The Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) are tough places to get into. So tough in fact, that it can take a toll on students’ mental health and also affect their social skills and creativity.
The ‘Freshman Survey’ of first-year IIT-Bombay students, released by the institute’s student community, said more than half the freshers — 64.4% — thought that two years of Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) coaching to get admissions to the coveted institutes affected their creative abilities; 55.3% felt it also affected their social skills. A fifth — 20.9% — admitted they took a break from academics to get through an IIT of their choice. One in four students — 26.1% — had to seek the help of counsellors while preparing for the entrance exams to tackle breakdowns and remain motivated.
The survey asked students about their expectations as well like their background before entering an IIT, their political and religious beliefs and their plans after graduation. Inspired by Harvard Crimson’s Freshmen Survey, 254 of the freshers participated in the survey and their responses show the amount of money and work that goes into finally getting through the premiere institute .
“The underlying motivation behind this survey was to gauge how much ‘change’ a freshman undergoes before leaving the institute with a truckload of knowledge, memories and ambitions,” states the survey. Around 95.9% students stated they took JEE coaching for two years before appearing for the entrance examinations and more than half of them highlighted how the same period pushed them away from a “normal social” life. The JEE selects students to the IITs according to their rankings.
The demographic profile of students show that most are from Maharashtra (268) followed by Rajasthan (188), Madhya Pradesh (100) and Telengana (71). Nearly 90% of the respondents, who reported annual family incomes of less than Rs2 lakh, stated they spent more than half their annual family income for JEE coaching and 28.5% of students with an annual family income of up to Rs10 lakh spent more than a quarter on coaching.
“IIT courses are not easy. They are in fact tougher than entrance exams and the CBSE syllabus. But the amount of time these children spend studying for the entrance exams, it is no surprise they are burnt out by the time they get to an IIT,” said Soumyo Mukherji, dean, student affairs at IIT-B. Around 54.7% of first-year students on campus stated how two years of rigorous coaching for JEE examinations left them with very little enthusiasm for academics in the first semester of IIT-B. Mukherji said this “obsession” of students as well as parents has been increasing with every passing year. “They forget that they are losing a connect with their own people, family and friends because of this obsession,” he said.
The survey also highlights how 92.9% students studied under the pressure of living up to their own expectations.