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Advice for a late-start ME student

  1. May 21, 2012 #1
    Hello Physics Forums! I am new to the forums, but have been reading on here for a few months now. I have a couple questions I was hoping to ask you folks:

    I am beginning my undergrad work in engineering at the young age of 28. My first question deals with just that: will it be frowned upon when I am applying to jobs in 4-5 years that I am in my early 30s? Anybody have experience with this situation, either self or known someone?

    I took Calc AP in high school 12 years ago and excelled. My advisor at the community college I am starting at recommends I jump right into Calc I, but I was considering doing the 2-semester PreCalc sequence first to re-familiarize myself with math. He thinks it wouldn't be necessary; that I could brush up on PreCalc concepts over this summer and be ready in the fall....any thoughts yay or nay?

    My third question is on working while studying. Since most of my education will be paid for by myself, is it possible to work during the 3rd and 4th years at university? I consider the design projects and advanced labs that will be part of the end of my studies and wonder if I will be able to maintain a work schedule as well. Comments?

    I welcome all questions, comments, greetings! :) Thank you all in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2012 #2
    Did you take the placement tests at the community college? If you placed into Calc, I suggest doing what your advisor said. I tested into Calc but it had been about 4-5 years since I had taken any formal math... I felt like I should start a lower level to "review." I have since greatly regretted it, being insanely bored before getting to calculus.The only thing that was new to me in the "review" was getting to proofs and induction... and maybe a few trig things.

    I highly recommend that you just review over the summer (read, do problems, and watch video lectures).
  4. May 22, 2012 #3
    I started my undegrad at 28 and just finished (materials science degree). I applied to and got offers from about 4 companies. It doesn't put them off.

    There is a different expectation, even though they claim they shouldn't be. They expect you to be a little more savvy and self-motivated than other graduates, though I don't think this is necessarily true.

    The biggest problem you'll have is mobility. The older you get, the more attachments you have that tether you geographically. I had to let some good job opportunities slide because my missus is pretty happy where she is at the moment and didn't want to move.
  5. May 22, 2012 #4


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    I returned to school for ME last fall, and turned 28 a few weeks into the semester. How a company will see you may or may not depend on what you were doing prior to going back to school. I worked in a chemical plant with many chemical and mechanical engineers, getting related experience, so when I graduate I will be more desirable than an inexperienced graduate.

    I would recommend just starting with calc 1. You'll need to brush up on a little trig, but that will be given to you along the way, or you can talk to your professor about your situation and ask what trig you need to go over outside of class. I retook calc 1 to maintain insurance and help a friend try and pass, 6 years after taking it originally, and didn't have to put any effort into it (granted I had been through calc 3 before this). In the spring of 2011 I retook calc 2, 8 years after originally taking it, and didn't have any problems. If you did fine taking it in high school, you shouldn't start with earlier coursework. You won't have any problems picking up the trig that you're rusty on.

    As far as working and going to school, that depends entirely on you and your coursework. I can tell you that I probably couldn't do it. I'm the type of person that I want to deeply understand the material, rather than do the bare minimum of problems to try and succeed. This means I spend more time than necessary studying, working out problems, and supplementing with extra material. I ended up with all As, but I can't say how much work I did beyond what was required to get those As. I can't say how easy/difficult it will be for you. I can tell you that I typically catch on faster than most of my fellow students and always end up tutoring. Even then I get up to campus at 7:30 AM and leave between 5:30 and 9 PM, a minimum of 5 days a week.

    I know that with my habits, I don't stay up late working on school, and I need some time to myself to blow off some steam after 6 days a week 10 hours a day of studying. That's why I planned it out, worked in that chemical plant and saved up money to pay for everything while I went back.

    Maybe it will work for you, I can't say. If you have the discipline to not have any time for yourself, then you can do it.
  6. May 22, 2012 #5
    Thanks for the input so far! I hear what you're all saying about starting Calc if I place into it...dustbin, that "regret" is what I'm trying to stave off. Random question: do you think the "prestige" of the engineering department matters in the end?
  7. May 23, 2012 #6
    Probably, for the first job anyway. Employers always look at which uni you went to. If they don't recognise it, then they might not be as excited to hire you. I'm not convinced it matters as much once you have some years of work under your belt, but I may be wrong.
  8. May 24, 2012 #7
    As far as your job is concerned that depends on your past experiences. If you did nothing with yourself for the 10 years after you graduate high school then obviously it will be frowned upon. Hopefully this isnt the case!

    Truthfully I think you will have an advantage. Being older, you are probably more mature and are more capable of seeing opportunities as they come your way. Use your experiences to develop relationships with professors and other professionals. I have a friend who was in a similar situation as you.

    He is in his mid 30's now (decided to go back to school after he left his i think decade long military career) and in charge of a new wind turbine blade test facility at my undergraduate university.

    As long as you don't have kids or a family to take care of too I don't think you have anything to worry about.
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