Students and parents from rural areas take up temporary residence in the city during April-May

Alamu Chidambaram had to make two trips from her home town in Karaikudi to get into a private arts college in Chennai. On both occasions, she had to book a room at Rs. 1,500 a day. Similarly, Kalaiselvan and his wife have been coming to the city from Erode almost every week now. “Now it is the counselling season. Earlier, it was for the entrance tests,” he says.

College aspirants are not restricted to cities but the admission process definitely is. “Every household has to keep aside at least Rs. 30,000 for the application forms and the travel alone. You have to visit colleges at least thrice – to check out facilities, during the admission and also for paying the fees” says Sugantha K. a parent. “My son has applied to SRM and VIT-Chennai,” she says. With around 20 entrance tests conducted in April and May, many families from rural and peripheral areas of Chennai opted for lodgings in the city to avoid frequent trips.

Some enterprising travel agents are even cashing in on this trend. For instance, S. Kumar of Gotrip Travels organises tour packages in and around the location of the admission centre. “Families who come to Vellore for VIT admission might want to visit Tirupati and other scenic places nearby. We make arrangements for these trips. It is vacation time so parents try to club admission and some touring wherever possible,” he says.

The IITs have understood this dilemma and have chosen to go for the online counselling method. Students get to know the ranks and fill up the counselling form listing their priorities. But it is possible because the numbers are manageable.

PG admissions

The expenditure incurred on travel for PG admissions is even greater. “After a student takes CAT or any MBA entrance test, she applies to at least ten colleges to be sure of admission.

The interviews, the group discussions and then, the admissions require him to travel quite often. And since all admissions take place around the same time, a flight journey to every place is inevitable,” says Sanjay Prakash, an engineering graduate who got interview calls from six IIMs and five other institutes. “I travelled to seven cities in a month and have already spent about Rs.50, 000 on flights alone.”

Though student travel may be making a significant contribution to the growth of the travel sector, it is often hard to determine the extent, say experts.

“While it is easy to identify students who choose to go overseas to pursue higher education, it is difficult to do the same within India. For the travel and tourism sector, the period between March and August is the peak season. As it coincides with the summer vacations, it is hard to identify students who travel for admissions, though they contribute to its growth,” says Pazhani Murugesan, managing committee member (national), Travel Agents’ Association of India.

Very few students, other than those who aspire for the IITs or IIMs, or take national-level entrance exams, opt to study outside their home State, he points out.

On those who travel from smaller towns to bigger cities for admission he says, “While those students who travel alone may opt for paying guest accommodations, many come with their families, and they mostly opt to stay in mid-budget serviced apartments and lodges.”

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