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September 24, 2012


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If you major in what I majored (electrical engineering), then you should have declared your major prior to your junior year if you expect to graduate in four years. A typical B.S. in engineering requires much more math, science and engineering than you can cram into two years after a couple of general studies type years.

Yeah, you should have your major declared ASAP, by sophomore year at the latest IMO. Otherwise you will probably be wasting time on classes you don't need and you will be hard-pressed to finish all your requirements on time due to many of them being sequential.

At my university, you're required to declare a major by the end of your sophomore year. Science & engineering majors are encouraged to declare earlier.

@Paul,JM -- You can take appropriate courses without declaring a major.

For freshmen, I'd add one more very important thing: Figure out your major. It's OK to begin undecided and explore, but making and confirming your choice should be an important goal.

Depending on field, you should look into internships and undergraduate research as a sophomore and possibly even as a freshman.

The summer's are a great time to make up courses quickly or do more productive things than vacation. I did internships that were part time, which helped my resume, and got me out of bed and moving in the mornings.

It's so weird looking back at college now, I held two part time jobs most of the time and had full 15hr+ courses each semester. With all of that, I still felt like I had more time off than at this 8-5, I simply cannot figure out why this seems so much harder.

It's great that they advise kids to network with mentors and professors. I didn't do this and I did ok, but I would have been much better off if I had some guidance. I didn't know the importance of that relationship until much later on.

Great advice for college students, my counselor was not helpful to me at all during my school years. I wish I read this when I was getting my degree. Waiting to declare is important because many kids switch majors and waste a lot of time in the process.

I like the list in general. Lots of good advice.

I would agree with other commenters that you should try and pick your major earlier if possible. In fact I think thats something you ought to try and decide in high school if possible. Choice of major can impact choice of college. e.g. I'd rather go to MIT for engineering than Harvard and I'd rather go to Harvard for English than MIT. As other have noted in engineering you have to decide early. For my university you had to declare premajor in engineering school at least by sophmore year and preferably know you want engineering from day one.

I would say to try to get some form of internship even after your sophomore year. It doesn't even have to be related to your major but might give you a leg up when hunting for internships for after your junior year!

I want to add that for those who complete college coursework while still in high school - dual enrolled, dual credit classes or go in with lots of advance placement credit - it all happens even faster. It's really important to have a plan as far as classes go. I had 16 hours completed from high school and took 15-18 hour semesters and was already half way through my "degree" plan's required classes before my school even wanted a declaration of major from me. I finished a double business major in 3.5 years while working 20-25 hours a week. I wish I'd taken on more internships and career related experience than the part time job that was completely unrelated, but helped pay for schooling.

Ditto on the engineering - you should probably declare very early for that (mid to end freshman year)so you can finish...still took me 4.5 years 30 years ago and that included 18+ hours per semester and summer school. It is also important that a technical major get some communication classes and learn to write and speak well. Those will be the differentiators for them when competing up the career ladder. As for financial skills, application of what engineers study is one way to learn. I had a class my junior or senior year called engineering financial analysis which taught me how to PV, FV, etc (by hand back then!). That information can help a person determine ROI and the true cost of investments.

Internships are very valuable as they teach you the practical side of your profession....this is especially important in engineering as theory and practice sometimes have a great divide. Additionally, internships teach you the basics of business - how to show up, professional communication, how to dress, that politics also occurs at work, etc.

I would suggest to a starting student to cultivate good college habits.

I did not, mainly because the first semester at my university was mandatory pass / fail. That screwed me up because I set my expectations to only pass all my classes, which I did by earning C's. This set the wrong habits as I was sleeping through classes and blowing off assignments with the plan to make it up by doing ok on the tests- it was a disaster and it took me the next 4 semesters to fix this and get better grades.

I would also highly recommend internships. My summer research work after my Sophomore and Junior years led to me being published in a reputable journal as an undergraduate, which led to me getting a scholarship for a Master's degree in Engineering. Due to my poor academic performance in the first two years, my GPA was not great, ended up graduating with a GPA just under 3.0 but with the last year and a half average being very close to a 4.0.


Deserat said : " I had a class my junior or senior year called engineering financial analysis which taught me how to PV, FV, etc (by hand back then!)"

I had a similar class called engineering economics. We also did all the equations by hand. I don't know that most engineers would have such a class but its a good elective if its available. I also took micro and macro Econ 101 level courses and those were pretty good electives as well.

I love the idea of taking public speaking, writing, accounting and finance courses early on, largely because they are daunting for many (gives you a leg up), yet so important.

The stuff that's helped and (in it's absence) hurt me the most in my career is networking and finding the right internship.

I just didn't do either one in college and, even though I was blessed to find a job out of college, it was one that I didn't enjoy and never really wanted. If I can offer any advice to college students it's treat college like a job from day 1 and hold out for the best internship possible. It's worth it to have one killer internship under your belt as opposed to a couple of so-so ones.

Hi, FMF. I notice an ad on your site promoting
'work at home' and make $19 to $24 per hour.....
Why is this? You write about the Bible's view of finance,
I'm sure the Bible wouldn't promote this. You
should imho try to weed out the crooked ads...
Thank you

Harm -

I try to edit the ads the best I can. I eliminate inappropriate words, payday loans, and the like. So I do make an attempt to limit them as I see fit.

Of the remainding ads, not all are to everyone's taste (fyi, they are served based on the content in the post and the comments).In that case, just ignore them.

I am not sure what the Bible would find wrong with a side business ad, so perhaps you can elaborate. I know you have been critical of my Bible posts in the past, so it's interesting to me that you raise this issue...

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