Dear Mentor:

What are my chances for IIT, and what should I study?

I am a Mechanical Engineer with 5 years of Industrial experience. I want to know a few things. What are the prospects of getting into IISc [Indian Institute of Science], Bangalore for ME [Master of Engineering] in Mechanical Engineering? That is to say, what minimum percentile would be required? Can I take Mechanical Engineering for taking the GATE [General Aptitude Test in Engineering] and opt for other streams like computer science etc. for ME? What are the job prospects if I do ME from IISc, Bangalore or various IITs [Indian Institutes of Technology], and particularly which field/stream for a secure future and better prospects from career point-of-view? I would be grateful if you kindly guide me on these.

Personal Prospecting, Delhi, India

Dear Personal Prospecting:

We are honored that you are seeking our views. We must, however, note that it is extremely difficult for us to judge the prospects of someone for some endeavor in some field. The reason, at least in part, is that we have not seen the future yet and our crystal ball, no doubt, has suspect reliability. We can express our views based on knowledge and experiences, but be sure to take them for what they are worth.

We get many inquiries like yours asking us to predict the future. Our rule-of-thumb advice is to keep focused and work hard towards improving the actual final result, and not be distracted by the interesting "what-if" scenarios.

The first part of your inquiry is entirely speculative. As you can see from the IISc website, for example, the admission into ME is based strictly the GATE score, provided you meet the eligibility requirements. First, you have not taken the GATE and you don't know your score. At best, you or we can only speculate on how you would perform. Second, even if you knew your GATE performance, your prospects of admission are relative to the candidate pool since the number of seats is pre-defined. Not knowing the GATE performance of other candidates, you or we can at best only speculate. Is this exercise interesting, amusing, or entertaining? Perhaps. Is it particularly insightful, revealing, or valuable? Perhaps not. You need to assess how well you can perform on the GATE. We can not add much to that.

You can choose any discipline on the GATE you wish, including computer science. We have addressed the GATE in earlier columns:

The IITs are the top colleges in India, and they are world-renowned. The IISc is also a highly respected academic institution. Graduating from these institutions would put you near the top, if not at the top, for employment opportunities.

Long-term prospects for mechanical engineering and computer science are quite good. However, as we have seen through the recent dotcom bust, near-term fortunes can change quickly, contrary to the earlier pronouncement by the pundits. Your decisions should be based on your own understanding of the future and your personal interests, ambitions, and goals.

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