How to choose the right college

A wrong choice of college can not only put a major financial strain on the parents but can also hamper the career progression of the student


Having worked at the higher education level for over two decades, I have observed that a vast majority of students have little idea on how to choose the right college to pursue a degree of their interest. Educational institutes today charge lakhs of rupees as fees and a wrong choice of college can not only put major financial strain on the parents but can also hamper the career progression of the student. If you leave out the top-notch premier institutions like the IITs, IIMs, NITs, AIIMS, etc. where a select few smart students get admissions, the vast majority of students complete their education in relatively lesser-known institutions. Hence, there is a need to do thorough research on the institutions before committing your money and future to it. Here is a ready-to-use checklist for choosing the right college/university for admission:

1. Understand yourself and define your career goals: Based on the career you seek to pursue, chart out the educational roadmap which will help you get there. It’s also important to understand yourself well. Factors like the ability to crack the entrance exams of various top colleges, financial constraints for affording fees beyond a particular level, willingness to migrate beyond the home state for seeking employment, and importance given to career over family needs to be clearly defined. Seek help of a professional career counsellor if you find difficulty in doing so yourself.

2. Identify colleges: Be open to any information you receive about any college which conducts the programme of your interest. This will include a lot of colleges which are well known as well as those which you are not aware of. Find out about their affiliation, admission procedure, programme duration, fees, etc, to make an initial assessment.

3. Evaluate the colleges identified: Colleges should be evaluated on the following parameters:

Accreditation: Check if the college is recognised by government organisations like UGC or AICTE. Colleges which lack this recognition are in all likelihood offering degrees illegally and students should not waste their time and money on such institutions. Even if the institute claims that they are recognised it is always advisable to double check by visiting the UGC or AICTE website.

Ranking: NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) is a Government of India ranking system for all educational institutes at the higher education level. This can be a useful guide for students to understand the quality and reputation of the college they are seeking admission in. Besides NIRF, a lot of reputed magazines and newspapers come out with their own rankings from time to time which can also be a useful guide. Students however need to be careful which rankings they consider since a lot of such rankings published by lesser-known publications are not trustworthy. Besides these rankings, almost all colleges have a NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) rating which can be a vital indicator of the quality of the educational institute.

Quality of faculty: This information would be more easily available through the college website and prospectus. But it is not only the degrees and the research publications the teachers have which should matter to the students. Students should also try and find the extent of support the teachers provide to stimulate greater learning.

Course curriculum: Study the course curriculum for the programmes you are interested in. Identify curriculums that cover the necessary subjects and provide practical exposure through industry-based internships and projects. A comprehensive curriculum will enhance the skills and knowledge required in your chosen field and improve your employability.

Infrastructure: Any good college/university should ideally have vast green spaces hosting the college campus. Buildings and classrooms with modern IT infrastructure should be equipped with all the facilities to aid teaching and learning. The library should have all the required books, journals, periodicals and digital resources. Laboratories need to be well-equipped with all the necessary instruments, equipment, and software relevant to the field of study. Hostel facilities for all students need to be provided by the institute. Canteen facilities serving hygienic, tasty food is also a necessity. Sports infrastructure and amenities like auditoriums and theatres showcase the ability of the institute to focus on fun aspects which go beyond academics. An educational institute boasting of high-quality infrastructure fosters a better learning environment for the students.

Alumni and placements: Students need to find out about the companies which have offered jobs to students of the particular college in the past, the average salaries which have been offered and the top positions held by some of the alumni of the institution in reputed companies. This can provide valuable insight to the student on choosing the right college.

Location: Colleges located in big cities or close to big cities normally have better faculties and a higher proportion of students from diverse backgrounds, creating a better learning environment. Also, such colleges provide students with better industry exposure and placement opportunities because of their location advantage.

Financial considerations: Evaluate and compare the cost of education among the identified colleges, including tuition fees, accommodation, and other expenses. Consider educational loans and the interest payable on such loans. Compare these expenses with the salaries one will earn after completion of the course from each of the colleges identified. Assess the number of years it will take to recover this cost of education and if the time taken to break even justifies it.

4. Choose the college/university: The career goals of the student identified in Step 1 have to be aligned with the information on the colleges evaluated in Step 3. Students should then ideally choose the college that best fits their career goals and requirements.

Note: Students should ideally visit the college campus to get a feel of the atmosphere, interact with current students, and observe the facilities firsthand before making the final decision.

(The writer has a Ph.D and is a career counsellor, trainer and life coach at Career Crafters- Panaji. He has over two decades of experience dealing with students at the higher education level.)