Each year over 9,000 candidates qualify the toughest entrance examination in the world to gain a seat at the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology but most candidates have little knowledge of what exactly the IITs hold for them. For almost all of them a seat in the IITs is a passport to success.
In all this, the primary reason for getting into the IITs — an engineering degree from the world's best undergraduate institution — is lost. What compounds this issue is the lack of clarity among the candidates as to what next after clearing JEE. Most end up taking up courses at the IITs without a regard for their interests, without the slightest knowledge of what they are going to study for the next four years. In essence, most candidates end up selecting their undergraduate majors based on what the previous year rank holder did or which IIT is closer to their hometown.
Candidates who have cleared IIT-JEE are faced with numerous questions. Questions range from selection of specific IITs and departments to department change and what IIT holds for them in the next four years of their life. Lower ranked students are faced with even more confusing situations such as going for a popular branch at the NITs or BITS, skipping the IITs, and exercising the option of dropping a year. Add to all this the fact that parents are concerned about ragging and the stress levels at IITs.
It is very difficult to comprehensively cover all the queries but we shall address a few of the common ones in this article.
Vasudev: My uncle's son, Aditya, graduated from IIT-Kharagpur last year in Mechanical Engineering. But he is now working with a multinational bank. Why would banks recruit engineers from IIT?
Of late there has been this huge surge among IIT grads to look for jobs beyond their core engineering sector. This is not an entirely surprising phenomenon as the situation is the same with engineering undergrads from Stanford and MIT as well. Most MNC banks have started to set base in India and they prefer IITians as they have a strong base in engineering mathematics which helps them cope with the rigours of quantitative finance better than other graduates.
Arjun: I have a JEE rank of 3,746. I have always wanted to pursue Mechanical Engineering at one of the five original IITs. I now have my hopes pinned on department change. Which IIT and which subject should I take to increase my chances of a department change?
Department change is a very dicey situation. It is based on your performance in your first year at IIT and is available to only about five per cent of the incoming batch.
The first thing to keep in mind is to not walk into an IIT with the sole purpose of getting a department change. IIT has a lot more to offer and each department gives you the skill-sets to make it big in life. You should ideally select a branch in which you would not mind spending four years of your graduate life even if you are not able to get a department change. Secondly, IIT-Madras offers a branch change after the first semester while other IITs offer it after two semesters.
Since you are inclined towards mechanical engineering, selecting Naval Arch and Ocean Engineering would make sense as there is substantial overlap between many courses in the two branches, like structural mechanics and fluid mechanics.
Harish: I used to be an under-16 State-level cricketer. Because of parental pressure and academic stress during my two years of JEE preparation, I could not pursue the sport. I have heard that IITs are full of nerds and geeks. Will I be able to challenge myself in sports at IIT? Will there be enough opportunities?
IIT-ians are a pretty homogeneous mixture of geeks as well as multi-talented students. You will have the same opportunities to pursue the activity of your choice as you would in any other institution. The inter-hostel sports rivalries are massive and all IITs also compete against one another at the annual inter-IIT sports meet. IITs also take part in sports festivals organised by other institutes. We have seen candidates having excelled at State and national level in various sports before JEE preparation prevented them from pursuing those activities.
Raghav's mother: I am concerned at the alarming number of suicides on the IIT campus. Is the stress level that high? And what about ragging? My son has never stayed away from me and I am pretty worried.
IITs have a strict no-ragging policy. At best ,a few seniors might ask you to sing a song or dance a bit. Treat it more as an ice-breaker than a ragging session. We would be lying if we say that suicides are not a concern but all IITs are taking adequate action. IIT-Madras has a Guidance & Counselling Unit which helps students deal with stress at the institute. All IITs have professional counsellors to help students deal with their problems.
Candidates who have cleared JEE and have specific queries can contact Kartik Mishra (B.Tech-Mechanical, IIT-Madras) or Jagga Raju (Dual Degree, Engineering Design, IIT-Madras) on 8142343674. You can also mail your queries on ‘firstname.lastname@example.org'.