Okay, so you got admitted to an institution of your choice for graduation. Now what?
As a fresher, you are full of new ideas and optimistic about what comes next. However, it is important to understand that getting admitted into a university does not guarantee your success in the rest of your life. It is just the beginning of new challenges and responsibilities.
This post will give you some ideas about what to do (and don’t) at your university and how you can get the most out of it. These are excerpts from my experiences at IIT Guwahati during my BTech studies.
First, let’s discuss what to do as a college student at an engineering institute
Courses in engineering institutes run very fast, especially in IITs, where each semester is only 4 months long. This means that students have to cover a lot of material in a short amount of time. In order to get good grades, it is essential to stay focused and start studying early.
It is important to not make studying a secondary priority. Students who spend too much time on extracurricular activities often find themselves struggling to keep up with their coursework. It is important to find a balance between studying and participating in extracurricular activities.
Engineering courses are difficult, and this is especially true in the first semester. Many students make the mistake of enrolling in too many extracurricular activities, which can lead to poor grades. Midsemester exams are often intentionally made tougher by professors in order to encourage students to stay on track with their studies. If a student does not score well on their midsemester exams, it is very difficult to achieve a high grade (8+ CPI/CGPA) in the course, even if they study hard for the final exam.
The best time to improve your skills is during the breaks between semesters. In general, you will have approximately 3 to 4 months of break time, including winter and summer breaks.
During this free time, you can learn new things, take up personal projects relevant to your future job or study, or improve your existing skills.
For first-year students, it is especially important to make use of these breaks. Improving your skills during this time can help you get better internships and job opportunities.
The winter break period after the first semester is a great time to learn coding. Most colleges have their coding courses in the second semester, and if you have not learned computer science in your 11th and 12th grades, then it will be very difficult for you to grasp the subjects and pass the coding assignments.
Spending the winter break learning coding will help you better understand the coding courses and secure good grades.
During summer breaks, pick a small personal project and work on it. If you are planning to get a job in the IT sector, take on projects related to coding and improve your coding skills. If you are interested in higher studies, take up some research papers and try to understand them. Alternatively, you can also learn coding, as coding is very important for research as well. Implementing your own ideas requires good coding skills.
For non-CS students:
- Learn Python or Java.
- If you are interested in data science or AI, learn Python.
- Become an expert in Python by solving algorithm and data structures problems from LeetCode.
- Work on small data science projects.
For CS students:
- Learn the languages that your courses recommend.
- If you are having difficulty understanding C++, learn Python.
- If you are targeting a job in the AI field, learn Python.
- Once you are proficient in one language, it will not take much time to learn other languages.
- Focus on improving your problem-solving skills.
In general, it is important to focus on becoming an expert in one language rather than learning multiple languages superficially. This will allow you to develop your problem-solving skills and make you a more attractive candidate for internships and jobs.
If you are proficient in a particular language, it does not take much time to learn other languages. Therefore, you should focus on mastering one language and improving your problem-solving skills.
Once you have a strong foundation in one language, you can learn other languages more quickly. This is because many languages share common concepts and syntax. For example, if you know Python, you will find it easier to learn Java or Ruby.
In addition to learning new languages, it is also important to learn about different design patterns and best practices. One way to do this is to read the source code of commonly used libraries. For example, if you are working on AI projects, you can read the source code of TensorFlow or PyTorch.
By reading source code, you can see how experienced developers have solved problems. You can also learn about different ways to structure code and how to write maintainable and reusable code.
Contributing to open source projects is another great way to learn about design patterns and best practices. When you contribute to an open source project, you are working with other developers to improve the codebase. This gives you the opportunity to learn from other developers and to get feedback on your own code.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the hottest area in the software world. AI is being deployed in a wide range of products that we use daily, such as Google Search, email, document translation, food delivery, and ride-sharing.
Every student, regardless of their discipline, should learn about the mathematics behind AI and start building their own projects using AI tools.
Most institutions teach students linear algebra and calculus in their first or second semester courses. Students should pay close attention to these courses, as they will help them learn about deep learning and large language models.
Students should also consider taking distributed programming classes as an extra credit course, if it is not part of their required coursework. Distributed programming is a critical skill for working with large datasets and training AI models.
By learning about the mathematics behind AI and building their own projects, students can make themselves more attractive to potential employers. In addition, students who are interested in pursuing a career in AI will be well-prepared for graduate school or research positions.
Here are some specific examples of AI projects that students can build:
- Develop a chatbot that can answer questions about a specific topic.
- Build a recommender system that can suggest products or services to users.
- Create a machine learning model that can predict the outcome of events.
- Develop a natural language processing (NLP) model that can understand and generate human language.
By building these types of projects, students can gain valuable experience in AI and demonstrate their skills to potential employers.
Create your profile on LinkedIn.com and connect with people from various companies and universities. Connect with your university seniors who have already graduated and seek their guidance. They can tell you in which direction the job market is heading or in which direction research/innovation is heading. Your university alumni are the best source of information to keep yourself future job-ready.
Create a profile on GitHub.com and showcase your projects and code. Include your projects and GitHub code links in your CV.
Create a profile on ResearchGate.net and upload your technical reports. Include the link in your CV.
By creating profiles on these platforms, you can build a strong online presence and demonstrate your skills and experience to potential employers and collaborators.
Each student should do an internship from 2nd year onwards. Opt for an academic or industrial internship based on your future interests.
More about: Internship: Academic or Industrial
Yes, CPI matters. When you are applying for jobs or higher studies, your CPI is very important. Most companies do not even allow students with a CPI below 8 to sit for their interview exams. Most companies shortlist candidates based on CPI. A higher CPI means an easier time getting a job or a higher studies offer.
If you are planning for higher studies, maintain a minimum CPI of 9 to land a scholarship.
Below a CPI of 7, it is very difficult to get a job through campus placements or off-campus. If your CPI is below 7, you need to have a strong coding profile or a strong research profile. For example, you could have represented your college in ACM ICPC or published papers in IEEE journals or conferences.
Extracurricular activities (sports, arts, college festivals organization) do not help you land a job in IT/software companies, nor do they help you gain admission to top universities.
It can help get a job at a few non-IT companies during placement sessions in some cases where organization/management skills are required at the entry level.
It is always good to be involved in some extracurricular activities, but not at the cost of your academics. If you can manage your time, choose something that interests you.
Don’t bunk the PT/NCC/NSS classes, as failing in those non-credit courses will make your life difficult. You will need to redo those courses in your 3rd/4th years of study, which you should 100% avoid.
Health is very important to achieve anything in your life. Keep your health a priority. Go for a run in the morning or afternoon or go to the gym or go swimming to keep you fit. Take up meditation to calm yourself down on busy days.
Now, let’s discuss what NOT to do
- Do not do drugs. Drugs can have a devastating impact on your academic performance, your health, and your future career prospects.
- Do not do marijuana. Marijuana can impair your cognitive function and motivation, making it difficult to succeed in your studies.
- Do not drink inside your hostel. Drinking inside your hostel can lead to disciplinary action, and it can also create a disruptive and unsafe environment for your fellow students.