Within 48 hours of launching the platform in October 2018, demand had already exceeded capacity on some of its services.
“We have realized there is such a thirst and hunger for this kind of information,” Farahat says, “and young people are not finding it—or if they are, it’s not in Arabic or it’s not as high quality as it could be.”
There are now 24,000 students signed up to the free platform, which has expanded to serve youth across the Arab world.
The portal offers courses on topics like career planning, communication, online literacy, time management, and university preparedness. Particularly popular is an advisor matching option, which pairs students with an education expert in the United States to offer advice on everything from choosing a major to making the most of university life.
Online Access Fills a Gap
Taimaa Jokhadar, a psychology student from Homs, in Syria, who is studying at a university in northern Lebanon, says the online aspect of the platform has filled a gap. “There are not a lot of things like this available online, and it’s made access easy during the coronavirus,” the 22-year-old says.
At first, Sulaiman Faraj, a 19-year-old who lives in the emirate of Ajman, was daunted by the prospect of university and the decisions it entailed. “In 12th grade I didn’t know what I wanted to do or which university to go to, and I wasn’t sure about my major at all. … I didn’t even know what university is or how the system works,” he says.
Stumbling across the Young Thinkers Program while scouring the web for advice, he took the portal’s quiz, which matches users’ interests with careers and credentials. Most of the results he got were engineering subjects. “It felt like me, this is what I was looking for,” Faraj says. He then took the course in university preparedness, learning for the first time that college students are assessed on a grade-point average system.
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“I learned what university provides me and how I can make the most out of it, how to study effectively, set goals and manage my time,” he says, adding that the additional knowledge made him feel “more confident and comfortable” about the journey ahead.
Now a second-year chemical engineering student at Khalifa University, in Abu Dhabi, Faraj believes the program not only helped him map his academic path but provided invaluable personal guidance too. “When you start school, you know your whole year in a few days, but at university there are different people in each class, so I was afraid.”