Resolving the college admissions mayhem


Hysteria and confusion surrounding college admissions seems to have become the norm in India during the past decade.

Despite the best intentions of stakeholders, today’s college admissions scene is a mess. Public college expertise has been privatised. Colleges and universities dedicated to egalitarianism have turned into gatekeepers. Practically everyone applies to the wrong institutes. Wealthier students prioritise prestige over credibility and put in too many applications. Poorer ones under-apply and end up in government or sub-standard colleges when they could do much better.

College admissions ignored

It is baffling to see the negligent attitude of Indian schools towards moulding the student’s career via college education. They do a remarkable job in grooming students for success in board exams but surprisingly ignore college admission. It is intimidating for most students as they find navigating the college application system "a nightmare." Students don’t have any idea how to apply to colleges. This is the after-school - an admissions-driven race that which harasses the already-broad college access gap.

Resolving the admission mayhem

In India, even though workshops and seminars are conducted to resolve the admission mayhem, it is the perfect example of right intentions and wrong execution. The reason being people who attend these workshops are coaching centre owners, representatives of some colleges or counsellors acting as middlemen. The workshops/seminars have become a lead generation exercise for sending e-mailers as a marketing exercise.

I’ve also realised that turning to a counsellor for guidance on college admissions does not always help because the field is too vast for one single individual to remain an expert. There are over 700 universities in India, 40,000 plus colleges, 350 plus entrance exams and lakhs of courses in the offering. Against this backdrop, it is impossible for a single person to have the know-how and the where-with-all to guide the student take the first step in the right direction to chisel a bright future.

Another easily accessible solution is Google but here again, the top sites appearing in Google search cannot be trusted blindly. Sadly, these websites have turned into marketplaces for colleges and middlemen. Additionally, social media is increasingly becoming a platform to capture young eyeballs. We are witnessing an explosion of online tools for researching colleges, but the flood of data has been accompanied by a drop in the signal-to-noise ratio. Websites are just interested in your e-mail id and phone number. But the result is all that data ends up in the hands of the highest bidder.

Yes, college admissions have gone stark raving mad. Yes, its dysfunction hurts everyone, including students, educators, institutions of higher education, and society at large. If there is a silver lining here, it is that this sorry state of affairs is not sustainable and I am here with a solution.

Ending the mess

The solution starts with improving the quality of college/career choices related information available to high school students by providing authentic data or information that can be trusted. We need to end this sorry state of affairs and change the way we guide our children and parents.

All school principals, teachers and other stakeholders in India's education sector must join hands and be part of the journey to provide students and parents access to authentic, trustworthy information on colleges. Students also need help sorting through the huge database of information, analysing, and then applying it. They also need a realistic assessment of their chances, based on hard data, to counter the hysteria promoted by the college admissions game. The aim should be for students to apply to schools that match their individual complexities, regardless of “brand name.”

Authored by Saurabh Mohapatra, co-founder of MereExams, a government recognised ed-tech startup that provides students free personalised assistance for college admission.