One class changed everything.
Differential Equations (DiffEq, as it’s commonly called) was the tipping point of my college education. It is hands down my favorite course from my college years. This was when everything clicked and I realized I could be an engineer. I had passed my technical classes the first two years of college, but with Bs at the best. I was someone who was used to getting straight As, and I needed to maintain a 3.0 GPA for my scholarship. I did manage to maintain above that GPA by getting As in all my non-technical classes, but I wanted to do better.
In my junior year I took DiffEq. My professor was unlike any professor I’d had previously, in a good way. He could clearly explain the subject and it was so fun to watch him write notes on the board. He’d start with his right hand and as he got toward the end of the board he’d effortlessly switch hands and keep writing with his left hand, as clearly as he had been writing with his right hand. He gave fair tests that were based on the work we did in class and our homework. I had always loved math and this class made sense to me, more so than any of my previous calculus classes. On my first DiffEq test I got a 98%, and I continued to score that or higher on all my subsequent tests.
I even got a 100% on a test, on a 3rd year college math exam! It is such a great feeling to take a test and be confident about all my work and answers. I hadn’t ever felt that way on a test in my first 2 years in college. By the end of the semester I’d earned an A+ in DiffEq.
In my junior and senior years of college, my Chemical Engineering courses got tougher and more specialized. But almost all of them involved solving differential equations to get to the solution. Since I had mastered differential equations, I could always find the solution in my engineering classes.
From DiffEq on I got straight As in college, even as my classes got harder. That one class had given me the confidence I needed to assure me I was good enough, and smart enough, to be an engineer. I ended up graduating college in four years Cum Laude with a 3.66 GPA, despite my rough start the first two years of college.
My social life got better my last two years of college as well. My first two years I felt like I had to spend every waking second studying, but my final two years I found it was important to make time for friends. Over the years, I became close friends with several of my classmates – we studied together, gossiped together, and consoled each other after a rough day in class or a killer test. After a big test, we would go out together to discuss and also try to forget the test at a local brewery.
I also got very involved in several organizations, especially the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). In those organizations I formed friendships, volunteered, and had opportunities to network and learn at local and national conferences. By my senior year I was Vice President of my college’s chapters of both SWE and AIChE.
What was your favorite class in college? Was there one class that changed everything for you?
Be sure to check back for my next post about my internships.