An engineering degree means a lot of things‒highly rewarding careers, incredible opportunities from industries worldwide, and life-changing work that directly benefits the world.

However, the path to getting your degree is long and full of many challenges. Before you start on this journey, there are a few tips that can help you succeed in your future endeavors.

Tip #1: Learn to Love Your Textbook

It can be tempting to skip the assigned readings in your textbooks, but reading them and taking thorough notes is essential to building your understanding of the content. Not only that, but reading ahead of time can help you catch the things you don’t get sooner, saving you from a lot of trouble later. Make sure to keep your notes organized‒write neatly and use highlighters to mark important points. It isn’t a bad idea to hold on to these notes, either, as everything builds on itself as you progress through your degree.

Tip #2: Talk to Your Professors

In many of the classes I’ve taken, it’s surprising how many people seem to avoid the instructor instead of going up to them. Talking to your professors before or after lecture helps make a good impression on them, as you’re showing an active interest in the material you’re learning. Over time, you’ll definitely feel more comfortable going up to them with any questions you have. Your professors can also be a valuable source of insight in your industry or field, and some of them might even be good references for your resume.

Tip #3: Actively Participate in Class

Always ask questions on what you’re learning. If there’s a hard concept or equation that’s confusing you, ask your professor to clarify or go through some examples. Don’t feel bad about asking questions if you’re confused. After all, your professors want to help you learn and do well in the class. Plus, a lot of your classmates might have the same questions that you do, so they’ll appreciate you speaking up for them. Take advantage of the time you have in class to better your understanding, and show others (especially your professor) that you’re interested and invested in the material.

Tip #4: Meet New People and Make Study Groups

Being able to collaborate and effectively work on a team is one of the most crucial skills to have in engineering‒it becomes one of the biggest parts of your future career. At the same time, it is an invaluable tool as you progress through the many classes you’ll take for your degree. For all of your classes, put yourself out there and meet new people. They’re all learning the same thing you are, so you can help each other learn the material better by working together. Not only that, but the connections you make can also become strong sources of support even outside of the classes you’re taking.

Tip #5: Test Yourself by Teaching Others

An effective way of testing your knowledge or understanding of something is by trying to teach it to someone else. Explain the process to them and go through every step. If there’s anything you’re having trouble explaining, then you know what you have to later. What you’re learning now builds up to what you’ll see down the line, so make sure you completely understand what you’re covering before moving on. 

Tip #6: Don’t Cheat Yourself Out of Learning

Engineering isn’t easy by any means‒I should know, considering I’m getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering. However, you should never try and take the easy way out when it comes to course material, assignments, or exams. The only guaranteed way that you’ll learn anything in engineering is by actively working and putting your best effort into everything you do. Don’t look up homework solutions online, intentionally skip lectures, copy the work of other students, or look for the answers without working through things yourself first. Believe me, the people that do this are the same ones that end up failing the class, since they never actually learned the content. Not only that, but you miss out on so much from your classes by doing this, especially if they interest you. 

Tip #7: Broaden Your Horizons

Growing your skill set and exploring different fields or topics are strong ways to help you become a successful engineer. Besides the core engineering courses you need for your degree, you should try taking classes for more general skills you want to develop further. For example, design classes are a great way to learn how to present ideas and show information in a visual manner. Writing classes, on the other hand, are good for people who want to sharpen their communication skills and work on how they express their thoughts and ideas. 

Of course, you should also try to explore other engineering fields as well. It’s the best way to learn how other kinds of engineers think and work through problems, which can be useful insight into your own field. Plus, the wide variety of topics out there can help you discover new areas you want to explore.

Tip #8: Build Your Experience

Look for as many engineering-based projects you can join on campus, and be sure to work just as hard on the projects you do in your classes. All of it serves to provide experience to build your career, and it also reinforces the theoretical concepts you learn in your classes. Not only that, but you really get to see what it’s like to work on a project team, which is vital knowledge to have. Internships are another way to build up experience, and there are plenty of engineering-based ones available for you to explore.

Tip #9: Work Efficiently In Teams

Knowing how to work well in teams is a crucial skill in engineering, and it is an essential tool you will need for your future career. For one, you’ll need to know how to work effectively as a leader‒communicating with your team, influencing team decisions, and organizing larger parts of your project are just some of the skills you’ll need. Though, you’ll also need to be comfortable with following someone else’s directions, as you won’t always be leading the teams you work with. 

Tip #10: Know Your Limits

Considering the immense amount of work that you’ll need to put in for your degree, it’s critical that you don’t overwhelm yourself. When registering for your classes, don’t take more than you can handle‒many people end up falling apart because they didn’t think things through. At the same time, organizing your tasks thoroughly and planning ahead of time can save you from a lot of trouble. At the end of the day, your health comes first, so remember to take care of yourself if you’re feeling stressed.

Engineering is a challenging field for getting a degree. However, it is not impossible. These are just some of the things I’ve learned as I’ve pursued my own degree in Mechanical Engineering. For everyone, there is an incredible amount for you to learn that will shape your future in countless ways. These tips should help you take your first steps into this new chapter of your life, and they will be very important to keep in mind as you progress further. Though, your learning shouldn’t stop here. Always strive to keep going and never stop learning, no matter what lies ahead.