What I have Learned from my Students – Col. MM Nehru

I have been interviewing Defence aspirants since 2010, two years at 17 SSB and then from 2014 onward till date at No Frills Academy. The number of persons that I would have interviewed till date is well over 8000 persons from all over India (200 per month for 2 years at SSB make it: 200×24=4800; 40 per month from 2016 to 2022=40x 96=3840; total=8640). It has been an educative experience, like anything undertaken with sincerity would be. In this essay I am sharing my major learnings for the benefit of my students, Defence aspirants in general as well as their parents.


Most of my students are engineers. Here are some interesting insights about them:

  • Mechanical Engineers. Since 2010 I have met less than 10 Mechanical Engineers who genuinely understood their core subject well enough.
  • Electronics and Communication Engineers. Since 2010 I have not interviewed even one individual who had a thorough understanding of radio waves and their propagation.

General Aspirants

 In general, less than 5% of the persons I interviewed had a good understanding of their core subjects.

Assessed Reasons for State

  • Lack of focus/interest or desire to understand the chosen field of study with commitment.
  • Poor standard of faculty and evidence that incompetent seniors are also somehow managing to land up a job or make a career, create a culture of acceptance of incompetence.
  • Often disinterested persons have been pushed into studying engineering by their parents.
  • Distractions of college life.
  • Realization of the fact that most engineers in India get to work in the field of IT or Computers, irrespective of their chosen branch of engineering creates a mindset that lack of clarity in the core branch is okay.

Getting Job/Retention/Promotion

  • Irrespective of the subjects studied any individual who is reasonably articulate in English can get a job in India.
  • Being computer friendly and having knowledge of programming languages improve chances of getting a job.
  • Employers are concerned about job hopping youth. Anyone who works with sincerity gets retained/gets a salary hike/quick promotion.

Performance of No-Frills Academy Students

  • Major Reasons for Rejection at SSB:
    • Not reading, “The Practical Guide to Become an Officer” thoroughly and applying the teachings is the biggest reason for rejection.
    • Inability to get out of the wrong mindset of focusing on the SSB process and manipulating their way through SSB rather than self-improvement is another big reason for rejection.
    • Not following the roadmap suggested for improvement by me is another major reason for rejection.
    • Lack of commitment and discipline to follow the plan devised for improvement is another reason for rejection.
    • Inability to improve physical fitness is also one of the major causes for rejection. This point is more applicable to girls because some of them do not feel the need to improve this aspect at all.
    • If a student has been disciplined and sincere in effort and has also shown decent progress then the reason for rejection often is that the person takes too much of pressure to get selected and as a result anxiety degrades performance.
  • Future of Sincere Students. Students come to me to clear SSB. However, I guide them to become more effective in their lives. Irrespective of the competence level of the students at the time of enrolment for my guidance program, those who follow the teachings with sincerity not only show good progress but find success in their lives whether through selection in the Defence Forces or anywhere else in life.

Summary of Advice for Defence Aspirants

Getting selected by the SSB is not a very difficult thing. The following aspects are needed:

  • Clarity in whatever subjects that have been studied.
  • Decent English.
  • Decent GK.
  • Decent level of physical fitness.

The following are not needed:

  • Competence at sports/games.
  • Hobbies and competence at them.
By: Col. MM Nehru