Cumulative Grade Point Average or CGPA has been the theorem of relativity for engineers. It is as important to an engineering student as batting average is to a batsman. Technically also, it’s the same thing, the moment you come out to bat, the entire world will be gaping at your batting average first. It can make or wreck your career.
Needless to ask, how many times an engineering grad has to answer the question, “What is your CGPA?” – Okay! I got the analogy. Also, records show that only those batsman had a career who had an average of around 40. Does this mean, with a less than a stellar CGPA, my engineering career is also over? Like they switched to county and first-class cricket, shall I switch to MBA/GMAT/ Banking? The answer is “You can always make a comeback !”
There have been numerous examples every placement season when the belief that CGPA is the key to dream placements has been belied. Take, for example, Romal Tholippan of BITS Pilani, with average CGPA, became the highest paid grad in India (along with his friend Sunder Kannan) so far when Google offered him a staggering 1.44 Cr package. Forget about low CGPA, Google has hired people who even never went to a college. In fact, such people constitute 14 percent of Google’s team. Don’t believe us, go to this link – Low CGPA Google will still hire you.
Not only Google, but many of the companies also do not consider CGPA as a selection or rejection criteria. Take for example Aamir Khan, a 2013 engineering grade from IITR. With an average CGPA, he was the lone student to be hired by Directi from the campus in 2013. Not only IITs/NITs but Tier2 and Tier3 institutes are also full of such stories. Who other than the Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella could be a better example.
So, how should low CGPA students make a comeback?
Well! Because you have failed on the home ground you must perform well abroad (other areas than CGPA like Projects, research works, Competitions of national and international importance, internships) to compensate for it. Even with low CGPA, Romal Tholippan is an exceptional coding talent. Prior to appearing before the company, you must have an answer to the question “Why is your CGPA low” and the best way to answer this is to show that while others were busy cramming answers, you were busy cracking codes, analyzing circuits and competing with the world. Most of the big-fishes today hire only the best performing coders. The mention of Google Summer of Code and ACM-ICPC will make your resume more impressive than that of a 9+ CGPA. Programs like General Electric Edison Challenge, Texas Instruments Analog Design Contest can get you a Pre-Placement Offer Directly even with low CGPA. There is a way in every branch of engineering, however, one must have the fire in belly and desire to compensate for your low CGPA.
The web is full of information, make it your slave and master new things to stay ahead in the race. A good performance in GATE, research papers and good recommendations along with a good GRE score will still give you another chance to make it right in masters. Opportunities are there, but you must be an opportunist and not only an optimist to make it. So what are your ways to leap back into a form:
1) An internship that matters: An enriching internship will heal most of the blemishes due to low CGPA. Ideally, this is just the ripe time to look for internships. For example, Google Summer of Code (https://www.google-melange.com/gsoc/homepage/google/gsoc2014). There are various websites which do the job of internship hunting for you. All you need is to just choose and apply to the one for you.
2) Projects / Research: Your project is an important part of your engineering and your CV. A number of questions during the interviews are going to be based on your projects to assess how sincerely you have done it. Mention all your major projects emphasizing your role and skills in them. If you can score over here, CGPA will just be a usual question.
3) Masters: A study conducted by Times Higher Education revealed that there has been a tremendous increase in the number of master’s courses being taught. The findings also showed that employers are giving more value to postgraduates, hence discerning between just good employees and exceptional ones. Doing a masters is as good as a job. The stipend that one gets as a masters student or a Junior Research Fellow is generally good enough to handle your own expenses. While you might have to shell out of your pocket if you want to do masters from abroad, masters in India are very affordable and good too. Although major institutes (IISc, IITs, NITs ) admit students into masters based on the GATE score, many top institutes including IIITH (http://www.iiit.ac.in/admissions/pgee) take their own test for admissions into masters. Almost all the PSUs in India now hire based on GATE score. Websites like Gate Counsellor (http://www.gatecounsellor.com/) are a one-stop information center for all GATE related questions.
Looking for masters from abroad, a good CGPA does help but it can be compensated with a very good GRE (official website: (https://www.ets.org/) score and letter of recommendation. Research papers play a crucial role here for low CGPA students. Ideally, October-November is the best time for Indian students to take the test as applications get closed by Jan-Feb for major universities around the world.
4) Fellowships: This is relatively a new field in which engineers are stepping their feet. Some of the fellowships are not only internationally and nationally recognized but does not simply take into account your CGPA. These fellowships are a life-transforming experience for the fellows. The most worshipped fellowships are:
- Young India Fellowship: It brings together 100 emerging leaders from around the country in a one-year/two-year residential post-graduate programme and launches them on their leadership journey by opening their mind to a rich and diverse set of subjects and perspectives, delivered by some of the finest teachers from around the world. The deadline for applying for this one/ two-year fellowship has been extended from Feb 28, 2014, to March 31, 2014.
- Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament Fellowship (LAMP): The fellowship places one legislative assistant to work with one MP for a period of 11 months. The fellowship exposes LAMP Fellows to the working of Parliament and the legislative process. The application for this fellowships is also closed now.
- Teach For India Fellowship: The Teach For India Fellowship program is a 2 year full-time paid commitment in which most promising graduates and professionals serve as full-time teachers in under-resourced and low-income schools. Applications for this two-year fellowship starts in July. Keep an eye on it.
- The Gandhi Fellowship: The Fellowship challenges fellows over the course of a two-year residential program to work with primary school headmasters to transform their schools. Application for the 2014-2016 batch is still open.
5) Start-ups: Landing into a top-notch company or a company with high CGPA criteria for recruitment is not the only way through. Start-up is the new trend. Start-ups generally do not go much into CGPA and the learning that one gets in start-ups is very satisfying and enriching. This learning and experience that you gather, can also serve as the base for switching to bigger boats later.
You can also start with your own start-up. Be an employer, not an employee. You just need an idea and commitment to make it big. If Zuckerberg can do it, you can also. Start-ups are no longer an unexplored territory in India. Even government and non-government organizations (www.startupvillage.in, www.10000startups.com, http://yournest.in, www.seeders.in) are now funding and investing in startups and entrepreneurs to encourage them.
6) Off-Campus Placements: On-campus placements is what each one of us dreams of. But opportunities are lurking out there too. Many companies who do not go for recruitments on campus hire through Off-Campus means. This is the time when companies start looking for grads who can join them immediately. Have not started looking out for off-campus opportunities, the clock is ticking!
But what if I am still not able to make it? This is where HireTale can help you out. Without a placement or with placement you are not happy with, you can streamline your search for your dream job with us. Do have a look at the listing of Job opportunities at our homepage. Who knows, you can be the next big thing.