The Engineering Student Experience
Wondering what to expect with your student's journey toward graduation? Each student's experience will be unique, but here are some general themes so you know what to expect and strategies for best supporting your student.
During the first semester, your student will likely enroll in a combination of math, science, and engineering courses to begin building a foundation of theoretical knowledge critical to your student's intended major. The pace of courses may seem more accelerated than what your student experienced in high school. Your student may also find that, in order to master the content and perform well on exams, he or she will need to study more. In addition, your student is continuing to explore majors and interests, adjust to living in a new environment, begin building a new social structure, and function more independently.
Here are some suggested questions to ask your student during the first semester:
- Weeks 1 - 4
- How are your classes going?
- How much sleep are you getting?
- What events are happening on your residence hall this week? Anything fun?
- How are you keeping track of your assignments? Do you have any tough weeks coming up where everything seems due all at once?
- Weeks 5 - 10
- How are you feeling about your upcoming midterm exams?
- What type of things are you doing to study? Does your class have any exam reviews or help sessions?
- How is the process of learning how to study going? What have you found that has worked well for you?
- Is your instructor holding office hours this week? Why don't you try going and introducing yourself?
- Weeks 10 - 15
- What does your exam schedule look like for finals week?
- How did scheduling for Spring Semester go? Have you met with your academic advisor yet?
- I know the last few weeks of the semester can be really stressful. How are you doing?
At the end of the first year, your student should have a good idea about a first choice major and an alternate major. Some students may apply during Spring Semester to their major program, while most will apply during their second year. (This just depends on what classes each department reviews as part of its admission to major process.) Check in with your student about how the major exploration process is going. Ask if they have found majors that interest them and what makes them excited about those programs. Also, your student should register with Engineering Career Services before leaving campus in June.
Second & Third Years
During the second and third years, your student will move from foundational math and science courses into their engineering coursework. These courses are challenging but should also be exciting, since your student is learning about concepts within his/her intended discipline and career field. Your student should also be exploring co-curricular opportunities connected to his/her future plans, such as co-ops and internshisp, research opportunities, or preparing for graduate exams.
During the final year your student will be taking advanced coursework directly connected to employment in an engineering career. Some of these will be practical, real-world design experiences, such as capstone projects. Your student will likely experience a combination of excitement and stress as graduation approaches and the time after graduation becomes a reality. For students without defined post-graduation plans, this can be a scary transition. Enocurage your student to utilize offices on campus designed to assist students with preparing for the backpack-to-briefcase transition, such as Engineering Career Services. Reflect back to your first few years after your schoolwork was complete and share some of your experiences. This can help ease your student's concerns about venturing into a less defined, structured environment and see the potential for growth and maturity though new experiences.