Just Do The Math, Is Even Trying For An IIT Really Worth It?

Children should be taught to aspire to be successful, but success doesn't have to mean an IIT admission only!

Imagine studying for 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 whole years for the JEE exam only to find out that there’s only a very, very slim chance of getting into an IIT. It is a fact widely acknowledged that the IIT-JEE is one of the toughest exams not just in India but in the whole world. Apart from IITs, the NITs and IIITs of India also accept the JEE scores for admission. There are said to be a total of 23 IITs, 31 NITs and 25 IIITs across the country.

Now, let’s first get a few facts about the IITs right. First, according to the NIRF rankings of 2023, only 17 IITs rank in the top 50 engineering colleges of India and only a few (around 5) IITs are in the list of the world’s top 100 engineering colleges. Second, the dropout rate of IIT-qualifying students stands at least at 20%, with reasons being cited ranging from academic pressure and unmanageable workload to caste discrimination and high levels of competition within the IIT.

So, it’s quite clear that the journey of making it through IIT is as challenging as the journey of getting into an IIT. Third and most important of all, the acceptance rate or the odds of getting into an IIT are below 3% which is a lot lower than the acceptance rate of highly and very highly ranked US universities. Four, getting into an IIT of one’s choice doesn’t mean one will also get into a branch of one’s preference at that IIT.

As for the NITs and the IIITs, according to the 2023 NIRF rankings, only 22 NITs were in the top 100 engineering colleges of India, of which only 11 were in the top 50, while only 3 of the 25 IIITs were in the top 100 engineering colleges of India while none was in the top 50. Besides, getting into an IIT (or an NIT for that matter) doesn’t guarantee job placement (or even graduation). In fact, IITs are facing a major job placement issue (if not a crisis).

Make an informed decision

The calculations that follow are not exact, but the purpose is to give the reader a rough but fair enough idea about the chances of making it to an IIT or NIT. In 2023, around 11 lakh unique students appeared for the JEE exam and there were around 17K seats in all the IITs and so, assuming that all these students wanted to get into an IIT as their first choice, the odds of getting an IIT seat were as low as 1.56% (that is, there was a nearly 98.44% chance of not getting the seat).

Similarly, for the same year, NITs offered near about 24K engineering seats, meaning that if students wanted to get into either an IIT or an NIT as their most preferred choices, then the chances of getting into either of the two were as low as 3.7% (which means a nearly 96.3% chance of not getting in).

When one realizes and understands how the odds are very much stacked against any student, is there a point in still pursuing these institutes so aggressively and spending so much of one’s valuable time, energy, money and efforts on not-at-all-easy preparations?

The rigorous preparations for cracking JEE for IIT certainly takes a toll on one’s overall well-being. Is there, then, any point in spending hard-earned money and savings or taking out a loan for IIT-JEE coaching classes? Also, taking admission into the “best coaching classes” doesn’t guarantee admission or a seat of your choice in an IIT or NIT. Then, sending children to a different city (or place) to study for IIT-JEE doesn’t really seem to be worth it at all. And, if spending tens of lakhs of rupees (on coaching in coaching institutes and other expenses for the IIT-JEE preparation) is the idea, then might as well complete the undergraduate studies from a better ranked university abroad.

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What does the student really want?

Questions that are of far more importance and relevance here are:-

  1. Is a student certain that engineering is what the student truly wishes to pursue?
  2. Does the student really want to live away from home for IIT-JEE preparation or even while pursuing engineering?
  3. Does the student feel that the student should compete for an IIT or NIT seat that there is a less than 5% chance of getting (or in other words, over 95% chance of NOT getting)?
  4. Does one really find it worth it to spend lakhs of rupees on IIT-JEE preparations when the odds of getting into an IIT are so low?

Sure, children should be taught to aspire to be successful, but what everyone needs to understand here is that success can mean different things to different people – for someone, success might mean getting a dream home/car/job, while for someone it might mean getting a chance to serve the underprivileged, while for someone else it could mean feeling content and living a healthy life and for somebody else it could mean being able to pursue their hobbies to their heart’s content.

Today, you don’t have to be an IIT student to be able to do innovative research or to have your innovative solutions taken seriously. It’s, thus, important to consider other factors such as the location of college also while planning which colleges to aim for. Why not make life easier for the student and shift the focus of studies on engineering entrance exams where there are better chances of success and of getting into a college and branch of one’s liking? After getting into an engineering college, one can, then, choose the path of working towards pursuing a master’s degree from a university abroad that has a better ranking than the IITs and way better odds of getting into compared to an IIT or NIT. It’s so, so important to spread awareness regarding this among everybody. If you are reading this, please give it some thought.

It’s always better to take well-informed decisions and think properly and thoroughly before getting into something as intensive and demanding as the JEE exam studies and preparations. And so, it’s crucial to teach children that IITs aren’t the only way to achieve whatever dreams a child may have and that there are multiple paths that can lead to a successful, happy and comfortable life. The idea of this post is not to discourage anybody from achieving their dreams but for every one of us to realize that giving too much importance to one exam is not really fair and may not actually be in the interest of students and their career. Thus, JEE preparations for IIT may just not be the right or sensible choice for so many of us.


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