Remember this little experiment? It's time to look at the results.
First of all, I thank all the participants for 'voting', and the verdict (from an admittedly small, un-representative and self-selecting voters) is clear: being an also-ran (academically speaking) in an elite institution (one of the IITs in that post) is preferable to doing well in a second rung college.
The 'voters' have also provided some good reasons for choosing the elite institutions: infrastructure, exposure, brand image, networking with alumni, etc. Several commenters opined that prior investment and hard work -- and the exhilaration on getting through JEE -- are good enough to choose the IIT option. The discussion there is absolutely great, so go read it.
Here's my own response to the question, which I had written up at the time of writing that post:
In our country, IITs have a special place, a special status (so do AIIMS, NLSUI, and other such elite institutions). If you get into to one of them, you know you have 'arrived'. So what is so special about the IITs? They give you access to some of the best minds: both faculty and students. You are taught by active researchers. Your class mates and you have a high probability of landing great, challenging jobs. Even if your career is not all that great, you will have personal friends with high-flying careers. This network of high flyers is available to you on tap. Anytime you need it. Also, since getting into an IIT is recognized as a great achievement, you benefit from the social 'bhav' you receive from your extended family, neighbours, friends (and this 'social' benefit lasts a long time, indeed!). Finally, the IIT card opens many doors for you.
My response has much in common with those of the commenters: academic excellence, brand equity, network of peers and seniors, open doors and opportunities, and enhanced self-esteem.
* * *
So, what the hell was the point of that experiment? Well, in a terribly written screed by Prof. P.V. Indiresan, ex-Director of IIT-M, I found this paragraph:
As one correspondent has pointed out, reservation is like declaring a boundary scored in a cricket game as a six if hit by a backward caste player. Such artificial boost appears beneficial. It may not be. As one SC student remarked: "I won a degree in the IIT but lost my self-image." How many students would have done better with their lives if they had been exposed to what they can master, instead of being subjected to a difficult drill for which they were not trained, we do not know.
I am now going to ask you to forget the casteist overtones in the paragraph. Forget also the fact that his article is about reservation (two of the commenters -- barbarindian and cipher -- can breathe easy now, and continue to hold on to their absolutist views against reservation ;-). Stripped of all these considerations, Indiresan's algorithm for choosing an institution is:
Since you are less likely to do well in a top tier institution than in a second tier one, you must choose the latter.
To me, this sounded totally wrong! Loony, even. I was going to write a solid rant on how Indiresan was peddling wrong sort of advice, but decided against it. Instead, I decided on the 'experiment' and the accompanying 'mini-poll' that pits my view against that of the mighty Prof. Indiresan. I am glad that I beat him in a near land-slide!
This is what would be called 'Proof by Majority'. In the best traditions of social un-scientific analysis, I will choose to ignore the non-random, self-selecting nature of the voting population!