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A class apart: Choose your college based on co-curricular activities

Learn Mandarin, slum management, forensic science or entrepreneurship — choose a college with strong co-curriculars that can further your career prospects

education Updated: May 26, 2016 16:02 IST
Tithi Lodha
Co-curricular
Co-curricular activities are ungraded, and an extension of formal academic education, say experts.(IStock)

Vedika Agrawal, 17, has taken the Class 12 exams, and wants to pursue a career in management. Like thousands of students, she is confused about how to choose which colleges to apply to.

“I have realised that I should focus on colleges that offer add-on certificate courses and campus activities that can help me develop marketing and advertising skills,” she says.

While your top selection criteria should include the quality of the course at a particular college, and whether you can realistically make the cut-offs, experts say you should also strongly consider the co-curricular activities the college offers, especially those that relate to the field you want to pursue.

Co-curricular activities are ungraded, and an extension of formal academic education. For example, they could be exercises in entrepreneurship or research, or certificate programmes in related fields. “It’s an excellent choice to pursue co-curricular activities along with regular academics,” says career counsellor Suchitra Surve. “This helps you go beyond books, and recognise hidden skills and interests. For instance, if you organise a large-scale event on campus, this will teach you about dealing with a team, budgeting, marketing and other aspects of management. Such soft skills can be integral to your career ahead.”

As you mull over your college choices, read our guide to some co-curricular activities that city colleges offer, in the realms of entrepreneurship, research, certificate courses and foreign language training.

Read: Teachers’ promotions to be linked to student performance: HRD proposal

Certificate courses

To sensitise its students to society, Ramnarain Ruia College, Matunga, offers a six-month certificate courses in slum studies and a two-month heritage studies programme. In slum studies, students contemplate present conditions in Mumbai slums, and evaluate possible solutions such as rehabilitation.

“This is in addition to regular academics, and goes a long way in eradicating primitive mindsets,” says Suhas Pednekar, principal, Ruia College. With the heritage course, the aim is to create awareness about neglected heritage sites. “We try to show students the heritage’s geopolitical importance of then and now,” says Louiza Rodrigues, associate professor at the history department.

At St Xavier’s College, students can take one-year diploma courses in counselling, forensic sciences and criminal law, and a six-month weekend course in data sciences. “The forensic science course was very helpful in terms of basic knowledge, and I went to Scotland to study the subject further after it,” says Sejal Shah, 29, a St Xavier’s graduate who took the certificate course while she was in college, and now is a professor of the same.

KC College offers short-term as well as certificate courses. Short-term courses include photography, creative writing, content development and filmmaking, and do not offer certificates. Certificate courses include one for second-year science students, which covers out-of-syllabus knowledge such as how to draft a CV, a cover letter, a job description and so on.

“We also have a unique Certificate Programme in Commerce and Arts (CPCA) for second-year students,” says Sinha of KC College. “Here, they are taught important soft skills, such as gender sensitivity, awareness of the environment, corporate etiquette and how to apply for a job.”

Jai Hind College, Churchgate, offers add-on courses in digital marketing, forensic science, Indian heritage, stem cell research, astronomy, and specialised software such as Tally, for accounting.

Since 2014, the history department at DG Ruparel College, Matunga, conducts an ancient script deciphering workshop, where historians assist students in understanding ancient scripts and learning concepts from that era. “For instance, last year we deciphered the Modi script from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s time, and the students really enjoyed the session,” says principal Tushar Desai. “These workshops are open to all and students choose to attend them as per their interests. The idea is to encourage thinking outside textbooks.”

Research

Research is an important skill to inculcate, say experts, and can prove useful in both corporate and non-corporate jobs. Ruia College’s department of biotechnology has a research programme called Samanvay for undergraduate and graduate students, in which faculty members involve them in smaller research projects. Recently, a group of five Ruia students worked with the city’s police commissioner’s office for a study on drug addiction and rehabilitation, and another group worked with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences for a project on early marriage and child pregnancy, in association with the United Nations.

“We conducted research in Bandra’s slum areas, and identified regions where drug consumption was concentrated,” says Sahil Parsekar, TYBA student at Ruia College. “It was a great experience, and a real eye-opener. We learned so many things we didn’t know existed.”

St Xavier’s College offers students opportunities in clinical research; Jai Hind College offers research training for science students, and research elements for economics and psychology students.

Ruparel College encourages degree college students to assist PhD candidates, as a way to understand research methodology and analytics. For instance, Ujali Shirodkar, TYBSc student, worked on a year-long project about butterflies and floral attraction, along with a PhD student. “I plan to pursue a PhD project in zoology too, so this was perfect training ground,” she says.

Another Ruia student, Tejashwini Havannavar, worked on a three-month project on water conservation, after training with Paris-based Suez Environment Company, which operates largely in the water treatment and waste management sectors. “I studied water distribution in various localities of Mumbai. The course provided us with so much knowledge and awareness, that I’m really glad I did it,” says the SYBA student.

Foreign languages

St Xavier’s College, Fort, offers Mandarin language courses on campus, conducted by Inchin Closer, a language class provider. Students from any stream of the college can apply.

KC College, Churchgate, established a ‘Bhasha Lab’ a year-and-a-half ago, which provides courses in seven foreign languages, including Chinese, German, French, Italian and Greek.

“We encourage students to learn new languages, as this will help them if they want to work in other countries or in multi-national companies,” says Shalini Sinha, vice-principal, KC College.

Enterpreneurship

St Xavier’s College’s incubation cell helps students develop start-up ideas. “For instance, they supported a project called Jal Jyoti, through which about 15 students offered slum-dwellers a novel solution to their electricity shortage — a 1.25 liter PET bottle, filled with water and 10 ml of bleach,” says Menezes of St Xavier’s College. A hole is drilled in the roof of the slum, and the bottle installed like a light — but half of it is meant to be outside the roof. When sunlight hits the upper half of the bottle, reflection disperses light into the home, acting like a 55-watt bulb.

Jai Hind College has a College Social Responsibility (CSR) cell for social enterprises, and links to National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN). They recently organized a two-week seminar on ‘How to start your own business’. “The seminar taught us basic and advanced business elements, such as how to compete with your rivals, copyright and trademark issues, how to take your venture to the next level,” says Mayur Sharma, TYBCom student. “The session involved a bidding game and mock stock market activities too.”