Dear First-Year Engineering Student:
I am writing this letter to you for several reasons. First, I would like to welcome you to Vanderbilt, to engineering, and to the beginning of one of the most exciting journeys you will ever take. Second, I would like to let you know some of the things that you are about to experience. Third, I would like to extend a personal note including little pieces of advice from my own experience as a former Vanderbilt student and current engineer.
Over the next four years you will develop friendships and relationships that will most likely last a lifetime. Vanderbilt is a wonderful place with wonderful people. When your friends from home come to visit, they will be in awe over the appearance of the campus, the friendliness of the people, and the good times to be had all over. You will soon find, if you havent already, this is a place to be proud of. To add another plus, you are in one of the most admired and respected fields of study, engineering. Other students will look on you with admiration because they could never imagine pulling the workload, solving the problems, and coping with the stress that you will over the next four years. Enjoy this feeling and get used to it because it will not change in the real world. Engineers are put on a similar level as business executives, lawyers, and doctors as professionals who are well educated and respected. However, while you are enjoying this feeling and as your ego grows, you have to perform academically. Be proud of your field by contributing to it in a respectful way. Have integrity and honesty as an engineer and you will be justly rewarded.
The experiences you are about to live will be truly life changing. You probably will not notice at first because you are actually living it. These experiences will make you the person that society will see and hopefully learn to admire. You will go through some of the most enjoyable and exciting times as well as rather upsetting and depressing times of your life. These experiences build your identity. You will work harder than ever and play harder than ever. The most important thing to realize is that you need to relax and enjoy the ride. Do not be afraid of what you do not know. Be an active learner. Do not sit back and just stare at the board or blindly read your books just to go through the motion. Be aggressive and conquer the concepts, develop relationships with your instructors (they are real people too!), and most of all have fun doing it. Work like a mad man (or woman) and the rewards will come rolling in (i.e. excellent grades!).
Finally, I would like to give you some advice that no one told me, and that I didn't learn until my senior year in engineering school: the work will always get done. Many, many times over the next four years you will feel overburdened, stressed out, tired, frustrated, and your brain will probably hurt. This sounds totally miserable, however, the end result (and there will be one) will be the biggest one ever for you. You will be an engineer with the capabilities and knowledge to expand the field, improve the quality of life around you, and earn a great salary. You can do the work, now it's a matter of actually doing it. It is not impossible by any means; you just have to do it, don't just think about doing it. Some of you will know exactly what is going on and for some of you it will take a little more work. Problem solving speed never made anyone famous in engineering; it was the quality and usefulness of the work. Do the work, but give your brain a rest occasionally. On top of academic fitness, you have to take care of your body and it will help you do class work by functioning more efficiently. You are already paying for the Rec Center; use it! My final remarks, I guess, are good luck, work hard, relax, and get ready for the most exciting and wild time of your life!
Best of luck,
Assoc. Prof. of the Practice of Engineering Management