Member Voices

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Maxing Out the Mulligan: Getting a Redo on College and Doing It Right

By Maxx Taga posted 02-07-2021 12:01 PM


My first go at college was rough to say the least. I moved to Canada, struggled with school work, switched my major twice … all before dropping out after my first semester. I went to film school, stuck around for a couple of years; and when my work visa ended, I found myself back home, right where I started. I decided to give college another go, except on this redo, I would do everything within my power to get through it as best I could.

Writer’s note: At first, I was thinking about writing a list of general tips, but some things just don’t work for some people. Different strokes for different folks. So this is just a bit of what worked for me and I hope some of it works for you.

Landing on a Major

  • I researched potential jobs and careers to transition into, ultimately landing on structural engineering.
  • I contacted a couple of local engineering firms and was allowed to interview and explore their offices.

ASCE CI Student Days Competition Team and Simpson Strong Tie Scholarship Event Team

Paying for College

  • Out of necessity, I decided to go the local community college / state university route.
  • I moved back home with my parents, which was great – financially.
  • I spent a lot of time applying to scholarships all over the place and was able to walk away with a couple of cool ones, including one from the local chapter of Women in Construction and another from Simpson Strong Tie, which came with a trip to check out their facilities.
  • Before I could land my first internship, I took on jobs like lab monitor or research assistant. Jobs where I could spend most of my time being paid to do my homewor

NASA GRC National Intern Day video



  • I just applied. I applied everywhere. And in return received a mountain of rejection. But in the end, all you need is one to say “yes.”
  • I did multiple internships at different places in different roles. To me, internships were a good low-stakes way of seeing what I liked and did not like in terms of looking ahead career-wise.

Disneyland A&FE Canoe Racing Team & Disneyland OC Canstruction entry

From what I am seeing in these Member Voices columns, it isn’t highly uncommon for people to venture into civil engineering after departing from another career. And I think that is fantastic. Civil engineering has a lot to offer to people of all shapes and forms. If you are reading this and contemplating making a similar move, I hope that my experience helps you out. If not, that’s cool too. Just know that people have been where you are, and that you are not alone.

Maxx Taga is a somewhat recent graduate and recipient of ASCE's 2020 New Faces of Civil Engineering–College recognition. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2019. He has additional experience in VFX, research, board game testing, football analytics, and event security.

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