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Failing First Year Engineering


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I was accepted to UBC faculty applied science this fall. Things were looking great... I racked in a whole lot of money from grants, scholarships, and bursaries-- and I had a solid 92 % avg. However, things havent been going very well. As of now, after some midterms...


i have english 112 - B

chem 154 - B

computer programming 160 - F

physics 153 - F

Math 100- F


I was asking some older kids and they said ALOT of people fail during first year engineering (about 40% ).



What i don't get is that most canadian universities only require an 82 % average to get in. Why is it so low? Are they trying to make a profit by failing students? Engineering is by far one of the most diffuclt undergraduate degrees to get, yet it requires one of the lowest admissions average.



And I don't party... I stay home friday nights and study. Also, I love the faculty of engineering. I can understand the material... its just the exams that really get me. How should I be studying for physics? Should I skip the readings for physics and math and dive straight to problems?




Alot of people said that if your smart enough to get into university... your smart enough to get out. Was that complete BS?



Any suggestions to getting through first year and engineering would greatly be appreciated.



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In one of my first year engineering classes someone asked for advice on getting through all the readings. The prof looked at him and said don't do them. Engineering is about applying concepts and solving problems and what helps you most with understanding these is often just doing more problems. Get your hands on as many problems as you can. Try to get old exams from upper years for practice. Don't look at the problem and think you know how to do it. Work your way through until you have an answer so you know you know how to do it. Having said that..if you've just done the same problem several times (only with different numbers) and are having no difficulties with it you can probably move on.


Learning to write engineering exams can be half the battle with the program. Most exams are not written straight out of the text book. Professors expect you to be able to apply what you've learned, not just regurgitate it. Many professors also like to write exams they expect no one to ace. If your entire class is complaining about how hard the exam was..don't worry because the marks will probably be adjusted. Once again my best advice is to leave the readings, make sure you know the general concepts and work through as many problems as you can.


The engineering workload can be quite overwhelming in first year. It is a balancing act in figuring out which areas to spend time on and which areas to leave. Chances are you will not be able to complete all the work assigned to you. Prioritize and don't worry about having every last problem completed. If the work you are doing isn't contributing to your ability to solve the problems on the exam, find a new way to study. It doesn't matter how many hours you put in, it matters what you learn during those hours.


Yes many people fail engineering courses. If you love the faculty and are enjoying the program (as much as anyone can 'enjoy' engineering), stick with it. Sometimes it's just a matter of learning how to study and how to write the exams. Once you've figured that out even though the concepts get harder, you'll be ready for them.


The above advice helped me through the program, but everyone is different so take what you like from it,



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I second the advice provided by Ror....practice problems will be your best friend. Do many many practice problems and just use the readings to back you up - a place that always has a few practice problems with solutions when the book explains the concepts and a place to check on tough concepts when working through problems on your own.


I would also like to add four pieces of advice:


1. It sounds like you are already doing this, but I encourage you to work your tail off through the entire semester, every single day (with the odd day off to relax of course). Engineering is a program that builds on previous concepts, so getting behind is never ever an option if you wish to succeed. If you are stuck on something...ask someone...a colleague in your class, a TA, a prof, whicever.


2. In conjunction with #1, my next piece of advice is to GO TO CLASS (not to say that you are skipping...but believe me, it's good advice that you'll need at some point). Yes, engineering is a loaded schedule. Yes, sometimes there is a prof who just isn't a fantastic teacher. Yes, sometimes you'll feel that you could accomplish more working on your own for an hour than attending a lecture. BUT - this is a slippery slope that many people slide down...missing class truly only gets you further behind despite your best intentions! Since we've already said that doing problems is a better use of your time than doing the readings....you obviously need to get the basic concepts somewhere and lectures are the perfect place for this. Also, lecturers often teach around topics or problems they feel are the most relevant (ie. the ones that will be on the exam!) If you know a lecture is just on Chapter 5....you'll spend a long time on the whole chapter...when if you went to the lecture, you'd realize that the prof really only taught 1 type of problem from chapter 5 and thus would save yourself a lot of time.


3. Form a study group. I had a fantastic group of good friends who I consistently worked with throughout my engineering degree. Working through problems together with other people is a huge help! Often one person working alone will get stuck on some small component of the problem that another friend can help out with. Thus, the frustration of being stuck is greatly decreased and you have several opinions and people to discuss things with, which should end up making the concepts stick.


4. Don't get discouraged...the first semester of university is a difficult adjustment in any program and even more so in a challenging one like engineering. I too had fantastic high school marks and had a few less than desireable midterm exam results in my first semester.....I specifically remember calling home in tears one day telling my parents that I would never make it at university, hehe. But, in the end, I found my study groove and my fantastic study group and everything worked out. I am positive that the same will happen for you if you keep at it :) Engineering is a tough 4-5 years, but it's a pretty huge accomplishment that you'll be proud of when you're through.


Lots of luck!

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Thank-You for very useful advice!


But happens if I do fail? UBC says that I will have to discontinue studies at UBC for 1 year.


In the mean time, will other universities accept me? Can I redue 1st year at another universitiy? Can I return to UBC and do science for a year? I know I don't want to give up engineering.

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