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New freshman class has increasing options

Approximately 5,900 new students have begun classes at UW-Madison this semester, including a bumper crop of at least 850 engineering freshmen. This represents roughly 10 percent more engineering freshmen than last year, according to Donald Woolston, assistant dean for academic affairs.

Students studying on grass

UW-Madison students find studying can be a breeze when done in the right location. (66K JPG)

Academic life for this new class will be considerably different that it was for engineering students even just a few years ago. For example, "This year's freshman class seems to be the first one that is totally tuned in to the Internet and all of the information it provides," notes Woolston. At this summer's session of SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising and Registration), students used the searchable timetable on the Registrar's Office homepage to find classes that fit their schedules; course evaluation information that is part of the on-line Undergraduate Advising Toolkit; and Web-based directories to locate faculty and other students on campus.

This year's freshmen also have more opportunities to learn about engineering careers and get some hands-on experience with practical engineering problems. More than 400 students are enrolled in at least one of the introductory engineering courses offered through the Department of Engineering Professional Development. One of those courses, EPD 160, allows freshmen to work in teams to design products that solve problems for local clients. Another course, EPD 101, features recent engineering graduates who return to campus to help freshmen understand the professional choices ahead of them. Additionally, 277 students are enrolled in EPD 155, a freshman composition class stressing the importance of building technical communication skills.

"Having these courses available gives students a chance to learn about engineering and grow into the role of a professional at the same time they are taking traditional freshman classes like engineering graphics, calculus, chemistry and physics," says Woolston.

People in front of Union South

Located adjacent to the engineering campus, Union South is a popular gathering point for engineering students in need of a study break. (51K JPG)

About 40 percent of the students have expressed an interest in chemical, biomedical or electrical and computer engineering, says the assistant dean, "but we have at least as many undecided students who are eager to learn as much as they can about their possibilities before they commit."

While taking their courses, freshmen will learn fast that college studies - as well as college life - can be much more intense and confusing than high school. Linda A. Schilling, a counselor in the Engineering Student Services Office, offers the following advice to help freshmen get off to a positive start:

  • Set goals. Remember the old saying: "If you don't know where you are going, you are not likely to get there."
  • Structure your life situation for academic success. Control other life factors that place demands on you such as work, friends and family. Being a full-time engineering student is a commitment.
  • Be involved. Take advantage of all the university has to offer. This includes human resources such as professors, peers, advisors and counselors; facilities like labs, libraries, athletic centers and student unions; and extracurricular organizations.
  • You are responsible for your own learning. It isn't realistic to expect the university to do it all while you just sit back and take it in. You get out of college what you put into it.
  • Don't get hung up on the idea of seeking help. There are many resources within the college and on campus, but they won't do you any good unless you approach them.

One of those resources is the Engineering Student Services Office (2640 Engineering Hall; 262-2473). "This is a great place to start with any questions or concerns," Schilling says.