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RE: Future Structural Engineer

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"If I am asked about my grades, how do I present myself as much better than
my GPA shows, without looking like I am making excuses." 

The answer kind of depends on the specifics of the situation, but here are
two ideas:

1) If your GPA on civil classes alone, or structural classes alone, is
higher than your overall GPA, consider breaking it out and listing both.
This is particularly helpful if the 2 bad semesters were early on, when you
probably weren't in your major yet.  Most people will care more about your
engineering classes than how you did in history or psychology.  

2) Depending on your situation, frankly explaining the bad semesters could
be a good idea.  Most people wouldn't hold it against you if, for instance,
you were spending lots of time out of town with your grandmother dying of
cancer, or working extra hours to help out your family after your dad was
laid off.  In many cases, if the GPA is even an issue, a reasonable
explanation is better than leaving a big question mark.  Don't phrase it as
if you are making excuses, just answering a reasonable question.  

Again, both of these depend on the particulars of the situation.  Through it
all, try to keep in mind that once you land your first job, you will
probably never be asked about your GPA again, ever.  Strong work experience
is so much more important.  I suspect more successful engineers that you
think had one or more really bad semesters, some entirely through fault of
their own.  Good luck with the intereviews.  

Paul Crocker, P.E.

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