There are hundreds of universities and thousands of colleges in India, and thousands upon thousands more internationally. With so many options, including central universities, state universities, private universities and a myriad of institutes, choosing a college to attend becomes a major decision. One solution that students often adopt is to consider the college rankings and the marks they have scored, opting to enrol with the highest ranking institute possible with their marks.
However, it’s your turn to be smarter, and set yourself apart from the crowd following the trend of ranking universities blindly. While admittedly, college rankings are a good way to judge the performance of a college, it should not be the only criteria.
Why You Should Not Rely on College Rankings Alone When Selecting a College
The process of ranking a college is a mix of subjective and objective analysis of the concerned college. While some aspects such as pass-out percentage, placement rates, and student-teacher ratio have quantifiable numbers, the overall worth of a college involves much more, including the environment the college offers, how open it is to help students grow, and the dedication that is provided to the students.
For example, the famous QS World University rankings identify top colleges based on 5 factors. Firstly, academic reputation accounts for 40 percent of the rating, citations per faculty for 20 percent, student-faculty ratio for 20 percent, employer reputation for 10 percent and ‘internationalisation’ of faculty and students for 5 percent each.
Many rankings do not even release the criteria used for ranking, while others incorporate factors such as the number of Nobel laureates an institute has produced. In addition, the rankings are prone to fluctuation and are often influenced by superficial issues such as building infrastructure or library size.
The most important point to remember is that your needs are your own, and not necessarily based on the same factors as the bodies posting the rankings. Having a higher number of PhD holding faculty will not automatically result in better teaching.
Rankings are meant to be applicable to the majority, and while they may be effective in identifying past trends, it’s no guarantee that they can accurately predict future trends. For example, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Indore was established in 2009, but in the Times Higher Education World University rankings list for best universities in India 2019, it is at number 3.
While college rankings can give you an overview of the ‘best’ colleges, make sure to do your own research before finalising any college.
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Other Factors to Consider When Selecting a College
So, if you are not to rely entirely on the college rankings, then what should be the criteria to select a college? Well, the simple answer is that there are multiple factors you should keep in mind to ensure you make the best choice for a college.
When selecting a college, it’s important that the college is recognized and accredited to offer the course you are interested in. This is especially important for private colleges and up-coming institutes which may not always have all the courses officially recognized. For international colleges also it’s important to verify the recognition of the courses as not all courses are internationally recognised or have recognition in India if you wish to come back to your home country later. Pursuing a course with such a college can damage your career later on so it’s better to be clear at the time of admission.
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2. Academic Environment
There are several ways to peruse the academic environment of a college before admission, made even easier by the internet. Many colleges will also share the course syllabus online which you can go through. Go through the profiles of the faculty at the college, with special focus to teachers in your subject. Their qualifications and the time they have spent at the college will be a good indicator of the overall academic environment. You can speak to former students as well to get a clearer idea about the faculty’s teaching styles and their overall quality levels. This brings me to my next point…
3. Reviews of Former Students
An ideal way to gain a thorough insight into a college is by asking current and former students. Alumni of the college can easily be found and approached on LinkedIn (or through your own personal networks), and personally visiting the college would give you an opportunity to interact with current students of the college. Meeting with former college students, especially those who have passed out of the course you are interested in, can give you insights into whether pursuing that specific course from that college was helpful, and how they progressed in their respective careers.
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4. College Infrastructure
While it’s not necessary for a college to have a 100-acre campus, it’s also important that there is sufficient infrastructure for classrooms, libraries, labs and other facilities. A sub-standard quality of infrastructure is bound to affect your studies whether you realize it or not. Also, consider the locality of the college, its accessibility, and the safety of food joints and other areas around the college, etc.
5. Extracurricular Activities
Apart from studies, extra-curricular activities such as sports, clubs, and fests all form an important part of the overall college experience. For a well-rounded personality, it’s important to engage in a variety of extra-curriculars suited to your tastes. Check the current and previous activities offered by the college and the performance of the college in extra-curricular activities overall. Also check whether your chosen activities are offered by your college, and how well they are promoted in the college environment. A helpful step in securing this information is to check the social handles of the particular college societies and reaching out to their members.
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The ultimate goal of going to college is to prepare yourself for a future career. Most colleges publish their placement records on their official website. Go through the placements over the last 4-5 years to get an idea of placement opportunities and which companies regularly recruit from that specific college. If there is a different batch of unknown companies every placement season, that may be a red flag.
College rankings are a good way of judging colleges that may seem appealing to easily identify the ‘best colleges’. However, official college rankings are highly subjective and may not always be able to identify the best college for you. Spend time and thoroughly research prospective colleges before making your decision, so as to select the best college suited to your needs and career goals.
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