JEE Advanced 2021 topper Mridul Agarwal: I want to explore why Indian universities are not in the top 20 globally

In 2020, about 1.5 million students took the JEE. All were competing for those limited 13,000 seats in 23 IITs across the country. Mridul can now get into any IIT of his choice
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

Every single phone in Mridul Agarwal's house is running low on charge. Why? Because they have been ringing non-stop ever since the JEE (Advanced) results were declared. Understandably, the family has been hearing the word 'congratulations' for three days now and with every caller Mridul is reminded of all the years that went into preparing for this very moment — after all, the 18-year-old topped the JEE Advanced this year. 

Mridul enrolled himself into Allen Career institute when he was in Class 9 — Allen is a coaching institute that prepares students from an early age for competitive exams like JEE and NEET. While the fee for the year-long course is in lakhs, Mridul's father Pradeep Agarwal said that he was in it with a full scholarship.

He also says that he is happy that he is now a positive influence for his younger sibling who is Class 7. "I didn't have much idea about competitive exams but now he will have a clear path laid out if he ever wishes to pursue engineering," he says.

We caught up with Mridul Agarwal and asked him about what he was going through, how he got there and much, much more.

How many years did it take for you to prepare for it?
I feel very happy and proud of myself that I've topped JEE (Advanced). I have been preparing vigorously for it since Class 11 but I also prepared for other competitive exams like NTSE and Junior Science in Class 9 and Class 10 which gave me a boost.

How many coaching institutes did Mridul study at? Why are so many institutions claiming that he is their student?
While I only studied at Allen, I wanted to gauge the competition for the JEE exam and attempted test series of various institutions. I took the test series of three or four institutions. I am not supposed to take any names (of test series institutions). Wherever you see my name, you can ask them.

Why not reveal the names of these test series institutions which are using your picture?
If I give you the names, it will become a controversial matter. Many don't understand that institutes market themselves such that it is not clear to children. I don't want to take (their) names.

How does it feel to find out that your face is on an advertisement in major newspapers?
My friends and family are appreciative, that part feels very great. I never expected to even be in the top 50. So it does feel really good.
Was engineering always the dream?
It is not like I planned my life in Class 9 or Class 10. But while choosing a stream in Class 11, I made a clear plan on what I wanted to do with it. There was no pressure from home as such, I was just self-motivated. My parents didn't interfere in how or when I studied. 

Was there a study plan?
I did not specifically divide my study hours but I had come up with goals for the day and things to do so when I completed those tasks I would spend some quality time with my friends and my family.

What after engineering?
I haven't decided as of now but I want to apply for universities abroad for higher studies after engineering. I want to explore why Indian universities don't stand amongst the top 20 universities in the world.

What are you looking forward to now?
I haven't been outside much in the last two years. The pandemic is one reason of course and then there were the JEE preparations. I plan to join IIT Bombay for Computer Science and it is exciting, the idea of meeting a lot of new people, I mean. It will be a big change in lifestyle.

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