(This is an article I wrote for the Campus magazine a year ago. Just felt like posting it here. )
As I write down this article, I realise that it is the 78th last day of my undergraduate study in IIT Delhi. It has been almost four years, since I, along with 500-odd others, realised my long-cherished dream of studying at IIT. The past four years have been a beautiful learning experience, and I don’t mean academics when I say learning. These four years have taught me, and I believe many of my batch mates, a lot about life itself.
The most important thing that IIT Delhi has taught me is that whatever you do in life is independent of what your GPA is at IIT. I have seen five point someones with no hands-on experience of software, go and work in Software Engineering. I have seen nine pointers going to IIMA and start off on a totally new career field. And there have also been cases where six pointers have managed to do PhD or MS in their respective departments. However, this does not mean that GPA is not important. Its importance cannot be over-emphasised. All I am saying is that a bad GPA is not the end of the world, and a good GPA does not necessarily entail a good technological career.
And what is GPA anyways? Does it anyhow show the true worth of a person as an engineer? I would reckon no. Even though my GPA gives a very fair idea about how much (rather, how little) I know about engineering, a sad trend is that a great number of people with GPA greater than 7 don’t know much more than I do. A lot of my ‘seven pointers and above’ friends feel that their stay in IIT Delhi has been a waste of their four years as well as the taxpayer’s money. This is a disturbing observation. If the best people in the best institute of the country don’t know much about engineering, then who does?
The biggest problem with academics at IIT Delhi is that people who come here through JEE want to leave the intense study hours behind them, and want to enjoy life to the fullest. They feel that their future is secured and that they can now do all that they had missed in their preparation for JEE. Hence studies take a backseat and this leads to the concept of fraud, whereby IITians become experts in eking out the maximum output from minimum input. Only a very low percentage of the students are actually interested in engineering. And not all of them are nine pointers. There are some who are very interested in only a particular field of their study, and get A’s in these courses, but do badly in the rest. They don’t have particularly good GPA’s but their GPA is not a true indicator of either their interest or their technological skills.
The other important issue is that of the people in here (B.Tech at least) studying only for their grades. This is again a very serious observation which leads to people not exactly “understanding” what they are doing, and just cramming up and pouring out on the examination day. There have been nine pointers who have had virtually forgotten everything they have written down on paper after coming back from major. These people have mastered the act of studying for maximum gains. The system encourages them, what with the grading system here not taking into account the actual performances of students in the classrooms. The most common line in our resume reads “The stay at IIT Delhi has helped improve my analytical skills.” I believe there cannot be a bigger lie. My analytical skills have actually come down since the day I came to IIT Delhi. It might be due to my own shortcomings, but when this is the case with the majority, I believe the system might be at fault.
There are people who do nothing else but study all day, and they have low GPA’s. They are very interested in the technical field, but somehow they don’t manage to show it in the grade sheet. BTP is an ideal case in point. The grade in your BTP does not depend on the amount of work you can do, but the amount of work you can show.
Just as they say, “Money attracts money” I would like to add, “GPA attracts GPA”. A good GPA betters your chances of getting a good grade. That is why it is easier to stay at the top than to get there.
However, a good GPA is a must for many reasons. One, it helps to get you short listed for companies during your job hunt. And more importantly, it prevents you from getting sleepless nights trying to find the answer to “Why do you have such a low GPA?” which they ask you if somehow you have been short listed.
My contention is that the system should be revised so as to ensure that only people who actually deserve to be at the pinnacle in this technology institute get there. The grading system should be modified and there should be regular counselling available for different levels of students, especially for the five pointers. The importance of a good GPA should be made clear to all incoming students and there should be regular performance quizzes for continuous evaluation. Maybe then IIT Delhi can actually become a great centre for technical learning, as was envisaged by its founders. But till then, GPA shall remain more a case of fraud than genuine interest and hardwork.