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Concerns about applying for engineering

  1. Jul 26, 2015 #1
    Hey guys :smile:
    Next year I'll be applying to university in the UK (I'm currently in France), and I'm worried about a few things. I'm hoping you guys can give me some advice.
    So here's a bit of info about me :wink:. Last year, I started to develop an interest in science, specifically in physics. I was in the first year of a design baccalaureate, and I decided to switch to a science bac. Since I wasn't keen on biology and geology, I went for the engineering stream, which involves some basic electrical and mechanical engineering classes and usually a couple of hours of labs a week.
    And now, here I am, considering an engineering/computer science degree, but having a few doubts.

    I'm going to do a general engineering program, so right now I don't have to worry about which field to choose. I'm hoping to get into Sheffield's new general engineering course, which is pretty much the perfect course for me, as you can specialise in electrical, mechanical, aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil engineering or material science and even computer science/software engineering. It even offers a placement year :woot:

    But enough rambling. Here's what I'm worried about :

    * I've read many posts on this forum from people who love to tinker and build stuff, but are concerned about their mathematical ability. Well, I'm just the opposite. Math comes naturally to me, but I've never taken anything apart, never built anything mechanical or electrical or done anything of the sort.
    I wish I knew how to build stuff, but I don't even know where to start. Even though I'm taking engineering classes, I know practically nothing. I also have limited resources and money, and we don't have any old appliances lying around for me to butcher :frown:. I'm hoping you guys could point me towards some places (preferably free websites) where I could start learning the basics and hopefully one day I will be able to take things apart and understand what the hell is going on in there. :smile:
    I'm worried universities might doubt my motivation because of a lack of relevant hobbies and activities. I'm just not sure how I could show that I'm motivated.
    Would talking about what I like in my engineering classes be enough ? I also program, should I mention that (especially if I apply to Sheffield) ? Would doing some extra reading help if I can't get my hands on anything electrical/mechanical I could break ?

    * This is related to the above mentioned lack of engineering related hobbies. Sometimes I feel I should just go for pure science instead, because I don't have an intuitive understanding of machines, unlike most of my classmates. I fear I may not make a good engineer for these same reasons. Then on other days I feel stupid for worrying so much, being good at maths and having a can do attitude is all you need, right ? o0)
    I'm a confused human being. :confused:
    Should I worry about this? Or is mathematical and scientific aptitude more important ?
    Can I improve on the practical side of engineering during university ?

    * Last one. I really like physics, and want to get a decent understanding of the subject from my university education. Would I get that from a degree in engineering ? Do they explain the physics you use ?

    Sorry this is so long :sorry:, and if some of this has already been answered elswhere, and thanks in advance for any replies :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2015 #2


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    One thought is to look for some kind of engineering club or a team to join. There are all sorts of undergraduate engineering competitions out there (or at least there were when I was as student)... robotics teams, vehicle design and races, programming competitions, etc. When I was a student all you really had to do to get involved in these things was to show up.

    It's natural to worry about these things. A lot rides on the decisions that you make at this point in your life, but at the same time it's important to remember that no one can make a perfect decision. There will always be advantages and disadvantages and really the best one can hope for is an outcome on the Pareto front (a situation where the really important factors are maximized or minimized and the less important ones are in a trade-off scenario).

    Any decent university is going to explain the physics behind the engineering. There is this idea out there that engineers are only taught application with no insight into the underlying theory, but this is wrong in my experience. Engineering classes overall will focus more on applied concepts, but no one wants an engineer who doesn't understand the basic principles from which the applied concepts are derived.
  4. Jul 26, 2015 #3
    Thanks for the reply :smile:
    I definitely plan on joining some kind of engineering club or team. It seems like a good way to develop some extra skills and get involved in an interesting project.

    I guess it is natural, especially since it's quite an expensive decision with the ridiculous tuitions fees they charge in England ^^. If I'm going to have to take out multiple student loans and end up in a fair amount of debt I want the decision to be the right one. And I get good marks in our practical assignments so it's not like I really struggle with wiring and understanding how things work, it's just not as intuitive to me as it is to some of my classmates.

    That reassures me, as much as I like the engineering classes I'm taking now, we don't do much math or science, it's mostly telling us a bit about this component, what it does, and what it's used for.
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