Friday, June 14, 2013

How to select engineering discipline from the 70+ choices

After getting their CET marks, most of the 12th standard students come to me to take one decision:  which discipline - electronics, mechanical, civil, compute science - to chose for engineering? More than half have decided IT or computer science as their first choice. Some students come with a very niche choice like aeronautical engineering. Some want to join father's business and therefore ask me 'if mechanical is a better choice or production engineering'? And because these options have to be given in the next week, everyone needs this urgently.

Root cause of the problem

Why is it difficult to choose an engineering discipline from the 70+ disciplines? This is difficult because it is like choosing a chocolate from a bowl of 70 plus chocolates only on the basis of the color of the wrapper. You are not allowed to open and taste the chocolate. And morever, once you make a choice, you are supposed to eat this chocolate for your entire life. This is how students are compelled to make choice of discipline, without even sampling the taste !

Can any person chose a chocolate under this condition? If not, why are we expecting a student of age 18 to make this choice of engineering discipline?

Ideal way of choosing the discipline from 70+ disciplines 

Ideally we should allow the student to sample the taste of chocolate, tell him about the long-term side effects of  a chocolate ( although he may not be able to appreciate it due to his lack of experience), help him meet people who has eaten a specific chocolate, explore options in a free wheeling manner. This will enable the student to make a more 'deliberate and conscious choice' instead of making a guesswork. Is it practical to taste 70 chocolates?

It is practical only if we reduce the number of chocolates in the bowl. For instance, technology students can choose from the small bowl of some chocolates, say 6 chocolates, such as computer science, electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical and electronics. Why these six disciplines? Because the entire set of disciplines are basically the combination of these six disciplines, the student can  perhaps understand the content of other 64 disciplines by sampling these 6.  Morever, it is possible to help the student to sample the taste of these six disciplines in 2-3 years, to sufficient depth, if we smartly use the Sundays between 8th and 10th class. By 8th class, the student has 'understood' relevant concepts of physics and mathematics and is also 'mature enough' to understand and appreciate the meaning of disciplines and careers. ( The same logic can be applied to help student chose commerce and art disciplines).

But this means that student should spend some time on Sundays, from 8th to10th class, with the right experts who can introduce him to these technology in a way that is both 'exciting' and' informative'. He cannot understand this in a class-room situation with a blackboard. He needs to engage with this engineering world in a meaningful way under the guidance of experts.

If a student misses to sample this taste before 10th class, he can do it during 10th-12th class. But finding time during this period is more difficult, given the need to study multiple layers of curriculum: Board syllabus, CBSE syllabus, JEE mains and then JEE advanced. What if the student does not have the time or the able guidance to taste this chocolate before 12th class?

Thumb rule of  choosing the discipline 

When a student has not sampled the taste of disciplines before 12th, he is forced to use a thumb rule. It is not ideal situation, but is the only way to reduce some risk.

Alternative 1. Choose a best course with a better college

Best course means the course that has better job opportunity and options, after finishing the graduation. Students like to chose IT course because of this criteria, but they are not aware of other choices.

But more than the course, the student should chose a better college. Better college has three components: Better faculty, Good infrastructure of labs, and good placement record.  Please remember, that it  is the college that enables the student to develop the requisite abilities, be it in Mechanical or Electrical. For example, an excellent course like IT done from the Tier 4 or 5 College is not worth a risk. Then use the second alternative.

Alternative 2. Chose a better course with better college 

If a student is unable to find the best 'marketable' course due to his lower CET scores, then the student should focus on choosing a 'better course'. Better courses are niche courses which have better market opportunities in a specific sector, such as Marine Engineering or Petrochemical engineering. They also include courses in Chemical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering ( Sandwich course) because it has wide options of job.

Again it is important to find the right college for the course. Now the student needs to be even more focused on finding the best college for that specific course. For instance, a college like PVG in Pune has a better reputation for mechanical engineering. Finding this college may require some digging of information. Finding a student who has graduated from the college, is the best source of credible and relevant information.

Alternative 3. Choose any course with best college 

If the above options are not feasible, then the best option is to choose the best college ( Tier 1 college) and do any course from that college. Why choosing college is more important than the right course?

Please remember that all courses build your one specific ability: Logical ability. Once this logical ability is well built by the college, you can do many tasks and jobs. That is why you find many mechanical engineers joining IT, or electrical engineers doing Banking, or a Civil engineering graduate doing excellent in Management. In other words, it is better to do Civil Engineering course from COEP, Pune than doing doing IT course from a Tier 3 college.

What options are you planning to use?