Summer Reads For Engineering Students (And Their Parents)

Starting College this year? I’ve compiled a short summer reading list that you’ll find useful whether you are beginning college this fall as a freshmen or planning to transfer from a community college.

#1 Studying Engineering by Raymond Landis

Literally the “go to” text book for engineering orientation courses. I love this book for many reasons. Not only does this book introduce you to the various branches of engineering, this book also gives a practical glimpse into the study skills needed to be a successful engineering major covering everything from time management techniques to having a growth mindset. Aside from being a guidebook on the engineering profession the book also gives students a mechanism to explore their individual learning styles. One of my favorite lines that I often use with my own students is “No Deposit, No Return.”

#2 Learn to Program by Chris Pine

I especially like this book for students who have not yet taken a coding class. Why? Because it teaches you the art of programming while emphasizing the process not just the end result. Even if you have zero programming experience Chris Pine does an outstanding job that even a newbie can follow. I’ve seen many students read this book over the summer and have a great understanding of the art of programming and the tips and tricks to save time, work more efficiently and be bug free.

#3 Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell

So you know how to code but do you know how to survive the technical interview? If the only thing standing between you and your dream job/internship is a whiteboard then this is a must read! It’s the “true Hollywood story” version of behind the scenes interviews from companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and several other tech titans. Aside from helping you ace the technical interview the book also gives tips on salary negotiations and declining offers.

#4 CLiftonstrengths for Students by Gallup

This book is not specific to engineers but it is an amazing resource to help students understand their individual strengths. Developed by the Gallup organization this book includes the Strengthsfinder access code that allows students to recognize their top signature themes. By understanding one’s signature themes and learning to recognize the strengths that others bring, students can maximize their college experiences and optimize team projects. A growing number of engineering programs have adopted the strengths based curriculum so why not get a head start on recognizing your own individual strengths this summer.

#5 The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

I can almost guarantee that next fall when you go into your professors’ offices you’ll find copies of Covey’s iconic book proudly displayed on their bookshelves. Engineers will love the usage of Venn diagrams. I’d recommend a hard copy not an e-book because you’ll want to highlight things in this book.

For Parents

The Naked Roomate: For Parents Only by Harlen Cohen
There are many books available that give college freshman tips on surviving their first semester. However, few are written specifically for the new college parent.  Packaged as a lighthearted “how to” guide for parents The Naked Roommate does a good job in preparing parents for their first year as a college parent. Whether the student is going across the country or attending the local community college, parents will find the first hand testimonies from college freshman throughout the book useful.

One of the book’s highlights is its chapter on the role that technology plays in family communication.  Weekly long distance phone calls to mom and dad have been replaced by Skype sessions. Letters home are now sent via text message or emailed through Facebook.  If parents choose to “friend” their kids on Facebook they are encouraged to use the site as a means of catching up with their kids, not catching them in wrongdoings. Having one’s kid add them as a friend on Facebook is a privilege not a right. Therefore, parents who chose to add their freshman kids on the social media site should do so sans judgments even if they are curious about what’s inside those red plastic cups in all those photos…  This is where college advisors and career counselors can intervene by reminding college students about the importance of managing their online personas.

The book emphasizes the important role that parents play in ensuring that students fully engage themselves in the college experience.  First generation parents are encouraged to investigate resources available to their first generation college students as research has shown that these students are less likely to participate in enrichment activities such as internships or study abroad.  However, once the semester begins, parents should detach with love and resist the temptation to try and instantly fix everything. For instance, each time the freshman is checking in with their parents to vent about their roommate, express homesickness, or ask for help, the less time they’re communicating with campus resources such as counselors or academic advisors.   Helicopter parents are gently reminded that it’s never ever ok to contact their kid’s professors and how FERPA laws change once your child turns eighteen.   I would recommend this book to advisors because of the range of topics that the book addresses.  This book leaves no stone unturned when it comes to addressing serious topics, including topics such as what to do if your child is arrested and coming out in college.  Advisors will appreciate the author’s willingness to bring up real life situations and not simply rely on surface talking points such as how to do laundry or how to use a credit card.  The Naked Roomate is a good resource for those designing parent orientations.

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