How to survive Mechanical Engineering School

What to expect when starting your Mechanical Engineering Degree

A degree in Mechanical Engineering has been said to be one of the most grueling educational experiences. One has to be strong in math and science, especially physics to succeed. If you are not in good math and science shape before you start college, I suggest taking a community college course in calculus and physics to get you ready for the toughest four years of your academic life.

Freshman Year of Mechanical Engineering School

In your freshman year, you study your core classes before you matriculate into your school’s college of mechanical engineering. These are the first wave of “weed out” courses.  Classes include:

  • calculus
  • physics
  • chemistry
  • economics
  • computer programming

A quick tip when first signing up for courses. Not all professor are alike. There are some professors that are more generous and will give a higher than normal distribution of A’s and B’s. Warning, watch out for professors that have grade distributions where it’s a bell shaped curve with a bias towards the D and F grades. These professors have the potential to wreak your GPA if you don’t gel with their teaching style. Some schools have report cards on professors that show grade distribution. If your school offers this, be sure to review it before signing up for a professor’s class. If you can survive those first weed out classes then you get to matriculate into the college of mechanical engineering for your sophomore year.

Sophomore Year of Mechanical Engineering School

For your sophomore year, you start taking courses that are considered the engineering fundamentals. Courses include:

  • more calculus
  • more physics
  • drafting
  • properties of materials
  • thermodynamics
  • statics
  • dynamics

From my experience, on average, tests in engineering school had a 10-20 point curve on them. Don’t despair if you didn’t make a legitimate A on a test. Professor naturally test hard and then redistribute the grades in a bell shape. Quick tip, I highly recommend that you start learning a CAD system such as solidworks or pro-E at this time. Also, learning a stress analysis program will be very helpful. If you survive these classes then you move on to your junior year.

Junior Year of Mechanical Engineering School

For your junior year, you are starting to get into stride with your schooling. You’ve made friends with a lot of your fellow mechanical engineering classmates and met some of your professors. Quick tip, I strongly advise that you visit professors during office hours to ask questions and to network. Professors tend to have many connections in many industries. They perhaps can help land an interview for you or provide a reference.

Classes you’ll take your junior year include:

  • a second year of thermodynamics
  • fluid mechanics,
  • solid mechanics
  • Dynamics of machines
  • statistics for engineers
  • electrical engineer fundamentals
  • heat transfer
  • strength of mechanical components

If you have made it this far, you are feeling pretty good about yourself and you have a pretty solid foundation in the fundamentals of mechanical engineering.  You start to feel like an actually mechanical engineer rather than just a mechanical engineering student because of the knowledge you now possess.

Senior Year of Mechanical Engineering School

For your senior year of mechanical engineering study, you will be challenged more than you have ever have in your academic career. You’ll have a chance to learn controls, engineering analysis, engineering economics, energy systems. You’ll also have the chance to take a couple of electives in areas that interest you. Also, you’ll have a senior design course that will encompass all that you have learned over the four years. I found my senior year the most taxing as you will be putting in a lot of hours for both the senior design class and your other classes. Quick tip, take a time management course over the summer before your senior year, it will make managing all your responsibilities for school much easier and decrease stress. Once you graduate you will have a great sense of accomplishment. Not everybody can say that they went through engineering school and survived. If you studied hard and were able to avoid all the distractions then you will be well prepared to have a successful career as a mechanical engineer.