Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Letter to a Fresher

Welcome to the Department of Civil Engineering at IIT Roorkee, the nation's best institution for Civil Engineering! I know you have probably heard that line before, but be aware that it is true and the reputation that the alumni have created around the world is extremely good. Also be aware that for every student who graduated from there and went on to lead an extremely successful life, there are at least 20 who did nothing noteworthy and just disappeared into the vast masses. Take the next four years as a rare opportunity to reach your fullest potential, one that you can grasp or squander, and live the consequences of. 

In general, this is the timeline you would follow (from my experience):
First Year: Adjust to the IIT system and become comfortable with it
Second Year: Explore the Department of Civil Engineering, and everything that the field has to offer. Ask around, meet people, whatever. 
Third Year: Seriously think about your future: MBA, IAS, Higher studies, Job, Start-Up etc. Ask around as much as you can, do an internship, explore different fields but by the end of the year, finalize what you want to do after you graduate and have a plan ready for it, if necessary (such as coaching for an exam you have to write, like CAT)
Fourth Year: Execute your plans. This is not the time to plan, but to execute your plans. If you are still planning, you just wasted a year. How you execute your plans will determine your life for at least the next one year and maybe until you die. So take it very seriously. 

In this process, stay serious about your academics but also take the time to participate in extracurricular activities. You have an excellent opportunity to meet new people and explore your interests beyond the classroom and I fully recommend you to. There is no false choice between academics and extracurricular activities: you can do both as long as you learn to manage your time and priorities. CGPA is very important, the most important thing I would say, but your communication skills, interpersonal skills, health and general awareness are also important and worth your time. 

There is only one 'trick' to doing well in the Department, and that is doing your tuts on time and by yourself. Read the textbooks, slides etc. and ask as many doubts as you want, but make sure you DO NOT copy the answers from someone else. That alone will get you good marks in any subject. Although a minor sounds very appealing, do not believe that it is going to substitute your major degree. You will first be a Civil Engineer and then your minor, should you choose to do one. A Minor in CS or DOMS might sound very appealing to many people around you, but remember that you have more choices. So keep your mind broad, including doing an Honors in Civil Engineering instead of a minor. 

As for old papers, don't study with an eye on last year's paper - study the course first and use the old papers just to see if you are OK with it. Papers do change over the years, some more than others, but the subject doesn't (not very quickly anyway).

And well, what else can I say? Good luck! 

Student of MS Transportation Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

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