Rahul Puri, a student of Tamil Nadu State Board is tense. His IIT-JEE results are out and he does not stand a chance. He is confident of cracking AIEEE, but the scores will be out only by June 6. He has given the State Board exam but is awaiting results. He has offers of admissions from two private universities and both want him to join before May 31.  If we were to advise Rahul, we would suggest that if the private university has a reasonably good placement record and the branch offered is to his liking, he must take it. The Government of India has come out with strict ruling that no college can withhold more than Rs. 1,000 of fees if a candidate withdraws before the last date. So do not hesitate to opt for a course while waiting for a better option. But even when the scores of most of the entrances are out, the issue still does not get sorted. If your score is beyond the first 100 ranks in any entrance exam, here are some questions that could boggle you too for the next three months until you finally freeze on that elusive engineering seat:

 

The engineering ball game

Admissions is a complicated process because it varies by the entrance exam, the type of institution and the state in which the institution is located.  Like  Rahul, one in four engineering aspirants takes the IIT. Maybe one in two would take AIEEE and almost everyone eligible would look at the state-level test/admissions. The only exceptions would be those who score very high but still prefer a St. Stephen’s to NIT, Trichy. Such a tribe is very minuscule. The students have a hierarchy of admissions:

  1. Established IITs - Top priority

  2. Established NITs - Second Priority

  3. Established players

  4. New players who have brand recall - next level

  5. Other colleges

If the admissions schedule too follow this criterion, life would be easy for the student. But that is not the case. The private and deemed universities begin their counselling quite early, the AIEEE counselling goes on for about two-and-a-half months and State counselling varies from a one-time face-to-face affair lasting five minutes to a three-round online affair. In such times, being prepared is the least a student can do.


The branch selection process


Irrespective of the number of entrances you give or colleges you apply to, have a list of branches you would prefer says Prof.  Rajbir Singh, Faculty at KMM engineering College. But group them in lots of three he suggests - like Mech, ECE and IT - as your first group. Have four such combinations. Effectively, this means you will have 12 such combinations. This would help you in deciding between colleges much more easily and you would be able to ignore surprises like Instrumentation or Metallurgy coming your way, he explains. Though colleges matter a lot, unless you are in a branch, which has larger employment potential you may not be picked up by employers. So the branch matters.

In selecting a branch your first priority must be your interest (view box for the type of questions to ask before selecting a branch). However, Ashwin Kumar, a BE pass-out from CSMV University, has a different opinion. According to him barring a few students, most do not have very defined preferences when they appear for Engineering. So he says, it makes sense to have only negative preferences, that is, branches you will not take. Then assess the branch that opens up maximum possible jobs, he says. According to him Mechanical fits the bill because a range of companies including public sector look for them and next to circuit branches, even for IT companies (the largest recruiters in campus) it is the most preferred branch. Sonali Kanal, a student of the same college has a different take. She would go by personal preferences. So the verdict is split. Interest is the prime concern. But if you are not too particular, then go for a branch which opens up opportunities.

Unique engineering branches

Name of Branch

Seats

Leather Technology

95

Mechatronics

660

Medical Electronics

267

Packaging Technology

90

Printing Technology

90

Dairy Technology

155

Biochemical Engineering

60

Power

281

Electronics & Computers

340

Silk Technology

70

Agriculture & Allied Science

503

Biomedical

630

Marine Engineering

520

Textile Technology

560

Oil & Petroleum Engineering

256

Freezing your college

This is the prime difference, the assertion in the voice of Rohan, a student of IIIT, Hyderabad is quite evident. A good college changes the way you study, the peer group is different, and the quality of placements is much better, is his conclusion. All the arguments are valid says Harish Iyer, a PhD scholar at IIT Madras, but only for the top 50- 60 colleges in the country. According to him as one moves beyond the top 100 colleges, there is very little to differentiate other than their infrastructure, location, some tie-ups and the effectiveness of their PR. And most of them, according to him are hunting grounds only for those IT services companies which have massive manpower requirements.

So according to Harish, college would take precedence over the branch, only if you are discussing the top 50-60 colleges. As one goes down the pecking order a good branch would stand you in good stead, because after all the college is useful only until you get your first job. Then on, a student is on their own.  So do research about your college in detail. See the number of labs, quality of faculty, the kind of companies that visit their campus and so on (view box above to when creating your assessment chart). Careers360 has done an extensive review of colleges based on these parameters and has rated 935 colleges this year. You can log on to www.careers360.com  and see how your preferred list of colleges have fared.


Acing the counselling stage

Once you have frozen the list of colleges and list of branch preferences, now comes the most important part - creating branch/college combinations for all the colleges you are likely to apply to or seek admissions. If you have given IIT-JEE, AIEEE, State entrance and some private exams, this could mean repeating the process for each of the exam. Careers360 has launched a portal www.engg.careers360.com that would provide you mock counselling wherein you could enter your preferences along with your ranks across exams and we would provide you a list of possible colleges and branches that your rank would have fetched during last year’s counselling. This exercise would ensure that by the time you go for your counselling, you are armed with your choices. There are basically two types of counselling - online and offline - and many States also have a combination of both.

For example in IIT-JEE, you can fill more than 100 choices, but your choice will be allotted to you, only if it is vacant. Last year’s opening and closing rank can give you an idea of where you stand. IIT Delhi’s Asst. Registrar Atul Vyas says, “Read carefully, JEE’s website (https://jeecounselling.iitd.ac.in/JCOP) and its counselling portal. You can find counselling brochure  and last two years’ opening and closing ranks here. You can also get guidelines about counselling process here.” In JEE you are allotted a seat if your preferences match the rank requirement and there are three rounds of counselling. Once you are allotted a seat you need to pay a deposit of Rs. 40,000 through ATM or NEFT or the nearest State Bank of India as registration fee. There are three rounds of counselling and in the subsequent round; if a higher preference seat is available you get that too. On the other hand, if you belong to Maharashtra, there are nine different categories and for each category there are Home State and others as well as Home University and others. So in effect a seat is made available on the basis of 36 different combinations excluding the ones like Kashmiri migrants, physically disabled, etc and there are five rounds of counselling. This could be quite confusing. So taking professional advice might be essential.


Freedom to change the decision

In the AIEEE, for example, there is a provision to change the decision after allotment. If a candidate wishes so, he can refuse the offer even in the third round and reserve his claim for next round. If one doesn’t get a seat even in the fifth round, then, at regional centres, one can claim for vacant seats during spot round, which will be from August 11 to 13. This way, AIEEE’s counselling is much more complex and time-consuming. And AIEEE is very flexible as far as changing the options and returning an allotted seat is concerned.


Offline counselling

There is no such possibility in an offline or a combination counselling process. For example in Tamil Nadu, a candidate enters his or her preference on a portal and based on the ranks they are invited for counselling to a centralised facility. You are shown a  computer screen where the available options based on your choices as well as availability is shown to you. You are given two options and you need to freeze a seat. Once frozen there is no way to change the same. In such a process preparation becomes much more important.In such offline situations, do your home work well in advance, and have all your records checked the day before. Do not discuss your choices with others at the last moment.  If it comes to a choice between branch and institute, always decide based on your priority listing.

(With inputs from Nitin Jindal and Merril Diniz)

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