How to prepare for an engineering degree while in high school

Wondering what you can do right now? Here are tips and classes to prep for engineering in college

Are you ready to start working toward an engineering degree? We spoke to admissions counselor Alex Van Fossen from the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and Applied Science. 

Van Fossen shares what steps to take and classes to sign up for that will help build a strong resume for your college application. Plus, pro tips to help guide you to becoming a successful engineering student.

What classes to take in high school

What AP, college credit or dual-enrollment classes are accepted most often in college? English and math. As you might imagine, math is the most important to prepare you for the rigors of a STEM degree.

  • AP or College Credit (CCP) English if possible to prevent having to take English in college.
  • Pre-calculus and calculus if possible.
  • Chemistry and physics.

Pro Tip: Sometimes students want to take a rigorous load of all STEM courses. Although taking challenging courses is important, it can be easy to burn out! Use this time in your schedule to take a few technical electives to see what most interests you.

Join a STEM group, activity, or club

And if your school doesn't have one, start one! Here are examples of existing science, technology, engineering and math groups to get involved in:

  • First Robotics, Vex Robotics, Project Lead the Way (PLTW).
  • Tutoring in STEM (helps you learn the material better).
  • STEM day programs and summer camps (Check out options at UC!).

Pro Tip: What can you do to standout on your college application? As much as colleges and universities love to see STEM related activities, don't be afraid to join something non-STEM related. It's also good to see well-rounded students.

Meet a real-life engineer

Whether you already have a dream job in mind or want to learn more about a certain field, shadow an engineer at their current job. Gain real-world experience and find out what the day-to-day job looks like. Other chances to gain insight in the field:

  • Research STEM internships for high school students and apply for any you find in your area.
  • Shadow a current engineering student through our CEAS shadow days!

Pro Tip: If you have the opportunity to talk to someone who works in the engineering field, ask them both what they like about their job and what they don't like! This will help you determine if the field is a good fit for you.

How to find the major for you

Research, research, research! Find out more about the different engineering disciplines and what the differences are.


  • This will be important when researching colleges to make sure that the colleges you're looking at have the disciplines you are interested in.


Pro Tip: Look at job postings for roles you find interesting, and check out which majors the job postings are looking for.

Start practicing computer coding

Practice a coding language! Industry is moving towards automation. Computer coding will be critical in your career as these technologies develop. You can learn more through a class or just learn on your own. We recommend getting familiar with Python or MATLAB.

Pro Tip: Check out Khan Academy, Hour of Code, Black Girls Code and Codecademy for some great coding resources.

Ask your teacher for help

Form relationships with your STEM teachers for letter of recommendations. Although your recommendations don't have to be from STEM teachers, it's helpful to have teachers who can speak to your math and science abilities when reviewing your application

Pro Tip: Sometimes students want to get recommendations from teachers whose classes were very easy for them. It can be more meaningful to read a recommendation about a subject where you struggled and then improved.

Want to learn more? Join our webinar!

Get a deeper look into preparing your path toward a UC Engineering and Applied Science degree. During the webinar, the CEAS recruitment team will share the application timeline and what you can be doing now to shape yourself into a competitive applicant! We'll help you kick start your journey to becoming an engineer.


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