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Beginning an engineering degree

  1. Jun 5, 2009 #1
    Hello, I will be beginning my engineering degree in the autumn of 2009 and am wondering if any of the wise men/woman of this forum could give me some advice on how I should prepare myself. I have the motivation but I am slightly intimidated by what appears to me like a pretty heavy course load. Any advice is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2009 #2
    My advice is keep up with the course. Do any homework/coursework as soon as it is given - saves worrying about it at a later date. Read notes on lab work beforehand. Attend all lectures. Put one hours study in for every hour of lecture.
  4. Jun 5, 2009 #3
    Of course, try to keep up and stay on top of things. "Chip away at it" is a term I use.

    Also, I would emphasize your health. Eat nutrious food and excercise. Try to avoid losing sleep unless it is really necessary.

    And on Friday and Saturday nights, "let off some steam," hang out with friends, enjoy being in college.

    I studied engineering in college through a masters degree for over 7 years. These things helped me do it.
  5. Jun 5, 2009 #4
    I assume that in high school you are similar to how I was: You were able to master all the material either during lecture, or by the time you finished your assigned homework. Little time needed to be spent studying or reinforcing concepts.

    This will no longer be the case. There will be lots of concepts that you will not be able to master so quickly. The evil part of this is that you may have a limited understanding of said concepts, and this can lead you to think you can just "wing it" or that you know more than you actually do. I highly recommend going through derivations yourself. Do much more than the assigned homework. Make sure you do not have any gaps; you need to try as hard as possible to master as much material as possible. This needs to be done as the semester progresses, not before a final. Don't ever look at a problem when studying for an exam and say "I can do that on the exam" unless you have thoroughly done that type of problem recently and have it down good.

    Engineering isn't THAT hard if you are willing to put in the time and effort. It will be conceptually tough, but not impossible. The bigger challenge is whether you simply will put the time in for homework, exams, and projects.
  6. Jun 5, 2009 #5


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    I'll be in the same boat myself later on and I just wanted to thank people for the replies. Cheers.
  7. Jun 6, 2009 #6
    I'm not sure about your university, but I found during my first and second year that there would be two or three weeks every quarter that were utter hell where you didn't know how you were going get through them and get everything done. Those weeks taught me that the best way to get through such a work overload was to stop wondering how I was going to do it and just do it.

    Also, work with your friends in Engineering. Sometimes they will need your help, but other times you will need theirs. Very few people are good at everything and understand it all.
  8. Jun 6, 2009 #7


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    Ill second what edgepflow said; I think staying up to date with all of your units makes things a hell of a lot easier when it comes to exam time. I see so many people at my university who do hardly any work during semester, and when it comes time for exams, they all panic and end up with very average (or fail) scores.

    I like to take it a step further and where possible, stay ahead of the course material by reading before attending the lectures. There are some stages during the semester where the workload is pretty big and it is very difficult to stay ahead, but when possible, it does make things easier. It means you can actually understand most things what the lecturer is saying, and the lectures become a tool for filling in the blanks rather than introducing a whole new topic, which is pretty overwelming if the lecture moves pretty fast.
  9. Jun 7, 2009 #8


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    I agree. I think if any university is a good one there should be these weeks. I have had those multiple times and I simply disregard everything else and create a priority list.

    Somehow I always manage to pull through...at times literally with only minutes to spare...

    Its kind of like the military, you do things you never knew you could do. My motto at those times is nike's slogan "Just do it".


    I also would like to add that there is no "one" way to learn. Never rely on the lecture as your sole tool. You will almost certainly fail as your sophomore/junior classes progress if you do so. Use EVERYTHING you can get your hands on as your aid. Even if its a combination of the solutions manual, the lecture and a friend's advice.

    Never feel ashamed if you can't understand things on your own - or at least that is what I've had to learn. I had to swallow a giant pill called pride and use many of these methods gain an engineer's way of thinking - I don't regret a second of it.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2009
  10. Jun 7, 2009 #9
    A tip that I was told was go for a First even if you'd be happy with a 2:1. That way you hopefully won't end up with a 2:2.
  11. Jun 8, 2009 #10
    http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Columns/Impostor.html" [Broken]

    Don't be intimidated. If you are accepted into the program, I'm sure you will be able to handle the course work.

    http://www.researchchannel.org/prog/displayevent.aspx?fID=569&rID=11240" [Broken]

    Interesting talk on the state of engineering education in the U.S.

    http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Student_handouts.html" [Broken]

    Here are some other things that might be useful (for engineering specific coursework):

    Go to class.

    Things move fast and you will cover a lot of material. Keep up with your coursework. Work ahead if possible.

    Be prepeared to study. When I say study that usually means working problems. If you are assigned the odd-numbered problems, work the even-numbered ones also. Work the example problems. Find other texts and work those problems, too...

    Problem sets take time. If you are struggling with a new concept, you may have to try a dozen different approaches until you get it right. Generally, you can't sit down and bang out a problem set in twenty minutes. It may take you 30 minutes to get through one problem.

    Not all problems will be "plug and chug." You will have to actually apply concepts to solve a problem. This can be a huge adjustment. Don't panic. If you keep at it, you'll figure it out.

    Be aware of your exam schedule. You may have 3 or 4 exams in one week. Start prepping for exams a few weeks ahead of time.

    Study groups are great, just make sure you can do the work on your own.

    Pay attention to the syllabus and how your grades are broken down. You may want to blow something off (triage) because it is only worth 5% or 10% of your total grade. Don't. That "small" percentage can make the difference between an A or a B (or a C or D).

    Go to office hours if you are having trouble. But go prepared. Make sure you have attempted to work the problem(s).

    You may have a garbagety professor. Be prepared to teach yourself.

    good luck...
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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