Choosing College: Factors to Consider

One cannot keep stressing enough on how crucial it is to choose the right career for yourself.  But once you have made your mind up on that, it is equally important to choose a college that not only facilitates you to embark on your career journey but also adds significant value to it.  Choosing the right college could be a tedious undertaking as one has to meticulously go through a number of aspects in order to ensure it is “the one”.

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To make informed decisions, we give you a list of factors that differentiate one college from the other, help you grow as an individual and are hence, consequential to your life in and out of college.

Accreditations

Accreditation ensures that the college is maintaining the standards required by the accrediting agency. The graduate programs and employers only consider the colleges accredited by nationally recognized agencies. Your degree and your potential as a good candidate for a job or a masters degree will be questioned if your college is unaccredited. Make sure that the college you choose falls under the accredited list.

Teaching Faculty

Assuming that one goes to college to study, the quality of teaching plays a major role in one’s growth as a student. Try to find out what the current students have to say about the quality of teaching in the college by reaching out to them. Also consider the highest qualification of the teaching faculty, the number of professors with a post-graduate and/or Ph.D. degrees.

Student to Faculty Ratio

It is the total number of students divided by the number of teaching staff. Student to faculty ratio is usually mentioned on the college websites. Although it is not the only factor influencing the class size, it does give you an idea. If you are somebody who prefers personalized attention and direct in-class discussions with the professor, you should look out for a low student to faculty ratio.

Placements

Who doesn’t want a job offer in hand before finishing college? If getting a job immediately after college is your priority, you should closely evaluate the placement cell of a college. The different aspects of consideration could be the services they offer(preparatory tests, interviews, career counselling), the list of companies taking part in the placement and the job profiles offered in the previous years, the college criteria for placements. Also very important is the break-up of the number of students placed in each industry and the streams they studied in.

Course & Curriculum

With no dearth in the variety of courses being offered today, stressing upon the type of course, course structure and curriculum would take you a long way. Suppose you’ve figured that you are interested in, say, Electrical engineering based on a couple of topics you liked in school. One of the colleges you are considering might have much more exposure to that topic than the other, which could make a big difference to you.  Examine and find out the curriculum that suits you the best. Also, check the flexibility of the course by making a note of the electives being offered.

Infrastructure

A good infrastructure is, in many ways, essential. You might not appreciate a decent one, but if it is bad, it will affect you in ways you can’t imagine. Consider this: you are going to spend most part of your day on the campus for three or more years. You would not want to, say, sit in the college garden to take your exams. Or go hunting for your main course books because your library doesn’t have enough of them. A well-stocked library, decent laboratories with enough equipment in working condition are the characteristics of a good college.

Co-curricular & Extra Curricular Activities

Life beyond academics could matter a lot to many. It can also give some an opportunity to find a career footing. On one hand, industrial visits and tech fests teach you a lesson or two in real life application of your curricula and on the other, cultural fests, sports, social clubs and events indulge you in nurturing your hobbies & interests. Besides, they also inherently help build your personality.

Department of Study

If your college is good but the department you choose isn’t, it would be a deal breaker for you. Most of the colleges are well-known for their excellence in one or more of the departments. You should keep an open eye for this detail. If in doubt, contact the current undergraduates of the college to find out.

Cost and Financial Aids

This is one major factor in short-listing colleges. College education and accommodation fee structures, scholarships, available loans and interest rates should be evaluated and compared before making any decision.

Student Exchange Programs

This could give you a chance to experience another country, another culture and thus add another dimension to your perspective. Being an exchange student could lead you to develop a multi-faceted approach to different problems and might give you an opportunity to learn a foreign language. Exchange programs also give you an opportunity to explore further study and career options. Besides, your social and communication skills also tend to improve when you move out of your social support system and comfort zone.

Location and size of campus

Your college’s proximity to your home and to the nearest medical, transportation and other facilities is another factor that needs consideration. If you live in the same city/town, the time you spend in commuting to the college and back home every single day is going to be a concern. If you plan on living on the college campus, make sure the size of the campus does not keep you from attending the classes.

Safety & Security

Learning can not be harboured in an unsafe and insecure environment. Check out the safety precautions undertaken on the campus and the security measures taken to avoid any life-threatening and risky situations.

Accommodation & Transportation

Does the college provide hostel accommodation? How many seats are available in the hostel? What qualifies one to apply for the hostel? How is the college campus connected with the city? Is the public transport any good? What is the frequency of the public buses to and from the college to other areas of the city? Can you get a cab from the college in case of an emergency? These are a few questions you should consider finding answers to.

Graduation Rate

Graduation rate is the percentage of fresh undergraduate students of a college who complete their designated program in 150% of the published time for the same. For example, for a four-year degree program, if 60 out of 100 students finish in four years and the 20 of the rest graduate in the next two years, the graduation rate would be 80(%). Don’t overlook the percentage of students completing the full program from the college in the last few years.

College Reputation

This could be a word of the mouth or through the articles published in various newspapers. You cannot just ignore the reasons, good or bad, the college has been in the news.


This is a broad classification of the things you should look for in your potential college. There are minute details like the taste of the food served, hygiene practices on the campus, number and quality of college publications etc that affect your college experience and could be consequential later. But it is humanly impossible to list everything down and go about checking in the colleges, especially when you have a number of colleges to decide between.

An alternative is to go visit the colleges and talk to the students there. But when the colleges are in different corners of different cities, it becomes impractical to pile up the expenses in travelling around. Besides, not many colleges allow students taking a tour before admissions. College brochures may contain a lot of information but they are aimed at luring prospective students to their colleges and could easily be biased in the data mentioned and the way they mention it. So, don’t get trapped in marketing gimmicks and verify the information you come across to choose your college wisely.

Which of these factors would you consider? Share your views in the comments below.

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