Back to school advice for electrical engineering students?

Thread Starter

dalewilson

Joined Jun 21, 2021
5
With the start of the new academic year just around the corner, I was wondering if the EEs on this forum would provide their top nuggets of wisdom to help the next generation of engineers make the most use of their time in school. So what is your advice? What do you wish someone had told you when you were in school?
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,932
Oh, where to begin!

First and foremost, IMHO, is to ask yourself if you really want to be an engineer in the first place. By and large, an engineer is a problem solver. That is what they bring to the table. People pay them to solve their problems. If you don't like solving problems, then you are unlikely to enjoy being an engineer. If you don't enjoy being an engineer, you are unlikely to put forth the effort to become really good at it. You might think that you don't have to love something to be good at it, but consider this: You may not love engineering, but you will always be competing with people that do.

Second, don't treat your courses like so many students do -- namely as a bunch of boxes that have to be checked off on some form in order to get handed a piece of paper with your name and a degree on it. Students with this attitude want to do the absolute minimum that is required to get the box checked. These are also students that tend to not do well in the engineering marketplace even after they get that piece of paper. Instead, treat your courses for what they are. Someone, whether it be you, or your parents, or your employer, or some other third party, is paying a lot of money with the goal that you gain useful knowledge and skills from each course you take. So insist on maximizing that return on investment. Go out of your way to learn as much as you can from every single course you take, whether it's an engineering course, an English course, or a physical education course. Demand that the people getting paid that money deliver -- but they can only deliver if you are ready and willing to put forth the effort to receive.

Third, put yourself in a position to maximize what you receive from each course. Learn to to effectively read a textbook -- and then effectively read your textbook. Learn how to effectively take notes in class -- and then effectively take notes in class. Put for the effort to truly understand every problem on every assignment and how to solve it. Don't put in the minimum time, put in all the time you can. Prioritize your life around learning, and put partying and whatever else you want to do in its proper time and place.

Fourth, get involved in activities related to your field in some way. That could be professional organizations and clubs. It could be being a tutor to other college or high school students. It could be getting an internship, possibly unpaid, somewhere. It could be taking a semester and having a cooperative education experience. It could be getting involved in related hobbies. It could be getting involved with programs like Science Olympiad as a mentor. If none of these things have any interest for you -- perhaps it's time to go back and consider the first and foremost point above.
 

Ian0

Joined Aug 7, 2020
5,945
Gain a thorough understanding of Magnetics. My course had lots of magnetic theory (H field, B field, permeance, reluctance, inductance etc) but little about real magnetic components (saturation, core loss, etc). Switched mode power supplies are here to stay, and wringing the last drop of efficiency is where the research is at the moment as the standards are driving down electricity usage.
 

DickCappels

Joined Aug 21, 2008
9,105
Simply put: If you missed something in class, check with the instructor or other students and correct the situation as soon as possible so you can keep up with the teachings. Yes, I had that problem a couple of times and regretted it.
 

panic mode

Joined Oct 10, 2011
2,222
excellent advices. and don't fall behind. it is way harder to catch up than to keep the ball rolling. in fact try to stay ahead. if you skim through material before lecture, it will give you better understanding of the material in the lecture and chance to ask the right questions.
 

Irving

Joined Jan 30, 2016
3,004
Not an EE, but my advice would be: put your learnings to use by building stuff. Somehow, it is much more satisfying to see your little board doing something than it is to arrive at the solution for the transfer function of a filter circuit that you have no clue about how to build.
110% agree with this - too many of the grad engineers I've interviewed over the years had no practical expertise outside of the 'learn-by-rote' experiments done with a box of bits supplied with the course (if they did any physical building at all).

Do projects of your own. If you are serious about the subject you'll want to anyway.
 

Ian0

Joined Aug 7, 2020
5,945
Not an EE, but my advice would be: put your learnings to use by building stuff. Somehow, it is much more satisfying to see your little board doing something than it is to arrive at the solution for the transfer function of a filter circuit that you have no clue about how to build.
What's really satisfying is to arrive at the solution for the transfer function and then build the filter see that it fits the transfer function!
 

MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
2,111
With the start of the new academic year just around the corner, I was wondering if the EEs on this forum would provide their top nuggets of wisdom to help the next generation of engineers make the most use of their time in school. So what is your advice? What do you wish someone had told you when you were in school?
1) Understand that GPA is the first thing a recruiter looks at on a resume of a fresh graduate. Do everything you can - especially in tue last two years - to maximize quarterly GPA. If you can pull off a few 4.0 or better in any semester to show acceleration rather than stagnation, great. Sometimes, employers ask the placement offices for students with x or better gpa. Don't get filtered based on GPA. College is a full time job, not a 11am to 5pm hobby. Work at it. Go back and read/watch videos/learn the "mystery topics" that you never understood in the last two years of courses.

2) naked resumes are sad to write and sad to look at as a recruiter/hiring manager. Make sure you have some work experience (co-op, internships, freelance, hobby projects, class projects) to fill it out. Work with your campus placement office or engineering co-op office to get an experience - even if it is not required. Add photos, of finished projects, make sure you can describe the whole project if it was a team project.

3) build relationships with professors and any employer/manager from co-OP's. Ask to use their names as references. Put them on your resume with full contact info with a line or two of description on how you know them professionally.
 

panic mode

Joined Oct 10, 2011
2,222
the thing is that everything learned has cumulative effect... things learned are used in next courses so failure to do well in one course starts chain effect. and from what i have seen, areas that most people struggle are have hard time are math, physics and any computer programming. people that do well in those areas can use the the skill to dramatically reduce time and effort required in other courses. and people that struggle there are in deep trouble.

another word of advice is to try to get decent time table for your courses. researching and registering courses you need early is an important task. also have considerations for some fall back options in case something is full or cancelled - and that happens FAST. for some (another) really stupid reason, university i was at would open course registration at midnight. it would be just too convenient to do that at 10AM for example. you need to be burnt out and make decisions in the middle of the night... yeah.

btw really i hated selection of elective courses meant to make you ... well ... socially acceptable. :confused:

the thing is that nothing was making me more mad than the very courses that some idiots made mandatory based on some stereotype. i would have happily traded all of those for anything technical (would prefer more math or similar). if you are like that too, plan and register courses early.
 

panic mode

Joined Oct 10, 2011
2,222
not the way i look at things... if i am paying for something, it need to be something that interests and benefits ME. i should be PAID to take things that other want me to take
 

bidrohini

Joined Jul 29, 2022
72
"You may not love engineering, but you will always be competing with people that do."
That's absolutely right. Thanks for this insightful write-up.
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,043
First and foremost, IMHO, is to ask yourself if you really want to be an engineer in the first place. [...] consider this: You may not love engineering, but you will always be competing with people that do.
+1

Since "Dale Wilson" sounds like the name of someone whom this might apply to... I would add that a lot of engineering is outsourced these days so in addition to competing with passionate people you will be competing with people in India, China, et. al. that will work for peanuts. This drives down the salary of domestic Engineers. Look up the salary before you jump in. If the money is a big factor in your decision, it may not be all your parents made it out to be. But if Engineering is something you're passionate about then definitely go for it; don't let the money thing steer you away from your dream.
 
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DickCappels

Joined Aug 21, 2008
9,105
My mother used to say "Do what you love, and the money will follow." Sometimes that is true. At least you will be happy with your job, which to me was often more important that the money (as long as I could take care of my family).
 

MrSalts

Joined Apr 2, 2020
2,111
With the start of the new academic year just around the corner, I was wondering if the EEs on this forum would provide their top nuggets of wisdom to help the next generation of engineers make the most use of their time in school. So what is your advice? What do you wish someone had told you when you were in school?
So, what have you learned from your thread?
 
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