Monday, 25 May 2015

Solving the College Dilemma

It’s that time of the year again!

With the board examinations having concluded, and the results just about pouring in from state and national boards alike, the one question on the mind of everybody who took these examinations is invariably about which college he or she should choose, and what streams he or she should continue further studies on.

Having been a victim of this dilemma only a year back, I can fully understand what all these fresh school passouts must be going through. To help ease the process, I asked quite a few college students across various disciplines, what they kept in mind when they selected their colleges. I also asked a few school students what subjects they would choose in college, which colleges they would prefer and why. Some of the students I asked are still in school, and some have just passed their boards this year, a mix which helped me to gauge which way they were generally leaning.

I hope the little experience I have, and what I’ve gotten to know from interacting with others who have also gone through the college dilemma, comes in handy.

Which Subject Should I Choose for Higher Studies?

The simple and clichéd answer to this is – follow your heart, and turn your passion into education. More realistically, however, often this is not so easy. On occasions, you may not still be sure what exactly you want to do later in life. Sometimes the combination of subjects you want are not available in the colleges you want – it’s a tricky game. Some other times, there may be people who are intent on staying at some particular place (such as students who maybe want to remain back in their hometown) and their desired subjects are not available there.

For most students, the choice of stream after Class 10 is an indicator of the sort of higher education they want to pursue. This, however, is no rule. I personally know a girl who opted for science in her plus two courses, took the JEE along with me, sat for the Law Entrance Exam, and is now very happily settled as a student of International Relations! The key thing to keep in mind is that it is never too late to express what you really want. It is heartening to note that a healthy percentage of students who took their exams this year, are prepared to take up the challenge of a new stream. They would rather test themselves on uncharted territory studying the subjects that appeal to them, rather than sit back and lament a choice they had made for their plus two at a time when they were not experienced enough to decide for the best.

Rimbik Das is currently a student of Multimedia at St. Xavier’s’, Kolkata. His family initially wanted him to pursue engineering, but he stuck to his passion, and is now coming up with wonderful work, such as this animated short stop-motion film called“Tumling Street”. Take a look. People like Rimbik are an inspiration to youngsters who want to flourish in the creative market. When asked why he chose his particular stream despite being a science student in school, he simply said, “I was confident I wanted to work in this creative line.”

Poster for Tumling Street by Rimbik and team.

Others, like Somashree Choudhury of Jadavpur University, were clear about their aspirations from Class 10 itself. The student of IR says, “I’ve loved Humanities all my life. Political Science stood out. It changed my perception of the world. It became my favourite.” She is now one year into her favourite course, and has absolutely no regret about her choice.

Speaking for myself, I chose Science after ICSE, and was pretty clear that I would want to take up Computer Science and Engineering post ISC. Many of my friends took up other subjects even after choosing science, such as economics (three Bosconians, Ritwik Ghosh, Arunabha Banerjee and Srinjoy Ghosh, and Adrija Das from MHS come to mind) and law(Ribhu Mukherjee, Don Bosco and Toshani Mukherjee, Modern High School, to name a few) and are doing extremely well. Commerce students Asmita Nandy (Calcutta Girls’ High School) and Krishnadev Roy (Don Bosco) went on to pursue Political Science. This just goes to show that you need to realize your interests, sooner or later.

Choose a subject that interests and inspires you, and one which you see yourself involved with even after college is done. Your choice of stream post Class 10 does not necessarily decide the course of your future studies. Be sensible, and survey the array of options available to you. You will surely find something to your liking.

How Do I Select The Perfect College?

Once you are clear with the subjects of your choice, the next big question is the choice of college. There are several logical factors involved while narrowing down your search? Are you looking to stay in the city? Are you opting for a stream that is available in only specific institutions? Are you looking to study beyond the UnderGraduate courses? Are you preparing yourself for top international universities abroad?

In this blogpost, I am assuming the concerned family is monetarily able to afford the college of the student’s choice. Sometimes, that is an inhibiting factor as well. I am also assuming the student has secured the minimum marks required for a decent college. Having undergone the counseling procedure for engineering colleges, I have found that it could get much trickier in other streams.

In some cases, the specific stream of choice in available in only a limited number of institutions. Dwaipayan Choudhury, from Jadavpur University says he was drawn by "the practical approach of International Relations, rather than the stereotypical Political Science Honours." This made him favour JU, the only institution in the nation offering an undergraduate course on IR.  

Based on my interactions with people from various fields in colleges strewn across Kolkata and beyond, these are roughly the things to consider before choosing a college –

1.       Faculty – The most important facet of a good college is exemplary faculty. An institution providing education can do away with everything but quality educators. Make sure the colleges you aim for have a good faculty. You might want to take in opinions from your seniors in those colleges, or even professors if you know them, but make your final decision yourself.

2.        Placements – For many students, the sort of placements a college offers is an important criterion in their choice. On the other hand, a part of the student community believes that imparting quality education is priority, as far as a college or university is concerned, not providing a job at the end of the course. That said, placements do play a role in determining the students’ choice. Mohor Roy (Engineering aspirant) says she is aiming for NIT Durgapur because of the “placements and job security.”

3.       Legacy – On quite a few occasions, students picked “Legacy” as the reason for choosing a specific institution. Presidency student Ananya Mukherjee (Sociology) says she picked her college “because it has a legacy, and the best faculty for [her] subject.” Reputations do matter, as St. Xavier’s student Rachayita Dutta would tell you. One of the reasons she chose Xavier’s was because it is the third best college for commerce in India.

On the other hand, Anirban Saha (alumnus of Bengal College of Engineering and Technology) says he did not even know his college existed till the JEE counseling. With all the new institutes coming up, sometimes one has to let go of legacy and focus on quality provided by the institute. The key is to be at peace with your choice of college.

4.       Crowd – For some students, the fact that they know seniors or batchmates in a certain college swings it in their favour. College life is a challenge because you are suddenly made to mix with a whole bunch of strangers, instead of the familiar faces of schoolmates. In this scenario, it is natural to yearn for a known face amidst the crowd.

5.       Facilities and Infrastructure – A very important part of college is the infrastructure it provides. Hands-on learning is essential in the modern scope, and thus the facilities on offer become that much more important. Be it classrooms, teaching equipment, laboratories, machines, practical gadgets or anything else, they form possibly a more important part of college education that the books you read and the examinations you take. Try to visit the college you wish to opt for beforehand, take a look around, gauge the state of affairs, and only then come to your decision.

6.       Campus atmosphere and discipline – Another vital criterion for choosing your preferred colleges is campus atmosphere. Students often inquire about how peaceful the situation in campus is, whether the authorities enforce discipline very strictly or not, whether the student body has autonomy or not, etc. This becomes much more important if you pick a college that is not in your city. If you live on campus for three, four, five years, you might as well thoroughly investigate the situation you are putting yourself in.  Rishika Chatterjee, an economics aspirant, says she would prefer St. Xavier’s Kolkata, because “the fun to discipline ratio is satisfactory.”

7.       Scope for extra-curricular activities – Colleges have a lot more to do with holistic education than schools, an extra-curriculars play a key role. Scope for such activities allows students to really define and discover themselves, and infuses the values of community bonding. More often than not, students do pick the institutes that would offer them more than just knowledge. Even though the faculty available and the placements offered are more important aspects of a college per se, the really good ones allow their students to find education beyond the classrooms. Soupayan Dutta (Bhawanipur Education Society) says that one of the reasons he chose his current college is because it would provide him opportunities to boost his photography skills. Students of JU and Presidency quoted how the exra-curriculars available are to die for. After all, who doesn’t like a little fun?

8.        Hostel amenities – For people moving out of the city (or country) this will undeniably be one of the most important things to look out for. Moving away from the comfort of your home is always a challenge. Ensure that the hostel you will be staying in has all the proper facilities. Condition of rooms, food, safety and security are things to be kept in mind. When I asked Harshita Priyadarshini (Heritage Institute of Technology, Kolkata) what made her choose this college, she said her considerations were that she would be in a metropolitan city with an in-campus hostel. Many of you might have similar wishes. Do check out the hostel facilities you are to be provided before you consider that particular college or university.

These are the most crucial points I can think of. Please do let me know if I have missed anything.

All said and done, college life is exciting. Having spent a year in college, I know now how different it is from a school.  A good college allows you to re-invent yourself, and realize your potential. However, with all the crazy cut-offs and the unsolicited advice pouring in from every corner, the transition phase between school and college could well be the most hectic time of one’s life. If you are one of those people confused about what you should be doing, I hope this helps.

Keep a calm head, and make sure you get into a college with the subjects you want to pursue, and one which brings out the best in you. After that, its time to make memories that last a lifetime! Take a look at a brief document of the wonderful times I’ve spent in Freshman year here.


  1. well written Arjyak :) ..very helpful

    1. Thanks man! Do share it with your juniors! :D

  2. Arjyak? Why does Ramkrishna Mission always gets left out ?

    1. This post is almost entirely constructed along the lines of the views I got from the people I asked. And, I happened to not ask anybody from Ramkrishna Mission. (Yeah, maybe I should've asked you too :P )

      Leave your views anyway! :)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I just have only one thing to say.
      If this was posted last year I would not have wasted a whole month asking people which college I should apply and if that college actually suits me.
      This will really help a lot of people. :)