Come July each year, and hordes of freshmen throng the gates of IIT Delhi, some in awe, some lost, but most of all, with questions about the institute teeming in their heads. Conversely, we too, often wonder about each batch: Where do they come from? What do they like? What do they want to be?
With these questions in mind, we set out on doing a survey of 649 freshers of the incoming batch of 2017.
The freshmen survey, a collaboration between BSP and BSW, had two objectives: to identify and provide assistance through language or computer training to those in need, as well as to take a closer look at the backgrounds, interests and aspirations of the freshers.
We embarked on this project with the hope that we would be able to delve deeper into the probable reasons behind general trends at IIT Delhi, and in education at large and examine certain perceptions. The survey began with asking questions about place of origin, educational background, fluency with language etc. before moving onto more subjective questions like career goals, and thoughts on cheating. In addition to reporting overall statistics, we have also attempted to examine correlations between responses to different questions.
Where are they from?
Of the 649 participants, 1 was an international student. 67% were from North and Central India, with nearly 1 in 5 students coming from Rajasthan alone. For places of origin, we considered four categories–metropolitan cities (like Delhi, Bombay, etc), big cities but not metros (say Indore or Lucknow), small towns, and villages.
- Only 21 students had not relied on some form of coaching, private tuition or correspondence courses.
- 38% of participants admitted to being in dummy schools.
- 69% of the freshmen were the first IITians in their immediate family.
- More than 60 percent moved to a different city among those who dropped a year, vis a vis 39 percent among those who did not.
- Placewise trends were also noticeable, especially in the percentage of those who had to move for coaching purposes: around 80% people from small towns/villages moved for JEE preparation whereas only 10% living in metropolitan cities moved.
- Differences in drop year statistics was also evident–the proportion of drop year students ranged from 14% and 20% in metros and big cities, to 34% and 48% in villages and small towns respectively.
- One person in 68 from villages said he/she was very confident in English and only half of them thought they were above average. Almost 90 percent of students from metros considered themselves reasonably fluent in English and no one from metros opted for ‘find it difficult to read an English newspaper’.
The ‘IIT Delhi Brand Name’ was an overwhelmingly important reason for students to select IIT Delhi–with over half of the respondents selecting this reason. The ‘Brand Name’ had considerably more takers (~10 point percentage difference over the next most popular factor) in participants from urban areas. For students from villages, however, ‘placement statistics’, along with the brand name and academic considerations, was the most popular factor.
The percentage of CS1 and CS5 respondents who said they were not interested in a change of department was 95% and 52% respectively. This steep drop and the negligible differences between the courses available in each of the two options, indicates that considerations other than interest in one’s own department, such as the duration of one’s degree are also significant factors in addition to the choice of curriculum, where reasons for DepC are concerned.
Overall, 18% of freshers opted for ‘Don’t want one’. Interestingly, the fraction of Electrical Engineering students who said they did not want a DepC was almost at par with that of Engineering Physics students. One might have expected a steadily decreasing percentage of students opting for ‘Don’t Want One’ on going from branches with lower to those with higher opening/closing ranks. However, such a trend is not observed beyond EE1. The percentage of those who did not want a DepC between those who had and had not taken a drop year was approximately the same, indicating that the decision of taking a drop year is unlikely to affect satisfaction with one’s department.
- When asked where they saw themselves 10 years from now, students from villages were almost equally amenable to all options. While one in 4 students from villages opted for ‘Elsewhere in India’, only 7 percent of students from metros opted for this.
- Engineering physics was the only department where more than a third of the incoming population wanted to go for higher studies.
- About 48% people in Civil Engineering plan to go for Civil Services.
- More than half the students stated that they chose engineering over other fields out of interest.
- 1 in 5 selected “I was good in studies which meant taking science”, while only 1% claimed to have felt pressurized by parents or society into taking this decision.
A word of caution at this juncture–although the participants’ identities were not used for the analysis, the survey was not anonymous. Thus, some of the answers, especially those pertaining to lifestyle may not be an entirely accurate representation of reality.
Of Seniors and Freshmen–Comparisons
Especially on lifestyle and future related questions, we thought it would be interesting to compare some of our results with the (anonymous, and offline) survey of the graduating class of 2017, that we did last year. In contrast to the abstinent picture of the freshmen that this survey paints, according to the Senior Survey, 20% of metropolitan students and 2% of students from rural areas and small towns admitted to having started smoking and/or drinking before joining IIT. The same survey had revealed that 55% of seniors started smoking/drinking after coming to college. Similarly, over 60% of graduating seniors had admitted to having resorted to unfair means in assignments and only 27% claimed to have never done so. On the count of cheating, it is unclear whether or not the apparent discrepancy can be attributed to the non-anonymous nature of the survey of the freshers, the possibility that several students begin resorting to unfair means during the course of their years at IIT Delhi, or merely the fact that two different pools of students, separated in age by nearly half a decade, were surveyed in the two cases. Where career plans are concerned, according to placement statistics this year, one in four students was placed in Analytics and Consultancy–which together had only 9 takers among the freshers.
Men are from–sigh, not again…
In keeping with trends observed in previous years, this year too, the gender ratio is heavily skewed, with just over 12% of the survey respondents being female. A larger proportion of girls came from urban settings, as compared to boys. 48% of the males moved, whereas the figure for females was at 30%. While almost 3/4ths of the girls came from an urban setting it was a little more than half for boys. However, on some counts, such as the proportion who dropped a year and where they would like to be in 10 years, there was negligible difference.
So what do we learn?
This survey underscores the advantages that students from urban backgrounds have–both in terms of preparation for the JEE and post entering IIT. The relative percentages of coaching-related mobility as a function of different backgrounds as well as the differences in language fluency stand testimony to this. On a related note, several responses in the ‘Problems/Suggestions’ responses revolved around concerns relating to comprehension of first year lecture courses. Some of these had to do with language issues, pertaining to fluency in both English and Hindi. With the JEE Advanced being made fully online starting this year, one does wonder about the possibility that this move might create an additional disadvantage to those uncomfortable with basic computer use.
That only 3% of participants have stated that they did not use any form of coaching or tuition doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It only highlights how the coaching industry is firmly ensconced in the secondary education landscape in India, often supplanting schools in terms of importance–as evidenced by the 38% who admitted to going to dummy schools. The relatively low preference toward career choices like Analytics and Consulting also points toward the fact that the career preferences of a significant fraction of students change after coming to IIT, or, at the very least, that several prospective freshers aren’t fully aware of the career options available to them after graduating.
Indeed, since the questionnaire was online, no tests of the extent of comprehension of individual questions were done and differences in interpretations of questions and their options may have crept in, for instance in the distinction between ‘Small Towns’ and ‘Villages’ and in interpreting ‘wanting a DepC’ as equivalent to ‘other departments I would have been equally amenable to’. The fact that the survey was online and in English may also have conspired to create selection biases where questions relating to language and computer proficiency are concerned. Hopefully, through future iterations, we can eliminate ambiguities of this sort, refine our methods of analysis and tailor our questions so as to gain better insights into future batches of freshers.
The questionnaire can be obtained here: iitd.info/freshmen_survey
Special thanks to the Board for Student Welfare and the Student Mentorship Programme, for helping us cover over three-fourths of the entire batch, and to the protagonists of this story, the Freshers’ Batch of 2017, for sparing their time to fill this survey!
-Nitin Shekhar, Ritwik Chakravarti, Sumakesh Mishra, Tushar Chaudhary, Nayantara Mudur
-Graphics: Chaitanya Sharma