Tips and Hints for All ECE Students


Listen to friends, believe faculty.

Math is vital: get understanding, not merely grades.

You will need knowledge learned in pre-requisite courses when you take subsequent courses. Do not do a memory dump as you walk out of a final exam. Master the knowledge and skills. You can easily fail a course (i.e. ECE 220 or ECE 333) if you do not have full knowledge of the prerequisite course material (i.e. ECE 201 or ECE 280/ECE 285).

Plan on spending about three hours of time "studying" for each hour of time you spend in a "technical" class (math, physics, computer science, engineering). To succeed in engineering courses you MUST do assigned homework (as a minimum!). This means putting pencil to paper and writing out the total problem solution, not merely looking at the problem and thinking "I know how to do that one." "Reading" the textbook is not "studying".

Most faculty only assign enough homework to "acquaint" you with the types of material you must know and understand, not necessarily enough homework for you to "master" the material. Hence, you should do more problems than are assigned. Use study groups to get support with doing extra problems.

Do course homework just as you have to do an in-class exam for that course. If the class exams are "closed book" then, when you do your homework, you need to turn to the problems and do them. If you find you need to refer to the text or your notes for examples or equations, then you do not know the material well enough to do the homework. Go back and study more. If the class exam allows an "equations sheet" then, as you study, prepare the sheet. When you do your homework you will turn to the problems and do them referring only to your equation sheet". Again, if you need to refer back to the text or notes, you do not know the material well enough to be doing the homework. Study more.

Take Probability (STAT 346) just before ECE 410, ECE 460, ECE 465 or ECE 542 (whichever you do first.) These are the courses that use probability. If you take the math too early you will not have the facility with it that is needed for success in them.

Take ECE 491, Senior Seminar, during the semester just prior to your graduation semester. Among the many topics discussed, are Resume, Cover Letter and Interviewing preparation. By taking the course at this time you will be prepared to participate in the Job Fairs and On Campus Interviewing during those important last two semesters of your degree program.

If you are interested in computer engineering or the computer area of electrical engineering and think you might do a Senior Design Project that involves microcontrollers (many, many students do!), then you need to plan on taking ECE 447, Single Chip Microcomputers, the semester before taking ECE 492, Senior Design Project I, or the same semester as ECE 492. It is hard to have to learn microcontroller technology while you are implementing or designing your Senior Design Project. Note ECE 447 is offered during the Fall and Spring semesters and has a "C or better in ECE 445 and either CS 367 or CS 222" as prerequisites, and ECE 445 has a "C or better in ECE 331 and ECE 332" as prerequisites!

The lab course associated with a lecture/lab courses pair may be taken after taking the lecture course, except for ECE 331 and ECE 332, which must be taken together.

Do not take ENGH 302 (Natural Sciences and Technology) until after completing ECE 280/ECE 285 and ECE 331. In ENGH 302 (Natural Sciences and Technology) you will learn to write and critique writing “in the technology” of your major. Completing the above courses will allow you to read basic electrical or computer engineering technical journal articles.

Take COMM 100 before ECE 491 and ECE 492 because it is a prerequisite for both courses.

ECE 491 or ECE 492, require as a pre-requisite, that a student has completed at least 90 credit hours applicable to their major prior to the ECE 491 or ECE 492 semester. The easiest way to determine whether you are eligible to enroll in ECE 491 or ECE 492 is to count up the credit hours needed to finish your degree program, including courses planned for the ECE 491 or ECE 492 semester. If that count is 30 credits or less, then you actually do have 90 hours applicable to the degree. If that count is 31 credits or more, then you do not have at least 90 hours applicable to the 120 hour degree and you are not eligible to enroll in ECE 491 or ECE 492.

Plan on checking the ECE Department Bulletin Board regularly. Notices of changes in class offerings and locations, jobs, off-site visits, changes in degree requirements, student organizations events, and much other useful information is available.



Academic Status is determined using the cumulative GPA and the number of credit hours (GMU attempted, transfer, AP, credit by exam) a student has on their GMU record. Having a cumulative GPA less than a 2.000 results in an Academic Status designation ranging from Warning to Suspension, depending on the student's Credit Level. Credit Level includes credit hours of the "original" course as well as the "repeat" course when a student repeats a specific course. The Cumulative GPA is determined only by the credit hours and grade of the most recent course. Students are responsible for being aware of their Credit Hour Level and the corresponding GPAs for Warning, Probation and Suspension. For full details go to the Registrar's web site or link directly via:



George Mason allows undergraduate students to repeat (almost) any course for a new grade. Upon completion of the repeated course the old grade will be "flagged" as "Excluded from cumulative GPA", but will remain on the transcript. The new grade will become part of the cumulative GPA, even if it is lower than the previous grade! This Repeat policy can help a student increase their GPA, particularly if a low GPA was due to D or F grades. Repeating a course by taking it away from George Mason (i.e. at Northern Virginia Community College) will not remove the George Mason grade from the cumulative GPA



Students can take a CS course two times without any restrictions. However to take a CS course for a third time requires the approval of the CS Department. Before the CS Department will approve such a request, a non-CS student must get the written approval of their own academic advisor first.



Toward the end of September or February of your first semester at George Mason, an advisor from the ECE Department will be assigned. This assignment is shown in the listing on the bulletin board outside the Department office (room 3100, Engineering Building). Advisors have office hours during which you may just walk-in for advising. Office hours each semester, phone and office numbers, and email addresses are posted at the Department office and via the ECE Department website. If your classes or work conflict with posted office hours, phone or email your advisor or leave a note explaining your needs in your advisor's box in the ECE Department office, and special appointment times can be arranged.Much of the time your issue can be addressed via email. If for any reason you have a problem with your advisor, please let us know in the Department office and we will help you. You are required to see your advisor prior to registration each semester that you are in ECE. Be sure to get with your advisor early. Do not wait until the last minute as your professor may not be on campus on your registration date.

Your advisor is important in two ways. First, your advisor can keep you informed of changes to the curriculum, of potential problems with *when* you take particular courses, and of other resources to help you in your present academic program and in your subsequent masters degree program. Second, unless you are independently wealthy, you will go to work or go to graduate school when you finish your BS. You will need either references for jobs or recommendations for admissions to graduate school. If you work closely with your advisor you could get a very strong, personal, recommendation, one that an instructor who you had not interacted with one-on-one over a number of years could not provide.



Very useful for technical courses (Math, Physics, CS, ECE) “survival”. Three to five students who want to assist each other in one or more classes. “Psychologically” helpful. Helps a student realize others also find material difficult. “Academically” helpful. The Group can do extra problems and share answers. Group members learn by teaching other members or being assisted by other group members. Group members can go “as a group” to instructor for course help. . "Study Groups" is not "Group Studying". It is focused, group interactive, learning. (I.e. do not sit around a table with your notes and books and "study".)



While all degree requirements must be satisfied by academic course work, recruiters are strongly and positively influenced by co-op or internship experiences. Students should plan on obtaining this experience. Recruiters in Northern Virginia look very critically at a George Mason University engineering student's resume if it does not show technical work experience. Cooperative Education, coordinated by the Career Services Office at GMU, provides students with the opportunity to integrate paid, career-related work experience with classroom learning. The Career Services Office co-op liaison visits sophomore and junior ECE classes to discuss co-op. Internships are paid (normally) or non-paid (unusual in technical positions) work experience related to the student’s major. I.e. working in a “junior” electrical or computer engineering position in industry. The Career Services Office is an excellent source of internship listings.



In addition to the usual financial aid available to all students through the Office of Student Financial Planning and Resources, CpE and EE majors are eligible to apply at the ECE Department for several scholarships provided by professional societies and industrial organizations, such as the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, the Washington Telecommunications Society, the Association of Old Crows, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and Rockwell International. Application forms are available in the ECE Department Office in April each year.



You will be required to register before each semester. Be on the lookout for when the schedule of classes is posted on PatriotWeb in October and February, and see your advisor as soon as possible. Do not wait until the week before you register, you may not be able to contact your advisor in time. This will delay your registration and hence you may not get into the courses/sections you want.(Some ECE course sections fill up within *hours* of the start of registration!) Take advantage of registering as soon as possible after your assigned time in order to get maximum advantage from your "priority" which is based on completed and in-process courses. It is your responsibility to check (i.e. a day or two after your “request”) to make sure you are enrolled in all the courses you want and no courses that you do not want.



All students in a Warning Status (from having designated Credit (hours) Levels and designated cumulative GPA ranges) and all students returning from Suspension are limited to no more than 13 credit hours. Be careful, any IN grade counts like an "F" for this calculation! This GMU policy will be implemented by the Registrar 2 weeks before the first day of classes of each semester by automatically dropping the last course a student enrolled in to try to drop the total hours down to 13. If necessary, additional "last course enrolled in" courses will be dropped. The automatic process does not look for 1 credit courses, it just looks at the date/time a class was enrolled in. Thus it is possible that the automatic drop could drop a student below 12 hours and trigger a potential financial aid, visa, insurance, etc, problem. I.e. if such a student is enrolled for 14 hours (ECE 331[3], ECE 332[1], ECE 333[3], ECE 334[1], STAT 346[3] and ECE 320[3]) and the last course they enrolled in was ECE 320, the automatic drop would drop ECE 320[3], bringing the student down to 11 hours. Once a course is dropped the student loses all "rights" to the course. Other students can add and cause the course to close and the student who was dropped will not get back in.



When the GMU computer shows that a class is full you may ask if it is possible to be added above the limit shown in the computer system by using a "force add" (Course Permit or "Capacity" Override) option. Under certain exceptional circumstances the instructor can allow additional students into the class by force adding them. This can be done prior to, or at, the first meeting of the class. The instructor may allow you in at that time if it is possible. The instructor will have (or can get) the needed "Course Permit"form or a "Capacity" Override may be placed in your PatriotWeb registration site. The action may require the Chair's approval also.



Class sizes are determined primarily by academic considerations, and also by the room size limit. Whenever a class(section) has been enrolled to the maximum, it becomes a closed class(section). Some departments maintain "wait lists" for selected closed classes. If you find a section is closed, be sure to check for the existence of a Waitlist or use appropriate course/section search options to see if other "unpublished", open, sections might exist, or check with the department offering the course for possible actions. See for details on working with Waitlists. In some cases it may be possible to add a student above the limit by using the "force add" option, but this is an exceptional action.



If you wish to take more than 18 hours, it is considered an OVERLOAD. You will have to obtain permission from the Dean's office. Pick up the forms and instructions at room 2501, Engineering Building, the office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies.



If you want to drop a course you can only do so within the first 5 weeks of the Fall and Spring semesters. If you do so, it will not appear on your transcript. It is your responsibility to check (i.e. next day) and make sure any “dropped” course is actually “dropped” by the GMU computer system. After the 5th week, you can not "drop" a course, you may petition through the Volgenau School Associate Dean's office to "withdraw" from courses. Academic reasons ("I'm not doing well." "I did not have the prerequisites." etc.) can not be submitted as reasons for withdrawal. Pick up the forms and instructions at room 2501, Engineering Building, the office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies.



If you need to take a course away from George Mason (i.e. summers if you live elsewhere; if your work or other commitments conflict with a needed course) you need special permission from the Dean’s office before registering at the other school or the course will not be allowed as a transfer course. Pick up the forms and instructions at room 2501, Engineering Building, the office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies.



If you feel your transfer evaluation sheet does not indicate that you have received transfer credit for courses that would be applicable to the your degree program, or if only "elective" credit is shown for a course you feel meets a specific degree requirement, then you should contact Dr. Sutton in the Department office.This must be done no later than the end of your first semester at George Mason.



It is possible to "test out" of ENGH 101 or ENGH 302. For ENGH 101 there is a free three hour Proficiency Exam given in the summer and in January. A passing score earns a Waiver (no credit and no grade) for ENGH 101. Consequently you may need to take an approved course to make up for the "missing" 3 credits due to the Waiver. See Dr. Sutton. For ENGL 302 there is a two part process. The first part (permitted after you have completed 45 hours of academic course work) is submission of a portfolio of long and short written works. This is evaluated and if approved, the second part of the process is scheduled. The second part of the process is a two hour written exam. Satisfactory completion of both parts of the process earns a Waiver (no credit and no grade) for ENGH 302. Consequently you may need to take an approved course to make up for the "missing" 3 credits due to the Waiver. See Dr. Sutton. See the English Department (Robinson A487) if you wish to pursue either of these opportunities.



Students should strive for academic excellence which can lead to selection for membership in Eta Kappa Nu (HKN), the International Electrical Engineering Honor Society and/or Tau Beta Epsilon (TBE), the Engineering Honor Society of the School of Information Technology and Engineering. (TBE is the GMU “colony” chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honor Society). HKN requires that a student is an electrical or computer engineering major and is in the top 1/3rd of the Senior electrical/computer engineering class or the top 1/4th of the Junior electrical/computer engineering class. TBE requires that a student is in an Engineering degree program and is in the top 1/5th of the Senior Engineering class or the top 1/8th of the Junior Engineering class. Honor society members participate in activities and are recognized by unique stoles worn at gradation and mention in the School of Information Technology and Engineering Convocation program.

For Junior status, a CpE Major must have completed ECE 220, ECE 280 and ECE 331, and have completed or be enrolled in ECE 333 and ECE 445, and have 60 hours or less remaining to complete the degree. An EE Major must have completed ECE 220 and ECE 280 and have completed or be enrolled in ECE 331, ECE 333 and ECE 320, and have 60 hours or less remaining to complete the degree to be in Junior status. 

For Senior status the student must have 30 hours or less remaining to complete the degree.



Outstanding academic performance is recognized at graduation via the highest award, the Volgenau School Outstanding Undergraduate Award, as well as the ECE Department Outstanding Academic Performance Award, and several Chairman's Awards. Service to the ECE Department, student organizations or The Volgenau School by a student with a notable academic record is recognized by the Joseph I. Gurfein Service Award.


STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS: Teaming/Communication/Networking

Participation in student organizations can yield valuable results in three areas. One very important capability recruiters look for, but is difficult to develop in regular academic classes is teamwork and leadership. Student organizations provide a means to develop and demonstrate the ability to work in teams/groups, to develop leadership ability and to develop communication (oral presentation and written) skills. A second important skill for engineers is the ability to communicate, including speaking to large groups. Again, this is not often a part of regular classes. Participating in student organization activities gives you the opportunity to learn and practice speaking skills. A final advantage to student organization participation is Anetworking@. Networking is Ainteracting with others in your discipline@. In student organizations you will connect to students from freshman level to Aabout to graduate@. You can take advantage of these students= knowledge to assist in your academic program - good electives to take, when to take them. But even more important you can connect with students as they graduate from George Mason. As graduates, in industry, they know where good jobs are. You can get email addresses from them just before they graduate and then easily keep in touch with them Connections with just three to four graduates per year for three years means you know a dozen people in many companies by the time you are looking for your first job. These are people who know you, who know the George Mason engineering curricula, who know your capabilities and most likely want to help you.

Technically related student organizations open to students include student chapters of: the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the Armed Forces Communications-Electronics Association (AFCEA), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). All these organizations are open to any and all students who want to join.



During your last semester you will receive notice from the GMU Registrar - Graduation Section to initiate your graduation process by filling out a web-based, on-line, form. Following this you need to come to the ECE Department office to pick up the rest of your graduation application material and a Graduation Checklist.

In order to obtain proper graduation application material you must go to Student Records (Student Union Building 1) and file for a change of Catalog year ASAP but no later than the semester before your graduation semester if you intend to use any Catalog requirements other than the ones that existed at the time you entered GMU. You are allowed to use any set of requirements that are published in any one Catalog that comes into existence during your first semester at GMU or later. You can see a "Degree Evaluation" by accessing your records from the GMU homepage (follow the "Students" and then the "Patriot Web" or "Academics") links) using your Web browser. Check early and often. Don't get caught missing a degree requirement!

Transfer courses marked with an “L” can be submitted as meeting some of the graduation requirements, but can not be counted toward the "45 hours of 300 level or above" courses which must be submitted for graduation.



Just as your Academic Status (Good Status, Warning, Suspension, Dismissal) depends on your cumulative GPA, your graduation does also. You must present a cumulative GPA of 2.000 or above in order to be awarded the BS degree.

No C- or D grades in ECE, ENGR, CS or BENG courses may be submitted for the BS EE or BS CpE. No C- or D grades in BENG, BIOL or ENGR courses may be submitted for the BS BioE.