765 words of advice before you walk into a college

 | July 01,2011 04:49 pm IST

Utkarsh, my 18-year old nephew, sounded worried when he called me last month. The reason had something to do with the entrance exam results (93% in Class XII boards).

He was unlikely to make it to one of the good engineering schools.

I asked him to explore a range of subjects instead of following her father’s education route of a Degree in Electrical Engineering.


Fortunately, plenty of information is available - career counselors at schools, weekly career guidance supplements of newspapers and television programs. After talking to academics, marketing professionals, counselors and employers, Shishu, another niece of mine and I arrived at a 765 words of advice to choose an institute that will take him closer to his career choice.


However, the stream should be of interest to you and there should be a demand for it. A degree in Electrical Engineering may have been a good option for Shihsu’s dad in 1980s, but will it fit his needs today and are there enough jobs going?


1. Distinguish between a degree and a vocational course
For a degree, make sure that the institute has been created by an enactment of Parliament or a State Legislature or been granted the status of a Deemed-to-be-University. If it is not, then it is not entitled to award a degree.


Vocational programs in Computers, Mass media, Advertising, Sales Training, Fashion technology, banking, customer care, call center management, aviation and hospitality do not grant degrees, only a diploma certificate.


2. Fake universities
Despite a series of statutory professional Councils responsible for recognition of courses, promotion of professional institutions and providing grants to undergraduate programmes and various awards a large number of Fake Universities operate in the country.


University Grants Commission (UGC) prepares a list of Fake Universities available at http://www.education.nic.in/higedu.asp or http://www.ugc.ac.in/inside/fakealerts.html


3. Tenuous foreign connections mean nothing
Private universities and colleges advertise “International faculty”, “international curricula” “tie-ups with foreign universities”, “International students”, foreign internships and ‘twinning programs’.

Ask the admissions officer to explain what these mean. If the international students come from countries like Burkina Faso, Kiribato, Tuvalu ask the Admissions officers for names of countries that you can identify more easily.


4. Learn to identify adjectives and superlatives in claims
As you will spend three to five years in a college find out if claims of “reputation for excellence”, “centres for excellence”, “exceptional faculty”, “sprawling 100 acres” are true. Ask for evidence on how 100 acres will add to its education delivery and your academic performance.


Enquire about the educational qualifications of current faculty, number of years of experience students per faculty member.


5. Consider placement record of the college
Some States and Universities insist that the affiliated colleges and institutions post placement record on their website. Ask for the highest, lowest and average placement salaries.

If this is not available, ask for a meeting with the placement officer and let him or her explain to you what they mean by “100% placement”, “placement guarantee” and “Up to 100% Scholarships”.


6. Don’t fall for high decibel campaigns
Slick advertisements on TV and catchy promotions do not assure good academic standards. Try and get student feedback from sites like MouthShut.com and IndianStudent.com.


7. Don’t plump for fancy bells and whistles
Don’t get taken in by offers like a free laptop’, ‘a blackberry phone’, ‘a business suit’ or a visit to a university in a foreign country. All these fancy frills, ribbons and buntings are included in the fee.


Beware of college counselors who are willing to travel a few hundred miles to your city. They may get a cut for each admission that they secure.


8. Past cut off marks, pass percentage
Try and understand the admission criterion, reservation of seats, especially the management quota. This will help you understand the mix of class in terms of academic background and how it could impact your own performance.


Also consider pass percentage of graduating students and get a split of marks obtained in internal and external exams.


9. How far from your home town
If you were getting admission in IIT Madras or the best Catering College in the country in Aurangabad, then you may not mind the distance. Otherwise choose one that is closer home.


10. Consider the lineage of the institute
Find out who are the founders of the academic institution. Not all government institutions are good and not all private institutions are money spinning factories. 

For instance, the first 5 IITs are no doubt good, but the record of the fledgling IITs is not known.