In India, almost everyone is familiar with NEET-UG and the immense mental toll it takes on aspirants dedicating two or more years to clear the entrance exam for MBBS, one of the most sought-after courses. The stress during the preparatory period affects the students and their families. However, what might be surprising is that the anxiety doesn't end with the exam.
After successfully clearing the exam on 7th May this year, I expected to relax and enjoy myself finally. However, on 10th May 2023, my mind was flooded with doubts - Did I correctly fill the OMR sheet? What if the official answer key differs from my coaching institute's? Will I get into my preferred college? How will this year's cut-off differ?
Adding to the uncertainty were unwanted calls from institutes offering expensive guidance for MBBS counseling. Instead of feeling reassured, these calls filled me with self-doubt about managing the counseling process independently. The complexity of the choice-locking process can lead to significant mistakes, causing some students to lose an entire year. Seeking advice from seniors and friends who had undergone NEET counseling in previous years became my recourse.
Soumi Patra, a first-year MBBS student at Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital, shared her 2022 counseling experience, highlighting the anxiety caused by multiple rounds and increasing cut-offs. "There are several rounds in both All India Quota and State Quota counseling. The anxiety stays due to the rising cut-off, and you may not get your desired college. Parents are also anxious as this is a major life event. Even if you get into a college, worries arise about the distance from home and hostel arrangements. There's also confusion about mop-up rounds. The administrations could provide more clarity in their instructions."
The journey from the NEET exam center to the first day of medical college may seem straightforward, but it requires immense patience. Waiting for the official answer key, scanned OMR sheet, and scorecard, and then waiting for counseling registration to begin creates an ongoing list of uncertainties. Due to fluctuating cut-offs, some students consider MBBS in private medical colleges within India, while others explore studying abroad in countries like Bangladesh, Russia, etc. Some students contemplate pursuing courses like BDS, BAMS, BHMS, or B.Sc. in Nursing, while a few may even decide to take a gap year and attempt the exam again.
Soumi Patra, 1st year MBBS student, Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital
Krish Rajbanshi, a student who appeared in NEET 2023, shares, "Initially, I thought of taking a gap year, but the tension and anxiety of going through the preparation period again were too challenging to deal with. So, I chose a semi-government seat for studying MBBS as a preferable option. The unpredictable variation in cut-offs each year makes the situation confusing."
Financial considerations also significantly influence decision-making. Some parents prefer sending their children to medical colleges abroad due to better affordability in countries like Germany, Russia, Bangladesh, and Nepal, where fees are lower compared to Indian institutions. However, concerns about student safety arose after the conflict in Ukraine, where many Indian students studying MBBS faced a precarious situation, leading to a terrible ordeal for their families.
To address the confusion surrounding counseling in West Bengal, Dr. Aniket Mahata and Dr. Soumyadip Roy, MBBS graduates from IPGME&R, West Bengal, and North Bengal Medical College, respectively, have set up a free help desk. They offer guidance and information to students, providing much-needed assistance.
While MBBS remains a highly sought-after course with increasing cut-offs each year, some students and parents choose it without a genuine interest in medicine or healthcare, falling victim to profit-driven coaching institutes. Ultimately, the key to success lies in students' true passion for the course - those driven by genuine dedication can achieve their dreams.