8 Steps to Become an Effective Engineering Student
An engineering degree is one of the most challenging degrees to pursue. At times it can be overwhelming and seem almost impossible, but it can also be very rewarding if you prepare well and learn how to succeed. These tips and tricks will help you manage your workload and become a successful student.
1. Go to class. Yes, every class. Falling behind in engineering school is almost impossible to recover from, so don’t miss class unless you absolutely have to.
Try to never miss a class unless there is a mandatory event you have to go to or you are very sick.
Make it a top priority to personalize your class schedule to fit your availability. If you are not a morning person, try not to schedule a lecture at 8 am! This is a key first step to success in engineering or any other major.
2. Be attentive in class. Put away your phone, and don't mess around on your laptop if you use it to take notes. Paying attention to the flow of a lecture allows you to have a firm and smooth understanding of all the course material
In fast-paced classes like calculus and chemistry, losing focus for even a minute can leave you completely lost. Make it a priority to focus on the entire class period, then let yourself unwind when the class concludes.
Lecture classes are the easiest to get distracted from, especially those that last a long time, and especially when you're tired. If you can, try to arrive at class well-rested and free from other distractions.
3. Take good notes. It might seem like you'll remember everything later, but after a few lectures, it can all become a blur. Good notes can be the key to refreshing your memory, working through problem sets, and studying for exams.
Don't waste time copying down everything the professor writes if it's already in your textbook. It's easy to become so focused on writing equations that you stop following the content of the lecture! Focus on capturing the professor's insights and examples that you can't find anywhere else.
Consider whether to take notes on a laptop or in a notebook, depending on the class. When most of your notes are words, a laptop can be much faster. But when notes are mostly equations and drawings, a good old fashioned notebook and pencil may be easiest. Some people even take notes and make drawings on a tablet. Try different options to see what is fastest and least distracting for you.
4. Read the material before class. Most people need to see something at least several times to learn it, so give yourself a head start!
Make it a point to read the material that will be covered in the lecture the day before. This gives you a foundation for what you'll hear in class and helps you feel more confident during a fast-paced lecture, so you can focus on deepening your understanding instead of trying to keep up with the basics.
Prepare questions in advance for parts that confuse you. If the lecture doesn't clarify the concepts for you, ask your questions during class.
5. Ask questions. Professors are not perfect and every student learns differently, so there will be times you don't understand something. Asking questions is one way to take charge of your own learning and ensure you get the information you need to succeed. Interacting with your professors helps you engage with the material more deeply and get personalized assistance when you need it.
In most cultures and classes, students ask questions by raising their hands and asking the professor directly during class.
Asking questions in class can sometimes be intimidating, but don't be scared! If you are confused by something, chances are others in the class are too, and you will be doing them a favor by asking about it. It is your right to ask all the questions you need in order to learn the material.
If you missed the chance to speak with your professor during class, attend their office hours to receive one on one help.
In larger classes, teaching assistants may hold extra office hours or problem sessions. Attending these can be a great way to get extra help and learn from other students.
6. Study outside of class.
A good rule of thumb is to look at the number of credit hours for your class, then spend the same number of hours per week studying outside of class. For example, if you are taking a four-credit class then you should spend at least four hours per week reviewing material, re-writing notes, and doing homework. This is just a guideline; adjust based on how much time you need to learn the material well.
This does not have to be all at one time; space out your study sessions to be more effective.
7. Surround yourself with other engineering students. Collaboration is a key part of being an engineer, so get involved, and don't be afraid to ask for help.
Get involved with the engineering student community. One good way is to join an engineering association in your school or community (ASME, ASCE, ASCHE, etc.).
Find a study buddy or group. Whether you are quizzing each other, going over homework, or discussing questions about the lecture, studying with others is very valuable. The optimal size for a study group is around 3-5 people, but even one person makes a huge difference. You will learn from seeing how other students approach problems and think about questions, and explaining your own thoughts to others will solidify your understanding.
Learn to work in teams. A lot of your work as an engineer will be team-oriented. The sooner that you can surround yourself with others and learn to work in a team, the better.
Being an engineer is hard! The more people you have in your support network, the easier it will be.
The relationships you form can be great networking opportunities for the future.
8. Don’t stress out. There will be times in engineering school where you have 2-3 difficult exams in one week. Prepare yourself ahead of time and don’t panic, because stress lessens the effectiveness of your study time.
As an engineering student, you’re going to be put in stressful situations. Take study breaks to help you relax and give your mind a break so you can return to studying with more focus. Just remember that one exam or quiz isn’t going to define you as an engineer.
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