2.1 Getting used to a Big University Environment

First Generation College Attendees

I was a first generation college attendee myself. Yes, it can be pretty intimidating. But remember, it is intimidating for most! You are NOT in the boat all by yourself. If you look around, you will quickly learn that the boat is very crowded. If you proceed forward with discipline, determination and care, you’ll make it through on the other side with flying colors.

ASAP – Academic Success and Professional Development (ASAP)

To assist you with your life changing ASAP journey, PLEASE master the following:

  • Learning Strategies
  • Dr. Donna O. Johnson’s Guaranteed 4.0 Learning System
  • Make It Stick summary (e.g. carefully space quiz-based practice)
  • The Best Way to Study
  • MAR's Making an Easier Transition (from CC to 4 Year ENG): Success Tips for Excellence and Peace (less Stress). This can be extremely useful for everyone – not just community college (CC) students!
  • AAR 30++ ASAP Tips – A First Draft (e.g. learn that BIG PICTURE, learning to summarize what you read and hear, etc.)


    Make friends. Join study groups. Hang out with the good (studious, serious, hard working) kids. Stay away from “the losers.” Have fun, but don’t overdo it! If approached properly, your ASU experience will be wonderful. You will develop great friendships that will last the rest of your lives.


    Everyone should have a few mentors. Mentors are necessary. They are part of the growing and learning process. A couple of mentors – one in particular – changed my life tremendously. I am eternally grateful.
    Find several good mentors (faculty, more experienced students, etc.) ….ask questions and listen !!! If you’re having problems knowing what to ask, here are a few questions (over 130) for you to think about:
  • Critical Questions Prospective or Current Engineering Students Need Answers to

    University Resources

    There are many resources on this big ASU campus. Please learn where the university resources are.

  • ASU Tutoring Resources
  • Engineering Tutor Center
  • ASU Library Resources
  • ASU Career Services
  • Fulton Schools of Engineering Career Center
  • Financial Aid & Scholarship Services
  • Fulton student organizations
  • ASU Counseling Services
  • ASU Health Services
  • ASU Campus Police
  • ASU Parking

    Please use the available resources! If you need to speak to someone, please do!

    Please Remember:
    There will be ups and downs. Expect this. There will be some very tough times. Expect this. prepare for it. Always remember that.

    Anything truly worthwhile is not easy and takes effort!!!!

    I assure you that all the effort that you will be putting in will be tremendously worth it. You must believe this. Your efforts will pay off BIG TIME. I can GUARANTEE this. An amazing career awaits you – one that permits you to participate in the ongoing technological revolution; one with a stream of seemingly endless opportunities. And yes, you will get paid well too! …travel, vacations, many exciting adventures, etc…

    I will GLADLY chat with you about anything!

    Community College Transfer Students

    To my community college (CC) friends. Yes, arriving at a big 4 year school (especially like ASU – the largest in the nation), can be very intimidating. For this reason, please try to follow the advice I gave upstairs for First Generation College Attendees. The advice given above can be very useful to everyone!

    2.2. Developing an Academic Plan

    One of the most important rules you should remember and practice on a daily basis is:

    “Plan your work and work your plan!”

    This was said to me when I was a young teenager. One of the nation’s wisest founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, is “credited” for saying:

    “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

    Given the above, you should try to have a
    • 1 Year Plan (Short term)
    • plan for summers – school, internship, career-steering/shaping project, etc.
    • 5 year Plan
    • 10 year Plan
    • 20 Year Plan (kind of, sort of, but not really)
    If you are a new junior, for example, do I expect you to have a 20 year plan. Of course not. I just want you to think about what you really want long term. This is not easy to do. That’s why you should start immediately. The sooner, the better. It forces you to think about who you are, what do you really care about, what are your most critical principals, what is your philosophy of life, etc. It forces you to ask: do I have any principals? do I have a philosophy? You may have to search deep, but they are in there somewhere. The sooner you find them, the better off you will be. Main Message: Start thinking and planning NOW!

    2.3. Course Selection

    Course selection, of course, is very important.
    Please see:
    It is important to PLAN AHEAD – to carefully think about each of the following:
    • have I spoken to my “older” (“veteran,” “more knowledgeable”) friends?
    • what are the pre-requisites?
    • am I really prepared?
    • should I take a summer class in order to reduce my Fall load?
    • should I study over the summer in order to prepare for my Fall class (yes!)?
    • have I gathered the relevant materials (books, learning aids, exams, home works, labs, computer codes, etc.) and properly examined them – to LEARN from them – ahead of time? (THIS IS GOOD PLANNING! LEARN TO DO THIS!!)
    • have I read ahead?
    Here are some general learning tips:
    • learn to summarize what you read and hear
    • learn to read strategically…to get the BIG PICTURE….yes…detailed reading is important too…but if you don’t really learn the Big Picture, what good are the details…
    • for any class, try to answer or think about the following: Try to Understand the Big Picture, What is the class about?, What fundamental questions will be asked and answered?, What will I be able to do when I complete the class?, What subsequent classes will the class prepare me for?, How does this class relate to subsequent classes?, What won’t I learn from the class?
    2.4 Taking Courses

    Learning to take courses is a critical skill. Every student should master the following: Please don’t forget about: Health, Sleep, and Rest. If you are not healthy and/or not well rested, you will have problems.

    Don’t forget the importance of
    • learning to outline/summarize what you hear/read
    • learning to take detailed lecture notes
    • learning to summarize your notes,
    • learning to provide illustrative examples,
    • learning not to rely solely on re-reading (it’s not effective),
    • learning to anticipate exam questions,
    • learning to practice carefully spaced quiz-based practice (very effective; see Make It Stick summary)
    • learning to make time to do prior exams (VERY IMPORTANT),
    • learning to read for the BIG PICTURE – every first read should go after the BIG PICTURE (this is an important skill to nurture and develop!),
    • learning to read for details,
    Here is a little something I like to remind all my ASU kids:

    “School is NOT about learning.
    It is mainly about LEARNING to LEARN!” (AAR, 2010)

    2.5 Learning Styles

    It is important that you think about what learning methods suit you best. How do you learn best? You may not have ever thought about this. It is important that become aware of what suits you best and least.
    Research shows that, in general, we all learn best by taking a variety of approaches:
    • Visual (spatial) - prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
    • Aural (auditory-musical) - prefer using sound and music.
    • Verbal (linguistic) - prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
    • Physical (kinesthetic) - prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
    • Logical (mathematical) - prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
    • Social (interpersonal) - prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
    • Solitary (intrapersonal) - prefer to work alone and use self-study.
    See Overview of Learning Styles

    2.6 Additional Messages to Undergraduates

    To all my fellow (Fulton) undergraduates. You really need to start thinking about the following as soon as possible (the sooner the better):
    • finding a mentor or two (don’t just think about it, do it!)
    • senior design projects
    • undergraduate thesis
    • special career-steering/shaping projects that you might be able to work on (YOU CONTROL THIS! YOU CAN PUT IT ON YOUR RESUME!)
    • internships
    • graduate school
    • ASU Engineering Accelerated 4 + 1 Programs
    • ECEE 4 + 1
    • SEMTE 4 + 1
    • Polytechnic 4 + 1
    • a possible MS thesis topic
    • what you want to do in the future – technically, professionally, familywise, etc. !
    More questions to think about can be found at:
  • Critical Questions Prospective or Current Engineering Students Need Answers to

    2.7 Additional Messages to Graduate Students

    Here is a little something for graduate students to ponder:
    • finding a mentor or two (don’t just think about it … do it!)
    • relevant internships
    • working on a precise formulation of your MS thesis topic (if you are pursuing a thesis option)
    • preparing for MSE comprehensive exam (if you said HELL NO to the thesis option)
    • thinking about pursuing a PhD – to be able to work on really cutting edge stuff (REMEMBER: There is ongoing technological revolution; Knowledge RULES!)
    • what you want to do in the future – technically, professionally, familywise, etc. !

    2.8 Additional Messages to Working Professionals

    To my fellow working professionals, please think about the following:
    • Are you really learning about the latest and greatest technologies and methods?
    • Or…. Are you just doing grunt work that is replaceable by outsourcing? Be wary of this!
    • Are you learning the skills that you need to maximally assist you with your current work assignment or a future work assignment?
    • Is it necessary for you to pursue another degree?
    • Is your organization pressuring you to pursue another degree? If so, will your other obligations afford you sufficient time for this activity?
    • Is it time to move within the company?
    • Is it time to look outside the company?
    • Is it time to switch areas?

    Have you done your homework with respect to each of the following:
    • Are you balancing your professional and family life properly?
    • Have you developed your principals and philosophy of life? Are they well developed?
    • Are your finances in order?
    • Have you and are you investing properly?
    • Are you and your family properly insured?
    • Have you planned properly for retirement?
    • What subject or issues do you need to learn about?
    • Are you practicing critical thinking on a minute-by-minute basis?



    Dr. Armando A. Rodriguez, Ph.D.
    Executive Director
    Southwest Institute for ENG Transfer Excellence (SWIETE)

    Motivated Engineering Transfer Students (METS) Center
    Professor of Electrical Engineering
    School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering
    Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering
    Arizona State University

    Tyler Mall, GWC 352
    Mailstop 875706
    Tempe, AZ 85287-5706
    Office: (480) 965-3712
    Fax: (480) 965-2811