See what Rebecca from Women in Mechanical Engineering (WME) has to say about things to do in high school to set yourself up for success in engineering.
Q: What are things to do in high school to prepare you for engineering in college?
A: There’s a lot of things you can do throughout your high school career to become an engineer, no matter the time you decide. If you’re like me, you didn’t really know that you wanted to be a engineering major specifically until late junior year. Even then, I didn’t really have a clue in what being a mechanical engineering major looked like either. Thankfully, I already was prepared in several ways for the rigor that engineering would bring before realizing my favored major: having strong academics, strong extracurriculars, STEM experiences, and being a well rounded person.
As basic as it may be, having good academics is pretty essential to setting yourself up for success in any major and this is no different in engineering. You want to be sure that your grades are good, but also to take accelerated and advanced classes, such as APs, IBs, and dual credit classes. Not only will these help you get used to the pace that college engineering classes will bring, it will also save you money when you want to transfer your credit between your AP and IB scores and/or college credit. If your school doesn’t offer these types of classes, I would recommend looking into potentially taking them on your own or taking electives relating to engineering.
These classes come in many forms: robotics, architecture, higher-level math courses not required by your school, and more. Hopefully, not only will these classes increase your chances of getting accepted into your favored engineering school, they will also emphasize to yourself that your passion of engineering is true to yourself. To learn engineering is partially to learn how you learn the best as the amount of content you need to memorize and conceptually understand is large.
Extracurriculars come in many forms in your community or school. They can be your participation in UIL - Mathematics, sustainability organization, or tutoring center. What extracurriculars show to schools is that you will take the initiative to reach out into your community, to enhance both your own knowledge and the ones around you for a shared goal.
Your extracurriculars don't necessarily have to be STEM related, though ideally you would at least have one extracurricular that is (HOSA, FIRST, Vex, etc.). This could be a club that you're very passionate in and that you have shown leadership experience in; after all, engineers are very interdisciplinary as our jobs are melding different forms of science and math to make the world easier for others. I enjoyed politics and public speaking as a high schooler, so as a result, Model United Nations was the organization that I eventually became secretary-general in because I wanted others to have the same learning experience I had when I was in school. By demonstrating leadership, it shows you have the time management skills to manage an organization and the teamwork skills to show you know how to work with differing mindsets to make your end result better.
If there is an organization that you want to exist but don’t have yet at your school, making an organization from the ground up speaks even more to the previous traits, as the initiative to create new spaces for new interests shows adaptability, resilience, and strength.
While not as glamorous as the above categories, volunteering shows generosity, kindness, and is all around a great experience to have. Volunteering in places that you would normally not frequent allows yourself to experience the different lifestyles that people have while helping others. A great volunteering experience that can intersect academics and STEM experience is tutoring for middle or elementary school students in science and math subjects or creating unique learning experiences for them. It really just depends on what you enjoy to do and things you want to see changed in the world.
I’ve touched on it briefly in the previous sections, but having STEM experiences shows that you’re already adjusted to the engineering environment and ready to delve deeper. Some that aren’t included above may be internships at universities or companies that hire high school students, or working in a mechanic’s shop as a part-time job, or going to STEM summer camps.
If these opportunities aren’t accessible to you, a great STEM experience could to take on personal projects that make your life easier. This could be making a bike from scratch, or creating a mechanism to close a door at the press of a remote. There are also great competitions that can be found in various web challenges for high school students that would let you exercise your technical knowledge.
I associated a lot of the above experiences with a personable adjective for a reason; engineering is for the people and to make the quality of life better for people. By understanding who you are, why you want to go into engineering, and having a breadth of engineering experience that communicates to schools that you know that you can pursue your degree with confidence, you show you are a great candidate to get into the program that you desire. Best of luck!
You can find WME on social media here!
Facebook group: Women in Mechanical Engineering at UT
Women in Mechanical Engineering (WME) is a tight-knit community dedicated to helping female mechanical engineers at UT Austin expand their networks, develop improved professional and academic skills, and ultimately become the next-generation of female leaders in STEM.
This blog post was written by Rebecca Lin from WME. Rebecca is a third year mechanical engineering student.