5 Study Tips for First Year Engineering Students

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To say that first year engineering is tough is an understatement. The course materials may not be as far off from what you studied in Grade 12, but the sheer volume of everything you have to learn in a limited amount of time can be very overwhelming.

Engineering, indeed, is a walk in the park—-Jurassic Park.

Most people end up surviving first year, but there will always be those who don’t make the cut. I know a few people who either dropped out in the middle of the year or made it all the way through but their marks were just not high enough so they had to leave the program.

As someone who’s never been good at math and who prefers to analyze Shakespeare than to grind calculus problems, I think I did a pretty decent job of staying afloat and making it to second year. And because I feel like reminiscing, let me share five study tips that will hopefully help future engineering freshmen to survive their first year.

1. Develop a routine to finish your assignments early.

There will be at least three courses that require you to hand in assignments on a weekly basis. If an assignment is due every Friday, work on it every Monday night. And if another assignment is due Wednesday, finish it by Sunday. Questions are given ahead of time so there’s no reason to not stick to a schedule. Always try to answer the questions even before the material is discussed in class. If you and your buddies get stuck, talk to the professor and he/she will gladly help you with the problem.

2. Visit the prof during office hours.

You probably have read or heard about this, but there’s a reason why visiting a prof is always emphasized when asking for engineering student advice. All professors have office hours and most universities have help centers where students can walk in and ask questions to a TA or a prof. Never give up on a problem without consulting your professor. Whenever there’s a step in a solution that you do not understand, mark it off and make sure to have a prof explain it to you. Profs are paid to help you and most of them want their students to succeed so go take advantage of that!

3. Make a note of the little steps and details.

We all have different styles of note-taking. Some people copy everything they see on the board, some write down only what they feel is important. Whatever your style is, always take note of the little details that you think you might forget. Whenever there’s a step that you missed, write it down on the margins of your notebook. It could be as simple as making sure that the units are all consistent, or it could be about remembering a trig identity that would make a solution so much shorter.

4. Keep your exams, labs, and assignments organized.

One thing that irked me was having to scour through piles of paper just to search for a specific question that I did in a lab. It’s easier to have your papers neatly filed in whatever organizing tool you have, be it a filing cabinet or just folders for different subjects. The best way to study for exams, aside from going through the practice exam, is to review the problems you did in the labs or the assignments. Make sure you can start and end a problem without consulting the solutions manual!

5. Check out online lessons/tutorials.

I am personally a big fan of Paul’s Online Math Notes. The concepts are explained thoroughly and there are sample problems to work on. Some people prefer to watch videos like Khan Academy or PatrickJMT. So whenever you feel like you’re not solid on a concept, you can always go online to reinforce your understanding of the material.

Remember: understanding the theory should be done way before the midterm or the finals. If you find yourself watching Khan because you still don’t understand shear force and bending moment the night before the finals—-dude, you’re sorta kinda screwed.

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