Branch Change: A Leap of Faith

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 such students that the Branch Change rules in IIT Bombay were significantly relaxed in 2011. This article takes you through the various aspects of the policy including its necessity, reasons to think about changing your branch and the factors you need to consider before making up your mind.

What is a Branch Change and why should I do it?

Ever since school, many students are not really pushed to find their passion or niche. In the Indian education system, it’s only the marks that seem to matter. Most just appear for the JEE because they like science and math, while being fairly clueless about the nuances of different branches of engineering. Even after clearing the JEE, many face a societal pressure to choose branches that are more “in demand”, while most others simply make do with the branch their rank enables them to enter. In a weird Russian reversal, IITians don’t choose their branch – their branch chooses them.

In a weird Russian reversal, IITians don’t choose their branch – their branch chooses them.

However, IITB offers you a provision wherein almost all your requirements are taken care of (Terms and conditions apply). It essentially gives you the same privileges as those in the American University system where the students declare their major (branch) after spending a year in college. Unfortunately you can’t try out courses to get a feel of the branch before choosing it, but you can always pain your seniors to find out what their branches are really like to help make up your mind.

‘Branch Change-ing’ (or BC-ing) potentially gives you the opportunity of re-defining your stay at IIT-B and, in some cases, your entire life. The procedure is your final chance to get into a branch you are passionate about, or to simply move into a stream that you’re more comfortable with. In short, this is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Picking the right branch

The most important criteria that one should consider before opting for a branch change is their personal interest in the field. The most common criteria that people do consider, however, are placement opportunities and the potential for higher studies – depending on whether they want to take up a core job, non-core job or research after graduation.

While the JEE rank-based branch allotment makes CSE at IITB an object of envy for every student, the trends followed year after year are often misleading (read: herd mentality). Attractive internships and astronomical pay packages blind a large chunk of the students to chase CSE and EE departments without giving a thought to where their interests lie.

Of course, the biggest problem of all is that most students even in their third or fourth year – let alone their first – don’t have the answers to many of the questions mentioned above.


Does it really matter in the long run?

Yes and no. There can’t be a straight answer to this question unless one is dead-set on the career path they wish to choose after graduation. For instance, if you’re a guy who’s crazy about machines, robots, cars, levers, pulleys etc. and should, in an ideal scenario, have taken up Mechanical Engineering but have ended up in another branch, then BCing to mechanical might just be the right choice for you. This makes sense not only because you will have the option of becoming a Mechanical Engineer in the future, but also because pursuing your passion is likely to help you enjoy your education – a feat rarely achieved in IIT Bombay. At the end of four years, even if you don’t end up pursuing higher studies or working as a mechanical engineer in the core sector, you will still have taken home a tonne of knowledge in the field. Moreover, being interested in one’s courses is tends to reflect positively upon their CPI – a number that has far-reaching implications for years after you’ve left IIT B.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to make the move just on the basis of JEE cut-offs, the branch change is far less likely to turn out to be a good move for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, you may not be interested in the topics taught to you in Mech. E. and even though you may not necessarily be a fan of the topics taught in your current branch, you’re much more likely to do better CPI-wise in your current branch due to lesser competition. The same competition will invariably ensure that you will have to invest more time on your academics than you would need to in your current branch. In case you’re disinterested in both branches anyway, that may be particularly bad for your career in turn. This is because you will end up having lesser time to invest in extra-curricular activities and in any positions of responsibility you wish to take up. In case you’re already planning to chase a non-core job, you should know that recruiters take into account both curricular and extracurricular activities when picking among applicants. In no way do we mean to say that you won’t be able to manage both effectively. However, you should prepare yourself for an uphill battle if you wish to make the jump.



Testimonials of students who have changed their branch

  • Shantanu Thakoor (Mech to CSE)
  • shanatnu
    “Since the first day of freshman year, I was determined to branch change to CSE. I’d gotten into programming in a big way before JEE – making games and applications for fun – and I wasn’t interested in mech at all.

    The time post my BC has been filled with amazingly interesting courses, labs, and projects.
    But be wary – if you’re the kind of person who always needs to be the smartest person in the room, this department is not for you. The competition is tough, the drastic drop in your CPI after just one sem will be discouraging, but I would wholeheartedly recommend a branch change to CS to anyone who’s interested in the field and passionate about it.

    Unless you just want to branch change because of thinking that CS is higher on the pecking order by default, and not bothering to find out what the field is really about beyond a vague idea about coding and algorithms and other buzzwords, you’re probably gonna have a bad time.”

  • Charvi Rastogi (Mech DD to Elec DD)
  • charvi
    “Changing my branch from mechanical to electrical dual was a very natural decision for me as a year in I had realised I wouldn’t enjoy being in most of the fields mechanical engineering has to offer. A major portion of what EE is about on the outset seemed to be in line with my interests and so far that hasn’t changed. It’s crucial IMO for there to be at least some semblance of enthusiasm for the new stream for the change to prove to be a positive one. The prospect of entering a relatively more competitive field can be slightly daunting but the new courses more than make up for it. The statistics will tell you that a CPI drop is almost inevitable, you can either brush it off as a part and parcel of the new branch or stay above the complacency that statistics tend to induce, that would be your call. You are required to do the DICs for your respective depts, that’s one/two extra courses in your second year (EE has two) It’s a manageable task and needn’t necessarily hinder your interests outside of academics or your academics for that matter. All in all, it was a trade up for me and I have developed a keen interest in a few subjects which is more than I could have said before.”

  • Rushabh Shah (MEMS)
  • rushabh
    “Not Branch Changing was a good idea in hindsight because the academic workload in ME&MS wasn’t high, allowing me to spend more time on extra curricular activities that I was interested in. In terms of my
    career prospect, I think it helped me build a strong profile. Had I BCed to say, EE, I would have been maybe a 8.5, which is much less valued than a 9+ in MEMS with respect to non core profiles.
    Had I changed my branch, I think it would have made a huge difference as I would have made very different choices in terms of the activities I was involved in, the subjects I took a keen interest in and eventually even the kind of job I opted for.”

  • Yash Sanghvi (Energy to Mech DD)
  • yash
    “Changing branch did not lead to any significant difference in my life. Exploring the different departments at IIT has taught me one thing – irrespective of what the JEE rank indicates, each branch is awesome and one will always find something of interest in every branch. So changing the branch just transferred me from one department in which I was interested to one in which I was more interested. Adjusting in the new branch doesn’t take much time and you get along soon, as people everywhere are the same. My advice to the freshmen will be: change your branch only if you are more interested in another branch, don’t follow the herd mentality. Branch change provision has been provided so that people can chose a branch they like, not a branch which is popular.”

  • Shraddha Rana (Meta to Civil)
  • shraddha
    “Branch Changing to Civil was one of the best decisions I’ve made at IITB.
    I decided to switch to Civil from Meta, because the curriculum seemed more aligned with my interests.
    And I was proved right, as I thoroughly enjoyed all my courses in the second year.
    Compared to my Meta roomies, Civil, as they say, did seem ‘peaceful’. (Not saying that should not become a criteria for choosing a branch!)
    The best part was having the same lab and theory courses in a semester. It made the course content more intuitive and the learning process easier.
    I hope it continues to be just as delightful in the future years as well.”

  • Debraj Basu (Meta to Elec)
  • debraj
    “I got a branch change from metallurgy to electrical, not entirely by choice but I feel lucky that my wish was denied. Getting into electrical was quite difficult and involved some temporary sacrifices but it has definitely been worth it. In fact it has probably been the best year of my life so far.

    The department provides such amazing faculty, one of the many reasons why I changed to EE. The other reasons being the variety that the branch offers, the scope for placements in India and abroad, and also the highly motivated though very competitive batchmates.

    Contrary to what one would expect, the BC students settle in quite comfortably with a bit of extra efforts and their alleged ability to stay awake in class 😉 It usually happens that you might find someone already much better at something that you take pride in. Helping each other out gets everyone in this department through each day, however hectic it may be.

    Having been a part of the department for a year now I think I have picked up on some stuff. CPI does matter so we do run the rat race. However I have learnt not to worry about my CPI too much, rather focus on what is in hand. Conceptual understanding is never sacrificed for better scores. Working under severe constraints becomes much more fun and enriching when working in groups.”

  • Harshit Manocha (Chem)
  • harshit
    “My CPI permitted a BC to Mech. But I chose not to because
    1. I wanted EE which I missed by 0.01 ( I’m happy about it now)
    2. I wanted a branch that supported all my other activities too. A lot of people strive for CPI in first year, get a BC and then pick up things which affect their CPI. I wanted to do everything and be in a branch where I can get time for it yet manage a good CPI.”

Change in CPI after Branch Change

CPI change