5 Reasons Why Engineering Students Drop Out

Retention rates among students studying engineering are among the lowest of all majors. Around 60% of students that study engineering will either drop-out or change majors and 40% of those students will do so in their first year. So why is it that so many students drop-out?

 1.       Engineering is Difficult

Engineering majors are incredibly difficult because they have a rigorous course load and are very time-consuming. Often students underestimate the amount of work outside the classroom. Moreover, they are not ready for physics, advanced math courses, or discipline specifics like thermodynamics, machine design or fluid mechanics.

One thing I remember from freshman year, for each hour spent in class learning, it was expected to spend two hours out of class reviewing, reading, and studying. That is a very daunting expectation and a wakeup call to many. You need to be ready and willing to dedicate a significant portion of your “free time” to studying and coursework if your goal is to succeed. 

 2.       Poor Work Ethic

As a high school student, classes like physics, chemistry, and mathematics were basic, tests were straight forward, and teachers were lenient. As a result, you could pass easily by studying the night before or even not at all. That does not work in college, especially in engineering. In fact, it’s a recipe for failure. You must learn to adjust and adapt your studying techniques and most importantly, focus on priorities. Last minute studying will leave you way behind in class. Once you fall behind, it is incredibly hard to catch back up. Keep an up to date calendar or a list of all due assignments to stay organized and allow for better time management.

 3.       Inability to Deal with Failure

Failure is unavoidable and it’s a part of life. It happens and you need to deal with it. Many high school graduates lack any real experience with failure. An overwhelming percentage of engineering drop-outs do so because they either lack academic success or can no longer see themselves being successful. Their fear of failure is enough to convince them to give up. Failure shouldn’t be feared. It should be a learning tool. Recognize a problem and learn from it. It’s key to excelling in an engineering program and becoming an engineer.

 4.       Lacking the Engineering Mindset

A degree in engineering is extremely enticing. The demand, prestige, and the salary are attractive to both students and parents. However, many students are drawn to engineering disciplines without taking their interests into account. Students need to ask themselves questions like “Why do you want to be an engineer?” and “Who do you want to help?” Do not just focus on the title or salary. Engineering is incredibly difficult and time-consuming. If you do not have the desire or an interest in the subjects, you are not going to have the motivation or drive to succeed. 

 5.       Stress Overload

The course load of an engineering student can be overwhelming and it causes students to burn out. One common complaint among engineering students, as well as the leading causes of dropouts, is feeling overworked and stressed. It can be managed by keeping your life balanced between school, work, and social life. Especially in engineering, free time is limited. Use it effectively and be sure to set aside time for yourself and enjoy everything that college has to offer you. Above all, set your priorities and stick to them. 

Author: Jack Horbacewicz – linkedin.com/in/johnhorbacewicz

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One Comment on “5 Reasons Why Engineering Students Drop Out

  1. Machine Design, in particular, had a chief editor that had excellent editorials emphasizing honesty, hard work, and highly insightful common sense. Ron Kohl as an engineering student had contempt for the way textbooks and academia obfuscated technical material. He felt that professors often cloaked engineering material with a mystique designed to build their reputations as wizards. I sensed the same departure of honesty in some texts when compared with the dedication of my high school teachers. I felt fortunate to have had to dig hard on my own search for answers along with the preparation gained in high school. Ron Kohl’s view of advanced education helps to explain the high rate of engineering drop-outs that occur in colleges and universities. Electrical engineering has the highest drop-out rate. Some experts blame it on the lack of preparation in high school. Not so. My physics II instructor, when coming to magnetics in the text, came and whispered to me that I should be teaching the subject. Physics professors, PhD’s, like to write their own material and, like college texts, use the most irreducible yet abstract process along with the supporting calculus to explain a concept that it is unrecognizable to a student. This, I believe, was Ron Kohl’s point which I had come to appreciate before he said it.


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