Career Counselling Advice

What if You Have Landed up in The Wrong Course?

What 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, 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 school. 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.

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.

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 switch over automatically to Commerce. Those who cannot cope with engineering take 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.

Let us explore 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 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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 B.E. And anyway they have the option of lateral entry to 2nd year B.E. 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.

High marks in 10th standard after extensive studying, coaching, 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 then 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 B.E. 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.

Dr. Ali Khwaja


Why is Engineering So Popular?

Adarsh was labeled as a bright student when he scored more than 80% in SSLC. He took up Science and was shocked when in 1st PUC his marks came down to around 50%. When his 2nd PUC results came, he had just managed to inch up to 58% in Physics, Chemistry and Math. When he came to us for career counseling, I asked him what his career preference was. Without batting an eyelid, he said “IIT, Sir”. I gently nudged him and said I wanted to know what career he would like to take up, not which institute he would like to study in. Adarsh could not answer, since over the past four years he had been taking “IIT coaching” and thought that IIT itself is a career goal.

Adarsh is not to blame. He is fascinated with computers and he feels that engineers earn the most money. But his lack of information, ignorance of career options, and fascination with a particular engineering college, took him in a direction where he had to suffer major disappointment and heart-break.

There are many like Adarsh facing similar dilemma. They do not know why they are opting for science, then engineering, and even why IITs are considered the best option among engineering colleges. They do not know which branch of engineering would suit them most, and what type of career they would be taking up.

Adarsh’s classmate Venkat had a completely different problem. As a child he would look at the sky and the aeroplanes, and developed a fascination towards aeronautical engineering. Only now he came to know that Aeronautical Engineering is offered only recently by just a few engineering colleges in the state at the undergraduate level. There were however, advertisements announcing aeronautical diploma courses, and he was not sure whether they are recognized or not.

A little advance planning could have helped so many like Adarsh and Venkat look at all options, match their interests to their aptitude, and move into a career that will not only be lucrative, but also deeply satisfying. To start with, most engineering aspirants do not know that Karnataka itself offers more than 30 branches of engineering (see box), and if one is looking at all-India institutes, the number goes close to 50.

List of some Engineering branches:

Aeronautical, aerospace, automobiles, biomedical, biotechnology, ceramics, chemical, civil, computer science, electrical & electronics, electronics & communications, environmental, industrial engineering & management, industrial production, information science, instrumentation technology, manufacturing science, mechanical, mechatronics/robotics, medical electronics, metallurgy, mining, polymer technology, printing technology, silk technology, telecommunication, textiles, transportation, and a few more.

For those who have completed 10+2, or will be doing so in the next 2 or 3 years, here are some practical tips to ensure the right choice:

  • Do not get taken in by peer pressure, or people talking highly about a particular field having great “scope.” You will be working a minimum of 40-50 years in your chosen career, and the scope may go up and down many times during that period.

Firstly check out whether you have a specific interest in a specialized field:

  • You may love working in a hospital environment and seeing patients being healed, then you can consider medical electronics or biomedical engineering.
  • Your family has affiliations to a particular trade e.g. clothing, or transport. If so you can opt for silk technology, textiles, or transportation engineering, since you will get openings through your personal contacts.
  • If you have a love for a particular subject, say chemistry, then you may opt for Chemical Engineering, ceramics, polymer technology.

Similarly you need to ask yourself whether you are the “hardcore technology” type, or the “management” type. If you would like to go deeper into technology beyond your graduation, then you should be careful in choosing the subject of your choice, so that you can opt for the right specialization.

On the other hand, if you are a people-oriented or money-savvy person and are likely to move into management, administration, military or entrepreneurship, it may be advisable to get into any of the basic streams of engineering such as mechanical, electrical, electronics, industrial engineering management, or manufacturing etc. These branches will give you the proper foundation and the flexibility to take up management of a wide variety of industries. Also, they can act as a base for you to move, either through post-graduation or by work experience, into a field you have a fascination for. Majority of students selected in IIMs are engineers, and highly specialized fields like aerospace or automobiles do require engineers from basic streams.

Those interested in the booming IT sector should keep in mind that Computer Science Engineering or Information Science engineering are not the only avenues to get in. The sector employs many mechanical, electronics, instrumentation, telecommunication and other engineers too. Also keep abreast of the fact that the phenomenal rise of IT industry may not continue over the next few decades.

Many engineers branch out into totally unconnected fields. There are engineers today who are top-notch bankers, police commissioners, stock market experts, behavioral scientists, ministers, and of course – luminaries like our illustrious former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam. My junior from IIT Bombay, Nitin Nohria, has the honor of being the first non-American to be appointed Dean of Harvard B-School. When the media asked him how his study of Chemical Engineering helped him reach that position, he replied in a lighter vein: “Five years of studying Chemical Engineering in IIT taught me that I do not want to be a Chemical Engineer”. While this may sound as a frivolous remark, it actually reflects the wider potential of reputed institutes, who prepare students to excel in fields very diverse from what is taught in text books.

Regardless of the type of work they are doing today, none regrets having studied engineering. That is one of the greatest advantages of engineering education in India. It prepares you for taking up challenges, sharpens your analytical skills, induces team spirit, builds up your confidence levels, and generally lays the foundations to excel in whatever you choose to do.

Keeping this in mind, make sure you select a good college, not just based on the number of “campus recruitments” they have, but on the basis of infrastructure, quality and longevity of faculty, interaction with industry, caliber of students, visits by illustrious guest faculty, and the sincerity of the top management. Do not restrict your choice to colleges in large cities like Bangalore and do not be stuck only on labels like IITs – there are some excellent colleges located in far flung places which also provide excellent education.

Almost on a daily basis I get inquiries based on rumors: “Will PUC be abolished and merged with CBSC?” “Is it true that 10th standard marks will also count for engineering admission?” “Should we ‘buy’ a management seat before CET results come?” “I was told it is impossible to get through CET without coaching, what should I do?” Please do not be misled. The selection process is fairly transparent, most details are put up on the website (, otherwise go directly to the concerned authority and get the right information.

A final word before going blindly into engineering, be aware that there are many more professional courses that offer equally rewarding careers. Explore, find out details, talk to knowledgeable people, and then take your final decision. Some of the other professional courses are:

  • 5-year Law course offered by the National Law Schools and other reputed Law Colleges
  • 3 and 4 year paramedical courses in Speech & Audiology, Renal Dialysis, Physiotherapy, Radiography, Pharmacy, etc.
  • 4-year Bachelor of Hotel Management, or Travel and Tourism
  • 4-year courses in Agricultural Sciences, Horticulture, Agricultural Engineering, Forestry etc. offered by Universities of Agricultural Sciences
  • 5-year Bachelor of Architecture (admission through NATA test)
  • 3 and 4 year courses in general or specialized areas of design
  • Integrated 4 and 5 year courses in Pure Sciences

By Ali Khwaja


After 10th Standard, what next? How to have a smooth transition to your selected career after 10th Standard?

Sashi has always had a desire to do something different. Born at the end of the twentieth century, he has been witnessing the challenges and thrill of change and newness that defines his generation. He is intelligent, has a sharp mind, and a strong feeling of, "It is MY life!" He is fed up of elders telling him that engineering and medicine are the only options for a safe and lucrative future. His mind refuses to believe it, for when he looks around he sees so much happening – tremendous advances in the retail and marketing sector, legal experts thriving, creative designers getting any fees that they demand, and even managers with no formal qualifications rising fast up the corporate ladder.

Such a scenario, while very encouraging and thrilling, raises the doubt in many youngsters about where their future lies. As someone said in a seminar recently, "there is a problem of plenty." Too many career choices, too many advisors, and too much at stake. Sharp youngsters like Sashi also know that if they make a wrong move, they can be pushed off the fast track, and will wallow in the shallow waters of mediocrity and stagnation.

Students chatting after school
after school
Image Credit: Natesh Ramasamy, cc-by-2.0,

The Crossroads

Obviously students touch the first crossroads when they have completed their 10th standard. A few who are not at all academically oriented, or cannot afford higher education, move on to diplomas, ITI courses or other job-oriented training. The vast majority move on to PUC/+2 and mark their time for two years preparing for the entry into degree courses that will define their career.

Here comes the first dilemma, to choose the stream for higher studies (see box "Where, How and Which way do I complete my +2?" Not only does a student have to select the stream of studies, but also the subjects. The +2 courses in general can be divided into three major categories:

Science, Commerce and Arts

Though some streams do offer combinations between the above three, most schools and colleges have clearly defined optional subjects. Except in NIOS (or if a student has obtained exemption due to Learning Disability), one has study another language with English. The most common choices offered are Kannada, Hindi and Sanskrit, while selected colleges do offer French and other languages also. The four "core" or "optional" subjects define which category the student belongs to.

Science : The most common combination of optional subjects are PCMB (Physics, Chemistry, Math and Biology, the most popular choice of those who wish to "keep all career options open"), PCM+Electronics, PCM+Computer Science. Selected colleges do offer Statistics as the fourth subject. Lesser known is the fact that for those with Math-phobia there is an combination of PCB+Home Science. While more than half-a-dozen girls colleges have been offering this combination since many years, there are colleges like Cathedral, Indian Academy, Green Country and schools like Vidya Niketan, who offer this combination to both boys and girls.It is significant that Science is also a popular choice among bright students who are not interested in a career in Science or Technology, since it is possible to switch from Science to Commerce or Arts, but not vice-versa.

Commerce : is the popular choice of students who feel that they are not oriented to science (or find the subjects too difficult), or even those who wish to have some free time in their daily routine to pursue other courses or extra-curricular activities. While Business Studies and Accountancy are compulsory, the other two optional subjects can be selected from Math, Statistics, Economics, to History, Geography, Political Science, etc. Commerce subjects are found to be more interesting even by students who eventually wish to make a career in Humanities or Arts.

Arts : Traditionally this has been the "poor cousin" of the other two streams, pursued by those who found science and commerce too tough, or did not have good enough marks in 10th to get admission, or were financially constrained. The scene has changed remarkably in the past decade, and many bright students who are sure of making a career that is people, languages, or social science related, are opting for Arts at the +2 level. Here again there is a fairly wide choice of subjects such as Psychology, Sociology, Economics, History, Geography, Political Science, Logic, etc., but most colleges offer only one or two of these combinations, hence one has to be careful in selecting the college.

Science vs Arts
after school
Image Credit:, cc-by-2.0,

Unusual Combinations : A few selected colleges offer combinations from the above three major streams, and even away from them. These include combinations like Home Science+ Psychology+ Sociology, or Computer Science+ Commerce subjects. Courses are offered in design fields, environmental sciences, physical education, etc. but in very selected institutions.

Admissions in schools or colleges for +2 are highly competitive only among the few reputed institutions that have made a name for themselves over the decades. Cut-off percentages often go beyond 90% to qualify for admission. However, one should keep in mind that many new junior colleges have opened in the past few years, backed by good management and infrastructure, and since they have not yet gained wide exposure, admission is available much more freely. Many schools have also upgraded themselves in the past few years to either add on CBSE/ISC 12th standard, or to add on a PUC college to the existing school. It is worth the while to check out the latest lists and then explore admission to the best possible institutions.

Also one needs to keep in mind that when institutions mention a particular cut-off percentage for admission, it is usually for their first list. With wide variety being available, not all students take admission, and hence there are second and third lists where students with much lower percentage do manage to get in. If one is specifically interested in an institution, it may be wise to keep checking with them till all their lists are out and admissions are closed. Also, it is advisable that the institution is not too far from the residence of the student, as valuable time wasted in travel can be used for further coaching or studies, particularly for the competitive exams.

There is some amount of confusion whether a student can change college after 1st year of PUC, and whether a change of stream is possible (e.g. switching over from Science to Commerce). Some of these matters are under judicial appeal, and we will have to await the judgments. However, it is better not to rely on the possibility of change, and select the right stream straight away. As a counselor I have come across many students who deep down knew that they cannot cope with science, but opted for it in PUC under peer or parental pressure, or even to keep up their own "prestige", thinking that science is superior to other streams. After very poor performance in 1st PUC, they run pillar to post trying to get a change into commerce or arts.

Similarly, those who are starting off their 1st PUC need not think of the year as "earned leave" to studies after their hard work for the 10th Board exams. One should start building up a regular study habit, since portions increase significantly in 11th, and one has to do more of self-study compared to the detailed "spoon-feeding" that they received in lower classes. At the same time students should try to narrow down their career goals by the time they have finished their 11th or 1st PUC, because then they can concentrate on preparation for the Board exams and also the entrance exams they may have to face.

Where, how and which way do I complete my plus 2 ?

While students who have studied in the State Syllabus (SSLC) opt for the Pre-University Course (PUC), those who have completed their 10th under the ICSE or CBSE curriculum often wonder whether to continue in one of these central syllabus, or to switch over to PUC. With the coming of the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS. Details available on and International Baccalaureate (IB. Details available on the choice has widened. Unfortunately there is no general answer to which would be the best, but a few points taken into consideration may help the student take the decision:

What Next? Where, How and Which Subject and College?
after school
Image Credit: danielfoster437, cc-by-sa-2.0,

PUC is comparatively the easiest, and average or below average students can hope to clear it without too much difficulty. There are almost 200 PU Colleges in Bangalore city alone, and the choice of both colleges as well as optional subjects is widest under this stream. Also, since the competitive CET is based on the PUC syllabus, a student can hope to get a better rank for admission to engineering or medicine in the state.

CBSE has a standard pattern all over the country (and in many foreign countries where Indians are in large numbers), hence a student can find easy admission in case of sudden transfer. It is also designed to give a strong foundation all-round, and most CBSE schools maintain very high standards, including in extra-curricular activities. The IIT-JEE, AIEEE and various other All-India entrance exams base their questions closest to the CBSE syllabus, hence students aspiring for such institutions stand at an advantage. Kendriya Vidyalayas and other government organizations generally follow CBSE, giving opportunity for the salaried class to get good education at a very low fee.

ISC is perhaps the toughest of the Indian +2 exams, but it gives a wider variety of subjects to choose from, greater sharpening of the analytical and reasoning mind, and again a good foundation for various all-India entrance exams. Many reputed schools that have existed for decades and even a century, offer ISC, and since it is based on the Senior Cambridge pattern, its recognition in the Commonwealth and other foreign countries is also higher.

IB has a distinct advantage for students who wish to pursue their under-graduate studies in Western countries. It is universally recognized, allows more flexibility of studies, but in India it has the disadvantage of late exams (in May, with results in July) due to which admission to local universities at times becomes a hurdle.

NIOS is a very flexible examination system offered by Government of India, where students have a wide options to select any combination of traditional and non-conventional subjects, study two languages or one, and appear for the exams in stages. It also has facilities for children with special needs. Though the general public is not fully aware of this option, it is a boon to many, and recognized all over the country.

Preparing for Competitive Exams

The +2 stage is the time when one needs to prepare for a wide variety of entrance exams, depending on one's interest. Those who select well in advance, and prepare systematically, are the ones most likely to make it. One should specifically study the subjects required for the specific entrance exam, and also familiarize oneself with the type of question papers, scoring pattern, timing etc."

Engineering aspirants need to appear for IIT-JEE, AIEEE (nor the National Institutes of Technology), CET, COMED-K, and entrance exams conducted by the autonomous universities such as KLE, VIT, Manipal, Amrita, BLDE, etc.

Medical aspirants have the choice of All India Pre-Medical Test, CET, and exams by autonomous universities or even institutions like Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), etc.

Law seekers now have the benefit of Common Law Admission Test (CLAT. See website for details), for admission to a dozen top National Law schools all over the country.

Architecture students have to qualify in National Aptitude Test for Architecture (NATA. See website, for details), in which creativity and design skills are given importance.

Similarly, various entrance exams are held for Design-related courses, Hotel Management (BHM and B.Sc. in Hospitality), Business Management (B.B.M.), and of course Military Service through NDA or even the Special Apprentice exam for studying with and getting absorbed with the Railway Engineering Service.

published as "How to choose a campus or course" in Deccan Herald Education Supplement on 3rd Jun 10


Some practical techniques for improving
Mathe-Logical, Sequential and
Analytical Skills

Some practical techniques for improving Mathe-Logical, Sequential and Analytical Skills

These techniques need to be practiced continuously for a long time to get results.

    Mathelogical mind
  • Analyse and solve a technical problem. Ask for instructions and write them down systematically.
  • Read and try to understand a budget/ financial report.
  • Calculate a monthly salary, how much it means per minute/second.
  • Be on time for appointments, calculate time for travel, each task, etc.
  • Write detailed job description of small and simple tasks of everyday life.
  • Use logic, explore probabilities, analyze data in decision-making.
  • Mathelogical brain studies
    Image Credit: Boaz Yiftach,
  • Find out how a machine (frequently used) works.
  • Review rationally a recent impulsive decision that you took (e.g. you just turned from your regular route and went to a friend’s house).
  • Play logic or number games, practise Sudoku, mind puzzles in magazines or books.
  • Define your goals for next year, next decade and for your entire life.
  • Prepare a ‘Time log’ on daily basis and monitor how much you are implementing it.
  • Assemble a model kit by following instructions.
  • Rocket prototype
    Image Credit: RDECOM, cc-by-2.0,
  • Prepare personal budget for everyday expenses. Do cash handling.
  • Learn a new computer program (not game).
  • Organize your filing system, desk, cupboard.
  • Prepare personal property list of all the things you own, classify them category wise.
  • Write down expiry dates of driving licence, insurance, due dates for bills etc., and calculate number of days left.
  • Mathelogical mind
    Image Credit: digitalart,
  • Find out meanings of some new terms, words, whenever you come across them.
  • Vigorous jogging, preferably early morning.
  • Give and take directions to go to a new place with step-by-step instructions, and see how accurate it was.
  • Do forecasting of how a proposed cricket match, stock market, or election result will go, write down your logical steps for your prediction, and match with actual results.
  • Make a habit of writing neatly, fitting correctly into place, and highlighting/underlining important points.
Mathelogical creation
Image Credit: Lauren Manning, cc-by-2.0,

Page 10 of 15


Career Guidance

This website was initially conceived and designed by the late Sitaram N
Copyright © 2017 Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, the Content of the Website of Banjara Academy - the text, the audios, the videos, the images - contributed by Dr Ali Khwaja and his team of volunteers at Banjara Academy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.