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Is Engineering for me?

  1. Mar 29, 2016 #1
    Hi all. I'm currently a high school senior who has been accepted to Virginia Tech's college of engineering. I originally applied here because I was interested in computer science. Computer science for some reason is under their college of engineering. I also feel like its a good STEM school. This is something I have some interest in.

    Their college of engineering also has several other programs however. Computer engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, etc. I'd like to explore these more my freshman year of college and see if any of them suit me. I feel like Virginia Tech is very strong in engineering (not so strong in other fields) and it would be a waste to not explore these other areas along with computer science.

    I am okay at math. I would not consider myself a genius by any means. I currently take Calculus AB in high school and I'm doing just fine. I do not "love" doing math problems, but I understand that high level math is required in pretty much any STEM job. It is a necessary evil that I will learn to live with.

    I like science and I'm okay at science. I like learning about the body and chemistry. Chemistry is something everyone at my school abhors. I'm not doing as well as I want in my chemistry class (neither is 90% of my class) but I like it. I was actually considering a career in medicine (pre med or pre optometry) along with engineering or computer science.

    One thing I hate is art. I absolutely HATE drawing and I'm horrible at it. I'm also not sure if I like designing things because of my hate for drawing. If you asked me to build a small car for physics I would probably youtube another design and mimic that one. I can't just come up with something out of nothing. I'm not particularly interested in designing, drawing, and building things at the moment which concerns me. I feel like this is what most engineering specialties are about.

    As you can tell, I'm a very lost high school senior at the moment. I've been accepted to a decent engineering school, but I'm not sure if I would make a good engineer. Lots of adults have told me that there's no way I should have everything figured out right now, I'm way too young. My own doctor told me he switched from business to engineering to something else before finally going pre med.

    I would like your insight on this. Would engineering be a good fit for me? How do I found out if it is?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2016 #2
    For most people you don't know what you will or will not like in university until you start and take some classes. Back in the day when I graduated from High School out of everyone I know I'm the only one who didn't change degree paths at least once. At the time I thought the people were crazy or wasting their time. But in retrospec they were the smart ones. So if you start a program and you feel like its not for you don't be afraid to switch.

    A couple other comments. I hated art as well. I can't draw to save my life. But I really enjoyed the CAD course we took in first year. Drawing != designing.
    You make the comment about youtubing a design for a car if you were asked to do it. You'll probably find that when actually tasked with some design project that you'll do that but then use it as a basis and work in your own ideas. The design projects through my engineer schooling were some of the hardest, but yet most fun work I did.
  4. Mar 31, 2016 #3


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    You sound like a good candidate for engineering. 95% of engineering is finding a design that does almost what you want, mimicking it, and then solving whatever problems or issues come up. So to me it sounds like you have an engineer's intuition. Some engineers do math all day but most do not.

    Not everyone loves Engineering, but some do. The only way to know is to try. The first two years are based on math and physics and they give you a good, solid background to go into any field. You'll also have a much better work ethic than most of your peers at that time.

    in your third year, you'll start taking some more advanced engineering classes. If you love the design portion and the need for creativity, you'll know that you made the right choice at that point. If you think it isn't for you that is a good point to start investigating other options.

    I think you're on the right track and ahead of most students your age. Take your time.

    Just for the record, I don't build things in my free time, or work on cars, or many of the other things people think engineers do. Plenty of engineers do plenty of different things and the fact that you're not interested in building a car doesn't mean a thing.
  5. Mar 31, 2016 #4
    First off, thank you for the replies cspcdave and analogdesign. Your responses have cleared some things up for me. I won't realize if engineering is right for me until I start taking classes next fall!

    I'm surprised that you say I sound like a good candidate for engineering. You mentioned "creativity and design" in your response. As a kid, I loved playing with legos. However, I never liked to build outside of the box. I always followed the instructions, unlike some of my other friends who would go on to create their own designs. I feel like I lack creativity and the ability to "think outside the box" sometimes. I'm hoping that I'll develop these skills more along with my math and science skills in college.

    Are there any things a high schooler on his way to college and do to learn more about engineering and build up a resume for after college? For instance, if I were a pre med student, I would be volunteering at hospitals, shadowing doctors, etc. What can a student interested in engineering do over the summer and during college?
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  6. Mar 31, 2016 #5


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    Hi Tommy,

    First off, Virginia Tech is a great school, so you're already on your way. Congratulations.

    Second, the best engineers do their work using known principles and "think outside the box" only when it is absolutely necessary. If a problem has already been solved, use the solution! Otherwise you have risk without reward.

    You probably have problems "thinking outside the box" because you don't really have a good handle on the box yet (so to speak). So, as an undergrad, you learn a lot about the box and when it makes sense to think outside it.

    The best advice I can give you is get an internship. Do whatever you have to do but GET AN INTERNSHIP. There simply isn't any better way to really see the field and build your resume. You're kinda useless with just a HS diploma, but after about sophomore year at Virginia Tech you'll be ready. Once you know your field, find companies and apply! Also don't forget research opportunities at Universities and federal agencies (for example the SULI program in the Dept of Energy never seems to get enough engineering applicants).

    What area of engineering are you interested in? Electrical Engineering is a good place to start if you like computers because it is more general and doesn't pigeon hole you into software too quickly (although you can go that direction later if you want).
  7. Apr 1, 2016 #6
    To add on to what analogdesign said.

    Check to see if a local engineering school has a student day. I went to one when I was in highschool at the university here. They took us around to all the different departments and students in the programs gave little talks and demo's about what each discipline does and the types of classes you'll take.

    But I also wouldn't worry too much about figuring out what exact discipline you'll go into. Where I went to engineering. The first 3 semesters everyone takes the exact same courses. After 1st year you select which program you want to be in.
    When I started my top 2 choices were Civil followed by Mechanical, and maybe Chemical. Long story short I'm an electrical engineer (which was on the bottom of the list when I started).

    Electrical is a good program (fun fact there are only 2 types of engineers, Electricals, and those who weren't smart enough to be electrical lol) Students I went to work doing the following things:
    Software dev in Aerospace
    Software dev in Game Developement
    Power engineer for a utility
    Project Manager in O&G
    Started own App company
    Communications engineer in the Navy
    Taking Masters in Biomedical engineering (working on brain stuffs)
    Taking Masters in solar power generation
    Working for local health region

    Myself I worked in field services in O&G and now am moving into R&D to design our next generation of controllers.

    I guess my point here is to illustrate the wide range of careers you can go into after Electrical (I'd assume it would be similar for other disciplines)

    And 100% do the coop/internship program everyone who had a job lined up by the end of schooling got it as a direct result of their internships, but beyond that its a good way to get a feel for what engineers do so you can either focus on doing something similar or avoid it like the plague! My last coop was doing simple power design work, and I hated it :) Good thing to know when looking for a job :)
  8. Apr 2, 2016 #7
    I never realized how vast engineering was! I also never thought that electrical engineers could go on to work with software. I always thought electrical engineer = more hardware. It definitely has made me much more interested than I was before.

    I have one last question for you guys. How much does your GPA in college matter? I've heard that having a good GPA (3.5+) is crucial for getting interviews for internships and jobs. Companies looking for interns will only want to interview those with a good GPA. After this however, it does not matter much.

    Can you confirm or refute this?
  9. Apr 4, 2016 #8
    Everyone in the coop program got internships. I don't know about other schools but mine there was a min GPA required to be part of the program. I think 3.0 or 2.7 I don't honestly remember.

    Beyond that I've never had a job request transcripts, for either of my degrees. I always felt that if you had a great GPA it was something you could put on a cover letter, but not having it isn't a determent.

    I would suggest if you've never had a job before, get one now or at the very least a summer job. Or take on a volunteer role. You really don't want to be applying for jobs with an empty resume.

    One last piece of free advice. I don't think engineering was overly difficult. I believe that anyone has the capability of getting through it, its just a matter of how much effort you need to put into it. Somethings I found that made it significantly easier to make it through

    Find a good study group. But make sure if you work on assignments together that you each actually do the assignment and not just copy the solutions (happened more often than you would think, and of course they were then surprised when they failed the exams)

    When you get an assignment spend a bit of time on it right away. I found that often the assignments would be on topics yet to be covered in lecture, but would be covered before the assignment was due. By spending 5-10 min on questions that haven't been covered in class a couple things happen. First you're more aware of what details are important in lecture, and which aren't. Secondly if you do a bit of reading on the question when it is covered in lecture you'll have a better base of knowledge and will understand the lecture better. There were many lectures where my friends would walk out confused and I would be able to explain what was covered and fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Lastly you'll avoid getting caught with 15 things due the next day :)

    Solution guides to textbooks are the best thing! We were able to find all the solution manuals online to all of our text books. But here is the key thing. IF assignments are pulled from the text book questions. DO NOT JUST COPY DOWN THE ANSWERS! Do the question, check your answer and then figure out why you were wrong. I learned much more by figuring out where I went wrong when I was doing the assignment. Than a month down the road when the TA finally returns the assignments.
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