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Doing Well in Engineering - Please Help

  1. Aug 18, 2005 #1
    I'm entering undergraduate engineering in a week or two and I am very nervous.

    What surprises me the most is a large bulk of the population drops out of the subject after a few weeks. However, these students are generally B+ - A+ students. So I'm left to question whether i can do it myself, despite being an A student.

    Please, give me anything: words of encouragement, or maybe even a couple of wake-up calls. I've already been told things like "It's all about work-habits" and "Set your priorities!", but i thirst for something more in depth.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2005 #2


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    I've seen this rather a lot. Lots of academically brilliant students dropping out of an engineering degree course after a couple of months, where some less academically-abled students struggle through and make it.

    All I can really say is that the ones who drop out are the ones who discover than engineering isn't for them. The course content often surprises a lot of people, but I found that the ones who dropped out did it for their own reasons, rather than through failing exams.

    Being slightly more controversial, I found that a lot of the students who were utterly fantastic at the pure, analytical subjects (mechanics, fluids, thermo etc) were utterly useless at the applied side (manufacturing, design etc), and found that they just hadn't got what it took to become a well-rounded engineer.

    Words of encouragement:

    If you're an A student, you can do it, provided you want to do it.
    Keep on top of it all, keep determined, and it'll all be fine!

    Oh, and finally, it's all about work habits. Set your priorities! :smile:
  4. Aug 18, 2005 #3
    I was never a brilliant student. I never really studied a lot so I was usually B student. In US I started getting my first A's, but I think that the first and most important thing about anything including Engineering is preservance. If you can't do a problem try it one more time, and one more time, and keep on trying as many times as it takes to do it. I think that those brilliant students start having some problems, like everyone, in Engineering and since they are not used to it they try to find solution in doing something easier. Engineering is really one of the most challenging, probably the most challenging, major you can take.
  5. Aug 18, 2005 #4


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    are you fluent in the maths/sciences? Verbal ability doesn't matter so much. Average GRE math score is around 720 from what I remember (GRE is essentially the SAT for graduate school with the same point scale for verbal math composite, average verbal score is below 500 though). Even though you may not have scored a 700+ you may still have a chance, you'll just need to compensate with your work ethic. Remember, engineering is big money, it's gonna be rough.

    The best thing to do, in my opinion though, is to try it out for at least a semester, if things go fairly well, continue...if you don't think you have a chance, drop out. Get your feet in the water, don't go too deep, give it your best the first semester. If it doesn't work out, you might want to look into a related major, preferably less challenging, talk with your advisor.
  6. Aug 18, 2005 #5
    I didn't study engineering in undergrad, but, it is a universal truth that even smart kids drop out or do poorly. This isn't a lack of intelligence, but a lack of maturity. As long as you don't get too caught up in "the college experience" and remember that you are there, primarily, to learn, you'll be fine.
  7. Aug 18, 2005 #6
    Thank you for the advice.

    To be honest, my true passion is for Astronomy. But none of the universities in my area provide that program, and i am already enrolled in engineering. However, i think Engineering is fundamental to any scientific study (Astrophysics, Robotics, etc.), which is one of the reasons I decided to choose it as my major. Of course, I've nonetheless always been interested in understanding the way the world works. The 'mechanical symphony' of the world around us inspires me to understand its every detail. Engineering, I believe, does not only explain artificial mechanics (for example, how to build a bridge), but also gives one an understanding of how all terrestrial and extra-terrestrial objects alike interact.

    I find, from previous experience, that people usually present undergraduate studies as some impossible, unachieveable task. It's utterly depressing for a new student to hear comments like, "It's really very difficult. And most people drop out." Even if it is followed by the necessary kindess, "But of course... you can do it." (said with a face of subtle uncertainty). And of course, I'm the fool for trying to avoid the truth that people do drop out. But i guess im looking for something more encouraging. From what I understand, nothing within the reach of man should ever be said to be impossible. It's pathetic apathy. I believe I can do it, because I just have to and that's the only way I can inspire myself.

    Wow, I'm sorry for rambling. Believe me, I still respect and fully accept and appreciate your replies. Thank you.

    Is there a conversion factor for GRE (or SAT) to Percentage? That is, would it be fair to say that a 720 GRE is e.g. 92%?
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 18, 2005
  8. Aug 18, 2005 #7
    Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
  9. Aug 18, 2005 #8
    I believe the GRE is out of 800 points... I may be wrong though.
  10. Aug 18, 2005 #9
    well, in addition to the above advice and comments, i'd like to point out that your school *probably* has a free tutoring service.

    at uf, we tutored lower-level math classes, the calcs, diff eq, phys 1 and 2, chem 1, 2 and organic, a bunch of circuits courses, thermodynamics, and statics.

    that would help most engineering majors get through the first two-plus years of their degree!

    make sure to take advantage of any similar program your school offers, if it does. (and you even BEGIN to feel like you might need help with something.)
  11. Aug 19, 2005 #10


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    A 720 on the math section, I would guess, is somewhere around 93 percentile, if you make this inclusive to engineering majors, in general (not a specific engineering major that is), it's around the 50th percentile, average.
  12. Aug 19, 2005 #11
    Let me givel you some advise, in high school, I had an average of 88% (up here in Canada). I got accepted into the presegeous Mechanical Engineering program at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. If you don't already know, Waterloo is one the best Methematics and Computer science Schools in North America and it boasts one of the best Engineering programs as well (ranked best in Canada for 11 years in a row). This scared me, just like the feelings you are having. The funny thing is I, like you had a passion for particle physics and wanted to go into the field but I didn't feel like going to the States for an Education.

    Well, I entered first term expecting my average to drop 20% from my high school average, and to get 2 hours of sleep a night (universities will tell you stuff like this). To my surprise, it actually went up by 4%. I'm in my second year right now, I just finished. The point here is NOT to listen to common stereotypes about univeristy. It's the stupidest thing to do, I went to bed every night before 11:00pm, worked out every day, ate healthy, enjoyed life. DO NOT be scared, if you enjoy math/physics and the field you are in, you will do well. Life is all what you make of it. It is my goal to dismiss any misconseption to students entering University expecting to be failed out.

    Of course, this is not to say that everybody in my class did as well, people do fail out, all I am telling you is not to listen to the common facts, becuase in real life, everybody is different and nobody is common.


  13. Aug 20, 2005 #12


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    I think the best advice given was that give it at least a semester (if you're at all interested). During the first couple of weeks most people get more or less shell shocked, it's just not making the wrong conclusions in haste. People who got in have what it takes to finish it.
  14. Aug 20, 2005 #13
    From what I've seen and experienced, it's the volume of work that gets people, not the material itself. Any single engineering class could be completed by most people of average intelligence. Even if they have the prereqs, the courses are still challenging, but manageable. However, if you pile on 3 or 4 such courses, toss in a couple general ed courses, and work 20 to 30 hours per week, things get a lot more complicated. Suddenly, it's not a matter of learning and understanding the material. It's about time management, and having the commitment to put in that extra hour or 2, even after 6 hours of class/lab, and 4 hours of homework.

    For me, the trick is to get ahead and stay ahead. I always buy my books ahead of time and try to get at least 3 or 4 chapters into each before the semester starts.
  15. Aug 20, 2005 #14
    An 800 on the Math portion of the GRE general test was only in the 92% percentile in 2004. Its a fairly meaningless test. The only thing it really accomplishes is to weed out a few odd cases, which are probably few and far between nowadays.
  16. Jul 8, 2011 #15
    This tread, especially what dekoi said about man achieving anything really reminds me of Jon Galt and Howard Roark from Ayn Ryands novels. I really think anyone can achieve anything with hard work, motivation, and determination. I am also pursuing engineering at UIUC this Fall and it is ranked 5th in the nation, so I am quite nervous. However, You and I can do well in engineering and even become great engineers.

    I hate this ******** idea of the "college experience" that people want to have in college. Ya, have fun and enjoy the parties and women but don't get caught up in it. As long as you have a passion for something and are pursuing it. You will find out partying and having sex 24/7 is quite dumb. You will also notice how fast time flies when you are pursuing a goal or passion.

    I hope you excel in this field with all the hard work, dedication, and creativity you have my friend.

  17. Jul 8, 2011 #16

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    Since this thread is 6 years old, the OP has probably finished college by now.
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