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Concerned about ability to succeed in job/grad school

  1. Mar 1, 2015 #1
    I would like to get a Master's of Engineering and work in the industry, but for a number of reasons, I don't think I am going to be very good at it. I worry that I am deluding myself into thinking that I am good at something I am not. I'd like to get other people's thoughts on whether I this is really a good path for me...
    • While I have a high GPA, it is inflated, and my professors make the classes very easy. They practically tell us exactly what is going to be on the tests, and homework is graded rather leniently. I have gotten A plusses in some of my upper level classes, but, in reality, I don't feel like I know the material well (btw, would grad schools/employers view A+s suspiciously?). When I look at the homework assignments other schools give, I can't even get the problems started; I feel that my problem solving skills are poor.
    • I have trouble getting work done in the lab and am unable to think clearly. I think deep down I am afraid of hard work and success. I am always hesitant to do things in the lab because I don't really know what I am doing. I feel like I need permission to do things. I seriously doubt I could do a thesis.
    • I have a terrible memory. I can't remember basic things from earlier classes.
    • I am not good at communicating or socializing. I don't chat with people in the lab since they are probably really busy and whatnot. I have trouble understanding verbal instructions.
    I am sorry this is really negative, but there it is. There are probably steps I could take to improve some of the issues I've listed, and I have definitely tried, but I never seem to be able to make progress. Part of this may come from working on a research project that isn't a good fit for me, but I have to finish out the semester.

    I might add more to this later, but this is all I can come up with for now. Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I feel that you are being hard on yourself and allowing your fears to drive your decisions. Everyone who applies to grad school will have to take the GRE and that plus your grades plus your recommendation letters and whatever else they ask for will tell the school how good you are as compared to others.

    Are you getting enough sleep, exercising enough and eating healthy? Not doing these things can affect your concentration and memory in class and in the lab.

    If you are experiencing test anxiety, I saw a recent documentary that said if you journal your anxieties down for just 10 minutes before the exam you will offload some of your fears and will be able to focus better on the test.
  4. Mar 2, 2015 #3


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    Gold Member

    There is a difference between a talent and a skill. A skill can be developed through training, experience, and practice. A talent is something you have or do not have.

    Most of what you refer to is about skills. You can do something about it. For example, remembering things is often a question of doing the right kind of review. For me, it means taking good notes, then reviewing those notes soon after the class, usually the same day or the next day. I get a lot of mileage out of neatly rewriting my notes. But that is certainly not for everybody.

    As jedishrfu suggests, there are a variety of methods of coping with anxiety. As the saying goes: If turning your hat around in a poker game works, then it works. It does not need magic powers, it's just a way to focus your attention. If you find you have your "lucky exam-taking t-shirt" or something equally silly, then go with it. If having exactly the same thing for breakfast the morning before each exam works for you, then go with that. Just be sure to study before the test as well.

    Having a good work pattern can help with a lot of these things. Again, as jedishrfu suggests, be sure to look after your physical health. A good night's sleep will reduce a lot of problems. A healthy, balanced approach will better prepare you for a lot of things. Try to stay away from things like huge sugar rushes. Try not to get dependent on coffee.

    Then try to have a quiet, well lit, and reasonably well setup place to study. A chair that does not distract you. A desk at a reasonable height. No distracting noise, though sometimes music helps people study. Just don't use the music (or whatever else) as an excuse to avoid work. Having a routine for starting work may be helpful as long as the routine does not get long and become an excuse to avoid work. Light on, chair at desk, butt in chair, start work.

    Social awkwardness can also be dealt with. One of the best investments I ever made in myself was taking an inter-personal skills class. You might be able to find such a thing at your university. Or maybe there is one of those "adult education" or "continuing education" kind of classes near you.
  5. Mar 2, 2015 #4


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    The first time you do anything you're not likely going to be good at it - particularly with the practical application of skills.

    This is because even though you can understand the theory behind how something operates, in the real world, there are always little (or sometimes not so little) factors that you have to account for and you learn about these through experience. Success in the research world isn't about getting this little factors right the first time. It's about repeating the work over and over, it's about making (or at least spotting) all the errors you can so that in the end you're confident that your final work doesn't incorporate any.

    And no, employers are not suspicious of A+ grades as a general rule. But GPA is only one of many possible dimensions for assessment and in the working world the amount of weight it gets varies.
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