I decided to go into Engineering because I like math and science, and, more specifically, Mechanical, because I like roller coasters. Really, it was as simple as that, as you can read in my first ever article for The Prospect. But after almost two years of engineering school and too many all-nighters (I pulled two just last week), I’ve learned that I really enjoy what I study, and so far, all the effort has been worth it.
If you are just starting engineering school, you may feel surprised because it actually is really hard. You hear it in movies and from older friends or family members, but you really don’t realize how exhausting and crazy it can get until you actually do it. I still have So, from someone who’s been there before (and by there I mean walking out of the library at 4:30 am, and sitting on my couch for four days straight studying Circuits, getting up only to eat) here are a couple of tips to help you get through your first years of engineering.
• Develop amazing study habits
Trust me, you’re going to need them. Hopefully, you picked up amazing study habits during your four years of high school, but if you didn’t, now is the time to change them. You might have been able to get A’s in high school with just revising the material the night before and doing the required homework, and that might even get you through your first year of engineering school, but it will only hurt you later on, and it might be too late to change your study habits by then. As you move to upper-level classes, you will realize what methods work best for you, but, for now, read ahead, review the material after each class, and do tons of problems. This brings me to my next point, practice!
Practice, practice, practice
You can know all the theory by heart, but if you don’t know how to apply it to a problem, you’re in trouble. This is the only point in this list that I can assure you is completely necessary in order to get through engineering school. There is really no exact number of problems you should practice for each test, but practice until you feel you can solve a problem in your sleep or at least until you are comfortable solving each type of problem that may come your way. Whether that be 10 problems or 200 is completely your call, but remember, the only way to get through calculus, physics, dynamics, fluid mechanics and every other class you will take is by practicing a ton of problems.
Figure out when you operate best
It might take you a few semesters to figure this one out, but it’s really important that you know at what times of the day you’re the most productive. For example, being done with classes by noon sounds great, but if you’re not a morning person you will regret scheduling early morning classes. Or you may think you need to sleep in, but then find yourself being completely unproductive at 4 pm. This semester, I realized there is just no way I can go to bed before 2 am, so having class at 10 or 11 am instead of 8 am is so much better for me.
You may not be the best in everything
This is a really tough one to hear if you’re used to being the “smart kid” in your high school, but you need to hear it. Even if you made all A’s in high school, there’s going to come a time when you make a less than stellar grade or just feel really dumb in general. Remember, you’re not dumb, and unfortunately, you will feel like this a lot throughout your college career. Sometimes, it may seem like everyone’s got their life together, but I promise you; we’re all faking it, and everyone feels lost from time to time.
Don’t take the “easy route”
It’s easy to shy away from hard professors, but you will probably learn more from a “hard” professor than one who is known to be an easy grader. Many times, a hard professor is just more demanding, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re dealing with a particularly important class or something you will see more of as you go along. Everything you learn builds up, so if you don’t learn the fundamentals in a class you will have trouble when you move up. Most importantly, a hard professor does not have to be a bad teacher; I’ve had professors who graded harshly but were excellent at teaching. You shouldn’t look for super heavy course loads, but you should look for professors who are also great teachers.