In this note, I will argue that the admission process of various colleges and universities is a much bigger nightmare for a common student than taking a couple of extra exams. And then suggest a solution which creates a win-win situation for all stake holders.
Starting January every year, the 12th class student has to monitor various websites to know when the admission forms for different colleges and universities are available. There are lots of places, which do not hold their own exam, but admit students on the basis of performance in other exams. They all have their own separate forms to be filled in, along with the application fee. If you miss any deadline, you won't be considered for admission by that college.
The problem starts in June when results of all these entrance exams and the 12th class board exams is declared. You need to make sure that all the places you had applied to has the updates on your result. And then you start receiving admission offers.
One deposits fee in one university, and then receive admission offer from another university. One somehow manages funds to deposit fee there. And now, one is in dilemma. Should one withdraws admission from the first university, and seek refund. Or should one hold on to that admission offer in the hope that one might get admission into a more preferred program there. Notice that most universities will not consider you for the higher preference, if you withdrew your admission to the lower preference. And while you are debating all this with your friends and family, a third university makes an offer.
Arranging funds to keep admission offers alive at multiple universities is not an easy task, when all of them ask you to deposit at least the entire fees of the first semester, along with all security deposits (and sometimes even fees for the second semester).
Also, most of these places would want to see you in person to check your documents, etc., and you have no more than 3-4 days between the offer and the last date to report. There is no way you can get train reservations on such a short notice. So you either go unreserved, or by bus, or if you can afford it, fly. Airlines in India do roaring business in July (which is traditionally the lean period for tourism) because of admission related travel.
Even worse, some universities will want you to deposit your original documents with them, to ensure that you don't take admission in any other university. This is illegal, but still prevalent.
This is the real nightmare for students, and not giving a couple of extra exams in April/May. But unfortunately, not many in the government are concerned about this.
Is there a solution to this. Of course, there is an easy solution. Someone just needs to implement it. Consider an alternative scenario. There is one common admission portal for a large number of engineering colleges. A student registers there, and applies to as many universities/colleges, as he is interested in. There is a single form to be filled in, which has all the questions which any of these universities ask an applicant. So, you don't type your name 20 times, if you are applying to 20 universities. You give your registration number or roll number of various exams that you have given (and any of these universities are interested in knowing). You pay a consolidated application fee, which is sum of application fees of all the universities that you have applied to, in one online transaction (though there are offices across the country, which will accept drafts, if someone prefers that).
Each university will give this portal information on various programs - how many seats in each program, including any reservations, etc. A student can give one's choices for admission in the order of preference. These preferences could be across all universities, or just within a university.
When the results are announced, this portal will have a link to all boards and all exam conducting bodies, and will be able to download all results. So, the student is not responsible for informing each university the result of each exam.
Each university will tell the portal its process for creating the ordered merit list - it could be as simple as just following the AIEEE rank, or it could be in conjunction with some filters (like minimum 60 percent marks in 12th class), or it could be a combination of various factors.
Based on all this information, the portal will create a merit list for each university, put out the information as to which student has got admission in which university/program. If the student had indicated his/her preferences across universities, then s/he is offered admission in only one university/program. But if the student had indicated preferences only within each university, then s/he may be offered multiple admissions, but has to choose only one within a limited amount of time. As one chooses one option over the other, waiting lists are automatically triggered.
The student can pay the fee online again, and upload any documents also on the portal. The physical verification of the document can then be postponed to the time of actually joining by the student.
The portal will also know the refund rules of each university, and in fact, need to ask each student only that much amount immediately, which is the non-refundable part of the fee. The rest of the fee can be paid on the last date, after which the refund rules of the university changes. For example, if a university says that the fee is Rs. 1 lakh, out of which Rs. 90,000 will be refunded, if withdrawal happens by 15th July, and this admission offer has to be accepted by 5th July. The portal could ask the student to deposit only Rs. 10,000 by 5th July, and the remaining Rs. 90,000 by 15th July, to confirm the admission. So the students and parents won't get into cash flow problem.
If a student is offered admission in University 'A' and then later in University 'B', the student may decide to opt for the program in University 'B' while vacating the seat in University 'A' (so that the wait list can move immediately), but without losing the right to be considered for a higher preference at University 'A'. All this is trivial to program on the portal.
The portal can communicate with students using email, SMS, and postal letters, whatever mechanism is convenient to the student. The university will have an interface to generate all sorts of reports and statistics. By ensuring that a student has limited time to accept one of the multiple offers, the portal will ensure that universities are able to have quick movement of waiting lists, which result in early offers of admission to students and higher chances of filling up of seats for the university.
If someone can come up with such a portal, I am sure many universities will like to seek the services of such a portal. This will be a win-win situation for both students and universities, and a very profitable business for the organization running this portal. And if no private sector company is coming forward, perhaps NIC can run this. They already run the counseling site for CCB (which does joint counseling for all NITs and several other universities who base their admission on AIEEE ranks). This site can be upgraded to include features mentioned in this note.
Yes, it is possible to reduce stress from the admission process.