What I Wish I Knew Before Going into Engineering

Engineering—when you say that word to an outsider, they tend to only have one of a few responses:

“Wow you must be so smart!”

“I’m sure you can handle anything!”

“You’ll be set for a job after graduating!”

Let me tell you, from the inside, it’s a whole lot more complicated than that.

As someone who’s now in his third year of mechanical engineering at Ryerson, I thought I’d share with all of you a few things that I wish I knew before starting my degree.

1. Nail Down Your High School Math and Science Skills

After graduating from high school, I basically flushed everything school-related from my bag and my mind. That was a mistake.

I could not believe how much of the content covered in my first semester was from grade 12. But if you think about it, it makes sense. How are you expected to do any engineering if you lack basic knowledge of calculus, chemistry and mechanics? Trust me, if you know your stuff from grade 12, you’ll have a much easier time adjusting to engineering life.

2. It’s Not the End of the World if You Do Poorly in a Course

Making the transition from high school to university can be hard on a lot of students. It’s possible that you might not do as successfully in a course as you had hoped. The important thing is you pick yourself back up, reflect on what went wrong, and take another crack at it with a new approach.

The First Year Engineering Office understands how challenging the first year of engineering can be for a student. Through the Transition Program, nearly every course from the first semester is offered again in the winter term. Second semester courses can then be shifted and taken over the spring/summer term.

3. Register for an OSPE Membership

Exclusive savings for Ontario's engineers

Get exclusive savings with your Ontario Society of Professional Engineers student membership | Ontario Society of Professional Engineers

In second year, a friend of mine was telling me that thanks to her Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) discount, she was getting a new laptop soon.

I was initially very confused because I had no idea that the OSPE offers a free membership to all students enrolled in an accredited engineering degree program in Ontario. Countless savings are offered through the membership including a 39% discount off a regular Goodlife Fitness membership and special discounts to select Toronto Raptors games!

4. Go to Your Professors’ Office Hours

Your professors’ office hours are there so you can get one-on-one help. Bring assigned problems or problems from the lecture and have them explain to you any confusing details. The last thing you want to be doing is frantically emailing your professor a couple of days before the exam to ask for help on a question (I may have done this before).

5. Make Use of the Internet

The Internet provides a treasure trove of resources for engineering students. There’s even content to be found from Ryerson professors such as Dr. Kaamran Raahemifar’s YouTube lectures for EES 512. So whether you’ve missed class or need coding help, there’s almost always something online that can help you.

6. It’s Okay to Not Know What Kind of Engineering You Want to Do

Gonna be honest here and say that going into university, I had no idea what the differences were between each of the engineering programs.

Thankfully, every first year engineering student shares the exact same first semester. The first semester course CEN 100, Introduction to Engineering, will also cover each type of engineering so that you know which engineering program is right for you.

Believe it or not, I actually ended up going from undeclared engineering to chemical engineering, then to aerospace engineering, before finally settling on mechanical engineering.

7. Socializing Can Be Just as Important as Studying

Frosh leader with his back turned to the camera speaking to first year engineering students

Getting involved in student groups and events is a great way to connect with peers | First-Year Engineering Office

Obviously diligent studying is not something you want to let slip past you. That being said, it’s important that you take time to hang out and talk to people too.

A healthy social life can keep you from burning out. In addition, socializing can help you learn of intriguing extracurricular and job opportunities.

This is also a great way to develop your communication skills. And having good math, science and communication skills will you make you a well-rounded, competitive engineering candidate.


Hooray! You’ve made it this far, so I know you have the determination needed to get through an engineering degree! And hopefully these pointers will make the start of your journey even easier.

Until next time, my future engineers.

— Jeremy

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A photo of the window from my common room in Pitman Hall with an eight and stick figure from the office.