Photographs: Reuters Courtesy Careers360.com
Your selection will decide your academic life and career prospects. Career consultant and director of Career Track, Shivani Manchanda tells you why you must choose wisely...
Beginning of a new academic year is the time when many of you are filled with anxiety, as so much depends upon that one decision -- the college and course which you will end up studying.
Should you choose an admissions offer from a “high profile institution” for a course you have no interest in or should you accept an admission from a “low profile institution” where you will be able to pursue the course you are passionate about?
This is a conundrum that many of you will face at the time of college admissions.
It almost seems unfair, when you are so young, that you are required to make a decision which has such a significant impact on your future.
Unfortunately there is no straightforward way to make this decision, one way or another you will need to take a leap into the unknown and then soar with it.
Let’s take a closer look at the importance of appropriate course versus brand of the institution and see what contributes more to your personal brand value.
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1. Brand does matter
There are only a handful of colleges/institutions that are chased by all, thus pushing the entry requirements for these institutions through the roof.
Thus if you are amongst the lucky few who will get admission into these colleges in the course of your choice then, of course, you don’t have to agonise over your admission decision.
But if you slipped a few percentage points then it is important that you examine what exactly a well-branded institution can give you.
Leaving aside institutions that have built their brand purely on high profile advertising or celebrity endorsements, most educational institutions of excellence have developed their reputation/brand over many decades with high quality learning enrichment ecosystem, which translated into a good placement record.
So, when you choose a highly ranked well-branded institution then you are guaranteed that you are likely to get all of that packaged with your degree.
If you are seeking to get into professional courses like engineering, then going to an old IIT or NIT, for instance, will guarantee you a better learning experience as many unknown engineering colleges just don’t have the workshop facilities to help you learn.
And it is more difficult in this area to seek those learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
If, however, you are looking at subjects, which don’t have a strong laboratory dependence then it is easier for you to make up for lost opportunities in many other ways like internships and online courses.
2. Quality education outside of big brand schools
Photographs: Parth Sanyal / Reuters
There are many other public and private institutions that have dedicated teachers integrated with good facilities.
However, owing to some obscure factors they have not been celebrated as much.
Many institutions have also enhanced their capacity by offering various courses via evening colleges. All these can be good choices.
A little bit of research on your side could help you identify these gems.
Your best source of information will be to talk to some current students who have studied there.
Use the benchmarks provided in the checklist to determine if a college will provide ample academic opportunities for you to learn and grow.
3. Passion for the subject can take you far
Photographs: Kshitij Anand/Reuters
Switch on the TV and see how quickly you hit the remote control when a programme you are not interested in is being telecast.
It is not rocket science to understand that our earnestness to learn something new is dependent on our interests, abilities and aptitude.
Thus no matter how much we believe that the magic wand of a “high profile college” will somehow turn our career around, the reality is we are most likely to put in our best efforts learning something that we are passionate about.
But this is where you need to do a balancing act -- your passion for the subject and the college you will get admission in.
If your percentage is really low and somehow you cannot get into a college, which meets the above criteria for quality education then do consider your other related career interests.
If engineering at a reasonably good college is not working out for you then rather than going for that paid seat consider your other interests and consider related fields like footwear technology, math, statistics, which then could actually help you get into the right groove.
Sometimes we are scared to try something new or unconventional but the economic scenario is really changing very fast and the service industry is booming so just sticking to the conventional subjects for the sake of it is no longer justifiable.
Spend some time in introspecting and getting to know yourself and then take a step out of your comfort zone and try something that will captivate you and inspire you to do your best.
4. Employment opportunities vis-a-vis institutions
Photographs: Rediff Archives
Apart from good learning opportunities a high profile institution empowers you with an “old students’ network” and its implied social elitism, which you can benefit from over the years.
The value of that cannot be undermined. Also during the first job interview an employer may demonstrate a bias towards the students of these star schools, and the aura of the institution that you have graduated from may benefit you in the very initial years of your career development.
However, all this would imply that only alumni of star schools reach the upper echelons of corporate life. But that is not always true.
Employers are increasingly looking for students who have excelled in various fields and attempted to enhance their employability skills irrespective of the pedigree of the institution they have graduated from.
Eventually students who are hardworking and use the library to develop research skills to perform academically well and develop diverse skills will succeed in life irrespective of the institution they graduated from.
So do make most of your college life by excelling in academics, attempting internships, summer jobs, and developing all those lovely soft skills that help you shine in interviews and later in jobs.
It is vital to remember while making this decision that in the mosaic of life the brand of the college is only going to be one of the pieces that will define you, the other more significant pieces will be developed using the various opportunities that you can cull together.
Checklist: Tips to pick the right institute
Photographs: Sahil Salvi/Rediff.com
Here are some quick pointers that'll help you pick the right institute for you:
- Dedicated faculty
- Regular classes
- Compulsory attendance
- Vibrant teaching atmosphere
- Current and up-to-date curriculum
- Number and quality of faculty involved in research and publication
- Number and quality of faculty involved in industry consultancy
- Opportunity for students and faculty to get an opportunity to attend conferences
- Buoyant internship options
- Well stocked laboratories and libraries
- Opportunities for extra-curricular activities