15 Things to Know Before Starting McGill Engineering

By Marie Mansour

I’m gonna get straight to the point here – McGill engineering is HARD. There is no way to sugarcoat it. It doesn’t matter what type of engineering you’re pursuing, every single field is challenging in its own way. Since I am in electrical engineering, I can’t speak for everyone but my goal here is to provide you with 15 things to know before starting your first year as an engineering student, so that you can enjoy a memorable university experience.

1. Avoid 8:30am classes.

You might think you’ll be able to consistently go to them but as the weeks go by, trust me, you’ll be sleeping instead of attending them. Save yourself the trouble of trying to catch up by avoiding taking them as much as possible.

2. Take 4 classes your first semester.

Give yourself a chance to breathe! Your first year of university is meant to be filled with new experiences, social events, and new friends.

3. Don’t fall behind in your classes.

I’ll keep this description short and simple, if you fall behind in a class, it will be virtually impossible to catch up by the time the final comes around. Save yourself the trouble.

4. Work hard, play hard.

It’s important to balance your academic workload with your personal life. Study hard, but make sure you make the most of the events and activities going on around you. Find the balance that works for you!

5. Socialize!

Talk to new people. Go to McGill events. Make connections, you never know when it could come in handy!

6. Don’t take FACC 300 your first year.

Take it during the summer! I cannot stress this enough!

7. Take a management course as an elective.

Broaden your horizons and take a business-related course. It will be a good introduction to a possible future in the business world, which many engineers end up pursuing.

8. Join clubs.

There are hundreds, and I mean hundreds of clubs at McGill to choose from – there truly is something for everyone. Go to the club fair at the beginning of each semester. I can guarantee you’ll find something that sparks your interest.

9. Study in groups.

Everyone in your classes will have different levels of understanding as the course carries on throughout the year. Studying in groups provides you with the help you might need from someone who understands a part of the material better than you do.

10. Go to class.

At least 50% of you reading this are probably thinking “oh yeah, i’ll for sure go, not a problem, shouldn’t be too hard.” Remember me when it’s halfway through the semester and you don’t remember the last time you attended that 8:30 class. GO TO CLASS. You won’t regret it by the time that final comes around.

11. Try your assignment by yourself before getting help.

This is definitely important. Most of the time, it will be much easier to give up and ask your friends for answers to assignments. McGill professors tend to reuse assignment problems on exams, so being able to work them out and understand them is a valuable skill you’ll come to appreciate. You’ll understand things a lot better and you won’t fall as far behind.

12. Consult with people before finalizing your schedule.

Talk to the many advisors and counselors available to you on campus. Make connections with older students so they can give you advice on classes they’ve already taken.. Go on reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/mcgill/) and inquire about your schedule and different classes.

13. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Don’t assume that everyone understands everything that is going on. Most of the time, people will be just as lost as you in class (if not more lost).

14. Capitalize  on opportunities.

Club events, internship opportunities, tech fairs, outings with your friends, school events, etc. They’re important! Make the most of them.

15. Read your textbooks!

This is self-explanatory. I know the textbooks look intimidating. Don’t go to your textbook to learn and practice specific details. Instead, read your textbook sections for a general understanding of the material.

   Also, DO NOT BUY your textbook BEFORE your professor has told you they will be using it! Most teachers don’t end up using the textbooks and will most likely have their own exercises for you to practice. However, if you feel like those exercises are not enough, buying the textbook and reading it by yourself might end up being more effective for understanding the material. It all depends on your personal studying style, which you will learn during your first year here at McGill!

   Thank you to Christina Riachi, Michael Beyrouthy, and Mael Mugerwa (all software engineers) for giving some pieces of advice!