Three UCLA Samueli undergraduate students offer advice to their new peers on how to succeed – collaborate with fellow students, participate in clubs, develop good time management skills and take advantage of resources
For incoming students, navigating the UCLA Samueli path can at first be as intimidating as finding their way in Boelter Hall. But with experience, that path, just like Boelter, becomes easier to maneuver.
As students take classes, work on projects and stay up long nights studying with their peers, they can come to realize that engineering is a fundamentally collaborative discipline and learning through others, and with others, are important qualities. Although no two college experiences are the same, knowledge about others’ experiences and the resources available can help new students as they adjust to college.
“My advice is pretty simple: Step out of your comfort zone when you first get to UCLA,” said Claire Killian, a fourth-year civil engineering major and an Engineering Ambassador. “At the Enormous Activities Fair, get as many flyers as possible and drop by whatever club meetings interest you. Having been in club leadership since my freshman year, I can tell you that no one will be upset if you go to a workday, decide you don’t like it, and never come again. We’ve all been in the same exact position! And once you find something you like, get involved and if a leadership opportunity comes up, go for it.”
Club participation can offer dividend inside the classroom too.
“Much of my learning was done through asking for help and insight from others who were in the class, and many of whom I met through classes and clubs I was active in,” said Lulu Wang, a third-year computer science student and Women in Engineering Cadet.
Killian added, “even though the problems are difficult, the real beauty is that collaboration often means you’ll discover other ways of solving problems that will ultimately help you understand the material better.”
And outside of peers, incoming students can benefit by attending offices hours and asking questions.
“Office hours are one of the places where I made the fastest progress and biggest leaps in my learning process,” Wang said. “TAs are able to provide more individualized help and students are also able to collaborate with others who may also be feeling stuck.”
For incoming students, while so many new opportunities abound, it’s also important to manage their time efficiently, said Sameer Khan, a fourth-year mechanical engineering major and mentor with MentorSEAS, a school-wide program that pairs up every incoming student with an upperclassman in their major.
In addition to working with mentors, Khan also suggested that new students take advantage of the university’s Career Center for job and internship opportunities, and RISE, which helps UCLA students outside of the classroom focus on bettering their mental health. He also noted that transfer students can received support tailored for their experiences at the Engineering Transfer Center.
“The greatest struggle that I faced when starting my engineering studies at UCLA as a transfer student was adjusting to the pace at which the classes took place,” said Khan, whose community college was on a semester system. “The quick pace of the classes influenced me to take a step back from the technical club I was in since I needed to cater more of my time towards my homework, class projects, and exam studies.”
For Wang, she said that had initial struggles were when she compared her accomplishments to those her peers.
“What I didn’t recognize at the time was the fact that I was as capable as anyone else,” Wang said. “Once I realized this, I began learning from my peers instead of feeling threatened by them. I saw them as role models and began to use this as motivation to work harder and persist when I felt hopeless.”
“By putting myself out there more and not letting excuses and fear stop me from trying, I was able to build my success up through the opportunities I landed,” she added.
Marina Souliman is a third-year cognitive science student and a writing intern at the UCLA Samueli Communications Office.