The Highlands Company Blog

Questions to Enhance Success for Engineering Students

natural abilities engineer

natural abilities engineerWhile it would be ideal for all high school juniors and seniors to take the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB) before attending college, choosing a major, and focusing on a profession, that’s not the reality. Asking pertinent questions about abilities can help students make decisions about what majors are a best fit, what study habits they need to adopt or reinforce, and what work environments will be good settings for them.

Many times in my role as a career advisor at a highly-regarded engineering school, I have counseled an engineering student to either confirm or decide to change a major. I do this by helping them understand elements that demonstrate three-dimensional abilities (which you can learn about by taking the HAB).

Natural Abilities of an Engineer

Often times, engineering students know intuitively that they are oriented to three dimensions and conceptualize in 3-D. Or, by the time they are in my office, they have observed the three-dimension orientation in their classmates and realize they don’t have the same potential. They recognize that civil engineering, architecture, industrial design, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, and a few other fields will not be their chosen specialization, contrary to their expectations. However, it often comes as a relief to learn about natural abilities and what makes thinking in 3-D easy for others and more difficult and laborious for them.

The concepts distinguishing Generalists from Specialists can reveal which style he or she may favor, and how that will impact their choice of roles in their professional lives. In their study groups or senior design projects, they will find that they function in the role that fits them best — subject-matter expert or team leader — with a sense of what everyone in the group is contributing. Or, if they are in the wrong role, they will find themselves disliking the course and despairing of a good grade.

Many top engineering students did not need to study very much in high school, but find their first semester at a university to be a huge challenge: they never had to acquire study habits in high school. They were able to “get it” the first time through, drawing on quick, rapid-fire problem-solving or the strength of their learning styles. By simply understanding their preferred Learning Styles and Diagnostic Problem-Solving, things could improve.

Offering students another perspective for what may be influencing their behavior can be reassuring, and the students can enjoy another option than to feel like failures. Academic assistance and tutoring can easily solve their problems by helping them to acquire appropriate study skills.