The ‘counselling’ phase of admissions to IITs, NITs and IIITs begins a week or two after the result and rank list of JEE-Advanced being declared. This can be a daunting and confusing process for students, especially because of the sheer number of course and college options available, as well as the intricacies of the process and the operating portal itself. This article will explain to you the official process to be followed, as well as some other tips to help you make an informed choice.
JEE-Advanced is generally held in the third week of May every year (2020 being an exception due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic) and has been made compulsorily online since 2019. Results are generally declared by the second week of June on the JEE Advanced portal or the JoSAA (Joint Seat Allocation Authority) portal.
That leaves you with three weeks to chill, relax and recover from the stress of the intense JEE training you went through (given that most students adopt distance learning programmes or some form of coaching, and preparing through self-study is strenuous too). It would be a good idea to use these three weeks to plan what you want to do ahead – especially because it is very easy to feel like you have nothing left to do given that you’re not used to having free time because of strenuous preparation schedules. Take this time to explore your academic interests and try charting out a rough career path. Do your research on the various courses offered by different institutions that are part of the centralised admission process, and check out the previous years’ closing ranks and the number of seats they offer.
This is important because certain courses are offered only at select institutions – like B.Tech in AI at IIT Hyderabad or B.Tech courses in core biotechnology and biosciences at IIT Madras, Delhi and Roorkee (other IITs offer masters courses and PhD. opportunities). The course content also differs for courses across institutions – B.Tech Engineering Physics at IIT Bombay leans more towards quantum physics while the same course at IIT Madras offers more exposure to astrophysics. Several institutes also offer Dual Degree programs in certain disciplines, where you spend five years in college, graduating with a B.Tech and a specialisation equivalent to a Masters’ Degree.
You will have to do this research on your own because ‘counselling’ as part of the admission process is a bit of a misnomer – you are only required to submit preferences, and the basis for these preferences has to be your interests and whatever career path you wish to choose. This research will prove helpful especially if you don’t have a specific career path in mind (beyond the basic engineering degree of course) – going through syllabi of courses offered by the institutions will allow you to gauge what you should expect from it, and it will not hurt to look up placement data for the same. Also, talk to seniors (from school or coaching) who have done this before, and teachers or family members or other elders who can guide you about industry and placements and how much impact your choice of courses will have.
That being said, let’s come around to the actual admission process. You are supposed to fill in as many preferences you like (from the highest – top choice of program you want to attend – to lowest) and the centralised portal will then allot seats as per your rank.
There is a provision for mock allocation – where you fill in your preferences, and two mock rounds are conducted where you’re supposed to get a rough idea of what you will be allotted. These mock allocations are NOT confirmed and can change depending on the changes you (and other students across the country) make to your preferences. That said, it is generally seen that allocations mostly vary only one or two preferences, so the mock rounds at least give you an idea of where you stand.
After the mock allocation is the final deadline for preferences. Fill in these preferences very carefully because there is no way this order will change once the allocations start.
The JoSAA allocation process has 7 rounds of seat allocation. After each round of allocations, you can choose to accept, float, slide, or withdraw from the process.
- Accept means that you accept the seat (course and institute) you have been allotted, and you do not want to change it – you’re not considered for further rounds of allocation and none of your higher preferences (if any) are discarded.
- Float means that you provisionally accept the seat you have been allotted and you wish to change if another seat for a course and institute that is higher up in your preferences opens up.
- Slide means that you provisionally accept the seat you have been allotted and you wish to change if another seat for a course at the same institute that is higher up in your preferences opens up. Note that ‘slide’ will let you move up your list only if seats are available in the institute that you have been allotted in that round, while ‘float’ will let you do that for courses at the same institute and other ones as well.
- Withdraw means that you no longer wish to be part of the admission process and that you relinquish the seat that was allotted to you.
You are allowed to do any of these four actions until the sixth (penultimate) round. After the sixth round, you cannot withdraw (you can choose not to join but your admission deposit is forfeit) and the portal automatically changes your option to slide – so if your allocation changes in the seventh round, you will be allotted the same institute only, if at all a different course.
The moment you are allocated a seat, any preference lower than that allocation is ignored for further rounds. If your allocation isn’t the first preference you have put in, you are automatically placed on ‘float’ unless you request to slide or withdraw or accept.
For the courses that are higher in demand (having higher rank cutoffs and/or very few seats), allocations generally complete in the first two rounds. More often than not, cutoffs do not change significantly for the General seat pool after the fourth round, fifth for the Reserved seat pool. There is a provision where the unfilled seats in the OBC and PwD reserved pool are merged with the General pool after the sixth round, but it very rarely leads to a significant change in cutoffs. That being said, the key question is “How long do I hope to get my top preference?”
If you go through the rank cutoffs for the previous years, it is evident that cutoffs do not change significantly (by more than 20-30 ranks) after the third round of allocations. If your rank is very close to the cutoff (up to 50 ranks below), then you could hope for a change in the fourth round. Post that, it is highly unlikely that your seat allocation will change unless it does after the sixth round.
Variations between the first and second round cutoffs can go up to 400-500 ranks (apart from certain niche and/or in-demand courses like Comp. Science, Electrical, Engineering Physics, AI) so it is definitely worth waiting for the second round before choosing to accept or slide. Between the second and the third round, variations range from 50 to 200 ranks, so you could always expect a better preference.
After the third round, there are very few courses that show a dramatic change – IIT courses show minimal variation (0-50 ranks) while NIT courses’ cutoffs may change by up to 200 ranks. The fifth and sixth rounds are generally uneventful, showing cutoffs changing by 5-10 ranks, if at all (this happens generally due to people withdrawing because of admissions to BITS and other private institutes). After the sixth round and automatic slide status, seventh-round changes do happen sometimes, though it would not be a good thing to pin your hopes on this round.
To summarise, read up about courses and syllabi and institutes before drawing up a preference list, pay attention to your mock allocation, understand that generally, the third or fourth round allocation will be your final one. Practically, this also serves another purpose – if you get a seat that requires you to move to another city, start preparing for college and a new environment, and spend time with family and friends!