What to Look for in a College [Part 1]

Posted on May 26, 2012 in Specials

By Waled Aadnan:

Have you just graduated from school? Are you desperately looking for the college with the right combination? We believe we can help.

Every year, more and more students pass out from schools with seemingly increasing number of marks to their credit, in search of elusive careers to be built at one of a confusing myriad of colleges. Registrations, entrance exams, cut-offs — there is a lot of information that a prospective college student needs to consider these days in order not to miss out on the best offer. Without beating about the bush any longer, I list out a number of factors to be taken into account while making that all-important decision:

1. Choosing your Discipline: That is the first question facing a school pass-out. If you have decided, you are among the select few. If you haven’t, then discuss with family, relatives, friends and teachers and most importantly, decide for yourself a shortlist of subjects you would like to study for your graduations. Then make a hierarchy of the same and go about looking for the best college that teaches those subjects given the marks you have received.

2. Proximity: It is important to find a good college in the city where you live. Few people want to voluntarily leave home to hostel food and the saga of introductions. Make sure that if you are changing cities, there is a marked advantage in doing so.

3. Environment: The environment at a college is an important factor. Not everyone likes rigid schedules and if you are one of them, opt for institutions that are relatively liberal about things like attendance. Besides, campus democracy is vital. You might have “I hate politics” as your political view on Facebook but that does not mean you will never need help in your college. Colleges with a healthy and democratic setup not only allow you to voice your grievances but more often than not, that democracy is carried over to the classroom and learning can actually become a two-way discourse. Apart from that, try to ascertain how strong the college’s policy is regarding issues such as ragging or even smoking on campus.

4. Placements: For those going into professional courses, it is equally important to estimate the academic worth of the college as well as its placement records. Often, big-brand colleges offer decent placements despite not being the best when it comes to the classroom activities. But for those interested in academics, this may not be a deciding factor.

5. Academic Record: All said and done, we go to college to study. And what better barometer of a college’s academics than its result history of results. It must of course be kept in mind that not all universities are equally liberal with marking, so marks by themselves may not provide a correct picture while comparing colleges affiliated to different universities. But a college’s performance vis-a-vis other colleges under the same parent university can help you frame a correct picture. Unfortunately, this exercise may often have to rely on word-of-mouth and general perceptions.

6. Infrastructure: Do not forget to find out about the infrastructure each college on your shortlist boasts of. Facilities for sports, laboratories, hostels, canteens become an integral part of college life and a college not providing the above may see you turn into a dull Jack.

7. Faculty: Many colleges have websites that list the faculty that will be teaching you. Although degrees aren’t an all-encompassing benchmark, but they provide an easy starting point while comparing faculties of different colleges. Remember, it’s not only the college accepting you. You too should accept the college. After all, three or more crucial years are to be spent there.

8. Rankings: Many news magazines and other media release rankings for colleges for different streams on an all-India basis. Besides, city-wise comparisons are also provided in major metros. India Today’s rankings have been a handy tool for a generation of Indian students. Take time however to read the rankings, i.e. understand what factors were taken into account to arrive at them. The report should generally have a part explaining the same.

In the next part, we will deal with the perennial debate regarding academics vis-a-vis extracurriculars. In the final segment of this series, we will discuss what options await you if you haven’t done that well in the last examination. As you will see, the door is not necessarily shut on your dreams.