With admission to one of the top MBA colleges in the country, there are other things which come along with it, in pseudo-hiding. Of course, the look of gleam from your younger cousins, appreciation from other relatives, slight envy from people who never thought you could be good enough and the pride in your parents’ eyes, are the ones we all know about.

But there is something which quite a few of us face. Some move away unscathed, some are mildly affected while others’ lives change in ways more than they expected. Why this classification into 3 you ask? Well, that is what mostly summarises the life at any IIM. Classification into 3 – The Bell Curve.

The name surely strikes a chord in most of us, Math ghosts come back to haunt you. If you have been like one of every 4 Indians (an engineer, in short), you remember studying the bell curve in one of your Math courses in engineering. But the Bell Curve that persists at IIMs is different. It is alive, and way more haunting than others.

We all have been told how the IIMs host some of the best minds in the country, which is where the major issue starts. How do you grade them effectively? How do you make sure that the better from these best aces the plethora of exams? How do you compare apples and oranges, if that is how we categorise the diversity that comes in for each batch of MBA?

The Bell Curve is to the rescue. A Bell Curve effectively fits every performer between the performance of the highest and lowest accord. You could have scored a 50 on 100 in a test and you would be given 100 percentile because that is the highest score in that test, and otherwise you could be just average with even an 80 on 100. The beauty (or the beast) of the Bell Curve is it is relative. So you are not as good as you are. You are as bad as the others around you are good.

How does it affect a student entering an IIM, you ask? Here’s how –

You know you are entering the world where everyone has been nothing but a topper, all their lives (so have you, that’s why you are there!). But then comes the Bell Curve. 20% of the class is tagged as high performers, 60% – as the average middle pot and the rest 20% get in for a shock. In the first term, you go from being in the top 10% of all your previous academic ventures to bottom 20% in an institute which promises of admitting only the brightest minds!

As I said, some get out unscathed, others are the top 20% who remain where they are used to be – the top. But what about the ones who get the Bell Curve shock? Coming to an extremely fast-paced, competitive environment, where one incorrect decision pushes you miles back, this is one of the last things you need. Hit by an inferiority complex and absolutely no time to think, IIMs and the curve can hit you pretty hard! More so, what was supposed to be peer to peer learning, turns into an unspoken grade war.

Your classical conditioning and demand or recruiters during the “placement week” doesn’t let you settle down for a low grade. The bell curve doesn’t let you jump too high too soon. The middle path is to keep fighting, with yourself, with your peers metaphorically and with time.

Or, the better option – get out of the grade sheet and realise you have so much more to read, so much more to learn and so much more to experience. A library like no other, a peer group that generates envy in intellectuals and party-lovers alike, facilities to coddle you and 2 years with very little to lose and so much to gain.

Bell the curve and wriggle out. The dawn is prettier than the 3.5 on your grade sheet.

Palak Marwah

Palak Marwah is a student at IIM Bangalore. She enjoys writing apart from food, travel and books.

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