Can you afford to be careless in choosing a college that almost decides your career? Here are some pointers.
“Had I known earlier I would/wouldn’t have…,” is the first part of many statements that frustrated students utter after choosing a college which doesn’t suit their tastes, needs or requirements. Here are some of the familiar statements we have heard: “Had I known earlier, I wouldn’t have joined this college.” “Had I known earlier, I would have preferred a seat under management quota in XYZ college to a seat by counselling in ABC college.” “Had I known earlier, I would have decided not to opt for XYZ branch of engineering.” Instead of wearing smiles on their faces, some students wear disappointment, bitterness, depression and dissatisfaction as a result of choosing a wrong college, and they continue to wear this unpleasant look even after they have completed their graduation.
It is surprising that people who spend so much time visiting showrooms and enquiring about different brands/types of mobile phones before deciding to buy a Rs. 10,000 mobile phone, do not spend considerable time before making the major decision of choosing a college which almost decides their career.
Tertiary education is an important stage in a person’s academic life. These days, getting admitted to a professional college or arts/science college is not difficult but choosing a good college is. Though all colleges, whether engineering or arts and science, proclaim to have glorious vision, mission and quality policy statements, only some colleges really strive to translate these statements into action by providing quality education. Many colleges make empty promises and tall claims in their advertisements. At times, students and parents are carried away by such ads and make wrong decisions. It is the responsibility of the students and their parents/guardians to make informed decisions while choosing a college.
This is a sequence of many steps: visiting colleges and talking to faculty and students, collecting data about the colleges, checking whether the data is factual, analysing it, applying it to one’s situation, weighing the pros and cons and, finally, making a proper decision whether to get admitted to a particular college.
Very recently, a student aspiring to become an engineer and his parents sought my advice on choosing an engineering college. My three-word advice was: “Know your college.” The maxim “Ignorance is bliss” may be true in some cases, but not when choosing a college. In this case, ignorance is a curse.
It is students’ right and duty to know the educational institute in which they choose to spend a few years of their academic life. Smart students do a sort of SWOT analysis when choosing a college. They analyse their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Here are some basic things a student should know when choosing a college:
A college or university’s reputation depends on various factors, including its view of education, academic excellence, research, innovation, placement records, successful alumni, MOUs with industries and foreign universities, etc.
Reputed institutions focus not only on helping students pass examinations but also on creating opportunities for students to develop their intellectual, emotional and social potential. The student should find answers to these questions:
Has the college built a high reputation in different areas?
Have the programmes (various branches) offered by the college been accredited by the National Board of Accreditation (NBS) or the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)? (The accreditation bodies NBA and NAAC periodically evaluate institutions and programmes as per the standards recommended by the AICTE and UGC, respectively.)
Has the college signed any memorandum of understanding (MOU) with reputed companies and does it have industry collaborations?
It is quite unfortunate that not all institutes of higher learning follow the right concepts of education. Instead of being concerned with students’ overall development, many colleges compete with each other in enhancing their pass percentage.
It is possible that a college that produces good results in terms of pass percentage but lacks progressive thinking or fails to impart holistic education, may top the ranking list.
The trend of ranking colleges based on their pass percentages has been criticised by educationists and right-thinking people.
Does the college impart education in a holistic manner?
Does the college create opportunities for students to develop their personality?
Does the college provide opportunities for students to develop their communication, leadership, creativity, entrepreneurial and innovation skills?
An educational institute that has an excellent infrastructure makes teaching and learning a pleasant and fruitful experience for teachers as well as students. Good infrastructure is a key indicator of quality education in any educational institution.
Does the college have good infrastructure: modern classrooms, library, lab, transport, hostel facilities, etc.?
The quality of an educational institution can be measured by the quality of the teachers it has employed. A good teacher has the power to inspire and transform the lives of thousands of students.
Has the college employed well-qualified and experienced faculty?
Have some of the members of the faculty made a mark through their contributions?
Does the college have teachers who have worked at the institute for a long period of time?
In any reputed college or university, faculty and students are encouraged to engage in research that results in new findings and innovative solutions to problems.
Does the college give importance to research activities?
Are teachers and students engaged in fruitful research?
Training, placement and higher education
A good college attracts reputed companies to the campus and enables students to get placed in them. It is possible only if students of the college are trained well and have employability skills. Not all students seek placement assistance from the college. Some students may opt for higher studies either in India or abroad.
Does the college impart adequate training and prepare students for the workplace?
Do reputed companies visit the campus to recruit students?
Does the college enjoy a good placement record?
Does the college prepare students for higher studies?
This comprehensive checklist can help students make a wise decision when choosing a college. If a not-so-brilliant student joins a good college, he/she will flourish and if a brilliant student joins a bad college, he/she will perish.