Quitting Engineering

I recently heard of a friend’s son who quit engineering (COEP) after 1 year, to pursue design (DSK). This comes on the heels of someone else I know who quit engineering (PICT) to go for Liberal Arts (SSLA) and is much happier there.

So, note to 12th std students and parents: please do not box yourself into a corner and assume that there is no alternative to engineering. You might regret it an year or two from now.

Thankfully, the situation (in terms of educational options) for this generation is far better than for our generation. If you’re unsure of what to do, then a Liberal Arts program (which gives you flexibility of deciding on what degree you want after 1 or 2 years of study) might be worth considering. See FLAME or Ashoka or even SSLA.

I posted this on my Facebook page and got a bunch of insightful comments, some of which I’ve reproduced here:

Joel Xavier gave some more examples:

More examples from my personal experience. In a BBA class at Symbi where I taught marketing, I had someone who had dropped out after two years of studying dentistry, someone who had chucked engineering studies after 3 years of grappling with it and someone with a diploma in computer engineering who didnt want to continue down that path.

I’m glad its happening.

Ravindra Jaju pointed out that:

Regretting in a year or two much better than regretting much later in life.

Which is true. Just because you’ve sunk an year and some fees in engineering, doesn’t mean that you have to stick to it for another 3 years.

To this, Makarand Sahasrabudhe (talking from personal experience) responded that you can “quit engineering” even after completing it:

Just because you have sunk 4 years , does not also mean that you have to stick to it for life

Another important point. Just looking at my batchmates, I know metallurgical engineers who are in advertising agencies, mechanical engineers who are into banking and finance, chemical engineers working on Bollywood movies, and computer scientists in the insurance industry doing non-computer stuff. Your degree in is forgotten within 5 years of graduating.

Makarand also pointed out that engineering is only ONE of the things you learn in university (if you have the right temperament, that is). I’d say that actual classroom education counts for less than 20% of our real education in college. Most of your education is happening in group projects, and the extracurricular groups you join, and other activities you participate in. Relevant quote:

“Everything I needed to know about politics, I learnt as a Mess Co-ordinator of my hostel in IIT-Bombay”

  • Manohar Parrikar, CM of Goa.

Does this mean that it is OK for students to quit after an year or two of engineering? Most parents will rebel at the idea of allowing this. And with good reason. As Sanjay Sarkar said:

Having a passion and following that is most welcome but fear of a tough road ahead and taking thr first escape route is losing the battle before starting. We as parents have 2 help our children try overcome that fear.

And this is a tricky problem to solve. On the one hand, I feel that many kids of this generation have the problem of giving up too easily; of taking up interests and ditching at the first signs of difficulties. On the other hand, I’ve also seen parents pushing too hard and spoiling a significant chunk of the kid’s life. So as parents, we need to play a difficult balancing act of pushing, but not too much.

There are many more comments, so read the full discussion if this is an area of interest for you.

In short, I don’t know what is the correct answer, but at least I hope that if you find yourself in a situation like this, some of this discussion will help you think it through carefully, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction.

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