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Want to major in some form of engineering

  1. Nov 18, 2009 #1
    I'm a senior in high school now, and I'm currently in the college application process. Until recently, I had always considered myself more of a English/liberal arts guy, primarily because writing has always come easily to me. I assumed that I would go to college, get an English or political science degree, and become a lawyer or something related. But the analysis of literature (or over-analysis, one might argue) bores me to tears. The more and more I sit in my English classes, the more I loathe the aura of pretentiousness that surrounds the discussions. I've always done well in math, and I find the topics extremely interesting, but it's always been the class I have to do the most work in. I've never been one of the kids who aces the AMC or the AIMEE, either. It's definitely an odd relationship.

    A few months ago, I realized that I strongly want to go into some field of engineering. I'm a tinkerer. I'm always working on my guitars and amps, as well as my computer, so it seems natural that I would be attracted to some form of engineering (preferably electrical).

    However, I'm worried that I've had this epiphany too late. I'm taking two English classes right now (one in place of taking Physics C), and I'm hating it. I did take Physics B last year, and I made a 5 on the exam. But I'm worried that the lack of the C class will be a big disadvantage for me. I am also currently in BC Calculus, so that's a plus (I have an A-/B+ in the class). Some engineering programs require the Math SAT II subject test as well, which, of course, I did not take. And because many applications are due so soon, it's too late to take it.

    Is engineering still a viable path for me? Also, what kind of math do you normally take the first year? In general, what are some basic skills first year students are expected to have for all fields of engineering?

    Thanks so much,

    Edit: D'oh! Just noticed the sticked thread at the top. I guess my questions fit into that discussion.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2009 #2
    Most engineering programs I have seen (from friends, colleagues, etc) have a very general first year. The math you typically do in first year engineering is calculus (a natural extension of high school calculus) and linear algebra (matrices, linear transformations, etc). Statistics, differential equations, and multivariable calculus are done after you have achieved these courses.

    Also, it's important to note that most people change their majors, so if you decide you don't like engineering you can always switch to a related field like physics, math, computer science, etc.
  4. Nov 18, 2009 #3
    Most engineering programs are set up to start you with an introduction to calculus and finish you in four years. You aren't expected to have any previous college credit in calc or physics.

    At my school the first year was Chem I and Calc I first semester, Calc 2, Physics I, and optionally the intro engineering course second semester, along with general distribution requirements. Engineering courses don't start until the second year generally. With 5s in BC Calc, Physics B, and Bio, they actually let me skip that entire first year, substituting bio for chem (I took chem in high school but didn't take the AP exam). So don't worry about it. You'll be ahead of the game, not behind.

    Also, if you decide you miss humanities, you can always double major or minor as en engineer, depending on your school. I recommend trying an intro philosophy course asap :smile:. Philosophy is much more analytical, and I found it to actually not be at all pretentious. YMMV.
  5. Nov 18, 2009 #4


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    The good news is that there is absolutely nothing that you can do in high school that will somehow disqualify you from an engineering major in university. You will actually have a tremendous advantage over many of your peers, since you have seen third-semester calc already. I think you are well-prepared for an engineering undergraduate program.

    If you are concerned about the SAT II as a requirement, I suggest calling the admissions office and seeing if there's any leeway at all. Who knows, they might be able to waive it for you.

    - Warren
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