Discussion Thread

One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

  • 1.  One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-15-2020 06:47 PM
    Hi all!

    I have the honor of being the keynote speaker for a small virtual outreach event in early January. The audience will be young women in high school who are considering studying engineering in college. Keeping that in mind, what is one thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Mine is that finding a friend/support group early on is important and they don't necessarily even need to be in your major! From my personal experience, having a good group of people where we all supported each other on their paths really enhanced my college experience, especially when I was having difficulties with various classes. 

    Looking forward to reading your responses!


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    Danielle Schroeder EIT, A.M.ASCE (She/her)
    Associate Engineer
    Pennoni Associates
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 2.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-16-2020 04:21 PM
    Dani, 

    That is a great lesson and I totally agree with you. As I look back, I would say to focus on learning the material rather than getting straight A's. Taking exams is stressful and it does not define how much you know as a student. In reality, we as engineers do not need to memorize hundreds of formulas or have a limited amount of time to solve a problem.

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    Luis Duque EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Broomfield CO
    info@...
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  • 3.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-17-2020 09:36 AM

    The most significant thing I wish I knew before starting college is that it would have been 100% OK to start in community college and then transition to a BS degree program. In my circles, community college was looked down upon for no good reason so I never seriously considered it. In hindsight, it would have been an excellent choice for me to gain some maturity before spending so much money at college.



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    Gail Hayes EIT, S.M.ASCE
    Student
    Charlottesville VA
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  • 4.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-17-2020 09:11 AM

    Do not just focusing on getting A+. Networking and socializing more, knowing the right people might be just as important for your future career :)



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    Tung Nguyen, PhD
    Water Resources Engineer
    Sacramento, CA
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  • 5.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-18-2020 09:34 AM

    A lesson I learned during and after college was that everyone got into engineering for different reasons, and everyone was going to go a different direction after graduation as well.

    It took a while for me to escape imposter syndrome, and feel like I was really one of the engineering students. I had a lot of hobbies and interests which (in the beginning) didn't seem to match those of my peers, and non-technical classes had always come to me more naturally than technical ones. My perspective on this changed through my time in school as I met more and more people who didn't fit the "traditional engineer" stereotype. And naturally, by the time we finished school together, everyone had a different idea about where they wanted their path to go next. Some of my friends even decided that they didn't want to directly use their degrees. And all of that is okay!



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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 6.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-21-2020 11:08 AM

    Hey Danielle, 

    Great question! For me, I wish I knew what free services were offered at the campus (e.g. student counseling and health clinic), what career services were offered through the engineering program and what student life looked like through the eyes of a current student. 



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    Rafael Estrada Moncada EI,A.M.ASCE
    Construction Engineer
    Lincoln NE
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  • 7.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-21-2020 01:06 PM

    Read the syllabus and plot a strategy for each course. Some professors reward you for being in class every day. Some do not penalize for late work. I don't do well on exams, but I do really well on homework and lab assignments. It takes pressure off uour exam performance if you do well in everything else.

    And show up! To class, guest speakers, professors' office hours. That is where a lot of real learning happens, and a lot of the fun!



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    Russell Hess S.M.ASCE
    Plainview MN
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  • 8.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-26-2020 09:10 PM

    Dear Danielle 

          I really can't wait to see this event, it's going to be awesome.

       As for me the one thing that I wish I knew before college is that no matter how tough it gets you have to push through and give it your all, in other words how to cope with stress and not let it in you but let it strengthen you! 

    sincerely,

    Mohamed



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    Mohamed Ali S.M.ASCE
    Al-Dakhala
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  • 9.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-29-2020 09:27 AM

    Great question Danielle!

    One thing I wish I knew before college is to utilize your college  academic advisor. They can be a great resource for students who may not know specifically what major they are interested in. Especially in engineering, there can be several majors that seem very similar on paper, but are quite different in practice. An academic advisor can help provide you with some background information, and put you in contact with professors to answer any technical questions you may have. This can help save a lot of time (and stressing) in helping decide what major may be the best fit for you.



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    Doug Cantrell P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Durham NC
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  • 10.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 12-30-2020 09:24 AM

    Oh where to begin!

    • The professors aren't scary, go and talk to them during their office hours if you are having difficulty a concept.
    • Network, network, network. Attend the events, listen to speakers, make connections, ask questions!
    • Internships are a must. Go to the career fair, even as a freshman.
    • Fill out every scholarship you can, I received a $500 one because no one else applied. It happens, and every little bit helps.
    • Don't procrastinate. You may need to relearn how to study.
    • If you can, don't worry about graduating in 4 years. Take at least one class that interests you that doesn't fall within your major (wish I did)
    • If you can, do the study abroad (my number one regret from college)

    ​



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    Andrea Taylor P.E., M.ASCE
    Hurst TX
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  • 11.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 01-04-2021 10:28 AM
    I am pleased to know about it! 😊

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    Farhan Ahmad S.M.ASCE
    Student
    Risalpur
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  • 12.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 01-05-2021 11:12 AM
    Start a study group for each class.  Even if you sit silently at a table in the library, you will complete all the homework.  Other points - leave space in note taking and go over notes after class, add in clarification or action items.  Use office hours to get homework checked (doing 5 homework problems wrong, is worse than not doing the homework). 
    Things I learned from my Division 1 athlete, engineering major daughter - schedule a time, twice a day, to check your phone and social media.   Then turn the phone off.  Plan your day, schedule study time based on class needs and include play time in every day.  Eat dinner with friends every day.  And finally, go to bed early Sunday - Thursday.  Don't study on Saturdays.

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    Susan Everett P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Seattle WA
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  • 13.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 01-05-2021 01:42 PM
    Thinking more career-oriented, I wish I had not undervalued Psychology classes.  I had opportunities to take classes in psychology as electives but always viewed them as silly.  Looking back, that was a huge missed opportunity that could possibly have had a significant impact on my work experience.  I have come to believe that our degree paths should require some form of behavioral or workplace psychology classes.  Of all the difficulties faced over my 25+ year career, dealing with people has been the biggest by far.  Many of our peers can be socially awkward as it is, throwing them all into a workplace and then asking them to interact with the public with no preparation can be problematic.  Dealing with clients and what motivates them, agency officials, politicians, contractors, property owners, the list goes on and on. I wish I had been more able to see the value of learning a little about people and psychology.

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    Shawn Shuler P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Layton UT
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  • 14.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 01-05-2021 03:44 PM
    A couple more things to add:
    • It takes five years to become an engineer, so don't even think of graduating in four years
    • Join an engineering club - build a car, a bridge, a canoe, a robot, just build something.


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    Susan Everett P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Seattle WA
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  • 15.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 01-05-2021 04:40 PM
    Susan, 

    Why do you think a student can't graduate in four years?

    It took me 4 years to graduate as an international student, starting behind in my math classes. I also did my masters in 1.5 years with a thesis track.

    I don't believe everyone needs 5 years to graduate and everyone should aim to graduate in 4 years if that is what they want.

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    Luis Duque EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Bridge Engineer
    Broomfield CO
    info@...
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  • 16.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 01-20-2021 11:27 AM
    Why does it usually take five years to get an engineering degree?

    Most schools are requiring more classes or credit hours for engineering degrees than other degrees. It is not unusual for a quarter school to require 200 credit hours for an engineering degree.  (It was the standard 180 hours when I graduated.) For example, my son's college required 43 classes for a total of 202 credit hours for a mechanical engineering degree.  In an attempt to keep credit hours under 204 hours, they turned 5 credit hour classes to four credit hour courses.  (Most colleges require that a degree requiring more than 204 credit hours be labeled as a five-year degree.)   Additional class requirements are being added to the current requirements, specifically classes on sustainability and diversity.  

    As is appropriate, universities are requiring engineers to be well rounded in the basic engineering practices.  They are requiring basic classes in statics, mechanics, strength of materials, mechanics of materials, hydraulics/fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, systems and electrical circuit theory for all engineering disciplines.  When I graduated, civil engineers were not required to take circuits or thermodynamics.   In addition to the standard calculus, physics and chemistry, many require statistics and a environmental/biology class.  Civil engineering is usually requiring a bio-chemistry course (though most universities substituted this for one of the other required chemistry courses. 

    Trying to schedule all the class requirements is difficult -  a student may not be able to get a class they need during the quarter they need it.  There are students who aren't sure of their major and may take a class that isn't required for their ultimate major.  There are students who want to take an additional class in an area of interest.  Most colleges have a senior project requirement, a task that can take 20 hours per week for 1/2 to one year.  These senior projects are usually worth 1 to 3 credits.  Add that all together, almost all students take 4+ years to get an  engineering degree.  

    Last time I looked, public universities have a four year graduation rate for mechanical engineers of under 10%.  

    I will add one caveat, some private schools go to great lengths to help students graduate in four years.  I know private schools that offer robust summer quarters for engineers and will waive classes if a student can't fit them in their schedule. 

    It is just a good idea to financially plan on it taking five years to finish an engineering degree.

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    Susan Everett P.E., M.ASCE
    Design Manager
    Seattle WA
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  • 17.  RE: One thing you wish you knew before starting college?

    Posted 01-25-2021 03:15 PM
    I think the time needed to graduate also depends on what opportunities students had in high school. I knew many engineering students that came in with anywhere between 10 and 45 credit hours of college credit from AP or concurrent enrollment.
    I'd say around a third of my senior design class was students on their 4th year. I did take five, but I also added a second degree (Spanish) and a minor (math) and I was in the honors program.

    If a student wants to finish in 4 years at the university, it is certainly doable, especially if they are willing/able to earn credit in high school or take summer courses.

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    Heidi Wallace EI,P.E.,M.ASCE
    P.E.
    Tulsa OK
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