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From One Student To Another: What You Need To Know About ECA Admissions At DU

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By Aditya Jha:

The procedural enrollment into the prestigious Delhi University is a daunting task, one that needs students to be on their feet at all times and be ready for the uphill task of standing in long queues, which is subject to IF you have cleared the ultimate battle of “cut-offs” and are meeting the extremely unrealistic standard of 75+ at the very least to enroll in respectable program of BA.

Students looking to get into the Delhi University in prestigious courses like B. Com Pass or B. Com Honors, Economics Honors, Mathematics or just simply any honors course – a mere 76% even though bracketed as “Distinction”, still won’t get you a seat in the university.

To begin with, there’s very little to no knowledge surrounding the ECA quota in Delhi University. Sure, you may already know that 5% of seats in Delhi University are booked under the ECA and Sports Quota but what exactly is the ‘alien’ process in getting shortlisted under this quota? I plan to answer just that.

It was a matter of coincidence that while applying to Delhi University this year – which mind you, went completely online from this year on –  and so were the ECA and Sports trials. Till a year ago, ECA and Sports trials were held by respective colleges and there was no streamlining in the system, the waive-off limit was not set and selected students even got 20% as waive-off to get their desired course.

What Is ECA?

ECA in essence is a quota for students who are brilliant in extracurricular activities like Dance, Music, Debating, Acting, Photography and similar activities. The complete list is available on Delhi University’s official website, along with names of colleges and the quota that they reserve for a specific activity.

In my case, I applied under the Debating quota (English). The general reservation in an individual college is around 3-4 seats for English debaters, it can be lesser – depending upon applications received.

What Is Centralized ECA?

ECA trials as I mentioned, till last year was held in college premises respectively. If for instance, you applied to Hans Raj and Kirori Mal under Acting category, you had to visit the colleges on dates that they gave for auditions.

There was always the probability of 2 colleges of your prime choice having the auditions/trials on the same date and maybe on the same time, in which case – you could only choose one. This is where centralized procedure according to me streamlined the whole system and made it easier for one to not worry about duplication dates for the same trials in 2 different colleges.

DU ECA Admissions - Article Image 1
Source: Ibtida – The Dramatics Society Of Hindu College/Facebook

Is Centralized ECA System Transparent?

In all honesty, I’ve no idea how the whole system worked college-wise. I’d personally want to think it was transparent even in the past and while we may raise fingers on whether it was as transparent as it was this year or not, we must remember that it has only been a couple of years since ECA became part of DU application – hence, labelling decentralized trials as unfair will be inapt on my part.

I can give the readers an idea about the centralized system that has been formulated this year. Each activity under ECA had 2 rounds 1) preliminary round and 2) final trials. The preliminary round was only qualifying and the final round is where it all counted – that’s all that we were made to know before the trials. The transparency factor is just that none of the participants were made to know 1) of the judges and 2) of the topics on which to speak.

The Preliminary Round Of ECA

I appeared for the preliminary round at SGTB Khalsa college and a token of appreciation ought to go to the college staff which impeccably handled the students on Day 1 (that’s when I appeared, the 5 days were divided alphabetically).

Day 1 at SGTB Khalsa saw the turn-out comparatively lesser than expected. Out of 1300 applicants that applied under ECA Quota, English Debate – Day 1 saw only 90 appear, I’m unaware of the tally in the next 4 days but I don’t think it would have crossed 1000.

The preliminary round was set as this: –  1) 1 minute to speak 2) no extra time will be given 3) choose a topic and whether you’re for or against it. The preparation time was around 5-10 minutes per participant.

The judges were very strict about the timing factor but I must admit that they were very fair.  For the record, the panel consisted of 3 members – 2 men and a woman.

After having spoken, I was told that the final list will release on 14th of July at 11:00 AM, all those shortlisted need to appear for final round.

Let me state at this point, the 14th of July saw some chaos but I can hardly blame the DU administration, the insurmountable task of screening over 9000 applications in gross across 12-14 different ECA activities is not easy and that’s why the delay meant that the final list appeared 12 hours late on 14th of July i.e. 11:00 PM, my name was in the list of 117 shortlisted for the final trials. The very next morning was the day of the final trials.

Final Trials:

The final trials for English debate saw 117 students getting selected from a probable 1300.

The teachers and administration at SGTB Khalsa College was again at the pinnacle of helping the students and ensuring that everything takes place smoothly. The students waited around an hour and a half – which cleared out some tension before the judges started the final process of selection. This time, there were groups of 10 selected, with students going one by one to speak in front of the judges.

The format was as follows:

  • 4 minutes in total devoted to every individual speaker
  • 3 minutes to speak for or against the topic given
  • One interjection from the judges, 1 minute to answer to the interjection

Having waited around 2 hours, I was given my topic. The batch of 10 students had around half an hour to prepare content to speak as the group prior to us was still going in front of judges and speaking – the preparation time was more than enough and teachers were making sure that no student used mobile phones.

The panel coincidentally was same that heard me on the first day of the trials but having spoken to other students from different days of the trials; I came to know that the panel was different for all the 5 days – which is definitely something that ensured transparency in enabling fair trials and no unfair advantage.

I was given my allocated 3 minutes to speak and the judges very kindly and with extreme attention noted the details in my delivery and seemed very keen to hear some interesting points – that’s all that one looks for in a good debater, the interesting points that you can bring to the table!

DU ECA Admissions - Article Images (2)
Source: Verve – The Choreography Society Of SRCC/Facebook

The Final List And An Important Bit Of Information:

The list of shortlisted candidates (90 in total) for English debate was announced on 18th of July and the scores could be seen on the DU portal. Each applicant had to log into their IDs and see their exact marks.

I was given 63 out of a possible 75 in the final trials but there was one integral part of my application that I believe was scored unfairly i.e. the certificate marks. I got only 3 out of 25 in certificate marks – even though I had a state level certificate having stood 2nd in the competition.

For those of you unaware, many of the students that got selected in final trials got “Ineligible” for their certificates and were marked zero. Certificate marks made 25 out of a possible 100 under ECA marks and it’s under this ECA marks that students get selected.

This is how the final marking and eligibility works:

Let’s say that you apply to the BA Program at Shaheed Bhagat Singh College which has a cutoff of 87%. You’ve an 80% in your Standard 12th results. If you clear your final round, you get a +15 on your aggregate. Along with you, someone with a 75% applies for the same program. Ideally, you’d think that you’ll get it as +15 on 80% is more than +15 on 75% but that’s completely wrong.

If the student with 75% marks gets 58 in his trials out of 100 (75 for final trials and 25 for certificate) but you get 56, the student with 75% makes it to Shaheed Bhagat Singh College.

The only thing that the admission department will check is whether the student with 75% is eligible with +15 for the program, this year the BA Program in the SBSC had cutoff at 87% and therefore a student with 80% as well as one with 75% would’ve been eligible and in which case, whoever had higher marks in ECA finals gets the ECA slot.

Hence, my advice to students appearing next year under ECA quota will be:

  • Start preparing yourself with all the current buzz and some important social issues (for students appearing under debate category. Work on your vocabulary, speak slowly and clearly – the judges are there to hear you, that’s all.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the fact that students with great debating backgrounds are appearing from all around India. If you’re from a school that’s not massively popular across India or the state that you belong to, doesn’t matter. What matters is the quality of your performance, be it any ECA activity. Judges don’t see your school; they grasp your ability to perform in a crunch time.
  • A student can upload a maximum of 3 certificates, minimum 1. My mistake was that I uploaded only 1 certificate as rest were either participatory or winner certificates in inter-school competition. If you appear next year, do ensure that you utilize all your 3 certificates (if you have 3) or else one works.
  • To parents: please make sure that you safely preserve the certificates of your children, as they’ll come in handy while applying under ECA quota. Do also ask your children to request for certificates in whichever competition that they appear in, school or out of school – be it participatory or winning certificate. In my case, I appeared in many debate competitions outside of school where I was in the top 3 but I got cash rewards and not certificates, sadly the cash rewards are not something that account for, while applying in ECA quota.

In core, the dream of getting into Delhi University was distant for me – I got 76% in Standard 12th (Commerce Stream) and DU closes its doors on any student with below 80% to even take up BA Discipline course in Commerce. But, the criticality of getting into DU can range from different aspects 1) financial feasibility 2) quality of education 3) weightage of degree in professional world 4) courses and so on and so forth. Thus, even for students who get around 65%, a 15% waive off is massive and at least gives some possibility to get into DU.

DU ECA Admissions - Article Images (3)
Source: Cognitio – The Debating & Quizzing Society, DSC/Facebook

Another way to look at ECA is, for students with over 80% and perhaps 85%, if you clear ECA with good marks, you can get into the most prestigious Delhi University colleges as your marks will become a full 100% (for students with 85% or more)- surely not a mere task.

To conclude, the centralization of ECA according to me is a good move. It enables a sense of transparency as none of the students know the judges beforehand and neither do they know the student’s in-charge at respective colleges, there’s not even a slight chance of any unjustified favors to any particular student – if you deserve an ECA spot on merit, you will get it.

My only area of concern is the allocation of marks on the basis of certificates. Some sort of guidelines ought to come out on why some students were given 0 and why students, like me with state certificates got just 3 marks out of 25 – it’ll help students applying next year to know exact know how’s of the system and upload documents accordingly.

It’s only fitting to thank the Delhi University administration and teachers for coming up with the idea of an ECA quota, which I believe has tremendous potential in the future. Parents and children will not only like the fact that extracurricular are rewarded but I believe ECA helps a student measure the stress of education with a few hours of fun – participating in an activity of choice, it’s a matter of refreshing and recharging one self. If this hobby starts to get rewarded, everyone’s a winner.

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Banner image source: LSR Dramatics Society/Facebook
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