How to study for an engineering major

Are you going to college and planning to become an engineer? After a few years there here are 5 tips that I’ve got from the trenches:

What

Be prepared to spend time understanding and think that you are stupid.

Why

I wasn’t born with an engineering mind. I still probably don’t have a full one but I am more engineer than before. And I’m probably not the only one. A big part of what you get from an engineering major is a mindset and that is not something that you achieve by studying the night before. The more time and focus you put in the more you get out of it. When I was studying it was typical to spend about 4h to 8h on a problem and still not get it and that’s frustrating. I am happy with what I have got from and I appreciate it but I swore many times when I still had looming exams and other deadlines what was I thinking when I decided to get into college.

 

What

Fully understand the concepts you see.

Why

Anything else is memorizing and you won’t be able to apply the concept or technique to unseen areas. Besides that it’s easier to lose data with a more limited field of application than a way of thinking which is more applicable to other areas. Also depending on your university and your major it won’t be possible to pass a course unless you really understand what’s there.

 

What

Plan your study time, do the 20% that results in the 80% and, for best results, get rest, exercise and fun.

Why

You won’t probably be able to fully understand everything in any case. Life is too short and spending 5 years delaying happiness is a bad precedent. Something that worked for me was to do timeboxing with my courses: allocate for example 1h to each course per day and once that hour is gone go to the next course. When you finish if you need to finish something from any of the courses do it now. Failing to plan in this case is definitely planning to fail, you will spend the whole afternoon on one course or problem, you will neglect the rest of the courses, do them harshly, deprive yourself of essential sleep and it will become a difficult habit to get rid of.

 

What

Once you understand concepts revise them periodically.

Why

Once you have mastered a concept it is a very valuable possession. If you input those concepts into a flash-card program like Mnemosyne it will take you maybe 15min a week to revise them and they will solidify in your memory. This is also a strategy that worked for me when trying to tackle difficult courses: memorize the definition of a concept even if you still don’t understand it and then later, with the definition in your mind your subconscious will work with it and many times I was able to understand something after having memorized it and let my subconscious work on it.

 

If you are interested about learning more about efficient and pleasurable college years I recommend you to take a look at Study Hacks from Cal Newport.

comments powered by Disqus