A very interesting study, “The Cognitive Process of Decision Making” by students from University of Calgary suggests that “Decision making is one of the basic cognitive processes of human behaviors by which a preferred option or a course of action is chosen from among a set of alternatives based on certain criteria.” Which brings me to my question – How do Indian students make college decisions and what criteria do they follow?

Before dwelling deep into a student’s psyche, one should note Indian students aren’t sole custodians of decision made towards their career. Their parents and significant family members play an equal role in decision making. Research states that in over 45% of the cases, it’s the parents or family that takes the final call on the colleges that a student can apply to. Peer influences also play a very big role in an Indian student’s college decision.

A thorough analysis of college choices of over 200,000 students, over the past 5 years indicates specific parameters that play diverse roles in making an informed career decision in regards with college admissions.

These parameters have different weights, some are non-negotiable and some come into play when the location i.e. the country choice has to be made

The Non-Negotiable Factors 

  1. Admission Criteria: The bare-minimum expectations set by the university/college to filter out the student pool, no longer has the same importance as it used to 10 years ago. Students look at the previous year cutoffs and analyze their chances of getting shortlisted.
  2. Courses and Subjects Offered: There has to be a course/subject match-up between the students’ aspirations and the courses that universities offer.
  3. Location: Most students give significant importance to location as they either want to live in a certain part of the country, or because of financial constraints. It’s interesting to note that, the choice of location is one of the major factors that causes Student-Parent conflicts in terms of college choices.
    • For example, in the USA students choose –
      • East Coast – Michigan, Massachusetts, New York.
      • West Coast – California, Indiana and Los Angeles.
    • Even, when students make a conscious decision to travel internationally, they tend to pick cities that have traditionally been chosen in the past.
    • While travelling internationally, students also tend to evaluate their college choices on the basis of the presence and the strength of the Indian community in that particular location.
    • It’s an observed trend that 7 out of 10 students prefer not to leave their home state and city. No huge surprise here, but, it’s a nice reminder that you need to have a more-focused approach for students who aren’t in your home state/region.
  4. Internships: In today’s world, experience trumps everything. Career recruiters give high importance to a relevant internship or research experience. Thus, having access to internships has now become a necessity in a student’s mind.
  5. Placements: The placements of past cohorts determine the university’s standing among other institutions. They are the biggest selling point, when it comes to students, especially as their entire educational journey gravitates towards finding compatible jobs and building a career.

A Glimpse Into The Indian Perspective:

  1. Accreditation & Credibility: Before Indian students apply to college, they determine credibility through a thorough background check. Thus, as a school, providing students with a Alumni Discovery System that helps them connect with students from universities will be extremely helpful.
  2. Faculty and Pedagogy: Indian students want to learn from faculty who’ve been there and done that, NOT, been there and studied that. They believe in learning from experiences. Hence they look for pedagogies that equips students with skills and knowledge that they can use real-time at their workplaces or in their daily lives.
  3. Rankings: Rankings play a huge role, as in most cases, they help a student in determining the credibility and the quality of education of the universities or the colleges that they’ve shortlisted.
  4. Cost & Financial Aid: The availability of financial aid heavily influences a student’s college choice when it comes to applying abroad. Not all students can afford the high cost of education that can sometimes go up-to 70,000 USD a year.
  5. Safety: Safety is of utmost importance for Indian students who travel abroad. A small percentage of their decision also depends on the safety and security on and off campus

What It All Means: Understanding how the student thinks and makes decisions will help a school in evolving and transform the current guidance and support that students are receiving.