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If you ask most people who have gone though it about their freshman year of college, they will tell you that the biggest challenges they faced weren’t in the classroom. Moving away from home and living on your own is a very important part of growing up. Even those who commute from home to college will tell you that they spent most of their freshman year trying to come to terms with being out of high school and being in the adult world.

With that said, passing freshman engineering requires that the student adjust to college in weeks, not months. At any decent engineering school, the work becomes overwhelming by the third week of class. If you’re not prepared to keep up, you might as well change majors now and save yourself the pain. If you're willing to constantly be doing homework or studying while everyone else is drinking, smoking, and having sex with random girls, then keep reading.

The first key to surviving your freshman year of engineering is to never get behind. Most classes are fast paced and each successive concept builds on the previous. Once someone gets behind, then it becomes more and more difficult to catch up as each successive topic will make less and less sense. If you feel lost, get help immediately. Most upperclassmen will agree to help you. If not, go to your TA or professor. They will point you in the right direction.

Secondly, don’t study hard, study smart. Translation: 3 hours of studying while on Instant Messenger, surfing the web, reading e-mail, and talking on the phone is significantly less valuable than 15 minutes of true studying. When I say true studying, I mean with the TV, phone, e-mail, etc. turned off. It is also valuable to try to make up problems for yourself and then solve them without getting help from anyone else. Group studying can also be extremely helpful, if you yourself have studied beforehand and the group stays on-topic.

Here’s a simple one: Go to class! . I really wish that I didn’t have to say that because it’s so obvious. If you don’t attend lecture, then you have no idea what the professor is emphasizing and you’ll probably end up studying something that he didn’t cover, or worse, leave out something that he spent 45 minutes talking about, saying things like “this is the most important topic of today” and the like. It’s crazy how transparent some teachers are about what they will be testing on.

Finally, don’t ever underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep. Staying up all night studying for tests can seem appealing, but in reality you’re better off with a clear rested head. I cannot begin to describe the number of mistakes one makes on tests when he hasn’t slept in a while.

So there’s my advice. Good luck. If I could get though freshman year, you can too.


Mblumber was an Electrical Engineering Senior at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He wrote essays on E2 when he was supposed to be studying.

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