The first piece of advice that I have in mind is to Do your best to not have very high expectations. I know being the topper of your school, district, or the city, you must be fired up. But you should keep in mind that everyone at IITK is also a topper at something or the other. So, it is crucial to keep your expectations in check. You should learn early on to compare yourself only to the previous version of you and never to your batchmates. Trust me, this can save you lots of headaches later on.
With that out of the way, let’s get started with classes. IITK offers a lot of courses, both at the UG and PG levels. Check this for a tentative list of classes to be offered in the upcoming semester. While the coursework is mostly pre-defined in the first few semesters, you might be tempted to burden yourself with extra coursework. Try to do your best in them. CPI matters above everything else.1
You will probably learn more from your classmates than in classrooms or professors. Reach out to people you think understands the material well, and ask them politely if they’d be happy to help you. You won’t necessarily like the attitude that some of them show, but I’m sure there are many people in your batch whom you can reach out for help.
It is okay to not be a part of any inter-hall events, clubs, sports team, or hobby groups. If academics is what you wish to solely do, by all means do so. We need all kinds of people in the world. Don’t let anyone dictate otherwise. Just because your roommate or peer group is a part of an event or a club does not necessarily mean you should be too.
It’s also okay to not go out of your comfort zone, and take part in activities that you’re comfortable in. If you did not do anything in high school, you need not start rock-climbing in college. If that’s what you want, by all means try out rock climbing. But, don’t fall prey to peer pressure and try to look cool. You’re not as cool as you think you are.
A few seniors holding positions of responsibility at the hall level or institute level can persuade you to take part in events for the hall’s glory. While the sentiment is understood, you should politely refuse them if you think your academics would be hampered as a result. Indeed, many people do exceptionally well in academics, even after taking part in various activities. But often, everyone overlooks a few cases where people can never fully recover from the academic losses suffered from long practice hours.
Prefer taking advice from alumni or fourth years to second or third years. This is what you should prefer to do in general. As a rule of thumb, hear everyone out but think of whatever you hear critically and take the final call yourself, and don’t just rely on others’ opinions on things.
Learn to write useful emails early on. “Read How to email at IIT Kanpur”. Since the semester (as of this writing) is being held online, it would be futile to ask you right now. But, once you get to go back to the campus, you should visit professors during office hours, meet up with seniors and juniors alike, and just talk about things.
Speaking of emails, don’t be sad if you don’t get your preferred HSS course from the lottery. Try following my emailing guide, and send an email to the instructor of the course you’re interested in. How to find their email? Well, just Google “Prof. XYZ IITK email.” Once they agree to let you do the HSS, you can drop the one you’re allotted (which you don’t like) and do the other one instead.
Googling skills. Don’t be shy to reach out to people. For example, if you want to get in touch with me, you should search for “Debashish Reang IITK LinkedIn GitHub.”2 Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get replies to your texts or emails. Even if 2 out of 50 people reply to you, you will get a few pieces of useful advice from them.
While many will frown upon this, it is okay to sit toward the front rows in lecture halls, take notes, and ask doubts. This used to be cool in coaching but for some reason, it isn’t so at IITK. Remember that you will need to write quizzes and exams on your own, so you better do what’s best for you. Just because everyone else is going toward the back of the lecture hall, and scrolling through Facebook does not mean you should. Of course, deciding what to do is entirely on you. Do whatever you like.
On the social front, it is best to give time to things. Long Distance Relationships (LDRs in popular parlance) does not work.3 You might think of yourself very highly – that you’re a likable, very social person, and whatnot. But, don’t be disheartened if you can’t forge friendships overnight.
Case in point, I used to think I was an essential part of our wing group. Still, when we were allotted single rooms at the beginning of the second year, they decided that it would be best if I lived in a separate wing. “I was close, but I did not make the cut.” Things like that happen, but I’m grateful to have met incredible people at IITK. I guess the closest of friendships were formed after that wing separation. So, that turned out well.
It is vital to be happy with yourself. I mean to say that you should not feel dejected if there aren’t people around you all the time. Truth be told, most people you meet will go separate ways after you graduate. So, take things casually, have fun, and be happy with whatever happens.
I’m no expert on anything, yet. What I just said are a few things that I could think of at the top of my head and are purely based on my experiences. I just hope these few things would prove helpful to you. I’ll keep adding more and more points as I talk to more people and learn more.
Finally, congratulations on making it through the soul-crushing Joint Entrance Examination. Whether you managed to pass the exam in your first attempt, the second or subsequent attempts, congratulations are in order. For those of you who are joining IIT Kanpur - welcome to IITK. All the best on your undergraduate journey. I hope you have a great time learning useful things to navigate this strange and cruel world we live in.
Possibly, except for your physical and mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic is as much a mental health pandemic as it is physical. So, please take care of yourself and stay healthy. I realized the importance of health the hard way. Who knew four days at the ICU could make you wiser about physical and mental well-being. ↩
I’m not a maniac who’d search writing company names in the correct letter-case. If I searched for someone, it’d probably be something along the lines of “john doe iitk linkedin github email id.” ↩
Go easy on me for this one. It is what it is. ↩