So, you’re here. You just got into Drexel’s engineering program, and you might be wondering what the first year of it is going to be like, and what you can do to survive it. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard, but if you play it smart, it won’t be as hard. You’ll have to use a few tricks and savvy moves here and there.
All engineers are required to take a core set of courses designed to provide the “fundamentals” of engineering. This means that your first two years of classes will be almost identical if you’re an engineer of any type. This is a good thing. It means that these classes are going to be the well-trodden path, so to speak, meaning that people have been there and done that. If some of your predecessors are kind enough, they might be willing to share high-quality notes, as well as hints as to what type of questions might be asked on exams, quizzes, etc. There are also websites with have reviews on which professors are good, bad and mediocre, which will allow you to select the best professor for a class — if multiple options are available.
At this point, I should also mention that it’s a good idea to spread your wings. Make friends. Firstly, these people will allow you to keep your sanity and have fun on occasion. Nothing is worse than low morale, which has been shown to dramatically reduce performance. Taking breaks and having fun in moderation will literally improve your motivation to work. Secondly, the more people that you know, the more likely it is that you’ll be connected, in some way, to someone who can help with tough homework problems or who might be able to provide useful insights about the upcoming test or quiz. I cannot stress how important this last part is.
At least get to know people on a casual basis. These seemingly random people can and will provide key information at the right time. I can’t count how many times a friend of a friend has saved me from a bad test or quiz grade by providing insights and information which I would not have obtained through other sources.
I’m also going to go out of my way to say something which will probably be very unpopular and controversial: you don’t actually need to know everything that’s going to be taught. It’s okay in most cases to just study for the test instead of trying to gain a deep understanding of the course material. Assuming that all of the classes are of reasonable difficulty and taught well, it would still be impractical to attempt to fully understand every class when the average course load for first- and second-year engineers is around 20 credits average. To make matters even worse, you can encounter some bad professors along the way, which makes it even harder to thoroughly learn a topic. Just study for the test and focus on your grades first, and if you can pass the test and end up with a B or an A, then you already know what you need to know.
In the end, engineering is still difficult, even if you’re studying only for the test and using all available assets. There is a fair amount of core engineering classes where the teaching is subpar and the difficulty is far above average. In my experience, the distribution is roughly even between poor, good and excellent courses. What you need to know right now is that stressing over the subpar courses is pointless. If there is a specific class where you will probably get a C no matter what you do, it’s probably better to focus on getting the A or B for the good and excellent classes. There is absolutely no reason to struggle immensely just to turn that C into a B, because that same effort probably could have been used to guarantee an A in two other courses, and the resulting morale drop could affect performance in other classes.
I know that many will not approve of my methods or the conclusions that arise from said methods, but there is little dispute over the efficacy of what I am recommending when it comes to the sole goal of maximizing GPA and minimizing work.