For You Northeastern Engineering Freshman

  1. Mac vs. PC: It doesn’t matter. Either one is 100% acceptable. I’m really biased so I’ll just leave it at that.
  2. We have at least 10 3D printers for you to use. Use them. Be awesome.
  3. The First Year Engineering Learning Center (FYELC) is a beautiful place to go when the stress kicks in. 
  4. Don’t Cheat.
  5. Collaborate.
  6. I promise the stuff you learn in Eng. Design is useful, even if you’re just an intern at an engineering company. (I’m speaking with experience.)
  7. Research is there for you. Seriously. If you really want it, go get it. The best first stop is your professors.
  8. Don’t be afraid to commit to something for next summer. Summer classes, Dialogues of Civilizations, or Summer Research (REU) opportunities are abound but you need to be proactive. Ask your Intro to Engineering professor for some information if you’re interested.
  9. I recommend breaking the engineering stereotype and explore the other fun and exciting things college has to offer.
  10. Don’t Panic. Because there’s really just no need.

Anonymous said: can you take notes on a tablet in the college of engineering or are those kinds of devices prohibited from class?

Hey Anon,

It can depend on the professor and the nature of the class. For example, in my science classes, the professors didn’t care how students took their notes. In my art class, my professor encouraged tablets/laptops because we could then pull up the slides of the art right on our own devices. My math professors were very against any electronics in class. If you’re thinking about buying a tablet for college, it’s really not necessary in my opinion. If you already have one, I say go for it. The professor isn’t going to take it, give it the principal, and put you in detention. They’ll just not say anything or ask you to put it away and that’s that.

Anonymous said: do you think it will be necessary to buy a laptop lock? is theft prevalent on campus?

Hey Anon!

Answer to the first question: No. Mostly because you’ll either have your laptop with you or in your very secure room. You’re more likely to lose your laptop than have it stolen from one of those places.

Answer to the second question: It’s not quite as simple. In residence halls and school buildings and such I would be comfortable saying theft is negligible. I don’t worry about leaving my backpack by my chair in the dining halls. On the other hand, our campus is very much within a city and that does mean we students have to be cautious. When you go out, it’s important to keep track of your valuables. As long as you stay smart though, you’ll be just fine.

Hope you’re having a wonderful summer!

For You Northeastern Freshman

I wrote down some tips I figured might be helpful for college freshman in general before, now it’s time for some Northeastern specifics.

1. Rebecca’s. It’s the best place to use your meal swipes hands down. It usually takes freshman a few weeks to even know it exists so you’re welcome for letting you in on the secret now. Disclaimer: It WILL be packed around 11:30 and 1:30 when class is in session.

2. Get your Charlie Card during Welcome Week. Boston’s subway/underground is called the T and rides are $2.50. OR you can get a FREE little plastic card (the Charlie Card) you can load money onto that you use exclusively for T rides. It has the nice benefit of keeping your T funds in one place…and oh yeah, it knocks .50 off every ride. The trick is they don’t have them at any of the Northeastern T stops (there are 4) so you have to make the trip to get one.

3. Get to know campus with a buddy. During Welcome Week (seriously guys, such a useful time) walk around and try and find all of your class buildings. Maybe do it with someone in your major so you’re looking for the same buildings, or perhaps an entirely different one so you can check out all of campus. A few building are hidden away a bit, so don’t be afraid to ask someone for directions!

4. Check out our a Cappella scene because we’re awesome. When does Pitch Perfect 2 come out again? Doesn’t matter, we’ve got our own version.

5. Go to Mike’s Pastry once. After that, Modern Pastry Shop is just as good and there’s not a ridiculous line. Trust me, this is important.

6. The Prudential Center is your new shopping mall (and visual guide to getting home at 2am) go check that too!

7. With your meal plan you get X amount of Dining Dollars too. These can be used at certain food locals on and off campus. More importantly, they can be used at Shaws, the grocery store over at The Pru (the place I just mentioned.) It’s a limited amount of funds, so if you don’t mind a bit of a walk, Shaws might be your best choice for wise spending (as opposed to Popeye’s or Taco Bell.)

8. While we’re on the topic of food, I can’t forget Outtakes. It’s a little store by the Stetson West dining hall you can use your meal swipe at for things like chips and pop. It’s an easy way to turn a meal swipe into some snacks for the room. 

9. Yes, I called it “pop” (you may refer to it as “soda”). Chances are that within a few days of arriving on campus, someone is going to point out that you said something a way they found weird. Don’t be offended, be excited! It’s cool to discover what different parts of the world…or country…or state call things. Here’s some vernacular that threw me for a loop upon arriving at Northeastern: A bubbler- A drinking fountain. A trolley- A shopping cart. On line- In line.” An elastic- A hairband. Also, you might not think you have an accent… but you do.

10. Get involved! Even if you’re not sure what kind of clubs or groups you want to join, there are always events going on that you can participate in. As long as you’re open, you’ll find where you belong. Shameless plug- go to everything RSA related because we’re the coolest. 

I’ll probably keep making posts like this as my brain keeps thinking of more helpful hints. Help me know what types of tips you’re looking for by asking my questions!

See you in the Fall!

Benjamin P. Brady

P.S. Do me a favor? When you get to your orientation, find the Orientation Leader named Justin Hewitt and tell him you want to be a part of #SomethingAboutWaffles. Then deny knowing me. Thanks :)

Anonymous said: do you know if the syllabus for general freshman engineering classes stays the same over the years? i'm starting to look at textbooks and was wondering if they changed for you or not. thanks!

Dear Anon,

Yes and no. The basic classes for Freshman Engineering don’t change drastically from year to year. Most every engineering freshman takes 2 Gen. Eng. classes, 2 Calculus, and 2 Science classes. Then add your Arts + Humanities class, Writing, and any Honors related courses if you have them. That’s the first two semesters in a basic nutshell. It really varies from freshman to freshman based on what classes they skip. It’s very easy to have two engineering freshman have entirely different schedules. 

That being said, the individual classes themselves also don’t change. Now that being said, the books do. Here’s the trick, colleges everywhere like having up-to-date books and the book writers create new editions every year or so that are barely different than the old version, but different… 

If you can find last year’s copy for a lot less than this year’s, you’d probably be just fine. The pages might not line up, but you can always reference someone else’s book to figure it out. Now, I do warn that older copies may have different questions in them. So any class that involves answering book questions, you might be out of luck. Fortunately, you’re in luck, because the Northeastern Library (open 24/7 all year) has a copy of every class’s textbook. You can use your cheap copy to study and the free library copy to do weekly assignments! 

Honestly and truly, it’s a total guessing game where the best solution is also the most expensive. Lots of students don’t buy textbooks until a couple weeks in so they know what they need, others buy early to avoid the potential shortages. When it comes to books, my best suggestion is to buy what the list says your first semester (and rent when possible), and then develop your own strategy after that. 

Best of luck to you and have a great summer!

Anonymous said: hi! i'm an incoming freshman in the COE and i just got back from orientation yesterday. i am currently trying to decide if i should retake calc 1 & physics 1. i felt that i did well in ap calc at my high school, but some people are recommending that i retake it just to get a really solid foundation in calc because i'm in engineering. in physics, looking over the syllabus i feel that i know them all at least adequately, and i'm afraid i'll regret retaking it just for slight reinforcement. advice?

Dear Anon,

It’s really up to you. Putting it simply, are you willing to handle the extra challenge of progressing to the next level classes to create more room in your schedule. 

With the newly revised curriculum for Engineering, I would say you don’t need to worry about creating more room in your schedule unless you are pursuing multiple Minors, two Majors, or you’re doing the 4 year program. Even in those cases, you should still have a few electives to keep you satisfied. (You’ll soon discover there’s about 34871935 different curriculum tracks, so I apologize for not having specifics.)

I was in a similar position one year ago but decided to take the entry level classes. I certainly don’t regret the decision (especially during Calc 2), but perhaps I would have been fine starting at a higher level. At the very least, my foundational understanding was strengthened and a few A’s added to my average didn’t hurt.

So I’ll reiterate, if you’re questioning it, you’ll probably do fine in the higher classes with perhaps more effort than the other freshman in the base classes. If that extra effort won’t drag you down, the benefit of extra space in your schedule can open up a lot of opportunity.

In the end though, it’s your decision and your college career. You are the only person whose opinion matters here.

Hope that helps and have a good summer!

xochitleatsky said: Hi! I'm an incoming freshman and I'm currently taking 19 credits in the fall. Is that going to kill me?

Dear Anon,

Yes, in all likelihood, 19 credits will cause you to perish. I suggest you drop all your classes and take underwater basket weaving instead.

I’m absolutely kidding.

Ready for the truth? If Northeastern gave you an acceptance letter, you can do this. College isn’t easy, but I promise you’ll make it through just fine. 

I suppose the important thing to remember if you’re worried is to start the good habits early. Making schedules, getting sleep, and working ahead are critical to performing well in classes. The first few weeks won’t be so tough, but as they say “when it rains, it pours.” There will come a time during your first semester when you have the exact opposite of an “Aha!” moment. It’s the “oh crap” moment. The moment when you realize you don’t have enough time or energy to do even half of what you need to accomplish.

In the immortal words of Douglas Adams: “Don’t Panic”

With the help of new friends, old friends, professors, advisors, family, strangers, acquaintances, (and me if you think I can help), you’ll get past it, no sweat. So long as you keep accomplishing the little tasks, you will eventually defeat the large ones. 

If it ever seems like too much, remember what a little blue fish taught us: “Just keep swimming.” 

Basically, I have all the confidence in the world you’ll be great even if you were taking 91 credits, so long as you don’t give up.

Anonymous said: Any tips on becoming an RA? I know it's super competitive, but it sounds like so much fun.

Dear Anon,

I can’t really give you the master key to success here (there isn’t one), but I can offer some advice for becoming a strong candidate.

First and foremost- Honesty. If you get selected for an interview, don’t give the answers you think they want to hear-g ive them your true responses. I know that the interviewers are aware of all the typical responses and the best way to make an impression is to really think about your answers. A great interview trick for any situation is to simply take a moment. Obviously don’t sit there for full minutes, but if you pause before your response, it’s noticed in a positive way.

I also recommend good recommendations. (haha) I chose my high school counselor and my NEU advisor for recommendations. I figured it was important for the selection committee to hear from someone who knew me very well, and someone from NEU that I was creating a good relationship with. It can really be anyone from your boss to your calculus professor. I would just suggest one from the past and present if you’re applying your freshman year.

Also important if you’re applying your freshman year is to be active! Resident Assistants are a part of the NEU community and if your résumé doesn’t show you want to a part of it, that’s not a positive thing. It could be as simple as being on an intramural team or the art club. You don’t need to run the school your first semester, but showing you’re interested in being a part of the community is big. (Of course, participating is a good idea regardless of wanting to be an RA.) I really think my activity as a member of RSA and the Husky Ambassadors was huge towards getting my RA position.

I hope that helps! Have a totally awesome summer!

18 Things About College

(Disclaimer: These may not all apply to all readers. That is all.)

Fun Lists!

10 Thing You Can’t Forget to Remember

A fan! As in, the small spinning desk variety that will help you keep your room slightly more bearable in the blistering heat. Related note: If your school recommends bringing one to orientation-do it! You won’t be lame, you’ll be praised.

Stamps and envelopes. Because you know what? Sometimes an email just doesn’t cut it.

To look up what you’re Dining Plan/Laundry Bucks/Printing Allowances actually are. Chances are you looked at a lot of schools and maybe have gotten a little confused as to which school worked which way. The internet is a wonderful resource. Or if you’re attending Northeastern, I am!

Two pairs of bedsheets. Honestly, if something goes wrong with the laundry, you can wear a pair of underwear again (no one will know), but you definitely don’t want to have to sleep without any sheets!

Movies! I know, they’re free on the internet, but we all know owning them is easier (and legal-er). You’d be surprised how many nights can become Movie Nights. I suggest burning all your DVDs onto an external hard drive and then going digital/buying movies with Digital Copy. But that’s just me. 

That making a friend is as easy as saying “Hi!”

That not everyone you say “Hi!” to will be your best friend.

You’re in college to learn- so do it. Skipping a class you/your parents paid for just to sleep a little more is a very expensive nap… just saying.

Headphones headphones headphones. I know there’s about a 0.01% you’d forget them…but just to be absolute sure… do NOT forget your headphones. 

A sturdy backpack or other object that carries stuff. You probably have a nice backpack from high school, but it also probably has gotten old. My recommendation is a strong and small hiking backpack. They’re built to last a long time and usually still offer good protection for a laptop. You don’t usually need to carry a lot, but a good backpack is still essential.

8 Things You Can Remember to Forget

A consistent sleeping schedule. You may be the rare exception that somehow sleeps precisely from 11-7 every night, but in case you aren’t, I have now warned you. Personally, I fought hard to get enough sleep and I usually succeeded…but not always and I was far from consistent with my hours. If you’re good at napping, prepare to become great.

Being 1 out of 20 in a class. This is college and there’s a fair bet you’ll have at least one class of over 100. It’s different. It’s intimidating. It’s not that bad. You’ll be fine.

Having your schedule all laid out for you by your parents. You’re in charge now!

Weighing 15 pounds less. Alright, so I’m taking a knock at the very false “Freshman 15” or the 15 pounds it’s said most students gain after going to college. You’ll most likely gain some weight because you’re eating habits will change and you’re going to be older but not that much. Just remember that exercise is your friend, even 20 minutes on a treadmill in-between classes.

An A is an A. There are so many different grading systems in any given class at any given university. Don’t just assume you’re doing well (or doing poorly), check with your professor!

Having enough money. College and living on your own leads to a lot of temptation and spending. You won’t have enough for everything, so keep track of where your money goes.

Looking like a bum on weekends. How you dress becomes dependent on how you want to appear to your friends that you’ll be seeing every day. Be prepared to have to put on pants on Saturday mornings.

Being embarrassed by what you enjoy. In college, there’s almost always someone who also likes thing x, y, or z. So if you’re into rock climbing, video games, “shipping,” blogging, trying bizarre food, etc. etc., you’ll find a friend, but only if you’re willing to show off what makes you, you.

Anonymous said: What is the entrance criteria to Northeastern university?

Dear Anon,

If you haven’t climbed Mt. Everest, ran a marathon, got a 2400 SAT and 36 ACT, cured cancer, or been hired to paint a cathedral… you’ll still be just fine applying to Northeastern. 

As far as physical criteria goes, you only need to fill out the CommonApp and financial aid forms to apply to Northeastern. I think the art related fields have a portfolio requirement as well, but I’m not the person to ask about that. 

The only other criteria  I know of is that you be you. When applying to Northeastern, show off what you’ve got. Athletics, Academics, Arts. That’s what I focused on highlighting when applying to college. But perhaps you do lots of volunteer service, participate in student government, write a kick-butt blog, make short videos, know five languages, or have your driving, boating, and pilot license. Whatever makes you a little bit different, that’s what makes you special, and that’s what you should use to try and be accepted at colleges. It’s really important to remember that it’s not about proving you’re the best at something, because trust me, someone can do it better. Instead, tell a story about how something important to you that defines/changed who you are.

My 5k race time at the end of high school wasn’t very impressive. It was good, but no college would ever recruit me for their cross country team. I still wrote about my cross country experience for my college application essay though. Why? Because when I was a Freshman, I was the slowest runner on the team. My Senior year, not only was I first on the team, more importantly, I was captain. I was able to talk about long term goals, working with a team, leading a team, and the never ending cycle of failure and success. 

There is no quantitative bar at Northeastern you have to be above to get in. There is no minimum SAT score, no AP or IB credit requirement, no number of extra-curricular actives you need to be in, or service hours completed. Truly, showing Northeastern what makes you shine is your best shot for getting in.

I hope you have a wonderful summer!

Benjamin P. Brady