Engineering graduate navigating life after university.

Feelings of a First Year Engineering Student

You’ve made it through high school and have been accepted in an engineering program, so congratulations on getting this far! You deserve feeling smart and telling people, “im going to be studying engineering the next x years.” Or telling all your friends that you’ll be the ceo at a grand corporation in the future and make dolla dolla bills.

I can imagine how excited you must be especially for frosh, meeting likeminded individuals and learning what you are most comfortable about: mathematics in all ways possible. I know the newbie feeling and it is the best refreshing feeling you can have throughout your entire time at engineering school. So now that summer is wrapping up, and frosh is around the corner, what can you expect in your first year of studies? These are some of the thoughts and feelings I had when I was about to enter in my first year:

1. How will I make friends

I went to a relatively small high school of about 800 students. Out of my graduating class there were only three that went into engineering and all 3 of us went to different universities. So I was really nervous about making friends and navigating my way around an enormous campus – especially since I had classes across the downtown core. But let me tell you, making friends should be the least of your worries. In engineering you will make friends really fast. Everyone in the field is in the same boat as you and looking to mingle so don’t be afraid to strike a random conversation in class or labs. You will make friends and if you go to frosh, you can get a head start!

2. Should I go to frosh?

Frosh varies in each school and is usually a week full of activities before classes start to help incoming students meet their peers and familiarize themselves with the campus. It is a great way to network and make friends! Frosh is a great time to party and get comfortable with your classmates. And if you don’t drink – don’t fret you’ll still be able to enjoy. If you have the chance, I definitely recommend you going to frosh – it is a week you will never forget.

3. Holy Shit so many classes!

Entering first year you’ll notice that your classes and labs/tutorials average to more than 25 hours a week. That’s the full course load and before you freak out and drop one or two courses, take a breather and tell yourself you can do this. Do NOT take a half course load unless you have a lot of money on hand, are willing to spend an extra year or two in school to catch up or have another circumstance that is an obstacle to you managing a full course load. Before you decide to drop a course or two check out my article of how to manage a full course load (I’ll link this as soon as I put it up.)

4. Should I buy books/iclicker/drafting sets?

This is one of the biggest dilemmas I had when I was in school. The decision to buy or not buy brand new books. First years are the most likely to buy brand new anything. I don’t blame the mentality because who doesn’t like brand new textbooks with that fresh page smell and colorful hardcover? And the thinking of, “if I have the textbook and study from it, I’ll get better grades.” That is one of the biggest myths in all of your 4 years of university. (Other myths in engineering school).

Reality however is that these books are EXPENSIVE. My textbooks retailed for $200 starting. The worst part of reality, however, is that after one semester or 4 months, you will never open this 500 page textbook ever again, not even for your capstone (thesis project). So the best way to go around this? Check out my article: alternatives to buying a brand new textbook in first year.

There are some situations which will force you to buy a brand new textbook. In my first year, my classes had online quizzes (which by the way were worth like 5%) and practice problems online. To do those quizzes and have access to the solutions for problem sets, we had to buy a brand new textbook that came with a unique code. Imagine 6 classes requiring new textbooks just for these codes ($1200 spent on textbooks per semester!) Rip off, right? Yup it makes me mad when I think of how much money I wasted on textbooks that I used for just 3-4 months.

So how can you avoid this situation? Ask yourself, is that 5% really worth it? Can I live with an older version of the textbook and ask my friend to send me pdfs of those questions at maybe $10 per chapter? 5% in the grand scheme of things is nothing. Do well on your midterm that is worth like 35% and forget about buying those ruinously priced textbooks for just a 5%. If you have money, go ahead. If you would rather spend that $200 somewhere else, buy a second hand book and ask someone to send you the solutions to the problem sets.

First years: be careful and be smart. Don’t buy anything from the campus store unless if absolutely needed in brand new form and shape.

5. Should I skip this class

Whatever you do, don’t skip classes! Sure attendance isn’t mandatory but not being present is a mistake because you are paying for a seat that isn’t even occupied during lecture timings. I get it, sleep is good for the soul and we all have lazy days but missing a lecture puts you behind in so many ways. First, you’ll miss any details the prof has said (maybe even hints for midterms/exams), you’ll have to catch up on the content on your own time and you will regret not going to class when you are writing the midterm or exam for the course.

Plus to develop a good relationship with the prof, he/she should be familiar with your face in the class. And trust me, having a good relationship with the prof goes a long way! When you need reference letters they will know you and speak about you in a positive tone. Even if you are close to a B+ or an A and are missing maybe a 0.5 sometimes they’ll round in your favor! So decide wisely when thinking to skip class. Here are 5 ways to prevent you from skipping class.

6. I don’t have a social life anymore

A lot of people assume engineering takes a toll on your life. You will become busy, you will have to study smartly in order to do well in school and you will prefer sleep in your free time. With all of that in mind don’t think that your social life will disappear. It won’t! you have the choice on how to manage your time. Having a balance is healthy for the body and helps students perform better than those who cut off the social aspects of their lifestyle and focus only on school.

Solely focusing on school is not healthy and results in a quick burn out. Sure, your social life will not be the same as before – but you knew that when you decided engineering is the path for you. It is 100% possible for you to maintain a healthy social life while still doing well in school. But school should always come first, especially if you are studying something like engineering.



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