FREMONT, Calif. — High school students with aspirations of matriculating to college and their parents filled several conference rooms, the grand ballroom and the lobby area of the Fremont Marriott Hotel Oct. 2 for a day of information, testing, quizzes, seminars and more at India-West’s fourth annual Education Expo.

More than 800 students — many showing a glint in their eyes with hopes of advancing to an elite college institution — and their parents filled the rooms to hear keynote speeches from the likes of college admissions mentor and chief executive officer at ThreeEQ Inc. Jason Ma, a panel of speakers from Flex College Prep, and Ilumin Education CEO Elton Lin, among many others.

Several dignitaries attended the event to kick off the festivities, including Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison, Fremont planning commissioner and city council candidate Raj Salwan, and California 17th Congressional District hopeful Ro Khanna.

“We both grew up in Fremont, went to Fremont public schools, but it was our education after that has really paved the way for our professional careers,” Harrison, a CPA, said of himself and Salwan, a veterinarian.

Harrison and Salwan both attended U.C. schools, and said today’s college admissions process is much more competitive today. He urged the attendees of the free event, a majority of whom were from the Indian American community, to “learn some great tips.”

“If there’s one thing that is the silver bullet … it’s education,” Harrison went on. “It’s not what you learn, it’s what you learn about yourself, about your organizational skills (and) can really help you going forward.”

Showing that it’s not too early to start paving the way and developing skills, Rennu Dhillon, founder and president of Genius Kids, in her remarks to the crowd, provided tips to success.

“Whatever you do, be confident and believe in yourself,” Dhillon, who uses that simple tip to her pre-preschool-aged students at Genius Kids, told the students in the hotel’s grand ballroom, who were as young as sixth graders and up through juniors in high school. “When you believe in yourself, you are able to overcome fear and set very high standards for yourself, and achieve them.”

Added Khanna, who took time away from his hotly contested campaign for the 17th Congressional District against incumbent Mike Honda (see previous India-West story, “It’s good to see so many young people here to hear about their future.”

Khanna, an attorney who also teaches some law classes at Stanford and Santa Clara University Law School, went on to talk about his time volunteering for the campaign of a professor at the University of Chicago (where he earned his bachelor’s) running for the Senate. That professor was President Barack Obama.

“What people care about ultimately (are) your values, your perseverance, your vision and ideas,” he said, adding that a college education is important, but being at an elite institution isn’t imperative. “And I think that we could give young people a lot of less stress (to take hyper focus of grades and college acceptances away) because in the long run I don’t think that’s evidence of what’s going to serve them the best.”

Among the organizations that provided services for the students throughout the day in the seven seminar rooms — as the more than a handful of keynote speeches were ongoing in the grand ballroom — were ThinkTank Learning, Ivy Expert Consulting, Ilumin Education, Wells Fargo Bank, FLEX College Prep, Ivy Review Evergreen and Synocate.

The organizations were holding smaller-scale seminars, tests, consulting, mock admissions panels and other helpful sessions to direct students down the right path as they gear up for the college applications and admissions phase of their high school careers.

Among the attendees was a young boy in the sixth grade with his father, who chose to speak on the condition of anonymity.

“We’re just here to explore stuff and see what’s out there,” the father told India-West. “It’s a great start for us.”

Ma, the author of “Young Leaders 3.0,” discussed with the hundreds in attendance, “How to Wisely Prepare for Elite College Admissions and Life and Leadership Success.”

The ThreeEQ CEO, who has two daughters – one who is in college and another who is a junior in high school – has experience as a parent going through the admissions process, but has years of mentorship of many students, preparing them for the rigors of the lengthy process.

“A lot of kids, no matter whether you are not motivated yet and high achieving, there’s always room for improvement,” said Ma. “My job is to unleash your full potential of next generation leaders.”

Ma added that “the power of your character, the power of your story and the quality of your production, evidenced by your application forms,” are the keys to the application process.

ThinkTank Learning admissions consultant Eugenia Kaw followed up Ma’s speech by spending time touching on the importance of extracurricular activities.

With so many students excelling in their tests and high school grades, colleges are taking a closer look at the activities students are doing outside the classroom to determine if they would be a good fit on campus, Kaw noted.

“ThinkTank will shine a light on your best qualities,” Kaw said. “(ThinkTank) will help you to grow – educationally, academically, emotionally, socially.”

The organization, Kaw said, will help students find a niche unique to themselves to stand out in the application and admissions process.

Lin, who has started three separate organizations, compounded on the admissions process by touching on how to improve chances for students.

“The best college is about fit, not rank,” Lin stressed to the attendees, adding that there are a lot of great colleges and that confidence is a major key to success.

Lin noted that sometimes a long-term outlook may benefit a student, citing that attending a small school and excelling will help a student’s chances at getting into medical school.

FLEX College Prep consultant Anjali Vaswani discussed the trends of U.C. admissions, while James Do, founder of Perfect 1600, an organization to help students prep for the PSAT and SAT exams, talked about his organization and its preparation methods driven by data. Sheree Brend of Wells Fargo Bank also discussed steps to make financial aid an easier journey.

The daylong event, emceed by India-West publisher Ramesh Murarka, was co-sponsored by McDonald’s, FLEX College Prep, Ilumin Education, ThinkTank Learning and Wells Fargo Bank, with assistance from the India Community Center.

Each of the sponsors had booths to explain their organizations and what they can offer to students, as well as the McDonald’s booth, which featured interactive games, a selfie station and a chance to meet Ronald McDonald himself.

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