It’s that time of the year again! Applications are rolling in. As a college, your ideal class mix will have students coming in from different cultural, experiential and socio-economic backgrounds. It’s projected statistically that by the year 2030, 1 out of 4 graduates from around the world will be from India.

Thus, it is of utmost importance that you as a college, understand how does an Indian student makes a college choice. In India, the process of making a college choice for a student isn’t just a decision made by matching up their career choice and the best college(s) for their chosen course.

It isn’t the sole decision of students in terms of shortlisting colleges or even choosing careers. Parents, and to an extent family plays a very important role in the same. 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.

college admissions

It’s always intriguing to see how this plays out! On a thorough analysis of college choices of over 200,000 students, over the past 5 years, we’ve identified that there are specific parameters that play diverse roles in making an informed decision in regards to 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’s cutoffs and analyze their chances of getting shortlisted!
  2. Courses and Subjects offered – This is, of course, a non-negotiable factor, there has to be a course/subject match-up between the students’ aspirations and the courses that you offer.
  3. Location – In India, location is significant in many students’ minds, either because they 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 cause Student-Parent conflicts in terms of college choices.
    • Even, when students make a conscious decision to travel internationally, they tend to pick cities that have traditionally been chosen in the past.
      • For example, in the USA students choose –
        • East Coast – Michigan, Massachusetts, New York.
        • West Coast – California, Indiana and Lost Angeles.
    • While traveling 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 all! Recruiters give high importance to the 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 your past cohorts determine your standing among other institutions. They are your biggest selling point, when it comes to students, especially as their entire educational journey gravitates towards finding compatible jobs and building a career.

The INDIAN perspective –

  1. Accreditation & Credibility – Before Indian students apply to your college, they determine your credibility through a thorough background check. Thus, you can establish credibility through your accreditations from National, as well as, International bodies. Having students interact with your alumni and current students can also take you places!
  2. Class Size – There is a drastic difference between the class size that an IB student is exposed to, and the class size that a student from a national curriculum is exposed to. Sometimes the difference can be in hundreds. Thus, students who are used to smaller class sizes, usually prefer the same, when it comes to their university or college classes. The challenge for universities is to toe the line and make sure that their class sizes are not too big, or too small.
  3. Faculty and Pedagogy – 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. As a college, you must have a pedagogy that equips students with skills and knowledge that they can use in real-time at their workplaces or in their daily lives.
  4. Academic Support Resources – Students these days are looking for support in two major verticals – Career Services and Counseling Services on Campus. These services not only help students in making career and professional decisions but also, help students stay healthy, emotionally and psychologically.


  1. 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. There may be a slight possibility that these students have not traveled internationally prior to making their college choice, in which case, virtual reality i.e. rankings, websites, and social media are the only way they can evaluate a college – from a third party perspective.
  2. 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.
  3. Culture – Indian students at a young age of 17 – 18, make a conscious effort to make their dream of a new life in a new country come true. Thus, the culture at your college or university sets a precedent for what living in your country will be like for them.
  4. Safety – Safety is of the utmost importance for Indian students who travel abroad. Make sure that your college campus is a safe haven for all students emotionally and physically. Create an environment in which your students can thrive!

What It All Means

Many of these factors are things that institutions can’t change. But, understanding how the student thinks and makes decisions will help you evolve and transform your college’s identity accordingly. Align your programs and attributes to their aspirations! Make them believe that your college is the only place where their dream can come true!

See below for a list of the 25 most shortlisted colleges (India & International) –


This list has been collated through research across 200,000 students ranging from over 500+ schools pan India.


Are you surprised seeing some of the colleges on this list?

You can compare these rankings to the official rankings by the HRD ministry of Indian Universities 2017 here.

You can check for these colleges on the QS Global University Rankings here.

Share your thoughts with us below!