Top 10 Advice for Female Engineering Students
1. Don't Worry about Not Fitting In
Really. Truly. Just because you don't act, talk, and/or dress like all the others in your major doesn't mean you shouldn't be there. Plus, the others probably don't notice the difference as much as you do.
Don't pysch yourself out. If you want to pursue this field, by all means do so. Don't let that voice in your head tell you don't belong.
2. It's Okay if You Find it Hard
Engineering school is not meant to be easy. It is a large, heavy and intense course load. The requirements are specifically designed that way to get you comfortable with solving problems, with learning to fail, with learning to ask for help, and learning to figure things out in a new way. You will be stretched and repeatedly pushed beyond your comfort zone. That is the purpose of school, to prepare engineers to build things in real life.
Also, don't worry if no one else seems stressed. Either you don't really know them or maybe this is the one class for them that they find easy. Whatever. That is their path and you have yours. Focus on you and what you need to do.
3. Don't Quit Just Because You Got a C (or Two (and/or Failed Calc II (or Some Other Course)))
This isn't high school and it may shock you, but it is highly unlikely that you'll get straight As in college even if you try really, really hard. You might not even get all As and Bs. Many people get a couple of Cs and a lot, I mean a lot, of people fail Calculus II and have to take it over again. Does that mean you should drop out of engineering school and go do something easier? Hell, no!! You just have to keep trying and get through it. Just because you aren't getting straight As doesn't mean you shouldn't stay there. Really.
Also, as hard as this may be to believe, but your grades in college are not predictive of your professional success. Success at work requires different skills than getting As in college.
4. Intern Every Summer
Internships are wonderful on so many levels. First, there's the fact that you get paid and typically a lot more than minimum wage. Secondly, you learn critical skills for success at work that you just aren't going to learn at school. Next, you get to solve real problems. No more labs and theoretical situations. This is real-world, baby. Fourth, you'll make new friends and start building a professional network. Fifth, and my personal favorite, you will find working easier than school - no one is trying to fail you out. At work, they want you to do well. They want you to like them. They want you to learn and solve the problem. Finally, and best of all, you may even get a job offer before you graduate! Internships are win-win!
4b. If You Work during the School Year, have it be Related to Your Major
Professors need research assistants. Other students may need tutoring in your own subject. Local companies need interns. Build that resume!
5. Make Friends with Your Fellow Class Mates and Your Professors
Shy or as intimidated as you may be, it behooves you to reach out and make friends with both your classmates and your professors. Build your network. Throughout your college career you going to need their help and their advice. They might lift you up and brush you off when you need it most. Professors wise with experience can help point you in the right direction, be it internships or major sub-specialties.Everyone has something you can learn from. Open your eyes to the possibilities.
ps. Especially make friends with that one person who does get straight As. Maybe they'll help tutor you. :)
6. Have Fun
Whatever you are doing, it isn't life or death. If you make a mistake, you can correct it and even if you can't itt is okay. Breathe. Enjoy every single moment. None of it lasts. Everything will pass. So, if you are spending your entire semester stuck in the lab, at least yuck it up with your fellow lab rats. Seek the joy in exactly where you are. Your life will be better for it.
7. Go Outside of Your Major
Get a minor. Take the fun classes. Do some extracurricular activities. Go hiking. Make friends with the locals. Do what you like. Whatever you are majoring in isn't the end-all be-all. Think of these things as coming up for fresh air. You may also get the break and space you need to figure out how to solve a problem that's been plaguing you. Outside activities and learning make you a better employee and a more interesting person. Enjoy.
8. Believe in Yourself
Have courage in your convictions. Have faith in the rightness of your ideas. Life is not going to be a series of Yes(s) and You're Wonderful(s). You have to believe that you deserve to be there and pick yourself up when you fall down.
On a related note, learn to silence the negative self talk. It doesn't do you any good to be so self critical. All it does is tear you down unnecessarily. Try talking to yourself as if you were a friend. Your friend would be honest, kind, and loving. Treat yourself well.
9. Do Not Take on a Crazy Amount of Debt
I almost forgot to include this one, but this may be the grandaddy of them all. Watch your spending. Really. Student loans and credit cards are not fun money. You will have to pay it all back, plus interest. Don't let that debt get up and out of control, because even if you graduate with a stupendous job making 100k+ a year at Google, debt just sucks. It takes seemingly forever to pay off. It hangs over your head and influences your life choices for a very long time. Just don't do it.
Go to college in-state. Room with friends. Eat ramen. Don't credit card finance spring break. Watch your spending and learn how manage your finances now. Then, when you buy your first house at 24, instead of paying $600+ a month in loans, you can thank me.
Again, debt sucks. Don't be that girl. Start reading Suze Orman now.
10. Get that Degree
Whatever you do, do not drop out. Stay laser focused on just getting through each class, each day. It will be hard. It will challenge you, but I promise you it will be worth it in the end. Because it will end. Then, once you have that degree you can do whatever you want. and this degree is only the beginning. You are off to do big things. I promise.