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Visit the College of Engineering’s Career Center. The center can provide resume and cover letter critiques, interview preparation, professional school advising, workshops, and more.
Too often, we worry about fitting in or fitting the expectations of others. The reality is that we are very unique individuals and we need to take the path that allows us to be our best and optimizes our goals in life. The university experience can be overwhelming, and degree plans that seem immovable can be daunting from the perspective of perceived capabilities and straight up cost. The truth is that your journey to your degree is yours; don’t be afraid to veer from the traditional route to your diploma.
The truth is that your journey to your degree is yours; don’t be afraid to veer from the traditional route to your diploma.
Taking time off
Taking a semester or a year off before starting school is frowned upon. Yet, psychologically, there are so many benefits to reap from it. Being able to experience life without the pressure of school can be relieving and ultimately refuel you to be ready to succeed in college. Getting to live somewhere new without the direct support of your parents can also make you grow in new ways. There are endless options, from working a full-time job at home and earning money to traveling around the U.S. or abroad to participating in the Peace Corps or joining the military reserve and completing boot camp. Personally, if this is an option for you, I’d encourage you to pursue something completely different than what your degree will entail.
Seek out co-op opportunities
During your college career, don’t be afraid to apply for co-ops and research opportunities during the normal year. While there are some classes that are only offered spring or fall, this can be an extremely rewarding detour. Students often want to get in and out, but the reality is there are so many possibilities waiting at your fingertips. Students seldom realize interning in a fall or spring is typically a whole month longer than what you’d get in a summer – more networking and job experiences! There are steps in place with career services to allow for you to stay a student and have an easy path back into the university the next semester or year. I would also recommend this if you see yourself burning out of school. It can be difficult to remember why you chose your major as you become sleep-deprived during the school year, and participating in a co-op definitely fixes that!
Make a plan
Of course, there are necessary cautions. Do your homework and meet with your advisors as needed! Make sure you are aware of all pre- and co-requisites for classes you need to take. From discussing your plans with your advisor to testing out your degree plan in Howdy, make sure you’re not missing a single class. All catalogs can be found online or requested from your advisor for accurate documentation. If cost is an issue, make sure you analyze your budget to see what your margins are. It’s also important to know that, to maintain your student status, you need to be enrolled in at least one class every fall or spring semester. If you can’t take one class, you will most likely lose your student status and need to reapply to the university.
My college journey looks extremely different than the typical path. I was set to attend Boston University for theater by the end of high school and ended up not going in August. I became a college dropout for a semester as I tried to figure out what I wanted to pursue. I ended up becoming a live-in nanny in Brooklyn, New York City for three months and accepted an offer from Texas A&M in engineering. I started school in spring 2018 and quickly realized I was meant to do aerospace engineering. By the time I graduate in spring 2022, I will have completed two co-ops and have taken off two spring semesters. Though I’m Class of 2021, I don’t mind graduating late since I’ve been able to have wonderful career experiences. Plus, I’ll actually graduate in nine semesters with my co-ops, meaning seven full semesters – deceivingly late, but actually early!
In the words of Robert Frost:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”