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The Key to Mastering the College Experience

October 1, 2014

About Me

I am a fourth year mechanical engineering student from Buffalo, NY. and interested in aerospace engineering. Recently I completed a co-op at the MITRE corporation and a summer research program at NASA Langley. I also serve as a CoE mentor for freshman students. 

The Key to Mastering the College Experience

As an engineering undergrad, life can be a balancing act. Amidst the chaos of classes, homework and finding a co-op, however, there is a unique college experience. I’m sure every student has heard from someone that college is the “best years of your life.” These are the years in which we forge our ambitions into expertise that we can contribute to the world.

My freshman year, I consistently heard from upperclassmen, “Get involved, talk to professors, network!” At the time, this seemed very generic, but four years later, it’s still great advice.  I’m sure you’ve heard the same, so I’ll give my own take:

As a new student (freshman/sophomore), get in the habit of attending info sessions, even if they are intended for older students. Research professors and employers will certainly be impressed that an underclassman took the time to attend their event. This is a great way to make an impression.

Introduce yourself to older students, especially ones in your major. It’s easy to see a student in the student center or the library studying and think, “I don’t want to bother them,” but I speak for most upperclassmen when I say that we don’t mind giving advice to younger students. We all need advice sometimes, and this campus is a very friendly place. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from a five minute chat with a senior.

There are a seemingly endless number of clubs and activities, so it’s important to pick the ones that both interest you and teach you new skills. Having said this, choose quality over quantity. Research opportunities are the same way. To many it seems that committing to a research project with a professor is like taking on a full time job, but most research opportunities can be tailored to an undergrad’s schedule. These experiences are invaluable when it comes to finding a co-op or pursuing graduate school after graduation.

Take co-op searches seriously. In my mind, co-op is the most valued attribute of a Northeastern education. They take all the guesswork out of finding a topic that interests and challenges you. For the typical undergrad, three (or even two) co-ops give you the luxury of exploring many diverse fields without being permanently tied down. In the hustle and bustle of classes, it’s easy to disregard the referral process and be stuck interviewing for jobs that don’t interest you.

With all this in mind, make some time for the social experience of college as well. I don’t think I need to reiterate that Boston is a terrific city to explore, so make the most of your off time. The key to college is time management. Master this early and you won’t need to sacrifice your social life for academic success.

Also see Craig's success story