Tips for getting a 4.0 in engineering

academics engineering
By Gino D.

College is intimidating enough as is without overworking yourself in pursuit of a perfect GPA. However, if you have decided that graduating with a 4.0 is a top priority for you, here are some tips that helped me achieve a 4.0 in engineering.

Ask for help early

One thing I learned quickly in my undergraduate career and have relearned in my graduate student years is that if you are struggling with some concept, homework, or anything else, you need to ask for help right away. Waiting even a week to try to catch up or figure everything out on your own can be costly because (more often than not) you will just end up an extra week behind. Don’t dig yourself into a hole!

Take advantage of office hours

The most common question I asked students in college who came to me looking for advice was, “Have you been going to office hours?” Office hours are amazing for a handful of reasons. First off, they are where you need to go to ensure you are asking for help early. Additionally, going to office hours helps fend off the frustration that comes with a brutal problem set. There have been times when going to office hours for a class has reduced the time I spent on problems sets by half. Rather than wasting brain power and time, go to office hours as soon as you can. That said, make sure you have legitimately tried the problems and given your best effort before doing so. Professors and TA’s can tell when you haven’t made an attempt and when you’re just looking for easy answers.

Start studying for exams earlier than you think you should

Sometimes the last minute cram is unavoidable. But toward the beginning of the semester especially, you should try to give yourself multiple days to study for exams. This means planning out your homework schedule so that you can focus on studying in the days before the exam rather than spending that time trying to complete problem sets for other courses. A good rule I followed was to use the days leading up to the exam to study and then use the day before the exam to complete a practice exam to see if there are any areas I need to re-study one last time.

Use a planner/calendar

Another recommendation I always gave to students asking for help was to use a daily planner or calendar. In college, I hand-wrote in a daily planner all four years, but now I’ve moved to an electronic to-do list. Having a list of all the assignments and tasks you need to complete and being able to plan a few days in advance goes a long way in terms of staying on top of your work and not accidentally forgetting assignments.

Have some luck

The reality of getting a 4.0 is that you probably also need a good amount of luck. Whether that is a professor turning out to be an easy grader or getting a group member who saves a group project, some things will just be out of your control. Focus on what you can control and hope luck is on your side!

Gino majored in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Computational Engineering at Notre Dame. Presently, he's pursuing his MS/PhD at Harvard, researching soft robotics and actuators.

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