The road to becoming an Engineering Undergraduate.

#1

The common conception, or rather misconception of an “Engineer” as someone armed with a hard hat, covered in oil and fixing a car, is slowly being beaten away. Rather, recognition is finally being given to those bright individuals, whose unique combination of maths and creative science, lead to the advance of that edgy streamlined design and futuristic solar engine. Well… at least, I’d like to think so.

This coming October I shall be embarking on the educational roller-coaster that is an Engineering degree. It’s been a challenging application process so far, but if you’re someone who wants to go into a career focussed on creating and changing the world, I guess challenges are what you live for? Either way, I thought I’d share my experience with you WikiJobers, and you can make your own minds up!

To Engineer something; perhaps a more accurate definition of what an Engineer does. To create and improve in order to solve the problems of the world. Sound exciting? Well if you find yourself interested in science and maths and also creative and good with your hands, then perhaps Engineering is worth looking into!
Engineers require a strong mathematical base but don’t let this put you off (they often deal with the fun “applied concepts” of the subject). Physics is also the other required A level, and Engineering bases itself on scientific application you can certainly understand why.
Having taken physics and maths at A level, another science may be useful. But you may enjoy the creative freedom of a subject like English or a foreign language; as long as you can justify your choice of subjects, you’re offered an amount of freedom in the other A levels you take.

Beyond accademic requirements though, what sets you out from the crowd? Have you already decided which kind of Engineering you want to study? (Civil, mechanical, electronic…to name but a few!) To answer both these questions, candidates with a good variety of work experience are often favoured by institutions. In fact many actually prefer you to take “gap years” to gain some sort of industrial experience, a rarity among most mathematics based subjects. I myself have just taken a gap year, and would recommend www.yini.org.uk . Just remember to keep your numeracy from going rusty!

So you’ve got an idea of the course you want to pursue; perhaps you’ve chosen a discipline, or gone for the more versatile “General Engineering” course. What next? Well when writing that personal statement, you might want to look into some inspiring Engineers of the past. Some critics would argue that students need not mention Engineering related books: I disagree. One of the greatest tools for academic advancement, especially considering the wealth of knowledge obtainable by those who’ve gone before us, should not be so easily overlooked. J.E Gordon’s work, as well as scientific journals such as New Scientist and current Engineering related news could all come in handy. Most importantly just remember to be enthusiastic. Engineers are creatives, so it’s only right to take a bit of pride in your subject!

#2

A really interesting post there. I would just say one thing about writing a personal statement. I have it on very good authority (someone who does the admissions for Engineering at one of the Russell Group Universities in the UK0 that the admissions staff dont even bother to read the personal statements on UCAS forms. So I wouldn’t spend too much time creating a brilliant piece of writing for this section of the form, no point! They are really only interested in the grades you get and the subjects you are doing. I suppose if you get as far as clearing then they may pay some attention but I doubt it!

#3

I didn’t know that about the personal statement, but I can say I wasn’t interviewed for my engineering course so that says something about how a lot of institutions don’t bother about the individual capacity of the student. They are really focussed on grades.

#4

Although I haven’t studied an engineering degree, I did do my bachelor of science and I think there is something to be said for focusing largely on the grades of the individual student prior to going to university. In reality, a student needs to have a strong understanding of mathematical issues as well as physics and therefore somebody who has struggled with their A-levels is unlikely to be successful when it comes to understanding the more detailed concepts university level. Creativity and the ability to think out of the box may be very important in certain degrees and is of course a little bit important in engineering, but first and foremost they need to be to understand mathematical issues. Failure to recognise this would be a big problem for universities. That said, engineers do so much more than number crunch and I think failing to interview or considering the personality behind the grades could be a bit short sighted.
Maybe a balance can be achieved particularly given the fact that the engineers are increasingly going to be required to be business minded rather than being pure specialists.
Just my thoughts!
N