Photographs: Sondeep Shankar Disha Pinge
Change is inevitable. But it's also difficult, and can be quite scary if you're going into what school teachers like to call 'the big bad world' of college. College is a place for new beginnings and being in a college that is "right" for you can make all the diference.
Mostly, after getting out of school, you're generously offered advice from everyone you know (and many you don't) about which colleges to apply to. The key is to listen to what everyone has to say and then make your own informed decision. Otherwise, you will be left in a state of indecision till a time when it is too late.
Often, students make the decision without having any particular criteria in mind. Melvon D'Costa is currently studying in SYJC (Science) in Wilson College, Mumbai. On being asked what his criteria was, he says, "Well, nothing actually. I really wanted to take commerce, but happened to take science by chance."
Even if you don't want to go to a 'school' again and have ruled out the option of CBSE, ISC, IGCSE and IB board, you still have a lot to choose from.
To start with, make a list of all the colleges that offer the course you want to take. Arts, commerce and science combined; there are scores of colleges in every city and town in the country. Some people even choose to apply for two different streams, either because they're not really sure of what they want or they just want to be on the safe side. A word to the wise: avoid doing this, as you may be blocking the chances of another student just like you.
Now once you have decided on the list of colleges that offer the course you want, there are lots of other factors that you will need to consider before going about buying admission forms. The prospectus of every college will offer pretty much the same thing information. But you need to closely examine each and find the one that keeps its promise.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
This is the single most important aspect of choosing the right college. Make sure that the place you go to, irrespective of the stream, has a very good faculty. One way to find out is to talk to the students currently studying there. They are the best critics of the level of academics in the institution. Although student opinions can be a little harsh sometimes, they're a reflection of how your own view of the college might be if you decide to enrol.
Besides student opinions, you can also refer to the NAAC rating that's given to every college by the university. This rating is calculated based on the academic level of the college and the various extracurricular activities that it provides for.
College is a place where you get the chance to bring out your hidden talents, and not just indulge in academic pursuits. It is best to choose a college which has provisions for the kind of things you are interested in.
Many colleges have a large campus where various sports are encouraged. If you are the athletic sort, make sure the college you choose helps you nurture that. If you're interested in music, the college you choose should provide the right environment for honing your talents.
Facilities and amenities
Every course today requires the college to provide the students with equipment that will help them learn and grow. Some streams require more amenities than others. Make sure that the course you choose has the facilities required to give you the bets learning experience.
From editing suites to a Wi-Fi environment, from cameras to laptops, the list is endless. However, due to lack of resources, there are many colleges that do not provide all the facilities you may require. Check with the management and the students about the state of equipment in the college and whether they can ably support your study.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
To see where a particular institution will take you in your career, do some research on the alumni of the college. If you get a chance to speak to some of them go for it, it will give you an idea of the standing of the institution in the professional world. The college may promise a lot of things. Even students may claim how good or bad it is. But your ultimate goal is to find a place that will help you secure a good job and build the career of your choice. Only former students, who have graduated from the college and are working, will be able to tell you how worthy the college is in the professional world.
Where the college is (more often an issue with parents rather than students) will affect your academic life as well. More and more students every year choose to live away from home just to be close to their college. Especially if it is an academically intensive course -- such as medicine, engineering or architecture, you will probably be too exhausted to be able to make a long commute. Choosing a college close to home is a good idea, but only once the previous criteria have been fulfilled.
This should be the least of your worries. Yes, most freshers are worried about finding their place in college but rest assured, no matter where you go, there will be a group of people who will like you for who you are. Nevertheless, you can do a little research about the kind of college crowd you would like to associate with. Normally, colleges in some parts of the city tend to be starkly different from those in other parts. Consider this before you sign up.
Jahnavi Desai is currently studying in class XI in Mithibai College of Arts and Commerce, Mumbai. She says, "I was very definite about the subjects I wanted. I plan to study criminal law in the future and was on the lookout for colleges that would give me in-house preference in after class XII. Mithibai was a good option as I may get preference in the SVKM Law College. Other factors such as the crowd also came to mind. My other options were Rizvi College and Jaihind College. But both didn't seem like places I could fit into. And of course, marks were the ultimate deciding factor as colleges like St Xavier's have high cut-offs."
You have a choice
Many students after a year in a college, realise that it isn't the right place for them. Don't be afraid to change your college. Although it may take some effort and a lot of seemingly difficult paperwork, make up your mind and go ahead with it. It is better than spending some of the best years of your life in a college where you aren't happy.
Applying for admission (and ultimately securing it) can be a difficult and very taxing process in this increasingly competitive world. Don't be disheartened and never settle for anything less than you deserve. College is a crucial part of growing up, and pickinng the right one, is a decision you should not take lightly.