The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Between mountains of homework, getting lost in the engineering center, and chugging coffee, what are the best and worst parts of CU engineering? My first semester here as an aerospace engineering major, I overslept on the day my 100 point presentation was due, rushed to class in my pajamas without brushing my teeth, got locked out of my dorm room because I forgot my Buff One card in my rush, and had to crawl back in through the open window (benefits of having a basement dorm room I guess). On the bright side, my team absolutely aced our presentation, and our final project turned out amazing.
Aerospace engineering here at CU has been interesting and fun as well as challenging and stressful, so here are some of the best and worst parts to consider if you decide to do engineering.
- Best: The academics at CU are great!
When I was picking a college to go to for aerospace engineering, one of the variables that I looked at was how good the program was. According to the US News, CU Boulder is tied for the 26th best engineering school, and it is ranked as 10th for the best aerospace engineering schools. Almost every single type of engineering, from aerospace to environmental, is available at CU Boulder, and you can definitely ensure that you are getting a great education.
- worst: The workload
With great classes comes great responsibility, so be prepared for a lot of homework. Engineering is definitely not an easy major; many of my days were spent in the math help room working through Differential Equations homework, or in the Engineering Center doing a coding workshop for my Projects class. Engineering can be a lot, but if you manage your time well and are passionate about what you are doing, then it isn’t so bad. One thing I can say is: don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m an independent person and I definitely prefer to figure things out on my own, but when it came to topics that I didn’t understand, I saved a lot of time by working with a TA. However, life isn’t all about studying, so make sure you take time to hang out with friends or have a self-care day.
- Best: The buildings
Any aerospace student knows that you get to spend a lot of time in the brand new aerospace building on East Campus. It is an incredibly nice building with a variety of workspaces on the inside, as well as updated facilities and a modern interior.
Another place that you’ll find many of the engineers hanging out in is the Engineering Center. The Engineering Center is huge, and it also has many places to work or to just sit and hang out with friends. The truly best part about these buildings is that both of them are equipped with a café, so it’s easy to get a caffeine fix or two before you get going on your homework. I have taken enough trips to the Gravity Café in the engineering center to fill out several punch cards, while also concerning my friends with my signature four-shot latte.
- Worst: getting to the buildings
While the buildings themselves might be nice and spacious, there are definitely a couple of downsides. As far as the aerospace building goes, it’s on East Campus, so getting to and from it is incredibly inconvenient, especially if you have a class scheduled right before or after (prepare to be late). Taking the Buff Bus to and from East all day is less than ideal, so make sure that you give plenty of time for commuting in between aerospace classes.
With the Engineering Center, it’s easy to get to, and hard to get out of. The Engineering Center was skillfully designed to be the most difficult building to navigate on campus (in my opinion of course). After many classes within this building, it still takes me time to figure out where I need to be going. Asking an upperclassman could work, but it’s possible that they have no idea where you need to go or how to get there. You start to feel a little like Theseus in the labyrinth, so make sure you find your classes in advance.
- Best: The Friends
Engineering majors generally have smaller class sizes, so you get to know a lot of the people in your major pretty well, especially in aerospace. Getting to meet people with the same interests as you and get through the difficult curriculum together is a great way to make lifelong friends. Talking to the people who sit with you in class is also perfect for finding a study group, which is ideal for some of the math or physics classes. Also, many engineering classes have several group projects in their curriculum, so it’s good to have friends you can work with on those.
- Worst: lack of women
Trying to get more women in STEM has been an ongoing battle, so pretty much every engineering major here at CU is heavily male-dominated. While many of the guys I’ve met so far have been wonderful people that I’ve enjoyed working with, there is still a handful that is egotistical and condescending. Don’t get intimidated. Just keep working hard in your classes and find other people to sit or work with. If meeting other women in engineering has been difficult, try checking out an organization such as SWE: The Society of Women Engineers in order to make some new friends.
- Best: Interesting Projects
Being an engineer means creating things, which is really fun, especially in your projects classes where you are essentially given free rein over what you want to work on. In my first-year Projects class, my team created a walking stick for the blind that could sense obstacles in advance using sensors. Some of the other projects in our class included a bike attachment that generated energy, or a helmet that could help you during an avalanche. Project classes are a fun way to get creative and learn some cool technical skills.
- Worst: Feeling like you don’t know enough
This is especially evident when you are just starting out in engineering. Going into my first projects classes or first coding classes, there were a lot of people who knew a lot more than me. People who had been on their robotics teams in high school and were already well versed in coding languages or how to solder wires together. It feels intimidating at first, but it’s ok if you don’t know anything about coding or wiring going into these classes, that’s what the classes are for. Plus, you might have some skills that come in handy. In my project class, I didn’t know how to wire circuits or code, but those were things that I learned over time, and my presentation and writing skills ended up being really important to the group. Just because other people have experience with robotics or coding doesn’t make them better or smarter than you, so don’t feel inadequate over it.
While there are some difficult parts to engineering, the best parts outweigh them by far, and I have had a wonderful time as an engineering student so far. All it takes is hard work and confidence, and anyone can be an engineer.