3 Tips for Surviving Your First Year as an Engineering Undergrad

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Welcome to college!

While many big challenges are still on the horizon, don’t forget how far you’ve come already! Getting into college is not an easy task, so soak it up!

That said, while the excitement of your first days on campus is high (and well deserved,) I am confident that the butterflies are also floating through your stomach, when you think about your coursework. Going into science and engineering can be daunting, academically speaking. So many numbers, the long equations, the complex new rules and long nights of studying…how does anyone make it through?!

First off, don’t panic.

Here are three simple tips to help you survive your first year as an engineering undergrad, and set up some healthy habits for the rest of your time on campus:

1) Eat Right and Get Some Sleep

Before you start to think this is a lecture from your parents, just listen. Going to bed at a reasonable hour and eating right, will prepare your body for rough times to come. Especially as an engineer, there WILL be late-night study sessions; days when you eat only from a vending machine; and there won’t be much warning of when those days are going to come. But when they do, you want to be on the front foot, with your body fully prepared to take on the challenge. When it’s crunch time you want your body and mind ready to roll, not coasting on a few hours of sleep and half a bag of chips.

2) Make Good Friends

Some people have come to college to party first, and study second (if at all). It’s not so much about learning for them. This might work for less rigorous degree programs, but as an engineer you need people who are going to ride out the long evenings in the library alongside you. Making the right friends early on can set the trajectory of the next few years. You can pick up a lot from the people you hang around with (including study habits) so remember to choose wisely.

3) Do Your Homework

Unlike high school, when professors assign homework they will rarely collect it. Even when they do, it likely won’t be worth much of your final grade. It can be easy to blow off this “busy work” in favor of more interesting past times. However, this homework has a purpose – to reinforce concepts and in some cases teach things the professor didn’t get to in their lecture. It might seem unfair to be tested on something not discussed in class, but I can guarantee you; if it’s in your homework it can be on an exam.

So getting shut-eye, finding some solid pals, doing your homework, and not skimping on the vegetables should be a good start, but don’t forget the most important thing. College is a time to explore, have fun, and discover ones self—even engineering students!

Your first year will not always be an easy ride. In fact, it’s often not an easy ride. But by working hard and making good choices, you’re setting yourself up for a diploma and a very bright future. And who knows: Maybe you’ll have some fun along the way.

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