We’re all reminded of the same awe and bewilderment with which we navigated our first few weeks of insti life. And naturally, one of the biggest conundrums we faced back then was choosing among NSO, NSS, NCC or more recently, NCA. This article hopes to throw some light on the specifics of each to aid in the decision-making process; Sankalpa writes. 


NCC (National Cadet Corps)

This is the most underrated of the available options owing to the various myths that cast it in a strict, cruel and monotonous light. No surprise there, since NCC is known for its parade drills. But the battalion in insti happens to be an air force tech squadron, which means that there is less focus on drills and more focus on the other technical and practical aspects of flying. In fact, drill practices are held only for stretches of about a week right before the independence and republic day celebrations. In the rest of the meetings that are held every week, the cadets are given fitness training and might indulge in a spectrum of activities from learning to fly drones to even watching movies about flying. These sessions usually last a couple of hours starting at 6AM.

Occasionally, the cadets also visit the Air Force base in Tambaram. Here, the cadets learn to fire rifles (the real kind, not dummy ones), get to use flight simulators, are shown various aircraft parts, and- wait for it- are taught to co-pilot real life aeroplanes.

The annual camp is nothing like the thrown-in-the-wilderness-without-reception kind of experience that other NCC cadets tend to dread. The students live in their hostels and attend daily training sessions for a span of about 10 days. Here, apart from firing and flying, the cadets are trained in pitching tents.

Up until last year, NCC was compulsory only for a year. At the end of the year, students were awarded an A certificate. After that, it was up to them to decide if they wanted to continue and work for the B and C certificates respectively, which were awarded at the end of two consecutive years. However, from this year onwards, NCC has been made compulsory for at least 2 years; students shall earn their B certificate at the end of this tenure. NCC B and C certificates hold substantial value in terms of reservation in institutes of higher education, both private and public sector jobs and for entry into the Defence Services.

The selection for NCC is scheduled to be held on the 26th of August. The criterion for selection will depend on the number of people who turn up, but it will most likely depend on simple tests for discipline, stamina and so on.


NSS (National Service Scheme)

NSS is an excellent opportunity for students to step out of the comfort of their everyday lives and engage in social service. NSS, with its wide range of projects targeting different sections of the population, has made significant contributions to society over the years. Its projects can be broadly classified into teaching, awareness, and content generation projects.

As a part of their teaching projects, NSS volunteers teach underprivileged students in various localities around insti. One of the projects is doing commendable work in teaching children from the Cancer Institute who’ve been affected by cancer. Drishti is another project worth mentioning for its strides in teaching visually challenged children.

Apart from this there are a number of awareness projects that seek to throw light on and motivate action for issues like solid waste management. This assumes significance in an environmentally conscious campus like IIT Madras. Another project that extends beyond the college campus seeks to bust myths surrounding blood and organ donation.

Then there are the content generation projects like Shravyam that develop and donate audiobooks spanning a variety of genres from fiction to textbooks. A number of these audiobooks have been donated to the Anna Centenary Library. Another project works on developing teaching kits for science which are, in turn, used in the teaching projects.

This is of course not the complete list. There’s a truckload of other projects for students to choose from. A total of about 240 students will be selected for NSS based on a simple written test that primarily checks the student’s enthusiasm to volunteer for NSS. Though the first round of selection is done, there is still scope for application in the second round. Students should stay tuned to their smail for updates. For passing, students are required to fulfil a requirement of 85 credits. 30 of these need to be earned by attending events like workshops, lectures, walks, etc. 45 for the chosen project and 10 credits are left to the student’s choice. This adds up to a few hours every week. But the workload distribution varies greatly depending on the project.


National Sports Organization (NSO)

NSO is the most popular option among students. No surprise there. Don’t we all love a good game? NSO offers the option of choosing from a variety of sports spanning cricket, athletics, frisbee, yoga and weightlifting, to name a few. The entire list can be found in smail regarding the same.

While selections for a number of sports have already been completed, some sports are yet to hold their try-outs. The criterion for selection varies depending on the sport, the instructors, and the number of people who turn up for the try-outs. In most cases, not much expertise in the sport is required to get selected. For instance: in Tennis, selection is based on stamina. In basketball, on the other hand, it depends on the student’s aptitude for dribbling and doing a lay-up. Some sports are tougher to get selected into as compared to others. Racquet sports, for instance, see tough competition owing to restrictions due to infrastructure.

Practice sessions will most likely start after Quiz 1. Practices are held for about 2 hrs two times a week in the odd semester and thrice a week in the even semester. The criterion for passing is a minimum of 85% attendance. Note that the player’s performance has absolutely no say in this. 

Professional coaches train the students in every sport, starting from scratch. The level of skill players develop at the end of one year depends greatly on their initiative and enthusiasm to learn. Some of the students go on to get selected into the insti team. This is a prestigious opportunity to represent the college in the Inter IIT sports meet that happens at the end of the odd semester.


National Cultural Academy (NCA)

This is the newest addition to the list and a great opportunity for students to hone their skills in an activity of their choice, or to learn an entirely new skill.

NCA provides the option of choosing between arts, dance, guitar, keyboard and theatre. Students are selected not only based on their skill, but also on their enthusiasm and inclination to learn; this is to ensure that students with no prior experience have a fair chance. The selections will most likely be conducted after Quiz 1. The criteria for selection depends on the number of people who are interested. Classes shall be held roughly 2 times a week; and with a credit system similar to NSS, students will be given credits for the classes they attend. Most of these workshops shall be conducted by professionals from around the city. The more experienced student will also have the option of claiming credits for participating in contests and uploading videos of their performance so that they may not attend classes on skillsets they are already familiar with.

With respect to arts, a number of workshops will be conducted on varying styles: glass painting, charcoal pencil sketching, coffee painting, acrylic on T-shirt and clay modelling, to name a few. Students needn’t worry about materials, as these will be provided.

Dance shall include styles like classical, contemporary, jazz ballet, bhangra, and so on. One month or 4 classes will be dedicated to each style. The first 3 classes will focus on style and technique while a choreographed routine will be taught in the fourth class. Students will also be taught skills like improvisation.

The musically inclined have 2 musical instruments to pick from, guitar and keyboard; and instruments will be provided for use. The aim is to train students to Grade 1 or 2 by the end of one year, so that interested students may pick up from there later on.

The students who take up theatre will be trained in improv, script analysis and other related aspects. At the end of the year, the students will put up a play so as to get a feel of what ultimately goes into it.


Finally, we’d like to address one pressing concern that most freshies have: there is no need to worry about being left without being selected for anything. There are exactly as many vacancies as there are freshmen. So in the end, all those students who’ve been selected in more than one of NSO, NCC, etc. will have to choose exactly one and drop the rest. The vacancies will be filled by those students who haven’t got selected in anything yet.

At the end of the day, no matter what you take, just remember to enjoy what you learn!


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