How to get through college life

This article was asked by a friend of mine to be put up on my blog after I gave him some gyan on how to get through college life and what to do to get a good job. So, spaceman, if you are reading this - this is for you and your friends.

As to my claim for fame, I graduated from DCE as an electrical engineer. I have worked in WIPRO and Microsoft among other companies. Soon, I will be on the payroll of Motorola, so I guess I am qualified. If you think I am not qualified, STOP reading right now. If you think this article is good, forward to as many people as you know of, but please keep the link of my blog. I would like to get feedback of the article here.


Most of the time our life is quite ordered as kids. We know what to expect and what not to. Suddenly we are thrust into life , that too college life and don't know how to tackle it. Most of it is experimentations, and at most we get inputs from our relatives or seniors. Most of the time, relatives are so far removed from reality ( also known as generation gap) that they give us all wrong advice - like coming first etc in class. Yeah, some of that advice is actually good, but it does not really do much in terms of preparing us for the life after college. Seniors also most of the time are actually in the same boat, but since they are seniors, they just cant tell you that they are also as clueless than you. Rather they would laugh at you and sneer 'you don't know ?' in that 'all knowing' look. Don't worry, most of them also don't know.

So, that leaves you with this post to try and understand that portion of your life :) . Not much choice you have eh ? :) But, if the people I have given gyan to are to be believed, some of it is the truth. Till now, all the thoughts have been disjointed, and this is an attempt to put them together. Remember, don't take this as gospel. Everyone is different, and somethings will come more easily to you than other things - find your path. This is a generalization, and things may be quite different for you.

Another thing to remember is that I am a techie guy. So, many of the things are from that perspective, and if you are in some other stream, you will have to modify the things to your life.

Now, to the meat of the problem.

Starting College

The best thing you can do to help you in further life is to get into a good college. The value of the stamp you get by getting into a good college is incomparable. However, if the latest news doing the rounds are to be believed (and I do believe in it), not everyone gets good education. Lets face it, with millions of people getting into colleges each year, we hardly have a few thousand seats in all the IITs, IIMs and the DCEs. That leaves the majority of people in the other category, where the stamp is not big enough. This blog is aimed at the vast majority, who though are quite bright, did not get into the big colleges. Maybe you are just in a local college, with no clear plan in mind, doing as your friends and family tell you to.

Sounds familiar ? Read on.


Everyone gets shit scared of ragging when they join college. Ask me, i used to be scared, and DCE was (is?) well known for its ragging. However, its mostly a media hype. The secret here is to go along with the ragging with a good attitude. If seniors ask you ... err order you... to do something, do it. The senior will become a friend. Note to seniors : don't scare the kids too much.

The more you show righteousness, and defiance, the more you will get ragged. The more easy going you are, the faster you will make friends with the seniors. Yeah, some of the things you will be asked will be against your sentiments, so, you can take your stand there (but be prepared to take up the brunt of it). But most of them, will be easy stuff, and just go ahead with it (say no to drugs please, its not worth it).

With time, you will get known as a cool guy, and most people will be cool with you. Maybe some will even get jealous of the cool dude. (i can't be politically correct, so when i say dude/man/guy, the fairer sex can replace that with dudette/woman/gal).

Studies in Indian colleges is a total waste of time most of the time. All you need to do is make sure that you are not more than 10% behind the topper, unless it means failing. For example, the topper gets around 80%, make sure you are in the 70% mark. Or, if you are a bit ambitious, and want distinction try for 75%. Don't be like me who got 74.9% and failed to get a distinction by .1% . It rankles every time I think about it.

Another way of making sure you are meeting the required % marks is to check with the recruitment department of you college or ask your seniors about cut off %ages for company interviews. Many companies for campus recruitment do a first level of filtering by stating a cut off. Keep your % around 5-10% above that.

Another reason for college being a waste of time is that the profs are not really good (soree teacherji). Its rare that you will get a good prof, who actually teaches because he wants you to learn. Most of the time its just cause its his job. The ones who are good, you will find yourself. Their classes are normally full, without them resorting to desperate means to get you into their classes. They are really good, and those are the ones you need to go for career advice. Unfortunately, most of the profs also do not have any industry experience, so they will not be able to guide you into how to get the job you like.
Those who can do, do.
Those who can't, teach.
Ok, a strict point about the above ... you should try to get the best percentage you get. If you are capable of getting a 80%, then don't shirk cause its written in this blog that its ok to get 10% less than the toppper.

Getting through exams
So, how do you get through exams ? Well, for that you need to do some work. And you better start doing work as when you join a job, you will have to work. Employers pay you money to get more work done from you than they pay you. Fact of life.

The exam is a system. You just have to figure out the game. Most cases its real easy. Remember, the profs would not be in this low paying profession if they had real brains. I know in India there are a lot of profs who take kickbacks for the grades they give you. I unfortunately don't know how to handle them, as I was fortunate not to get them as my teachers. So, that is one area where I cannot give good advice. However, most of the other profs are easy to fox.

See, for the profs, the exams are a chore. They have to set an exam paper, correct the papers and give grades all within a set period of time. They would rather be doing something different, like making tea in chemistry lab beakers. So, why do you think that they will expend precious thought on what to put in the papers ? They also believe in recycling. So, they take the questions from the previous years papers.

That's where the seniors who ragged you come in handy. Ask them for the last years papers. Many of them also have papers which go back much more in time. A reasonable bundle is the last 3 years papers. A very good bundle is last 5 years - but you will hardly get that.

Now, just before the exams ( you will need to figure out how much time you really need for this exercise), you need to start solving those papers. I know this is tough for you, but I have cut down the studies to the bare minimum here, so you better study for a few days. Your course in life depends on it man. You will probably not know what the answers are - but what are friends for. Ask them. Learn from the gyanis in your class. One easy way is to actually attend class - that makes sure you do have a vague idea of what the question means, and it becomes easier to look it up in the books for the relevant section. Its not a crime to have fun while preparing for exams...


Now, all the above points above put you smack bang into the 80% bracket of the class. So, how do you do stuff that makes you reach beyond the 80% people, and really catch the eyes of the prospective employer ? If you have done as I have suggested above, you are probably getting good enough grades. How do you become a bond now ?

Don't miss any activities in your college. They are the best thing you can get in college for your resume, and many things you will not get to experience again in work life, like the college fests. So, tank up on your experiences in college. With the above method of study, you should be having free time to spend time on these activities.

When I say don't miss any activities, I don't mean that you 'attend' these activities. What I mean is that you take part in these. Coordinate stuff, organize stuff. Put it all on your resume. When people want to recruit people, they want to see what the people have done apart from their regular work. I think one of the major reasons for me to get into WIPRO was that I had taken part in organizing some of the stuff in the Troika fests in the college. At that time, I was having a lark, but looking back, I see that it had helped me in getting a good job.

Apart from getting bonus points in your resume, they also help in getting you experience in terms of knowing how to co-ordinate with people and how to talk with them. It helps a great deal if you know how to talk when you have to talk in an interview. I see many of the quiet people who are really good not able to showcase their talents in interviews, and it pains me, cause they can actually do something about it.

Sometimes, these activities also bring out more direction in your life. For example, you may find that you have a knack for getting sponsors for the fest, and you find that you enjoy it too. Maybe you will be better at sales or marketing then just being a techie. Or, you find that you got a kick out of making a cool software which was used in the college, and you would rather be the next Steve Jobs than a Warren Buffet.

They also instill in you a feeling of confidence. Of having accomplished something.

There are a couple of soft skills which people overlook a lot in college, which are really quite essential in life. Communication and reading.

Communication is the lifeblood of your work life. Without it, you might as well not exist. If you have a good idea and want to convince an investor, you have to know how to talk.
Comnicatn ds nt mn sms.
You have to be better than that. Its a global world now, and the base means of communication is English. Brush up your English. Its what you will use for preparing documents, for exchanging ideas. Its in two parts, the spoken part and the written part. Practice both.

The other essential skill is reading. There is a huge amount of data on the internet. Once you join work, you will need to read a lot more documents than you read books in your college. And the only way to tackle that is if your reading skills are good. And your skills will improve if you read the right stuff.

I assume you are having access to internet, and you use it to do more than download porn and chat. The following sites are good sites to visit if you are a techie . If people in other streams want to put down sites for other streams, please leave a comment and I will update this post with those also.
Get hooked onto rss. News feed yourself about whatever you are looking for.

The Job Ahead

Campus placements are a tough time for many people. Lots of disappointments. So, this section looks at what a person coming from a big company will look at for in a fresher ( yeah, even if you are in the final year of your college, you are a fuccha for the recruiter ). Since I have worked in my fair share of companies, I think I can be safe on the assumptions below.

  • Smart and intelligent people.
    • Google's and Microsoft's hiring process is supposed to be the most stringent. They look for geniuses. The other companies are not so obsessed, but they would rather hire someone who is intelligent than who is dumb. For this they will do a screening based on your percentages or a test or both. For this reason, you should keep up your percentage in the top 10%. You may be the 100th person as far as ranking goes, but the percentage range may be less. Find out in your college about the cutoffs during the campus recruitment, and diligently try to be above that - unless you have your own business, in which case, just chill out and let others get a better rank than you.
    • Smart does not mean oversmart. So, don't give the recruiter the impression that you are gods gift to the company, even if you are.
    • Smartness is also from the way you dress and how you speak. Wear clean and respectable clothes, even if you are going to apply to a company known for casual dress sense. Remember, casual does not mean sloppy or dirty.
    • Research the company you are going to interview with. The most commonly asked question is "why do you want to join our company". The answer - you better be prepared with.
  • We don't want fakes.
    • Whatever is on your resume, you better be prepared to talk on that. If you have taken part in fests, organized them, written some cool software, you better be prepared on it, even if it was done 2 years back.
    • Be prepared on your projects you have done.
    • Many interviewers can spot a fake and they will not take you if they figure it out. Give them credit for intelligence - they have been taking a lot of interviews, and are experienced in it.
    • If you don't know something, be frank and say you don't know. Of course you are in trouble if you know nothing. However, some questions, you may not know, but you can always make a guess. You can say 'I don't really know the answer to this, but i can try'. We like to see people who think, and who are not bluffing us.
  • We want team players.
    • Work does not take place by one person isolated from the world. The work we do requires team work. So, one of the jobs of a recruiter is to look at how a person can work in a team environment. If you have done as I suggested and were involved in organizational activities, you will get a bonus points.
    • One common trick used is to make the candidate angry or ridicule him and see how he reacts. Know that these are all tactics, so keep your cool damn it !
  • Thinking different
    • Also known as 'Thinking out of the box' but the box kind of confuses people. So, just think if you think different ? Do you see many solutions where none exist.
    • As a general rule we like problem solvers than problem creators.
One of the major concerns with people is that they don't do good in the initial years in college and then give up any hope in the final years to get a good job. Dont loose hope man. Try to make your grades better. Then you have to forget the 10% rule above and be in the top.

If an interviewer gets your resume, he will be intrigued. He will like to see that you have found your faults and tried to make it better. He will also like to know what had happened, but you are at a liberty not to tell. Some things are 'personal', and you can keep those as those (even if you were just getting drunk).

Don't limit yourself

Never ever limit yourself. Thats the worst you can do. I could have said that hey since now I am in Electrical Engineer in college, i cannot do any programming, but have to work with power machines etc. But, I did not limit myself. As a result, I have even spent some time in Microsoft - one of the toughest companies to clear the technical rounds in.

Ultimately, its your attitude that works for or against you. Keep going even when down. Don't consider any barrier so high that it cannot be surmounted. The instant you put a limit on yourself and say 'I can't do it', you wont be able to do it. Its ok to say I don't want to do this, but its defeatist to say can't.

Let me know how you found this post. Life is a game.


  1. 2004:(may/june)
    Vibhu : "You can do two things right now...either enjoy(do t.p and take it easy) your college life and work hard(struggle) for rest of your life. OR
    Work your way through college and enjoy rest of your life.

    Point noted..acted on it.

    2006 (Sept end. CCD@GOA)
    Vibhu: "Why arnt you giving a Shot to CAT this year..why r you relaxed why dont you try your best this year!"
    Point noted. Came back and started preparing for CAT and other entrances.
    Result : Got a 95.33%ile in CAT and got shortlisted for NMIMS(NMAT) :)

    Guys,listen to him when he talks..he speaks from experience!
    my two bits:-
    Do well in college(under-grad) get decent grades..DO LOTS OF extra-curricular activities.Attend some training programmes..etc concentrate on your "PROFILE" it will help in getting entry into PG programs or job interviews..

  2. Well, here's my [ aka Spaceman ] comment. Times are there when I hav given gyaan to people, twice my age, and its helped them. Somewhere on the way to here [ this point in my life i mean ] things changed, i became the one to take advice, rather than give it. But who's complaining, when you have people like Vibhu to give you advice.
    He'd given me this before, all in tid bits, some at the CCD @ Goa, then some of it online, when I requested him to put it down, all together. Great to see the result, and I hope noobs like me don't make the mistakes I've done.
    Like Arpan says, its experince thats talking here, so listen hard. Two great guys have put down their thoughts here, Vibhu himself, and Arpan, ruminate on their thoughts, and design your own pathway. I shall put a more detailed post on my blog for people whp've already done the "mistakes", for right now, I'm correcting mine, in 3rd year of Engg.

  3. at point where you mentioned IITs IIMs and DCEs( plural???) but not RECs/NITs i left reading .....

  4. Very interesting Topic... very well written....
    The conclusion "Don't say i can't... rocks..."
    But jus one statement i don agree to is:
    Those who can do, do.
    Those who can't, teach.

    If u talkin bout engg collegs in particular then its 95% true... otherwise i Dont think one can generalise this statement!!!
    I really liked the thought process.. very organised..

  5. My 2 Paisa: Vibhu is right, I also did my Elec Engg from DCE, but just managed to pass (topper - my percentage : 20%) so faced a lot of problems in shortlisting, but my fianl year prj and extra activites (including running after gals) were decent. Worked for 3 years and cleard CAT and joined IIMi and now am palced with a good job.

    What has life taught me: Njoy life, cause these moments will never come back, but to to have a better chance at success, also study.

    One Tip: I used to take the last 5 years papers and see which question was repeated n in which sequence and if the probability was higher for this year:-) get it solved by the 'gyanis' and mug up the solution (passed my maths exams thsi way also:-)

    njoy maadi
    Anupam Kansal

  6. >>Don't limit yourself

    Thanks... a great advice, atleast for me. Trying to overcome this feeling...

  7. Well.. just a small suggetsion... why dont you write something on the topic "How to make up for the blunders committed during college life"!!!

  8. @Anonymous.

    If you stopped reading because I did not mention RECs - well, your EGO is bigger than you. Face it, RECs are not as good as the other institutes.

    @ shveta.

    Generalizations are there for the statement. Like i have said there is an 80-20 rule. 80% of the teachers are like that only. 20% are the good ones. It applies to everything. 80% of the police force will be corrupt, but 20% are not, etc . etc.

    If you have a list of things which go wrong in college and can be worked on, let me know. I can work on them. There is nothing which cannot be rectified. Somethings may take more time though.

  9. Hey Vibhu,

    Good article man... while reading the article, my thoughts went back to my college days ....

  10. Quite a decent attempt.

    We have a bit of similarity too, I too stumbled at 74.8% :) and it tinkles at the thought of it indeed.

    My Latest composition goes onto somewhat similar lines. Have a look