Hello, my name is Daniel Gonzalez and I graduated in my third year of college.

Starting back in high school, I went to a magnet school in Fort Pierce, Florida, called Lincoln Park Academy. I was invited into the IB [International Baccalaureate] Program that challenges and prepares students for college. A bonus was that if you obtained your IB diploma, you would get full Bright Futures scholarship as well as skip many of general education classes in college such as English, history, biology, psychology. After studying for hours and hours, I passed all my exams and obtained my diploma. I basically skipped a year of college because I took college level courses, which saved me a lot of money.

I selected UCF because I knew I wanted to go to a big university and not a community college. I had previous knowledge that UCF’s engineering program was good but I still checked out other universities. Ultimately, I chose UCF because of opportunities ─ internships, research, etc. due to having so many top engineering companies around the area . . . and also because it was only two hours away from home (to keep mom happy).

Transitioning to college, I knew from the get-go I wanted to work as an engineer. I took a 4-year elective in high school that introduced me to engineering and I really enjoyed learning about it. So I decided to go with it. The transition was tough in the beginning because of the rigorous UCF math courses. Along with the freedom of living alone and pretty much doing whatever I wanted to do without mom’s approval led me to make some irresponsible decisions like I was putting off studying for many classes. During my first semester at UCF, I withdrew out of Calculus 1 because I was failing. I couldn’t believe it, I let myself down and now I had to pay back Bright Futures with money I didn’t have. I learned my lesson very quick and I became more aware of my habits and my priorities. After I realized how much time and money I was investing into my education, school became first and my number one priority.

During my time at UCF, I participated in some of Student Development and Enrollment Services’ department services. I used the Recreation and Wellness Center throughout my four years to work out and  the facilities to play intramural soccer on the fields. I visited the Student Union for food, printing services, and I would get scantrons from Student Government Association. The Office of Student Involvement provided entertainment and a lot of fun events and concerts. I also worked as office support for SDES for three years.

After my first year at UCF, I managed to settle down and be confident in my study habits and time management. I was lucky enough to meet amazing friends who were also engineers. We became roommates up until graduation. Having such close friends who were all in the same class allowed me to become a harder worker, and in a way, it motivated me to succeed. I definitely have to give recognition to all those friends for providing the drive that I have today.

So my advice to any incoming freshman in engineering or would be: Find a core group of friends that are all motivated to succeed and you’ll see how easier and more enjoyable engineering school will become. There will be many sleepless nights but plenty more memories of all the laughs shared with the group.

Time flew by at a tremendous pace. Before I knew it, I was in the last semester of my undergraduate career. I was a full time engineering student, had one job and one research position along with other responsibilities throughout the years. I look back now and give myself props [respect I deserve] for maintaining my sanity. Even though I am deep in debt and probably have insomnia, I can ultimately say I have graduated as a mechanical engineer from the University of Central Florida at 21 years of age in Spring 2016.

I started my first “big boy” job as project engineer in Jacksonville, Florida on June 6. So my investment on education is about to pay off. I have my entire life ahead of me so I’m going to take every opportunity to learn more and succeed in whatever else I do.