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Getting the branch you want at your preferred IIT is a luxury only a select few can afford. Many end up having to pick between the two, specifically those who wish to study in Mumbai- fascinated by what the city has to offer. It is perhaps to cater to these students that Branch-Change rules were significantly relaxed in 2011 and change, if at all, for the better. This article takes you through the reasons to think about changing your branch and the factors you need to consider before making up your mind.
In a weird Russian reversal, IITians don’t choose their branch- their branch chooses them. Some make do with the branch their AIR enables them to enter, while others have to face societal pressure to choose branches that are more “in demand” and “evergreen”.
However, IITB offers students after their first year a provision to move to their preferred branch(terms and conditions apply). While you can’t try out the courses to get a feel of the branch before choosing it, you can always ask your seniors for fundae to find out what their branches are really like to help make up your mind.
Changing your branch potentially gives you the opportunity to redefine your stay in the Insti, and in some cases, your entire life. This procedure is your final chance to get into a branch you are passionate about, or into a stream you are more comfortable with. In short; this is not a decision to be taken lightly.
The Rules of the Game
While the entire list of rules is pretty exhaustive, it can be distilled down to a few points:
- No backlogs at the end of your first year.
- CPI above a certain threshold is necessary to effect a change of branch. The cutoff is 8 for the General Category and OBCs and 7 for the SCs, STs and PWDs.
- All Branch-Changes happen strictly in CPI order
- Generally speaking, a branch can not expand to more than 10% of its sanctioned strength, nor can it contract to less than 85% of its original number.
There are nuances of Branch-Change that are not covered here- refer this for further details about the procedure.
Picking The Right Branch
The most important criteria that one should consider before opting for a Branch-Change is his interest in the field. The most common criteria that people do consider, however is the placement opportunities and the possibilities for higher studies- depending on whether they have an inclination for core jobs, non core jobs or research after graduation which are transient opinions for many of us in the first place.
Attractive internships and astronomical pay packages blind a large chunk of the students to chase CSE and EE departments without giving much thought to where their interests actually lie. Similarly there is a tendency among some students to Branch-Change, just so they can move from their perceived “lukkha” stream to a more “socially acceptable” one, irrespective of their inclination towards the new subject.
What complicates matters is that students at the end of their first year have no real inkling of what their Department actually has to offer. One or Two DICs are not enough evidence to judge one’s Department; but without any other objective parameter to gain insight, one has to resort to approaching seniors and/or just winging it.
Does It Really Matter in the Long Run?
Yes and No. The answer is purely subjective to the person concerned.
For instance, if you are a person who’s crazy about machines, robots, cars, levers etc. and should, in an ideal scenario, have taken up Mechanical Engineering, then BC-ing to Mech might just be the right choice for you. At the end of four years, even if you decide not to pursue higher studies or take up a job in the core sector, you would not only have gained immense knowledge in the field you like, but pursuing your passion is likely to help you enjoy your education- a feat rarely achieved in the Insti. Moreover, being interested in your courses reflects positively on your CPI- a number that matters. The magnitude of its importance might vary according to the profile you’re looking at, but it’s best not to get too influenced by the “moh-maaya” memes around this number.
On the other hand, if you are planning to BC just based on the JEE cutoffs, then this decision could backfire for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, you may not be interested in the topics taught in your new branch, and even though you might not be a fan of what is taught in your current branch now, you might be more likely to do better – CPI wise – in your current department due to less competition. The same competition will inevitably ensure you dedicate more hours to studying, thus limiting the time you wish to dedicate to any extracurricular activities or position of responsibility(PoR) you wish to take up. This could hinder any non core aspirations you might have.
TL;DR? While it should not be explicitly assumed that managing your CPI along with extra curriculars efficiently is next to impossible after a Branch-Change into an academically loaded branch; you should prepare yourself for an interesting challenge that increases significantly in difficulty if you are uninterested in your new branch in the first place.
“My decision to Branch-Change from Electrical Dual to Computer Science was not something I had planned right from the start. I started coding early in the Autumn semester and developed a huge crush on it over the first two sems. I didn’t study just because I wanted to BC, but later on, near the end semester exams, I realised that if I’d step on the gas, then I could do it.
For the freshmen, I have some things that I would love to share. Branch-Change might appear to be a “Leap of Faith” but it is actually a very important decision that needs to be taken after a lot of thinking and taking into consideration all the factors. A word of caution to those interested in BC-ing to CS – if you are a person who wants to be the best in a room, Computer Science is probably going to give you a hard time. But yes, it is a branch which teaches you a lot of lessons and all in all, I feel it was a good decision to change to CSE.”
“Well to begin with I probably wanted to make the switch to a “better” branch early on in my first semester. I had notions of what each branch offered (albeit very coloured and incomplete ones), and I was of the opinion that I’d be doing what I was interested in, equally well in another one. And back then, reading pieces like this, of people who wanted to change their branch initially but didn’t and then went on to say that it was the best thing that happened to them- I always thought that, that was just everyone trying to see the bright side of life. And now I’m here writing this. And yes, I’m glad I didn’t switch.
Hypocrite, you may say. But by the end of freshman year, I realised that what I was really interested in didn’t fit any branch description. So staying where I was would give me the time to pursue my real interests to a much larger degree- be it spending more time on my Design minor or learning and making music. I really was averse to leaving the friends I’d made in my branch too. And now, a year later, looking around and seeing how things panned out for everyone, I don’t think I could have asked for much better.”
“For a lot of us, JEE-AIR based branch allocation is a shot in the dark. Needless to say, mine missed its mark. I knew I was interested in Physics before, it certainly held more allure than anything else and I think that was reason enough to try again, this time through Change of Branch. And I got it.
Reflecting over my decision a year later, it seems like a very natural thing to have done. Now I love almost all my courses and find them interesting and worth studying for, which I believe justifies any decision pertaining to Academics on my part. Earlier last semester, in a rare moment of acknowledgment of my Change of Branch, I used to get asked why I didn’t choose B.Tech Electrical Engineering, when I could have: to which my reply was usually a noncommittal ‘Why would I want to?’ and judging from a couple of the five odd Electrical courses EP students have to do to justify the prefix of ‘Engineering’, my response hasn’t changed much over the past two semesters.
Long story short, Branch-Change needn’t be another round of shooting in the dark- it helps if you enter a branch you actually would love to be a part of.”
“I was never very enthusiastic about changing my branch, primarily because I wanted it to be a decision motivated by genuine interest rather than a CPI-based trade-off. While I managed to get a decent CPI that could have allowed me to switch to a few ‘higher’ (going by JEE cut-offs) branches, I decided to remain in Meta. The reason was my inclination to explore more that the Insti had to offer, since I was yet to figure out what I wanted to do both in and beyond Insti.
In hindsight, this has turned out to be a good decision. Back at the time of making the decision, I wanted to keep my options open between a non-core profile or a research profile, and staying in Meta helped me do so. I was able to improve my CPI significantly, be involved in extracurricular activities, take up organizational roles and also be involved in research- all of which helped me get a more clear picture of what I want. I realised that I was motivated to study Biology- which meant that I needed to take up several extra courses and spend time on my own figuring things out, and it was also crucial to be able to manage my UG curriculum with it. The comparatively lesser load of Meta helped me immensely in this regard.”
“Having followed the herd in the AIR-based choosing of a branch, a change-of-branch was always lurking in the back of my mind in the first year. I was one of those people who did not have a very clear inclination towards a particular branch though, so when the time came to fill the Branch-Change form, talking to seniors from all prospective branches helped me decide.
I guess you could say I was lucky in ending up in Mechanical since I’ve found a love for most of the courses we have. I’m also realising now that I did have a preference for all things Mechanical over other branches after all. Apart from the curriculum, the general aura and the perspective of people around you towards academic as well as non-academic affairs affects you a lot. That is something I’m grateful to have found in Mechanical. Eventually, to me, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have a definite liking for a certain branch. It turned out well for me anyway.”
“Choosing a branch was not too hard for me. I had always been enthu for Elec or Mech Engg. And when I saw I could get IITB Mech with my rank, it was a straightforward choice. When I came in I hadn’t thought about a Branch-Change. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. Preferred branch, preferred institute, I was set. CS 101, though (Yes the same CS 101 which people accuse of killing any enthu for programming they might have had), nurtured in me an inclination towards CSE. This increased with time, and by the end of my first year I was considering CSE as a Branch-Change option.
After giving it sufficient thought however, I felt Computer Science was more of a hobby of sorts, and not something I’d like to pursue as a career, and hence I did not fill the Branch-Change form. A year down the line, I have absolutely no regrets about not changing my branch. I have thoroughly enjoyed the courses in Mech, and a minor in CSE has reaffirmed my ideas of it being more of a hobby and less of a career option.”