Penn-led nonprofit helps students with career advancement

Minakshi Mangal, a senior at the Wharton School and social media analyst of HowToStudent, discusses the platform’s mission of assisting high school and students with career advancement, regardless of their economic background.

students in a classroom.

HowToStudent, a nonprofit organization co-founded by Penn alumnus Vraj Shroff, helps students of all economic backgrounds with internships, job offers, and applying to graduate programs.

Collectively made up of Penn students and alumni who have received offers or are working at major Fortune 500 companies, the team is dedicated to assisting other students at the University in advancing their career and education.

Shroff, who currently works for Facebook in New York, says getting help for graduate school applications, and applying for internships and jobs can be prohibitively expensive. He says he started the nonprofit to help all students, regardless of their ability to pay.

“No one should be left behind because of economic hardship,” he says. “HowToStudent is committed to helping all students, especially our first-generation, low-income, community. We waive 100% of our fees for low-income students and Pell Grant recipients.”

Minakshi Mangal, a senior at the Wharton School and HowToStudent’s social media analyst, says she joined the team because she would have found a platform beneficial when applying for graduate programs.

“I know I would have found HowToStudent extremely helpful when I was looking for internships and applying for deferred MBA programs,” she says. “I also want to help do my part in giving back to the Penn community, which has already given me so much.”

Mangal and Shroff met in 2020 during a Wharton virtual event designed to bring the student community together. After graduation, she plans to explore her interest in marketing and entrepreneurship.

Mangal spoke with Penn Today about how the platform is helping the Penn community.

Why did you decide to help create HowToStudent?

There is an entire industry out there helping students get internships and admission into top graduate programs. However, some of them were charging students more than $1,000 per hour. We wanted to be a counterweight to that industry and create a place that helps all students. We did not want only wealthy students to get more opportunities. So, Shroff reached out to me and about a dozen others and asked us to join this effort. I am really excited to be a part of this organization.

What is HowToStudent doing to help students?

We primarily help three kinds of students: High school students applying for colleges, college students applying for deferred MBAs, and college students applying for internships or jobs, especially in tech, finance, consulting, and health care.

Describe how your services help students.

Our services vary depending on the needs of each individual. For example, we assist in helping students search for schools based on their interests, draft essays, prepare for interviews, and help negotiate financial aid. The organization also helps students explore different industries, network with experts, develop leadership experience, and prepare for interviews. For those looking to apply for MBA programs, the platform and team can triage safety and reach programs, help with essays, network with MBA applicants, prepare for interviews, and select from multiple programs.

What is the business model of HowToStudent?

We are a nonprofit organization. Our mission is to help all students achieve their dreams. The majority of the team works pro bono; some team members do charge fees because they need to pay back their student loans. Also, 100% of the fees are waived for low-income students in order to make our services accessible to everyone. 

We are also posting free resources on our YouTube channel and the resources section on the website periodically. We just held Q&A sessions on getting a big tech internship and getting into MBA programs. I guess the TLDR [too long didn’t read] version is, if you are doing well financially, we will charge you a fraction of what others charge to offset some of the operational costs, and if you are unable to pay, we are still equally eager to help you.

How does the Penn community play a role with HowToStudent?

HowToStudent’s team primarily consists of Penn alumni and Penn students. A lot of them are doing this pro bono because they want to help Penn students and pay forward all the help they received from others during their college years. With that, Penn students are extremely driven and career-focused. HowToStudent was created to address the needs of Penn’s student community. In the future, we hope to work with Career Services and Penn professors so they can share HowToStudent as a resource.