Be really careful about feeling that you are bored out of your mind in your freshman year in college. Be mindful that the university needs to teach to a common denominator, and you are currently ahead of it. That won’t always be the case.

Your situation sounds a lot like mine 14 or so years ago. I was on a FRC team, learned a lot of cool stuff. I was in the top 10 of my high school class at a blue ribbon school in New Jersey. All through high school I really wanted to go to Duke. I even took a summer session there. But, alas, Duke didn’t accept me for college. I ended up “settling” for the University of Virginia. That’s right, I felt I “settled” for the then #1 and current #2 public university in the country.

So, when I got to Charlottesville, I was a really cocky and arrogant son of a you know what. Practically slept through my first semester, when my schedule was basically a re-take of a bunch of stuff I took in high school. I left for Christmas with a 3.6 GPA. College was going to be easy.

But then I got kicked in the shins. I didn’t take my introductory circuits course seriously. I mean, given enough effort, I can do circuit analysis. Who cares about this Node-Voltage and Mesh-Current stuff anyway? All I ever needed to know about circuits I learned in High School. Right? Well, I thought so then. At the same time, I didn’t take multivariate calculus seriously, because I’ll never have to worry about things more complicated than a circuit.

Next thing I know, I’m simultaneously failing three courses in my second year: E&M Physics, Electronics I (transistors), and DiffEq. Why? Because I didn’t know how to do a two dimensional closed surface integral over an inverse square force field in spherical space. And, I didn’t know how to do N-V and M-C for small signal transistor models. Oh, and dear God I didn’t know how to find a determinant so now I can’t solve differential equations using Cramer’s Rule.

Yes, I can understand the boredom. I was there. But, a question to ask yourself: Can you explain how the fact that the divergence of a 4 dimensional anti-symmetric rank 2 tensor equals zero means that there is light? Can you explain why a square pulse in the time domain equals something like sin(w)/w in the frequency domain? Can you explain why a single pendulum is well governed by algebra, but a double pendulum is chaotic? Can you explain why a curve ball curves, in a mathematical sense?

There’s a lot to be learned. If you want to be an engineer, then find some healthy distractions until you hit the challenging stuff. I wish I had taken up billiards my first year in college, that would have probably helped. Instead, I found myself teaching myself vector calculus, field calculus, and differential equations during Christmas break 2001. I’m really glad I did, that re-commitment to myself meant I graduated. That meant that I went to on grad school and earned a Ph.D., and that in turn gives me the career I have today.

So, stick with it, and use this opportunity to find those good rounding passions that make us human.