Best Option for Your Child's Future ?

An engineering program is the best preparation for your college-bound child’s future as a doctor, lawyer, corporate manager, best-selling author, management consultant, high school science teacher, mayor, senator, police detective, touring musician, factory production manager, pharmacist, banker, financial advisor, small business owner, CEO, CFO, COO, university professor or administrator.

The student in question may not have to finish the degree to reap the benefits. The idea is to learn how to think and make decisions "like a GOOD engineer". Depending on where a person starts at, and the freedom to chose classes, this can happen sooner for some than others.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a strong believer in personal wellness management and simplicity so I personally avoid anything that involves regulation, legislation, litigation, medication, or invasive surgery. But when I need help with any of the above, I prefer that the party coming to my aid, started their post-secondary education in a college of engineering. I am biased, my degrees are all in electrical engineering. Socio-economically, I “come from nothing” and credit all that I have to the discipline of my profession.

First of all, my personal experiences as a student and later experience as a university professor (and academic advisor) compel me to say that parents should never pay for their own kid’s college. Helping is fine. Continuing to provide some essential food, clothing and shelter is okay. But even if you can write a check to cover all tuition, books, fees, and incidentals,……, by doing do, you are cheating your child out of some of the most important lessons they are going to college to learn. Many, I’ll even dare to say most, of the important lessons taught at the university are not explicitly called out in the catalog or course descriptions.

Many engineering schools have stipend supported research opportunities for undergraduate students. Working with upperclassmen, graduate students, and research professors as soon as possible is critical to the students development as a professional. As well, the student needs to work at the kinds of places where they want to begin their careers. This is how you get references. The first step, is to go and ask for the job. The second is dealing with likely rejection because somebody else already got the position. The third is to move on to the next possible target. Its just like the real world. But, if mom and dad pay, this career initiation process is stunted. Sooner is so much better. So, encourage your student to reach out to those engineering professors (and other future employers and business associates) from ninth grade onward. People hire people they know.

The educational process in college continues the exclusionary selection process that begins with admissions. Children who can’t (or wont) complete ALL the college application forms shouldn’t go to college. Neither should those who are easily lead or who have not developed a capacity for self-critique, or time management skills. Students who are overwhelmed by the financial aid maze, will be just as overwhelmed by a network of lab assistants, teaching assistants, administrative aides, clerks, professors, and assistant deans for whatever. Engineering school, maybe college in general, provides a sheltered environment for learning how to get along with people whose goals may not line up exactly with yours.

It has been my experience that people are only concerned about what you studied in college and your grades when they want to present you with a ‘plausible’ excess for excluding you or discounting your potential for contribution. (They’ve already made up their mind. You probably don’t want to work with or for somebody like that.) People looking to hire you, or bring you onto their team are looking for evidence of a certain set of skills and attributes. These things are demonstrated by how you engage the person in question and present the evidence.

Engineering school core courses focus on acquisition, organization, retention of knowledge and thought processes supporting the five elements of engineering design.

Those elements of design ----- executing (1) analysis, and (2) synthesis of problem solutions within a framework of performance requirements and process, cost, or time constraints, and then planning for (3) construction/fabrication, (4) test, and (5) evaluation ----- pervade the workplace, regardless of the career path we chose or stumble upon once we enter the workforce. Everyone involved in an enterprise is tasked with somehow delivering value to a customer supply chain for a set of goods and associated services. The enterprise exists to allow the customer to transfer their value exchange commodity (money) and receive goods and associated services, in return. It doesn’t matter whether the enterprise is Apple, Inc., a theatric rock band ,a hospital, or a homeless shelter. It’s the same transaction and of all the college majors available, engineering provides the most direct way of injecting the organizational and get this, ‘people’ skills a person needs to be successful in the workplace.

I’m am going to go out on a limb here, and reveal a closely held secret. 80% of an engineering student’s success has to do with how well they handle things like completing tasks in a group, listening to others, speaking clearly and concisely, and engaging faculty and staff as living, breathing, and thinking people. Yes, the technical knowledge is still required but its required for everybody. What makes the difference, over the course of a career is that 80% ----- people skills. This is not a unique truth, specific to engineering students. The good news is at a good engineering school, this fact is brought out in the open and addressed on a daily basis in every class.

The discipline of studying, doing lots of problems, taking lots of tests, preparing presentations, having work critiqued, completing projects to meet a deadline, and producing a tangible work product whose components and final configuration have been selected using a criteria such as the weighted sum of a set of eight customer-valued attributes is transferable to any endeavor. The ability to MAKE STUFF, IMAGINE THINGS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE , or MAKE SOMEONE ELSE'S CRAPPY IDEA, actually WORK has value every where.

The internet and mobile phone technology has made access to information available to most everyone. Having information available doesn't necessarily inform the decision making capacity of an individual. That transformation comes through the immersive experience of problem-solving and negotiation in the midst of others doing the same.

The claim that a liberal arts education teaches critical thinking, and the implication that other majors do not is addressed by saying that ‘critical thinking’ is one of many processes taught in an engineering curriculum. About one eighth of the coursework in an undergraduate engineering degree are in literature, history, English, and social sciences. A person who aspires to succeed as a writer, artist, or performer has to have exceptional people skills as well as technical skills for content production, and they need a reliable source of incometo support themselves until the artistic endeavors start paying off. Engineering school is the not so obvious answer.

Engineering school is where we most likely learn how to be "human".


"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." — Robert A. Heinlein



Jeffrey J.

Real World Engineering Coach - Project and Research Topic Advisor

50+ hours
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