Are you a whiz at math and science? Are your teachers and parents encouraging you to pursue an engineering degree? Or maybe you enjoy taking apart equipment and understanding their mechanics! Perhaps building computer hardware is your hobby.
There are so many career paths that start with an engineering degree! Your path to becoming an engineer – whether mechanical, electrical, chemical, or other – should start right from high school. Many engineer graduates agree that 9th grade is not too early to start preparing for an engineering degree!
We’ve put together a list of 8 ways to start to prepare for an engineering degree while still in high school. We’ve pulled together surveys from working engineers and recent graduates. We also share tips from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and the latest research in engineering program success.
8 Ways to Prepare for an Engineering Degree While You’re Still in High School
1. Get comfortable with advanced math and science. Consider AP and IB math and science courses in high school.
AP stands for Advanced Placement courses. These are college-level classes offered in some high schools. AP courses provide a more challenging curriculum and the opportunity to earn a few college credits before ever entering a college campus.
IB stands for International Baccalaureate. These are a European counterpart to American AP courses, offering higher-level learning opportunities to prepare high school students early for college or career planning.
At the end of an AP course, students take a standardized exam to assess their comprehension. Your score on the exam determines how many college credits you can earn from the AP class. You’ll get a head start on core classes for college.
James, one of the engineers we surveyed, says, “Take AP Classes in at least Calculus & Physics, maybe Chemistry. AP credits save a lot of time and money for college.”
AP courses also give you excellent practice with intense, standardized tests to prepare you for the Fundamentals in Engineering (FE) exam as an undergraduate.
Additionally, advanced courses demonstrate to colleges and engineering schools that you excel in rigorous academic environments. Plus, they will genuinely prepare you for college-level courses.
If your school doesn’t offer AP or IB courses, look for academically challenging courses offered elsewhere. There are community colleges and online platforms that offer AP course training, such as Stutorialz. Stutorialz offers an Engineering Prep Program online (https://www.stutorialz.com/engineering-mastery) which includes AP courses. The online program is a long-term tutoring program to develop skills in mathematics, physics, and chemistry for a career in Engineering.
2. Practice standardized exams.
Speaking of standardized tests, during engineering school, you’ll be required to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam. As we mentioned, AP courses will each give you some practice with testing. You’ll also likely take the SAT or ACT as part of most universities’ requirements for application. There’s no need to wait until your senior year to take the SAT or ACT. The more times you take the tests, the more likely score will improve with each test, according to research.
One graduate we spoke to, Elizabeth, agreed with that advice. “I took the ACT in 7th grade as part of a sort of test-run that my middle school offered. My first score was a 22.” (The ACT is scored out of 36 possible points.) “I took it again in 10th grade, 11th grade, and twice as a senior. My scores went up a little bit each time. My final score was a 31, which was enough to earn me a full scholarship to the out-of-state college I was hoping for. By the time my college exams came around, I was well-seasoned in standardized tests!”
If test-taking is difficult for you, don’t wait to get help.
Again, you could consider a program like Stutorialz to start preparing for your Engineering degree while in high school. Once you enroll in the Stutorialz Engineering Prep program, you’ll receive the support you need individually to be fully prepared for any standardized competitive exams.
3. Learn good notetaking and study habits.
Many of the engineers we surveyed admitted that they still reference their notes and textbooks of their engineering degree years into their career. Your notes will be valuable references throughout your career. Learn good habits, highlighting, annotating, and organization within your notebooks now so that your notes will be useful in your coursework and beyond.
Pay attention to the study habits that work best for you. On which type of study schedule do you thrive? Discover the best study habits for you to develop now to ensure you’ll perform at your best later.
John, a mechanical engineer who oversees product development in lighting for Lutron Electronics, said: “Right now, I’m running 4 major projects at once. I wish I’d developed better organizational and time management skills earlier on. It’s hard to change old habits, and in college, I had so many other distractions pulling at my time. That’s been a big learning curve in my career of 18 years so far.”
There are online programs that can help with developing your personal study habits. These will give you additional training and tips for practicing strong habits early. For example, Stutorialz offers online advanced course training (https://www.stutorialz.com/solutions) for high school students. The courses are learner-centric, focusing on spiral learning, highly interactive learning, and personalized study practice. It’s designed to pinpoint your biggest weaknesses while building on your areas of strength.
This opportunity teaches you how to study, what to study, and how to maximize your efforts in the right areas. (And since it’s offered online, you can participate anytime, anywhere it’s most convenient for you.)
4. Get used to asking questions and getting a little one-on-one help from teachers.
Engineering coursework gets heavy at times. The most successful students are those that reach out for a little one-on-one help from time to time.
It can be intimidating or feel embarrassing to admit to a teacher that you’re not getting a concept. Just remember, though, that most teachers are happy to help. Get comfortable asking for help now in your difficult subjects.
You can also consider working one-on-one with a tutor outside of class.
In addition to Engineering Prep Mastery Programs, Stutorialz offers on-demand STEM tutors. Their expert tutors provide more than instruction to students. They also provide guidance, inspiration, and one-on-one support to help you succeed at any point in your path toward your career.
5. Become comfortable working with study groups.
Engineering coursework often creates frustration. Many times, you will find yourself “stuck” on a problem. Working with classmates is a great way to see another viewpoint. This will allow you to move forward on a difficult problem as a team, rather than giving up on your own.
Additionally, working in a study group allows you the opportunity to explain concepts to someone else.
As Albert Einstein said, “You don’t truly understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.”
Gaining practice explaining concepts to other study group members will be useful in your engineering career as well.
“Engineering departments tend to pick up a lot of quiet, “math-brain” students from high school who are good at math and science,” says Aylan. “They are told they should go for an engineering degree. Those people do great, but there are a lot of jobs that are not just technical, hard-science every day. As an engineer, you’re required to know the science, but the reality is that the job is being an educated decision-maker. As an engineer, your actual work environment will include a lot more leadership and communication than simply math and science work in an office every day.”
This leads to our next tip.
6. Start practicing communication skills early.
A research survey of working engineers revealed that the biggest difficulty for students transitioning into professional engineering careers is teamwork and communication. That’s why we suggest to high school students to look for clubs, classes, and summer programs that focus on communication and leadership skills.
“Many basic skills required in the workplace, including the ability to work on a team and to communicate with one’s peers and supervisors, are missing or insufficiently developed in recent college graduates” (Katz 1993).
7. Gain as much real-world experience in a variety of engineering concentrations as you can.
Do you really know the difference between chemical, mechanical, electrical, metallurgical, and biomedical engineering? Each concentration fields its own coursework specializations. Each can lead to different types of careers.
Examples of real-world experience in engineering that could help towards realizing your engineering degree could include:
- Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies came offers summer courses designed to help students choose college majors and careers. Participants work on projects in business, engineering, interactive design, teaching, and technology.
- The summer camps listed with the Engineering Education Service Center
- The National Inventors’ Hall of Fame summer camp programs
Hands-on extra-curricular activities like these will help you discover your specific areas of interest. You might even discover areas you don’t like as much as others. Gaining experience will help shape the choices you make in your college curriculum and post-graduate paths.
“Remember, invention comes from an understanding of why and how things work, not rote memorization of formulas.”
-John, graduate of University of Arkansas’ Mechanical Engineering
8. Complete a summer internship.
While your summers are still relatively free during high school, consider an internship. Internships build your portfolio of experience for competitive engineering schools. They also show future potential employers that you are passionate about the work and can commit to a long-term role.
One graduate’s advice to high schoolers is to “find a summer job at a factory or someplace where they hire engineers. It starts building contacts with the engineering world, and if you’re good, your employer may offer tuition reimbursement.”
If you’re interested in preparing for an engineering degree while still in high school, Stutorialz is an online program that can help. Stutorialz can ensure you get off on the right foot with your academics right from the beginning.
Our Engineering Prep Program is a four-year highly intensive, blended, skills-based, innovative science program. It caters to all high school students who seek a deeper mastery of concepts that will give them a jump start on their courses, college, and future career.
If you aspire to pursue an engineering-related career, the Engineering Prep Program develops a deep understanding of all the most important subject areas and concepts. It also sets students up for excellence in all school-related exams as well as ace any competitive exams for engineering college admissions.
Courses are offered entirely online, allowing you to start your training anytime, anywhere.
The unique approach to learning offered through Stutorialz includes:
Developing a deep understanding of important concepts in Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry – essential for a career in Engineering.
A focus on developing critical thinking and analytical skills.
Leveraging each student’s individuality, strengths, weaknesses, and drive to succeed,
Shifting students’ focus from rote learning to understanding and applying their knowledge to specific problem-solving situations.
STEM master tutors with above-average success rates, wide range of teaching styles and investment in the success of each student,
Critical analysis of learners’ contextual learning performance data after every unit by master tutors
Over the 4 years of the Engineering Prep Program, students follow our online learning modules, which include PowerPoint presentations pdfs, audio, video, multimedia sequences, and online tutors.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Engineering Prep Program through Stutorialz Online AP Course Training Center, head to our website (https://www.stutorialz.com/engineering-mastery) .
Fundamentals of Engineering Exam: Motivation/Review Enhances Pass Rate, Enno Koehn. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering, 1989.
The Entry‐Level Engineer: Problems in Transition from Student to Professional, Susan M. Katz.
The Research Journal for Engineering and Education, 1993.
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) https://www.abet.org/
Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies https://pccaps.yourcapsnetwork.org/
Engineering Education Service Center (Summer Camps) http://www.engineeringedu.com/store/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=8
The National Inventors’ Hall of Fame https://www.invent.org/programs