Picking a college was never like this: * High school senior John Jones knows exactly what he wants in a college. But he isn't about to give up an afternoon of hoop with the boys to go digging around in one of those hefty college guides that make the Manhattan phone book look like a slender pamphlet.
He wants a school that has his desired major - chemical engineering; is located in the Midwest; has a student population of 5,000 to 10,000; has a strong intramural athletic program, and an open admissions policy.
One afternoon he heads over to the guidance office for about ten minutes, plugs in his requirements, and a split second later the computer dribbles out the names of all the colleges that meet his criteria.
* Mary White's concern isn't basketball. It's money. The high school junior knows what she wants in a school, but her father and mother can't afford time from their jobs this spring to visit campuses Mary has her eyes on.
Mary's not concerned, though. She heads down to the guidance office one day and begins thumbing through the racks. When she finds the video cassette she's after, she pops it into the video recorder hooked into her TV and sees her potential college come to life - with a bit of Madison Avenue flair thrown in for good measure.
Although Mary and John are fictitious, the technologies are not. Both the College Board and Peterson's Guides unveiled new microcomputer programs in October that help high school students match their interests with the features of hundreds of colleges and universities. ''The College Explorer package was developed for use in the guidance office, but it is very easy for students to use independently without counselor assistance,'' says Maureen Matheson, manager of data-based publications for the College Board. ''The software is self-instructive, and students need no prior knowledge of microcomputers to complete the program successfully.''
Like computer college selection, video marketing is an untested quantity. One school that is using the new approach is North Central College in Naperville, Ill. Its seven-minute videotape stresses what school officials believe are its strong points, ranging from its 28 majors to athletics to its close relationship with businesses in the ''neo-Silicon Valley of the Midwest,'' as the area in which the school is located has been dubbed.
''This is definitely the wave of the future,'' says James A. Zalud, president of Galaxy Productions, which produced the video program for the college. ''Very soon now most high school guidance counselors will have videotape libraries of colleges, universities, and technical schools. Students can look at the facilities they're interested in without leaving home.''
Video marketing is being undertaken on a large scale by Info-Disc Corporation of Rockville, Md. As part of its videodisk-based student recruitment package called ''College USA,'' the company will place videodisk players in 300 high schools around Washington, Boston, Atlanta, and New York by early 1984.
Peterson's Guides is looking beyond videodisk technology to on-line database systems. Database systems can be tapped with home computers. Peterson's has signed agreements with Dow Jones and BSR information services to carry their annual guide to colleges. The BSR system is set to go on-line by the end of November.
The next leap of technology is expected to be video data-based systems that would allow a home computer user to view a college program in his or her own home via a television hookup.