Success in Engineering

An open letter

By Tom Collins, Contributor

To the Engineering student,

We’ve been trained to skip written introductions; read this. If you disagree with this document at any point, you may stop.

You’ve intentionally chosen one of the most difficult paths available in academia. If you feel some pride at this, you’re entitled to it. You’ve likely thought of your future and may be excited at the prospect of working in an exciting field, the promise of a good wage, the development of your abilities, and understanding of the evolving modern world.

That being said, Engineering, any strain, is not easy. It’s mentally taxing, and highly demanding, but I’ll get to the point—everyone’s lives will go on without you: friends, lovers, etc, because you will be too busy.

The two great pains of the Engineering student are owed to dedication or regret, and you must choose which you want to live with.

You feel the pain of dedication weekly. This is the discomfort from staying up late to study or complete a difficult assignment and still attending all your classes the next day. When you tell your non­Engineering friends you can’t see them because you have to study. It’s when you lose your long-term spouse to regular neglect, and when you lose touch with everyone else. It’s the pain you feel when you persistently put your education and future before your desires and well-being. The pain of dedication will haunt you, but it will also end the day you finish your last exam.

The pain of regret is the pain of “what ifs” and other horrid curiosities whose conclusions are only known by living them. This pain will hang like an accidental photograph in the corner of your vision, and will visit uninvited on your deathbed. You feel this pain after you fail your year; after you chose to go out instead of studying for finals; instead of working with your peers, you saw your non­understanding spouse and missed a deadline; because you choose to sleep in; because you persistently slack off; and so­on until failure. This pain is persistent because your failure and lost time are persistent.

The pain of dedication is short lived, and you’ll have earned it. You’ll have earned the bags under your eyes, you’ll have earned the pain of loss, the persistent stress, your student debt, your loss of potential wages, and the distance from your old friends. These things are the unofficial awards of success and they will be yours.

Not everyone can handle this pain or we’d have more engineers. You’ll have earned your future because you will have worked and suffered for it in ways lost lovers, old friends, and even parents will never understand. So be proud of your sacrifices, and be prepared for them. There’s more to wearing the iron ring than academic success.