What if I don’t get admission in a top university?
Abhay Anand, 09 Jul 2015

Top Institutions invariably have the best of facilities. Students at AIIMS, New Delhi

The admission season in India is at its peak and one of the most common questions that students ask themselves, to parents or to their teachers is what they should do if they do not get admission in any of the ‘top Universities’ of the country. Students who decide to take up Engineering or Medical studies have their preferences cut out; IITs for Engineering, for medical it is AIIMS, AFMC Pune, KGMU, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), and several others. Students who want to take up humanities face a major dilemma as all of them want to get into either Delhi University (DU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), BHU, University of Calcutta and a few others more. 

In CBSE’s 10+2 exam, over 10 lakh students appeared in 2015 and there are other boards like ISCE and state examination boards. Thus the number of students passing out every year and trying to get into a good university is in lakhs while the number of seats is in thousands in top universities. This creates a huge demand and supply gap, pushing the cut-off criteria higher, year after year.


Definition of a top university

First of all let us have look at the meaning of a ‘Top University’ in the Indian context. The top universities in India include those mentioned above (we are not talking about engineering, medical institutions). When we take a close look at these universities we find that these universities are very different from each other as some are known for their undergraduate teaching, while others are known for postgraduate courses; some get students from all over the country while some get high quality students from that particular region only. DU gets a large number of applications for Commerce/Finance and related courses while JNU is the most preferred destination for students applying for Social Sciences; while University of Madras is the top choice of students applying for Science courses and so on.

These universities are among the top because they have several similarities, like offering the best teaching, learning environment with high-quality faculty and infrastructure. They are located mostly in urban areas or metros, offering a good atmosphere for students who get the opportunity to complete their higher education from the same university, from UG to PhD level.        

Each University in India is unique as they differ in styles and methods; some are very focused on a specific course of study, while others are more broad-based or general universities. So, if students do not get admission in one of the universities they wanted, they should not get disheartened. They should look for other universities across the country that offer the courses of their choice and has good quality faculty.

R-GhoshProf. Rupamanjari Ghosh,

Director, School of Natural Sciences,
and Dean of Research & Graduate Studies,
Shiv Nadar University


Chase you passion, not the institution


“For whatever reason, if you do not make it to an institution you targeted, do not get depressed…”


College admission is a stressful process everywhere in the world. In this stressful situation, one thing you should not give up is following your passion, if you have found one.


A common anxiety for a student is about not getting admission in a ‘top’ College/University. Implied in this anxiety is the concept of ranking of the institutions of higher learning, but this ranking is often not based on any objective criteria. In India, it is often hearsay, a public perception of how an educational institution fares. The truth is that institutions are not good uniformly for all subjects – inside a ‘top’ institution, a particular subject you wish to pursue may actually be weak, or in a not-so-well-known institution, your subject of choice may be strong. You should try to make an informed choice, and chase the subject of your passion rather than just the big name of an institution.


There are relatively new institutions which are coming up in a big way in India, and their ‘rankings’ are yet to be established. Should you run after a ‘well-known’ college or try out a modern university? There are well-known advantages of studying in a university, which is not just an undergraduate degree college. A major component of the mission of any university has to be creation of knowledge (by researching), and not just disseminating it (by teaching). In a traditional set-up of teaching by lecturing, the learning by the students tends to be memory-based, and is hence not very effective, however brilliant the lecturer might be. But if research is made an integral part of the pedagogy at the university, and the style of education is student-centric and active or participatory, the students learn by doing, and develop the skill of creative problem-solving. This skill will equip you to face the challenges in your career. In this fast-changing world, nobody has a clear idea of what kind of coveted jobs the world will have when today’s undergraduate students hit the market in the next five to ten years.


Looking from the other side, the ‘top’ institutions often do not know how they rank in students’ preferences -- one student’s first choice is another’s safety back-up. There are quite a few colleges and universities which offer ‘lateral entry’, i.e., admission in the second year, with pre-set qualifications. If you do well in your first year in the institution you get admitted in, this option may be open to you. In this day and age, you are not limited to the classroom teaching, and can take generous help from open resources on the Net from trusted sources to improve your standing.


For whatever reason, if you don’t make it to an institution you targeted, do not get depressed -- may be it is not your loss, but it is a loss for the institution, which you could have enriched by your presence! There is a wide range of challenging, exciting, and productive careers open to people who dare to explore. If you are open to the challenge, you can turn an apparent disadvantage in your favour. 


Best of luck!

jnu-camusCourse Vs. University?

 A student, before trying to answer the question, ‘What if I don’t get admission in top university?’ also needs to first question himself about his priorities. Is he looking to take a particular course from a top university? Or is the university his priority and take admission in any of the courses being offered there?

For example, let us look at the B.Com course from Delhi University, the most sought after course as seats in most of the colleges get filled by the second cut-off list and the cut-off percentage also never comes below 85%. In this case it is the course from DU, which is in demand, not the university. The reason for DU becoming famous for its B.Com course is that in the past few years some of the students who have completed their UG from any of the good colleges of DU have been picked by top multinational corporations at a very high package, at times even more than some IIM graduates. The students passing out of DU have also done well in academics and have excelled in the professional field; a strong alumni network plays a very crucial role in it.

Another important reason for DU getting maximum limelight is the fact that it has a centralized admission process under which students fill up their choice of course and colleges in one single form, which is not the case with other top universities in the country.


Therefore, based on above example one can draw some very important inferences:

  • It is the course, which attracts, not the university; so a student must give preference to that

  • The alumni network plays a crucial role

  • Placements; it is the job at the end of the course that creates demand for a particular course 

  • Location; DU, located in the national capital has many advantages over many of the other universities as it ensures all-round development of student, helping them to mature into high quality professionals.          

Every student is different, so while choosing a course, students must consider elements like the type of environment they would like to live in, location, cost of living, options for financing studies through scholarships, transportation, accommodation and obviously the university.


Is it good in the long run?

Is choosing a top university good in the longer run? This is yet another question one must answer and finding an answer to that is not a very difficult task. One should find out the reputation of the university (nationally and internationally), its library, infrastructure, how much a student can excel in his field of study and in extracurricular activities etc. How much the university allows a student to express himself and how friendly the faculties are. These are some of the basic information that a student must find out before prioritizing a university, as it would then align his/her future with the education environment of the varsity.    

Students must ask themselves how passionate they are about the field of study and how much of effort they are going to put in terms of time, creativity, and patience. If they find there is another field or some other university, that offers better opportunity then maybe they should look into that one.



The world is changing rapidly, so are the required skill sets. A student enters a university system to get a degree and the institution must offer the skills required. So a student should not get disheartened if he is not able to get admission in a top university. He should look at other options available based on his career goals. A student who is not able to get admission in a top university can always take up admission in another good university and in the meantime work on his skills and knowledge base and get into a top university at the PG level. There is no end of the road if one has the will to pursue a dream. 

Top Universities (Multidisciplinary)

University of Delhi, Delhi

Panjab University, Chandigarh

Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad

Anna University, Chennai

Jadavpur University, Kolkata

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Visva Bharati, Santiniketan

VIT University

University of Calcutta, Kolkata

Manipal University, Manipal

North Maharashtra University, Jalgaon

Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

University of Madras, Chennai

Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University

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