EVERYONE is struggling, not just you
My first year in engineering school was an absolute struggle.
The pace of the classes was significantly faster than I experienced in high school as was the level of the work. Sure, I knew that I was attending a top ranked engineering school, but nothing really prepared me for this.
And my grades reflected this struggle. I was passing my classes, but barely and that was after putting in hour upon hour of studying.
What helped me overcome this challenge and start improving my grades (so much so that I even stuck around for grad school)? A big part of it was the realization that others were struggling as well and that this is not something I should hide or be ashamed of.
Instead, we banded together in study groups and admitted what we didn’t know and helped each other along.
There are definitely a few “super stars” in every class that really do breeze through some of those notoriously hard engineering classes. However, those guys are the EXCEPTION and most engineering students are struggling to one degree or another JUST LIKE YOU.
Hate a subject? It’s ok, you can often avoid it professionally
There are so many younger engineers that come to me and tell me that they are thinking of dropping out of engineering. When I ask why, a common complaint is regarding specific subjects that they simply can’t see themselves doing for the next 40-50 years of their career.
If that is why you want to drop engineering, then I have some good news for you!
Let’s travel back in time to my first year in engineering school . . . I hated my two required semesters of freshman chemistry. Honestly, it was a combination are just not liking the subject and then having a professor that seemed to think it was beneath him to teach freshman chemistry.
Tack onto this the required three semesters of calculus that I hated as well. The professors were actually decent for these courses, but I simply did not enjoy higher math of this type.
As I sit here closing in on 20 years out in the engineering world, I honestly can’t remember the last time I touched either of these topics outside of my FE/EIT and Professional Engineering licensing exams.
Quite simply, if you really don’t like a subject or two, it is pretty to avoid them once you graduate. So just push through those classes & subjects you hate and view them as a right of passage for all engineers to suffer through.
That said, do I advocate dropping these required base classes for all engineers? Would I be happy if engineers had more focus in their disciplines? Absolutely not. The simple fact is that these are foundational courses for many engineers and you really don’t know in those early years where you are going to end up. Therefore, it is best to have a broad scope of courses within the engineering world to expose you to the different options.
In fact, I’m willing to bet that there were other engineers in my class who had the opposite feelings and came to love those fields because of these same courses that I hated.
Btw, if you are deep into the courses for your major and are still having these feelings, then you might want to consider changing majors, since avoiding all of the topics will be tougher (if not impossible) if you plan to remain in the engineering world.
Take advantage of your professor’s office hours
Many engineering students avoid taking advantage of a professor’s office hours. I know that I did initially as this was not something I was used to in high school and nobody really told me how beneficial they could be.
Yet, even when students see the value, they often avoid popping into the professor’s office hours for two reason . . .
First, they are a bit embarrassed to need the extra help. Part of the reason some students are embarrassed has to do with the first topic of this article and the idea that everyone else is breezing through without this extra assistance. Well, that simply isn’t true and you should not be embarrassed to ask for help. However, there is one caveat and that is that you need to show the professor that you are trying and not simply coming to them to re-teach everything from class. If you come to the professor and really show them that you tried to solve the problems and understand the material, then they will be happy to help you connect those missing points.
Second, they feel like they are bothering the professor during their down time away from class. I can understand if you feel this way about popping in at random hours, However, most professors will have office/drop-in hours and that is when you should be stopping by for assistance. If you are unable to make those times, simply reach out to the professor, explain the scheduling conflict, and see what other arrangements can be made. In the end, this is PART OF THEIR JOB, so don’t feel bad or that is it is a bother to have them work with you outside of class time. They get paid to teach you the material so don’t feel bad making them earn their money.
Keep in mind, if you do poorly in a class, the professor may feel for you, but will not face any real consequences. In contrast, if you fail the class and need to re-take it or simply miss the material, this can have affects down the road.
So it is really up to you to take advantage of every opportunity to ensure that you succeed and taking advantage of the professor’s office hours is crucial.
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