To BC or not to BC?

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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 changed, 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.

Branch-Change 101

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.

No of students

CPI Cutoffs

TESTIMONIALS

  • Karthik Mahesh (CS -> Aero)
  • I’ve always been fascinated by airplanes and spaceflight, ever since I was a kid, and my decision to fill CSE as my first choice discounted that entirely. Over my first year, I came to realise that I had not made the correct decision, and a career in CSE would not offer me the satisfaction I wanted. Considering this, changing to Aerospace was almost a done deal for me. Looking back a year later, that decision affected me in more ways than one. Academics is easy, not because of Aerospace’s reputation as a ‘chill’ branch, but the fact that it comes naturally to me when I am studying stuff I am really interested in. I also have a lot more free time to put into extracurricular activities like managing the Aeromodelling club, musical interests and many more.

    Changing your branch need not be a ‘leap of faith’ if you have faith in yourself, and if you know that you’ve made the right choice in wanting to pursue a career in whatever you’re changing to.

  • Anmol Kagrecha (Elec DD Sophomore)
  • It has been over a year since the choice of branch change was presented in front of me. I had a choice to change by branch from dual degree program in electrical engineering to the B.Tech program in electrical engineering. Having consulted many seniors, a few alumni and thinking carefully about the decision, I decided to not change my branch.

    The reasons were pretty simple. Firstly, I am and I always was interested in a research career. I had been very serious about going to IISc. Bangalore in class 12th to the extent that I flew from Kota to Bangalore to attend the counselling session in IISc. just 3 days prior to JEE Advance. However, I chose to come to IIT Bombay due to various other reasons. A year ago, I carried the same enthusiasm towards a research career that I had in class 12th. Passing out from a dual degree course seems better for a research career. Spending a year on a project in the 5th year is more likely to produce better results than spending less than six months doing a B.Tech project. Moreover, dual degree students have extra courses 3rd semester onwards which are focussed on their specialization.

    There is another important reason for continuing in a dual degree program. IIT Bombay is one of the best institutions in the country having numerous facilities and excellent infrastructure. Moreover, opportunities available in the institute and in Mumbai are myriad and unique. Having an extra year in the institute will certainly enable me to utilize the facilities and the opportunities to a greater extent. Accommodation, internet, libraries, labs, environment, students, sports facilities and probably everything in the institute is very conducive for overall development.

    In retrospect, I don’t have any regrets for not going for a branch change. I enjoy the courses offered by the department and my spirit for higher education hasn’t dampened in the last year. Further, courses and opportunities are hardly any different for students in B.Tech program and in the DD program. Moreover, knowing the fact that I have an year more in the institute enabled me to experiment more with courses, positions of responsibility and many other aspects of life in the institute.

  • Pulkit Sareen (Meta to Chem)
  • I wasn’t determined to change my branch when I joined Metallurgy department. I didn’t study all day long for a branch change. My view on BC earlier was like “Ho gayi toh theek hai, nahi hui, tab bhi theek hai”. It was just a matter of luck I got into Chemical. My mother didn’t want me to pursue engineering in metallurgy. She was quite unhappy with the branch.
    For someone who wishes to ‘chill’ and spend time in non-academic activities, Chemical is not the branch for you. The work load in chemical is much higher than in Meta. If you wish to be a topper, it is much easier in meta as compared to chemical.
    I don’t regret my decision of BC to chemical as it helped me widen my friend circle and also kept me occupied all day long. For freshmen, it is a very difficult decision. You need to look at if the branch interests you or not, and whether you would be able to manage higher competition. If you are interested in a technical job, your branch will matter the most. From a non-tech point of view, it really doesn’t matter in the long run. All that mostly matters is the CPI.

  • Ritwick Chaudhry (EE to CSE)
  • 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. Something everyone who’s interested in BC-ing to CS should know is that 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. Being in CS has both its perks and problems. While it is very easy to get into a good company to work in, it’s a very hard routine throughout the 4 years here. Some of the labs are extremely strenuous and give a hard time but there is one very essential thing – Almost everything that you learn from the courses and labs is almost directly applicable in real life stuff. After a few semesters in CS, you feel equipped with a vast set of tools to hack a good piece of tech and apply it to real-life problems. Overall, I am really glad to have made into CSE but I still feel it has a lot of disclaimers attached that one should consider. So yeah, if you are ready to work towards it, Welcome to CSE 🙂

  • Chinmay Talegaonkar (Elec DD -> Elec Btech)
  • At the end of first year, due to a good academic performance, I could take my chances for a branch change. I took a lot of factors into consideration before deciding my preferences. I was interested in switching to CSE as I developed an interest in first year, but wasn’t very sure of my chances for either CSE or Elec Btech. The question of the hour, was whether to stay in the 5 year program or shift to a four year one. After consulting a lot of people from a spectrum of backgrounds, I concluded that staying in elec dual is better for me than shifting to a 4 year course of any other department even if don’t get Elec Btech or CSE. Hence I decided to try for Elec Btech if not CSE, as it would give me more flexibility in choosing my courses. I was not at all sure about research as a career option, therefore shifting to Elec Btech made more sense at that point. The Elec department allows converting to a dual degree if you are interested and have a decent academic standing. My decision to stay in Elec, irrespective of Btech or dual was a good one for me. My classmates were roughly the same, and we all developed beautiful relations with each other as a batch, something I feel quite happy about. Shifting to Btech also gave me the freedom to choose extra courses and activities which I wanted to try out.
    Don’t aim for a branch change based on your perceptions of a department prior to JEE. Make a decision based only on what aligns with your interests. Also, don’t make a huge fuss out of it. Whatever happens, happens for good. Even if you don’t get a branch of your choice, if you are passionate enough, you can still carve out a niche for yourself. This place is full of many such exemplary people, who at some point were as new to IIT-B as you guys are right now.

  • Divyanshu Gola (Aero Sophomore)
  • If I rank decisions that I have taken in my life on the basis of their toughness, not doing a branch change comes second on the list, first being taking Aero with an AIR in top 500. At the end of my first semester, I got a high CPI and the idea of branch change took over me. As I went through my second semester, while doing the course CS101, I realized that I was not developing any interest in the course. Besides that, taking up CS with no real interest in C++ and competing with the top students of India wouldn’t have allowed me to explore anything except the burden of the branch. It’s not that I do not like coding, I love to code on Python but not at all on C++. In hindsight, I think that it was a good decision, as I am developing interest in aerodynamics along with enjoying what extracurriculars IITB has got to offer, mainly sports.

    To the freshmen, I would like to say that don’t change your branch on the basis of your CPI or on the basis of the hierarchy set by others, instead first look whether you are more interested in that branch as compared to your present branch, whether you will be able to give time to the extracurriculars you like and most importantly, what you want to do in the future.