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Academic advice for a 30 yr old

  1. Jun 7, 2009 #1
    Hello everyone, I'd appreciate any and all advice on my situation.

    I did not complete college the first time around, and spent my 20s working in various fields including a recording studio for the blind, and as sales/tech support for a music technology company.

    In 2007 I was diagnosed with a neurological illness, the most debilitating symptoms of which were severe unpredictable attacks of vertigo and pain that has left me unemployed for the better part of 2 years. Fortunately, with treatment, physical therapy, and time to make "lifestyle adjustments" my condition has abated to the point that I feel I'd like to try to re-enter the world of the living again. During my illness I spent a lot of time thinking about what I'd like to do should I ever recover to the point that I felt functional again, and now that I feel that time may be here I'd like some advice on what to do. During the time I was severely ill I got relief from practicing my electronics hobby, and courses of self study in physics and mathematics (Thanks, MIT Open Courseware!). I feel that I'd like to turn this avocation of electronics into a vocation if I could.

    Of course, in the US with unemployment approaching 10% my opportunities for employment after 2 years of illness are extremely limited without a degree, and while self study has been great, I realize it's worth little to a prospective employer without the academic rigor of an accredited institution behind it. I guess I'm looking at attempting a 4 year program of study in EE or a similar discipline at 30. I'm currently in the New England area, and while I don't think I'm ready right this summer to start a full curriculum, I would like to start getting required courses for an engineering program under my belt. Also, I plan on moving from this area to the West in the next 6-9 months for a number of reasons. Is it likely that required courses I take in this area such as Calculus I, II, Linear Algebra, etc. would transfer to another university's program of study? Are these the courses someone in my position should start taking to pursue such a program of study, or something else? Should I be attempting this at all? All input would be greatly appreciated. :biggrin:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 8, 2009 #2


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    Just some advice that I've learned from my experiences.

    So far I have done uni often by myself in the manner that I almost cut off communication with everyone apart from the required interaction with the teachers. I got high marks but I think it was only because I was starting and its nothing to smile or brag about (lots of people can get high marks).

    Then in the 2nd year of studies I had a mental breakdown. I've been diagnosed with schizophrenia but I had yet another hospitalization which led me to withdraw from my studies.

    My advice is to make friends at your course and do what you enjoy. Maybe it was my pride or maybe it was my phobia of letting myself open up to others because I had an illness, but either way it was detrimental to my study.

    If for some reason you don't find any other student stimulating (god forbid this happens), then i would recommend some sort of social network with anybody. Maybe you have other responsibilities like parenting or something (I don't know you haven't told me)

    I started doing electronics at a technical college and have decided that I want to pursue engineering instead after my maths degree. Electronics is hands on and very practical but it
    is much slower paced than a typical engineering degree.

    The reason I have said what I have said is that I suffer from a mental illness and maybe if you have some perspective about how others view you, then in saying what I have said, I have potentially helped someone avoid the same behaviours that I had.

    You can complete the course. I have met people from very underprivileged backgrounds and although they struggled at first they went on to finish the units.

    It sounds like you want to do engineering. I would advise that you look at the myriad of other posts that are located within this forum. Many gold nuggets of advice can be found and I suggest you take them in because people who have been through it all have helped others in a similar situation such as yourself.

    Remember also that if you don't understand something that doesn't mean you're stupid. Some are luckier than others however there is a point for all people to learn a thing or two from someone else (not necessarily the "teacher/lecturer" either). Absorb as much as you can and most of all enjoy yourself along the way.


  4. Jun 8, 2009 #3


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    Also with regard to self-study. Self study is ok but I recommend you still form associations with other people. It's hard to study for your own self-interest: you will most likely burn out if you do this. If you study to make an impact in the lives of other people I know that it will provide a specific type of motivation that can help you. Think about possibly teaming up with other people and sharing your ideas with them to get critical feedback. Get a mentor if possible.

    I wish you well for the future.

  5. Jun 8, 2009 #4
    Thats so nice advice, it long and must take me long time read and think deeply of my whole role in an online position as watcher , so good!
  6. Jun 9, 2009 #5
    Most schools list the required curiculum online (random example http://www.engr.pitt.edu/computer/undergrad/curricula.html" [Broken]). If you have a local school in mind, start there.

    Freshmen course requirements are generally the same for all engineering disciplines. Calc I,II, Physics for Eng/Science I, II, Chemistry I,II, and a basic "Intro to Engineering" course. If you are taking courses from an accreditied school, you *shouldn't* run into problems with transfer credits.

    However, engineering programs tend to be more structured than others, and if you get out of sync you can run into scheduling problems.

    Look at schools you are interested in attending locally and at school you may want to transfer into and talk to to them. The only way to know for sure if credits will transfer is to ask.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Jun 9, 2009 #6


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    I think Nate's advice is spot on. Talk to the schools where you'd likely take classes now and the ones near where you think you will move, and ask them directly if credits will transfer.

    For standard freshman year courses, it's really not likely to be a problem. You can probably also safely take an English writing course and have that credit transfer too; most universities require students to take an English writing course in their first year, and engineering students usually have to take a scientific and technical writing course as well or in place of another English course, so those are things you can get out of the way before transferring. Usually, core courses that aren't really part of the major are easiest to transfer.

    As Nate says, you might get out of sync in an engineering program and have some scheduling trouble, but since you also might not want to jump in full time anyway, and would plan on some extra time in school, this might work out anyway to spread out the first year courses over two years, and then jump back into the proper sequence later.

    Since you have a known neurological problem that may affect your coursework, make sure that after you enroll in a university that you contact the appropriate office for assisting students with disabilities. You'll want to get your condition on record with them in case you run into problems like the vertigo returning on days you're supposed to be in lab or taking an exam. By taking those steps ahead of time, your professors will know in advance that they may need to take special consideration or make exceptions to their usual exam or coursework make-up policies to accommodate your illness, and it'll make it easier for them to do that for you and easier for you to justify to them that your absences are legitimate.
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