Survive and Succeed in IITs in the first semester! (PG students)

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Hello friends! In this blog post, I am going to share you some simple tips for doing well in the first semester of an IIT level postgraduate program. This might apply to many other universities, but since the load in IITs is a notch higher than most universities, I strongly recommend these at least in the IITs and IISc. Also, these tips are specific to postgraduate students i.e. M.S., M.Tech. and Ph.D. students.

When people join for a postgraduate program, they might not be as fresh and energetic as the undergraduates, how am I saying so??? Personal experiences… Just trust me!!! And, I do feel that the B.Tech. students do take a lot more load than most postgraduate students, and some of them are superhumans for sure. And yeah, these statements and suggestions are purely mine, I have no intentions to hurt anybody’s emotions. The tips might seem idealistic, but they are very necessary to survive in IITs. I would further clarify that, if one does not follow these in a tier-2 university, he/she might just get away, but it is not so in IITs.

Let’s come back to the main topic, and here are the tips as follows…


1. No procrastination: Never procrastinate on recommended readings, do the studies of the topics as they are covered. If you don’t know what procrastination is? Let me explain a bit! It is that phenomenon when you postpone things needlessly just because you feel you have a lot of time, or you are not in the mood etc. Usually, people feel confident in the class but end up forgetting things, because they get involved in various other happenings be it dance, be it the campus beauty, be it sports or anything else that are intriguing. So, one should not get lost, keep the primary goal clear and do the necessary readings/practice as and when things get covered and never procrastinate. I think, I have made my point.


2. Maintain a Diary: Keep some class diary (if not complete notes) of what you learn in every lecture. It might happen that you would miss out to read and review the stuff taught, at least keeping a note would help you quickly glance through the topics covered so far, that would help you maintain the continuity. You should never feel something like “What is it being discussed today, I do not get anything!”


3. No Inferiority Complex: People from various background join for a Postgraduate Program in the IITs, some are just fresh gradates straight out from college and some are experienced, some have different discipline background. But, one good thing is, all must have sailed through one common selection process. This ensures a similar domain aptitude, but still there remains a disparity in the levels of expertise. For instance, I am an ECE graduate doing Ph.D. in CSE. I have a friend who has 15 years of core industry experience and then joined for a Ph.D. and I have another friend who just joined right after her B.Tech for a Ph.D. So, it happens that my experienced friend does have greater computer systems knowledge and programming skills, I do have some extra interdisciplinary aptitude, the other friend, she has greater energy levels to learn new things than both of us. But, this is how it is. Feeling inferior to someone is not going to help in anyway, rather working on developing some qualities, interacting with them would definitely help. It is okay to admit things you do not know and also query others about it. People usually are mature enough to not mind if you ask silly questions, and if you feel they do mind, at least you can talk to faculty members and some seniors. They are usually keen to help.


4. Do All Assignments/Exams Sincerely: By all, I really mean all. I have seen people being habituated to do the studies only on the day before the exams, this culture is there probably in 90% of the engineering institutions, even I have done so during my B.Tech. for some courses. Because of this habit, people neglect the small Quizzes and Assignments to a great extent, but most of the IITs have a continuous evaluation methodology. And, most professors keep pouring on new quizzes and assignments as long as the lectures are running. And, even the final grading happens with a significant weightage (as high as 70%) being given to these. One big advice would be to avoid copying from the web or various other sources, because not only would it limit your learning, but also bring a disparity in evaluations, and in the worst case if you are caught, you might get an F grade. I have personally lost multiple grades because of not much of focus on the scoring aspects in various exams, even though I have always enjoyed the lectures with active participation. Btw, there are some courses, where no matter what you do, you might not score/perform well, try to figure out if others are also having similar issues. If yes, then it’s okay, you may eventually work harder to perform better. If no, then you should talk to the course instructor and teaching assistants, and again you should work harder to perform better. :D


5. Take Advice from Seniors and Decide the Courses: Often it happens that people join and they do take advice from seniors and seniors do advise to the best extent possible. But, there is a thing called personal bias. No matter how rational one individual tries to be, he/she do have some bias. And, if you happen to take your senior’s advice literally, you might be in big trouble. You can ask them about their experiences in the courses and decide the coursework load accordingly, but do talk to at least 3-4 seniors to conclude on the choices. Try to balance out the coursework load, by taking some less intense courses and some really intense ones. Do not take all intense courses, just because you are curious or they seem relevant, later you might not be able to justify the course demands. This might not apply to some regular M.S./Ph.D.s, who might do courses relevant to their research targets, no matter how intense the courses are.


6. Take care of your Fitness: Staying physically fit is very important. Of course, you might have had gone through a long series of tests and medical examinations to prove your fitness for the program. But, once you are busy in the courses, you might try to do all of the tasks without thinking of your health. (For example, CSE guys might do overnight coding assignments). Now, this can be really detrimental. If things go wrong and you fall really ill (be it some viral infections or severe issues), you would get penalized with a much heavier damage (not performing well in the subsequent assignments, missing an exam or so). And, this would be a more severe set of backfires (losing confidence, losing continuity etc). So, one solution I recommend is to do a decent amount of physical workout at least 5 days a week and stay alert about the fitness, in case issues come up, never hesitate to meet the doctor. The workouts would ensure, that you do not get issues like body pains, you would get sound sleep (sound sleep is a really good health drink :P). Your immune system also stays strong.


7. Stay Calm: If you do realize and follow the above six suggestions and also stay calm, that’s it, you should be able to sail through the first semester of your postgraduate program fairly well. The reason I included this very obvious thing as one of the tips is that because many people do feel pressurized and they do struggle on their own and eventually get frustrated and feel like losing. So, the thing one should do is just talk to some of the seniors, family and friends. One should take some moments of peace, do some meditation or something which calms the tension off!


Anyway, those were my tips to do well in the first semester of the PG program. Of course, this is not an exhaustive guide, but definitely something worth consideration while you do the coursework.

Thanks for reading.

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