also researched and edited Indian art history texts, and coordinated semester-long academic programs and excursions for American college students in India through the School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad).
Katherine is a member of the International Association for College Admissions Counseling. In the past, she has served as a College Essay Counselor for Ethan Sawyer (aka The College Essay Guy), and helped guide low-income students through the college application and essay writing process through the Matchlighters Scholarship program. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the American Welcome Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving and connecting the American ex-pat community in New Delhi, India. On this Women's day we are happy to feature the entrepreneurial story of Ms. Katherine that would motivate others to step forward to their dreams.
Katherine: In 2015, I founded my college counseling business, Edvanta Consulting. Edvanta started as a one-room operation out of a guest bedroom in my home. Today we are a small, but effective team, and we have helped students achieve their dreams of being admitted into some of the best universities in the world.
My work with Edvanta gave me a deeper understanding of the challenges students and institutions face when it comes to admissions. Students feel limited in the information they can share in a written application. Admissions officers, on the other hand, want to learn more about students in their own words. Thus, in 2020, Xtraview was born. Xtraview is a digital platform that allows students to record and share unscripted digital interviews alongside their written applications.
Katherine: Xtraview (https://xtraview.in/) and Edvanta (http://edvantaconsulting.com/) are similar in that they both allow me to work with students and young adults and help them develop critical skills for future success. They differ, in that Edvanta is highly personalized and boutique – I work with fewer students for an extended period.
Xtraview, on the other hand, allows me to interact with a larger number of students, with a much more specialized focus on honing their communication and interview skills, and presenting the best version of themselves in their applications. I feel they both enrich one another, and give me different insights that I wouldn’t have if I were running just one business alone.
Katherine: I would call myself an “accidental entrepreneur”. If you had asked me what I wanted to be in high school, I never would have said entrepreneur! I found myself heading down this path shortly after my first child was born. I had a strong desire to be my own boss, set my schedule, and have complete control over the type of work I was doing – everything that entrepreneurship offers!
Now, I can’t see myself doing anything else. I love the freedom entrepreneurship offers and the excitement of knowing that you created something new or are responsible for the success of a new venture or initiative.
Katherine: We started Xtraview smack in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so there was a lot of uncertainty about how the market would respond. But so far, we’ve seen a tremendous response, in part because the business model addresses needs that have arisen due to the pandemic – online communication is inevitable, and people need to build the skills to successfully communicate in this new digital medium. Because people can no longer travel, universities and institutions have had no choice but to resort to digital interviews and assessments, meaning the market was also more receptive to our model.
Katherine: Ask for help when you need it, and trust that others can do the job as well (and sometimes better!) than you.
I tend to shoulder too much responsibility because I don’t want to inconvenience someone else or feel like it’s work I should be able to do. Xtraview is my first venture with a partner, and as we continue to expand our team, I’m realizing how much faster work can move, and how much less stressed I am when I ask for help or delegate tasks to someone else who can do it just as well- and sometimes better – than I can.
Katherine: I don’t know if this qualifies as “unsuccessful”, per se, but in the early days of Xtraview, we thought universities and students would be knocking down our door to sign up. Instead, it’s been a slower process, in part because institutional timelines are very long, especially when it comes to making any major changes in their processes. It’s been a good lesson in developing patience, and learning how to go after bigger, longer-term goals, than abandoning those for every small opportunity that comes along.
Katherine: The fact that I can see my impact on young people’s lives and futures motivates me. Even when I’m feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, I find deep satisfaction in knowing that the advice I give or my guidance for a student may become a mantra that keeps them going.
I think finding that deeper sense of purpose is more important than any short-term successes because that’s what fuels a deeper commitment and transforms mere “work” into “one’s life work”.
Katherine: Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from doing something new. It’s far better to have tried something and failed, than to have never tried. And don’t worry too much about what others think of you – most of the time they're too wrapped up in their own lives to pay that much attention anyway!
Katherine: I worked throughout my pregnancies and returned to work within a few weeks of delivering. I was fortunate that I was running my own business, so I could set my schedule to accommodate my baby’s and my needs as a new mother. However, every time I told a client I was pregnant, I could see the look of panic on their face, as they feared that I would totally disappear into motherhood and they would never see or hear from me again. I knew my commitment to returning to work and seeing them through the application process, but it was a challenge to convince them of my intention to honor that commitment.
Obviously, this isn’t a challenge a new father would face, both because pregnancy, birth, and being a new parent doesn’t have the same biological toll, but also because of the way we are socially conditioned to think of the priorities of new mothers versus new fathers.
Katherine: There are unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face. Rather than treating these as “weaknesses” and trying to mask these and emulate our male counterparts, we must learn to play to our strengths, and use those to our advantage to succeed in a competitive environment.
Katherine: No formal awards, but the number of referrals that come through existing and former clients, and the trust institutions place in us to help carry out a part of their admissions process are a form of recognition, in and of themselves.
Xtraview – https://xtraview.in/
Edvanta Consulting - http://edvantaconsulting.com/