Since I'm studying commerce and math, I never ventured out to Thorton or any of the engineering buildings until this semester, as two of my math classes are there. They're awesome classes, but definitely mostly engineering students. The structure of these classes and their course-loads is unlike that of any other class I've taken in the college. And it got me thinking--what is the life of an engineering student like? How is it different from someone in the college? I do have plenty of engineering friends, but I wanted to know more about their academic experience. I decided to interview a real live engineer to find out. He's currently a second year.
How did you know you wanted to be an engineer?
Early in high school, I thought I would be pre-med. That ended soon, as I realized biology wasn’t my thing. But chemistry and physics were, and I loved my AP classes. My AP science teachers introduced me to the idea of being an engineer, so it was in the back of my head, but I had never had an engineering class before, so how would I know? I liked chemistry, so I thought chemical engineering was for me. But I also liked physics, but that’s mechanical. It really wasn’t until I came to UVa before I realized where I wanted to specialize. I took a few mechanical classes and really enjoyed them, so I just decided to run with it—I loved the material and could really see myself liking it for the rest of my life. This was also based on the fact that my roommate was taking chemical class and I looked at the information he was covering and realized that wasn’t where my interests lied—mechanical was indeed the right fit. After declaring my major, I decided to take an intro to aerospace class to see if I liked it and decided I did! So I checked out my schedule, figured I could manage both, and declared my double major. At no point was there ever an “aha-I-want-to-be-a-mechanical-engineer” moment. But this is definitely what I want to do and I love it.
What are you favorite parts of the E-school?
I love nearly all of my classes. It’s nice to have small classes; my largest intros were probably around a 100 students. Most of all, I love what I’m learning.
No papers, no language requirements. I like the fact that our courses are pretty regimented—it’s easy to keep up with the schedule and I always know that linear homework is due every Wednesday.
When it comes to choosing classes for the upcoming semester, I like that I don't have that much choice in my schedule—no freaking out about what to take. And if you need a class for your major, you are pretty much guaranteed to get the classes you need to register. Overall, sign up time is generally less stressful for engineers than others.
What about electives/non e-school classes or double majoring outside in the College?
Definitely have room for electives—it’s built into your schedule, which is nice. Right now I’m taking social psych and love branching out a bit. Also, tons of e-schoolers double major in the college: sometimes econ, Spanish, pretty much anything. If you want to do it, it's definitely possible.
Do you notice a difference of workload between e-schoolers and other schools?
Yes, workload is larger and just different. Not just more work—if every kid in the college did as much reading as they were assigned to do on time, it would probably be similar workload. It’s more just different types of work: not a lot a reading or papers, but more just problem sets. As for the number of hours, students in the college typically take 15 credits whereas an e-schooler will take 15-18, sometimes more. Also, I won’t complain that most e-school classes curve, at least as far as I’ve seen.
There’s also a lot of collaboration with your fellow students on homework and projects. Apart from tests and quizzes, students are typically encouraged to work with your peers and discuss on all assignments, as designated by your professor. There’s this “anything goes attitude,”—the only amount of help that is too much is straight copying someone’s work, which doesn’t help anyone anyway. There isn't anything wrong with walking someone through the problem completely when they don't understand. I love the room for collaboration, as it gives you the ability to get help from classmates, which is oftentimes easier to do than seeking out TAs or professors. I find this true for a few reasons. First, it’s just more convenient. There’s bound to be someone in your dorm in the same class and they probably have a question for you too. Second, it’s sometimes helpful to learn from a fellow student, someone who is learning it with you instead of someone who has been doing this for years. It gives you a different perspective than in class and you can figure it out together.
If you are interested or thinking of possibly going into engineering, I hope this post was somewhat helpful. I definitely learned a thing or two from the interview!
Until next time...
P.S. SPRING IS ALMOST HERE!!