Steering in the right direction


Steering in the right direction

Dr Ali Khwaja provides useful tips to steer towards the right direction, even if you have landed up in the wrong course.

Kaarthik always wanted to be an engineer.  Not because he was attracted to technology or was good in science, but because everyone told him that good jobs and high salaries await those who study engineering.  He gave up his interest in literature, creativity, and human interaction. Vaguely he had decided that after engineering he will do an MBA, after which he was told he will become a CEO and could lead a luxurious life. Halfway through his BE he is struggling with ‘backs’ of subjects he failed in the last two years, and is now very depressed even thinking of working as an engineer for the next few decades.

Suresh and Sajiv were friends since they began schooling. They were both fed with dreams of how IIT engineers go to USA and earn in dollars – and without knowing anything about what it entails, they set their goals for IIT. They both joined coaching classes right from high school. While Suresh progressed well, both in school and in coaching class, Sajiv found himself struggling, and managed to get only about 55% in his 10th board exam.  Nevertheless, he followed Suresh and joined an upcoming integrated PU college and took up science. Within a month Sajiv realized that he was unable to cope with his studies.  Worse, he was finding the coaching for IIT even more difficult, and the total strain was pulling him down immensely.  Suresh was sympathetic to some extent, but he had his own ambitions and dreams, so he drifted away, making Sajiv even more depressed and uncertain.  With great difficulty Sajiv scraped through his 1st year PUC, made desperate attempts to prepare for competitive exams – but landed up failing in two subjects in the 2nd PUC exams.

Sajiv’s cousin Raju has a different dilemma.  Though he scored poorly in PUC Science, his parents managed to get him a payment seat in an average engineering college.  He struggled through, lost a year due to ‘backs’ and finally completed with a second class in five years.  Not only in campus recruitment, but wherever else he applies, he is not even getting an interview call.

There are innumerable students like Sajiv and Raju who, despite having fairly good intelligence and capabilities, land up in courses and subjects they are absolutely unsuited for, and then either drop out or end up being misfits in their profession.
For those who find themselves in such situations, it is not too late to try and find a better direction.  The two crossroads of 10th and 12th, when career decisions have to be taken, should be time of great introspection and careful decision making – even if a wrong move has been made.

Misconceived notions

In large cities, science continues to be the most popular choice after 10th, not because of interest and aptitude, but because of the mistaken notion that science students get better jobs and careers, and also with the thought that one can always switch over from science to commerce and arts, but not vice versa. Those with a basically high intelligence, or those who can work very hard and consistently, do manage to complete their +2 with respectable marks.  And if they do so, there is again pressure to continue with higher studies in engineering or technology.  Many students, and even more parents, are not even aware of career options beyond engineering and medicine.

Considerable clarifications

A few months into the academic year, if you find yourself regretting your choice and are very uncomfortable or even disheartened with the course, you need to clarify to yourself the following:

Are you going through teething trouble of settling down in the new environment? If so, give yourself time, try and make new friends, get involved in extra-curricular activities in college, and try to do additional studies at home.

Do you find subjects very tough, and are not getting enough support or guidance from teachers? Firstly, be assertive and tell the teachers your problem, and ask if they are willing to help.  If not then seek extra coaching either from elders known to you or from professional tutors.

If you have regrets about the course itself and feel you are not motivated towards the career your course is taking you towards, then firstly explore the possibility of completing the course and then moving towards a field that you like.  If you are just not able to push yourself towards completion, only then think of dropping out, losing a year in the worst case, and starting afresh in a field you have interest and aptitude for.

Do not make the mistake of dropping out and switching to the most convenient alternative; e.g. students who find Science tough switching over automatically to Commerce, and those who cannot cope with engineering taking up Business Management. With such impulsive decisions you could go from the frying pan to the fire.  Since you have made a mistake once, be extra careful in selecting the second time.

Exploring alternatives

Those who are finding only Math difficult in PUC can take the option of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Home Science, which is now being offered in more than half a dozen colleges and is also available to boys.  ISC and CBSE offer various options in science without Math.  Those who cannot cope with science subjects can take up Math with Business Studies, Accountancy and one more subject.  With such a combination they are eligible for architecture, Masters of Computer Applications and various other courses. Commerce need not be the only alternative to those who do not like science – Arts also offers equally good opportunities for those who have skills in languages, people interaction, social sciences, creativity, administration and many others.

I have also nurtured many students who took up Science and have been disappointed – but they have enough intelligence to pass.  Such students have been encouraged to continue and complete PUC with Science, avoid the pressures of coaching classes, and then switch over to any field of their choice, even if they do not score very high in the Board exams.

On the other hand, those who are just not able to cope with Science, and do not pass in 1st PU (or scrape through with great difficulty) can and should consider moving away without wasting another year.  They can register under National Institute of Open Schooling ( to appear for 12th Board exam with any subjects of their choice (even without any other language) for the subsequent year.

The same applies to those who have failed in 2nd PU Board exam and supplementary.  Admissions are still open for 2014 April exams, and NIOS is a Government of India body recognized all over the country. They have a regional office in Bangalore, phone 80-23464222 or 1800-180-9393 and email
Many students who are good in practical technology, gadget fixing etc are not cut out for serious academics, and they may do far better in a three year Polytechnic Diploma than in BE. And in anyway they have the option of lateral entry to 2nd year BE, when they successfully complete their diploma. 10% of the degree seats are reserved for diploma students through a special CET which is less competitive than the regular one.

Matching interest with aptitude

High marks in 10th standard after extensive studying, coaching, and pushing by parents should not be taken as a parameter that the student will do well at +2 level. 
The portions increase significantly and there is much less hand-holding by teachers.  Often the numbers in a class go as high as 100 and above, due to which teachers cannot give any individual attention to students. 

Similarly, while Integrated Colleges are a boon to the science-oriented bright students who get coaching for entrance exams in their college itself, they can be a source of great stress for those who are not cut out to be engineers (leave alone IIT-ians) and an unnecessary financial burden on parents.

The craze for engineering continues, despite the fact that now India is producing more engineers (15 lakhs) annually than USA and China put together, and the demand may not keep up with the supply.  Marks scored in Math and Science in 2nd PU or 12th standard are generally a good indicator whether the student can cope with the rigors of engineering.  Similarly, failure in number of subjects in the first or second year of BE should make a student sit up and review whether he should sacrifice the year lost and move to a field in which he has both interest and aptitude.

While it is true that competition has increased significantly, it is equally true that opportunities have increased much more.  Even if a mistake has been made by selecting an unsuitable course or subjects, it is not too late to change – but after due exploration and matching interest with aptitude.  Parents too play a significant role in not pressuring the child into studies which he is just not suited for, but by helping him or her make the right choice Failures are stepping stones to success.

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