[This is guest post by Parul Gupta. Parul is currently working with IBM Research Lab and is also cofounder of NGO Post. She is B.Tech from IIT Bombay and has completed her higher studies at University of California, Los Angeles and University of California, San Diego. She has got numerous publications and patents on her name. And, she has cracked 2400 / 2400 in GRE]
When I was an eager young teenager preparing for the IIT-JEE exam, I hardly knew what it was that I was really aspiring for. I belonged to a middle class family in a small city, and nobody in our family had ever been to IIT. My father was a brilliant engineer though – he had topped his batch, but couldn’t go to IIT because of his parents’ financial constraints. He had always been my inspiration, the reason for my choosing engineering as a career path (over medicine, which was the only other respectable career choice in those days) and all I knew was that if one wanted to be an engineer, IIT was the best place to be. Knowing this much was enough to give me the drive needed to make it through JEE.
Over time the IITs have grown significantly in the breadth of courses and research options they offer. E.g. besides all the expected engineering disciplines, IIT Bombay has a Biotechnology centre, a School of Management, KRESIT (School of IT), an Industrial Design Centre, a Nanotechnology Centre, a Centre of technology for rural areas and a humanities department as well. This is very important for giving students a broad exposure and enabling interdisciplinary research . Most of those who have gone to U.S.A. or other countries for graduate studies in a true university environment would be able to vouch for its value.
While on the topic of breadth and all-round development, one can’t miss talking about the many extracurricular activities that form an integral part of campus life. Sports, music, performing arts, literary and quizzing events, mountaineering, community service – you can pick any kind and any number of activities to participate in. You can pick up new hobbies or find a group to practice stuff you are already good at. There are many intra and inter-college competitions, events and festivals themed around sports, cultural activities and entrepreneurship which give you the opportunity to showcase your skills and compete against the best not just on campus, but all over the country. And of course, you can choose to volunteer for organizing such events or contest for the hostel or institute council elections – there is no better way to get real life lessons in teamwork and leadership. Such skills are very highly valued by many companies during job interviews too.
One big mistake that a lot of us make after coming to IIT is to take it easy and lose the motivation to work as hard as we did to clear JEE. There is this attitude that getting into IIT is the “end”, but frankly it is just the beginning. IIT gives you some of the best tools and opportunities to make tremendous impact. Think, what will your life and work be about? What will the words be on your epitaph. “I made it in to IIT”. Surely, that can’t be enough. Yes, it is possible you might discover that music, not engineering was your true calling. Or sports. Or movies. There are numerous examples of IIT alumni who have done phenomenally well, not just in technology and business but also in unconventional (for an engineer!) disciplines like writing books, making movies, mountaineering, even politics! So choose what you want to work for, the only thing that can not and should not be compromised is motivation and hard work. It will be one of the most precious times of your life, where you will learn and grow like never before, and never again. Good luck!