Advice to a Freshman College Student

These are a few of the thoughts I recently shared with my nephew Brian.  He graduated from high school at the end of May 2018 and begins university at the end of August 2018.

Dear Brian,

We like to think of graduations as a major milestone in our lives.  I have come to think of such transitions as a milepost along our life paths. While I know the phrase “It’s the journey not the destination” has become trite there lies truth in this line of thinking. As a competitive runner you have focused on the destination yet in our recent conversation you highlighted all the benefits of being a runner.  Your assessment falls in line with valuing the journey; this is as much an accomplishment as placing in a race.

Last summer I had asked you why you wanted to major in business.  Your response- “I’m interested in leadership.” Leadership occurs in every profession. People often confuse being in charge as a sign of leadership. I believe leadership focuses on setting a direction to which others believe they can contribute.  I believe that considering others points of view is essential for good leadership.  The ability to enable a diversity of thinking requires the ability to cultivate a safe work environment for conflict. Innovation comes from bouncing off ideas, if everyone thinks the same then there’s a lack of innovation. As an aspiring leader I encourage you to develop that skill.

As an aspiring entrepreneur in technology for the environment I encourage you to embrace failure.  Ever major technology has been developed on a mountain of failures.  With every attempt at creating something you can learn. Naturally, you took the measurements for you to assess the results. Perhaps this is why 33% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have undergraduate degrees in engineering and only 11% are in business administration.

Engineering focuses on what works; engineers answer how.  In developing a solution to a problem or improving a system engineers focus on how. In general, this focus leads to more profits for a business. Though there are times that for a business to make money the immediate engineering solution is an outright kludge.

As to more immediate advice that you can use during your college years I suggest the following:

  • Explore new topics and use the power of a pass/fail to take the performance pressure off your exploring
  • Cultivate friends who think differently from you
  • Read fiction- stories influence more than a politician’s rhetoric
  • Travel abroad and don’t forget to send me a postcard
  • Practice kindness to strangers and to people that others ignore
  • Visit your professors during office hours
  • Converse regularly with your parents
  • Receive a shot of inspiration with a quote of the day

Have a Productive Day,

Anne Meixner

Dear Reader, please share your comments and stories that are sparked by this piece. What advice would you give a freshman in college student?  Or what’s the best advice you received as you entered college? See Contribute for how you can share a story at The Engineers’ Daughter.

Tags:  Family, Embrace Failure

Additional Reading

For that inspirational quote of the day I like the app Brainy Quote.  Though there are plenty of other sources available.

In looking up information on engineers as CEOs there are different stats reported in 2014 and 2011 Business Insider articles.  Some thought provoking remarks on Engineers in management can be found in this Forbes article.

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