My route to Engineering

In this post, I just wanted to spend some time going over my route to becoming an engineer. Less why I became one and more how. It is also one of the most common questions I am asked by students. Obviously there is more than one way to become an engineer, this is but my perspective based on my own experiences.

Early aspirations

Like many kids, I dreamt of becoming an astronaut when I grew up. Seeing images of deep space and watching videos of rocket launches and men walking on the moon was what sparked my interest in space. I suppose you could say this was when I first became interested in Engineering. Another aspect in my early life that contributed to this fascination was that since I have relatives in India, I used to fly a lot to visit them and absolutely loved doing so.

Flight and space obviously go hand-in-hand and in fact, the first career aspiration I had on my route to become an astronaut was to be a pilot. I did some research and learned that one of the most common routes to becoming an astronaut was to become a fighter pilot. Unfortunately, acquiring a need for glasses does not lend itself well to this aim. Fortunately, my research told me there was a common alternative route to becoming an astronaut – becoming an engineer.

Now that I knew the career path that would give me the highest chances of becoming an astronaut, it was simply a case of becoming an engineer. By the way, for all those interested in following my journey to become an astronaut, you can check out my personal website.

At school

I did my GCSEs at the City of Leicester College, where alongside my core subjects, I chose to study French, Drama, Business Studies and Economics. None of these subjects screams out engineering or astronaut. However, at that point, these were the subjects that I found most interesting and enjoyed. I reasoned that if I enjoyed the subjects that I was studying, I would be more likely to do well in them. Moreover, I knew that these optional subjects would not prevent me from studying what I wanted to in the future. The only truly important subjects at this stage are Maths, Science and English.

After sitting my GCSEs, I decided to move schools to Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College (QE), also in Leicester. The reason for this was the subjects that I wanted to study. At A Levels, my options were Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry. Although these were offered at City of Leicester, they were known as a specialist school for Business and QE had more of a reputation for the Sciences. Good grades in Maths, Physics and another subject would be required for studying Engineering at university.

Of course, exam grades are not the only requirement for studying Engineering at university – especially top ones. There is the application itself, admissions tests, interview processes and extra-curricular activities to display your motivations. These additional university requirements vary for each institution and also have to be looked into. But these are things for another post.

University applications

Engineering is quite a broad field and at some institutions, you would do a general course, but at most, you have to select a specialism. I mentioned previously my interest in flying and space, and this led me to apply to study Aeronautical Engineering. Upon reading up a book by UCAS in my college library on the universities that offer this course, my research led me to apply to Cambridge, Imperial, Bristol, Southampton and Loughborough.

I failed to even get an offer from my first choice, Cambridge. As the first in my family to apply to university and with a lack of resources available to me, I was not sufficiently prepared. This is actually one of the reasons I started Interstellar Academy, to share with others advice on admissions that I did not have access to at the time.

I did however get offers for the other four universities. I chose Imperial as my first choice and Bristol as my second. I managed to get A*s in all four of my A Levels and met all of the requirements for my choices. I chose to go to Imperial and that is where I became an Engineer.

Concluding remarks

My route to Engineering has been relatively conventional, but there are other ways that you could become an engineer – for example following a more vocational route. The route I took has now led me to the University of Oxford, where I am a researcher investigating the impact behaviour of soft materials. I now work with various Oxford Colleges, the Engineering Science department and other local institutions to support the university admissions process.

I also offer services coaching students looking to study Engineering at university covering subject content for examinations and the entire application process. If this is something you, or someone you know is looking for, please do not hesitate to get in touch or book online.

In this post, I’ve gone through how I went from school to college to university and became an Engineer. There were many obstacles in the way, and a failure too. However, the struggles were not insurmountable and with these experiences, I have been able to better guide my students and offer them the support that I lacked at that stage. I hope this has provided some insight into my route to becoming an engineer – all the best for your journey!

– Akash