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Online counseling in engineering admission was supposed to smoothen the admission process. But it is quite likely that students will be in for a surprise when the process gets over and they find that those below them on the merit list bagged better courses and colleges. In online counseling, candidates can apply from home or go to TNEA facilitation centres (TFC) and apply.

Students need not come to Chennai for counselling, as in the past. They can make their choices online from home or at the TFCs. The process starts with payment of an initial deposit which can be done through an online payment gateway or through demand draft. DD payment should be made only through one of the TFCs. After verifying the  previous year’s ranking and allotment in various colleges which are available on the TNEA web portal,  students should prepare a list of choices in the order of preference, based on rank and community

For direct counselling, which was conducted until last year, students had to come to Chennai only once and they could finish the process in a few hours, but now they have to go to the district facilitation centres three times. A student may decide to submit the online application form and the choice list from home, but they would still need to go to the facilitation centres for certificate verification.

 There are four phases in online counselling:
* Entering and locking of choices (3 days)
* Submission of allotment pptions after tentative allotment (2 days)
* Confirmation of tentative allotment
* Downloading and printing of final allotment

Students are grouped as per the rank list and given dates to fill in their choices. After the colleges and courses have been chosen and locked, no changes can be made. Students can choose as many colleges and courses as they want and rank their choices as per their order of preference. Then as per the rank list and community reservation, tentative seat allotment will be done.

 There could be three possibilities:
* The student’s first choice is allotted
* Some other lower choice is allotted as per the student’s rank and community
* Or no seat may be allotted

If students have been allotted their first choice, they can accept and confirm the allotment. But if they feel they had made a wrong choice, they can opt for the next round of counselling. It is not confirmed that their choices will be allotted in the second round. Students can quit conselling at this stage if they don’t want engineering admissions.

If the first choice was not allotted and if they were provisionally allotted their second or succeeding choices, they can either confirm what was allotted or accept the seat but ask for a higher order of preference, or not accept the seat but ask for a higher order of preference and come for next  round  counselling.

If the student has not been allotted any seat of their choice, they can ask to see if they can get a seat of their preference, come for the next round of counselling to choose from vacant seats, or leave counselling altogether.

It is quite possible that students from rural areas and small towns who are not so aware may not be able to get the best results for their particular rank and community position.

Students have been told that they should select courses and colleges for which they have a reasonable chance of getting allotment based on previous year’s cut-off marks. If there is  a wide gap, then there is every chance that they will not get what they want. An appropriate set of choices in courses and colleges arranged as per their order of preference is the key to getting admission to their desired courses in desired colleges. This is where the catch lies. It is quite possible that students from rural areas and small towns who are not so aware may not be able to get the best results for their particular rank and community position.

So far, candidates were able to choose from colleges and courses that were available when they were called for direct counselling as per the rank list. Now they indicate their choices and order of preference online and the computer comes up with seat allotment. If a student prefers to enter the next phase of online counselling, he or she can choose from only the leftover seats.

Online counselling has not been applied to a variety of categories including ex-servicemen, disabled, vocational stream, B.Arch stream and so on.  Those who can’t get  a seat under the  ex-servicemen category through direct counselling have to undergo online counselling for allotment of seats as per merit and community reservation.

The earlier direct, single-window admission system was working fine for nearly two decades and there was no complaint. Other states have been following the Tamil Nadu model too. More than a decade ago, single-window counselling was conducted simultaneously in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Trichy through a communication network but it was stopped as it was found to be not better. For medical and veterinary science admissions, direct counselling is continuing without any changes. It is still a mystery why online counselling has been adopted for engineering admissions.

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