What you always wanted to know about Electives but were too afraid to ask.
The title is wrong. You were never afraid to ask “What Electives should I opt for?”. It is the second most commonly asked question, after “Who is that girl?”
Everyone has a different answer to this question (the first question). Whether the choice of electives really matters in the final placements or even in your career is debatable. But since you are expected to choose them, might as well choose them wisely. And there is no dearth of advice, both good and bad. Allow me to lay out some common strategies. Know and use them cannily.
This strategy involves selecting courses from multiple departments. That means you will have a few courses from Finance, a few from Marketing, a couple from Operations and so on. In most cases, the split is mainly between two departments. Usually taken up by people wanting to get into consulting or general management roles. The people are generally from upper and lower ranges of ranks – the toppers trying to get into the exclusive consulting roles and the bottom feeders trying to hedge their chances during the placement process.
This is the most favored option for those looking to get into the financial industry. They look at only courses offered by their department, and only opt for other courses if the credit requirements are not met. This can only work if the department offers enough courses to make up for a majority of your credit requirement. Usually not a problem for Finance or Marketing, but might be a problem for IT, HR, etc when enough courses are not floated.
A variation of the Specialist strategy. Here most of the courses are taken from only one department, but a few are taken from other departments. This can be because of either great faculty or the course complements their core courses. (Editor’s note: For example, Fin students and Marketing students following the Specialist strategy will exchange nothing more than cold stares and sneers of outright contempt. One group can hardly be expected to socialize with the other even in the canteen. However, if a course from the Strategy department is offered, they will all forget their differences, make a beeline for the course, and work with each other because nobody wants to look ‘Unstrategic’.)
Here is my recommended option – choose the courses offered by the best professors, regardless of department. Not the simplest of the lot because it involves some background research. You need to ask seniors or perhaps reach out to alumni for feedback about the professor.
Some electives will be floated by visiting faculty. They might not have visited the campus last year. It may even be the first time that they are taking this course on your campus. Therefore it becomes important you get feedback from reliable sources.
Use these strategies to decide between two equivalent courses, although nothing prevents you from using them for selecting all the courses.
It’s obvious from the title who this strategy is for. The basic game-plan for this involves opting for only those courses which have a very high component of group work in the evaluation criteria. By going for these courses, you can work less/not at all and your group would have to carry your weight.
It helps to not antagonize your group completely by showing up for some meetings or volunteering for menial tasks such as final formatting and printing of assignments.
You need to avoid the tag of a freerider in the first year for this to be effective, because once you are branded as a freerider, the image tends to stick and many groups will shun you. The worse outcome is when you end up with a group of fellow freeriders. Then it becomes a game of chicken, i.e. who will fold first and do the assignment, sometimes ending in it not getting done at all.
As the name suggests, this is the anti-thesis to the freerider strategy mentioned above. Here, you only go for those courses which have the highest individual component and minimal or no group component. You avoid the pains of working in a group where no-one contributes and you are left to do all the work but the credit goes to everyone.
Let me know in the comments below on what some of your strategies have been when it comes to selecting electives.
– Koganti Greeshmanth
(The writer is an alumnus of IIM Indore – Batch of 2011 and currently works with HCL Infosystems)