Okay, let's try a thought experiment. Assume that you are just finishing high school in a medium-sized town, and you have a pretty good academic record: first rank in school, and top one percent in your school board. Your family runs on a modest income, but it places a great deal of value on education. Your hard-working parents look forward to the good times that will surely roll in when you start your career after college.
Assume now that you have been admitted to one of the IITs (yes, you went through a moderately expensive coaching program by mail). While you have done quite well in academics so far, you are also aware that you will be studying with a bunch of other bright students. Thus, you are apprehensive about your ability to do well in your courses in IIT. In the meantime, you also have an admission offer from a second tier college.
Assume now that you somehow 'know' (say, God told you in your dream!), a priori, that you are not going to do well in IIT; you will pass, but not with flying colours; let's say you will be a 'six-point-someone'. You also 'know' that if you choose to go to the other college, you will do very well (above average marks, first class, etc).
Given this choice between doing well in another college, and being an also ran in an IIT, which one would you choose? Why?
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'IIT' here is being used as a proxy for any top tier institution in any professional field: AIIMS in medicine, NLSUI in law, etc. Clearly, we are talking about institutions in India, where there is a significant (perceived) difference between tier I and tier II institutions.
And, yes, there is a point behind this exercise. I will post my own choice at the end of the experiment, whose 'success' depends on your honest inputs. I thank you in advance for taking the time to comment.