Rishi Jalan
November 19, 2020

Sports, and so much more

Rishi Jalan ’09 helps top Asian student-athletes navigate the U.S. college admission process
by Christine Yu ’94

When Rishi Jalan arrived at Andover as a Davis Scholar in 2008, he had dreams of attending an Ivy League university. A nationally ranked squash player in India, Jalan knew he could compete athletically, but he needed to improve academically.

Entering Andover as a postgraduate, Jalan was overwhelmed his first few weeks. Then, right before college applications were due, he received a low mark on a paper from English instructor Flavia Vidal. Jalan freaked out. He tried to plead his case, but Vidal told him pointedly that he needed to work harder. However, she never left him to flounder. “She was with me every step of the way,” he says.

His hard work paid off. Jalan was admitted to Cornell University and recruited for their men’s squash team. Little did he know that his academic struggles would lead to a future career.

Three and a half years ago, he founded The Big Red Group (BRG) in New Delhi. Jalan capitalized on his own experience to help top Asian student-athletes navigate the U.S. college admissions and recruitment process to continue their academic and athletic careers.

The Big Red Group assists top Asian student-athletes and their families navigate the U.S. college admissions and recruitment process to continue their academic and athletic careers. Their summer workshop has grown from hosting 20 students in 2016 to 100 students in the 2020 virtual summer program.

Jalan has worked with students from countries such as India, Singapore, China, and the Philippines and across various sports including squash, tennis, golf, and swimming. But he knew there were limits to these services.

“There are only so many students who are good enough athletes and who want to pursue their undergraduate degree at a U.S. college,” he says.

After graduating from PA, Jalan played for the Cornell University men's squash team.

So two years ago, he began partnering with The Leadership Institute at Harvard College to offer weeklong experiential leadership development workshops for Asian high school students.

Jalan says his startup provides a much-needed service to youth in India where the education sector does not provide enough training in areas of leadership, entrepreneurship, and critical thinking—skills necessary for academic and personal success.

Recently, BRG has added entrepreneurship workshops, bringing in professors and mentors from around the world. Jalan hopes to eventually embed these programs into high school curricula.

“It really began with Andover,” he says. “There were a lot of things I struggled with at Andover, but ultimately it made me realize how important it is to have skills like critical thinking and writing.”

Categories: Alumni, Magazine, Magazine Online

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