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EE student in need of serious advice

  1. Nov 26, 2012 #1
    I realize this post is long, and maybe even not meant for this forum, but I could really, REALLY use some solid advice from someone who has been there/done that.

    I am in my 4th year of being an EE student out of 5. I am attending a very good engineering school. I have had summer research experiences at even better engineering schools. I'm doing research with a professor here in a field I am interested in, and an active officer of the IEEE student branch on campus.

    But, I am an awful engineering student.

    I do believe I am an intelligent person, I know I am, but I don't think I'm meant to be an engineer. I went into EE because it was so broad, so that I could do something. I understand that in the real world, you have to get a job and work and that is life, but I had high aspirations that I could contribute to something special someday. Not for tons of money, not for fame, but for that solid feeling of self worth, for a real purpose, so I could have some good to show for my life.
    I really hoped to go into medical technologies, with an EE degree and some background in nanotechnology. I'm very interested in BCI's and other human/machine interface technologies because the potential to help people is enormous. It is a topic I can get genuinely excited about, which there aren't many.

    That is no longer an option with my GPA. (3.1) I will not get into very good graduate schools, and I certainly am not getting any funding. On a similar note, I won't be first pick for any companies.

    I am getting beaten down every. single. day. I just don't think I'm cut out to be an EE, I don't think I have the character or mindset. I do work hard, I do study. No, not every waking moment. I need to sleep (I have Epsteinbar, basically super mono). I need a break here and there to rest my mind. But I put in hours and hours and hours a week, I should be getting better grades than I do.
    It seems no matter what i do, I can NOT get good exam grades, which is usually about one third of my class grade a piece. I mean I've literally taught classmates the material and they perform better on exams than I do. The vast majority of my professors could care less about me, because as soon as they find out I'm not top 10% of the class they see me as someone who is lazy and/or shouldn't be in engineering.
    I know I am not the only student struggling, I'm probably better off than the majority of the other EE students. But I hate, HATE going through every single day feeling completely mediocre and incompetent. It is getting to the point where it is weighing too heavily on me. I don't feel like I've learned much or am any use to anyone.

    The only thing that EE has managed to do is make me lose all faith in myself. I've just finally hit a wall where I don't think I am smart enough for the field. I will be ok in life, I'll get a decent EE job, I'm just really depressed to find out that it turns out I'm not very talented and I'm not going to do anything profound for anyone. To make it worse, my family, who aren't a particularly scientific bunch, think I'm a genius and always brag me up and tell me how I'm going to have a great career. I don't see it, because I know where I really stand in EE and where it will get me.
    I would honestly switch majors at this point, but it is too late. I'm not sure I enjoy EE anymore. I dread waking up every day.

    Honest thoughts are appreciated. I'm really at wits end, hence my posting this. I genuinely hope I don't sound like another engineering student just complaining. I need solid, real advice. Any possible options for someone in my position and at my age.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 26, 2012 #2
    I don't know your engineering school and how's the standard. But if you said it's top notch, getting a 3.1 might be better than getting 4.0 in some state college in US where if you get a B, you really barely pass, getting a C is only to make the school's statistic looks better.

    If it is true that you can explain to other student, then it sounds like you know your subject. Doing very good in test sometime don't indicate that you really understand, and it's true the other way around. School has a way to ask impractical question. For example, I have been designing opamp circuit for a long time, but if you ask me to list the definition of an opamp like in some test, I might miss some. That's does not mean anything. Sometimes test get hung up on definitions that it is not as important in real life.

    Also, I have a bad habit of making stupid mistakes like simple addition and I am too blind to pick it up. In real life, it might not be important as you always have chance to do a revision even it's not your fault, you almost always have a chance to correct it.

    I don't know you, I can only base on what you said and take it as accurate. Sounds like you are too hard on yourself. If you concentrate too much on "I can't do it, I am not intelligent enough". You can get into self defeat mode, and minimum you'll be spending time telling yourself that you are not good enough instead of spending time concentrate on studying.

    Lastly, and the most important. In real life engineering, you have days if not months to read up, design, re-checking. It is not like all your hard work boils down to the 2 hours exam that you have to get it right or you fail. Real life is very different.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2012
  4. Nov 26, 2012 #3

    jim hardy

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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Take a couple days and read Robert Pirsig's "Zen and Motorcycle Maintenance"
    He subtitled it "An inquiry into values"

    Pirsig was a college professor who observed of less than stellar students -
    'Your straight A students typically donate some bookshelves to the library, but one of your C students will come back and build you a new library'

    There are mathematically gifted people who excel at the academic side
    and there are mathematically awkward people who have a gift for the mechanics of things
    and can explain things to others in simple terms, as you have indicated you can do.
    Somebody with the latter gift can be a genuine asset to an industrial organization, he increases the effectiveness at problem solving of those around him . Like a catalyst.

    FWIW i too struggled with the maths. I found a quite happy niche in an industrial maintenance outfit. No fancy ofice just a workshop/office/laboratory adjacent the machine and electronics shop areas. I felt valued by my management and by my peers alike. Who could ask for a more satisfying career?

    Hang in there.

    old jim
  5. Nov 26, 2012 #4
    Don't worry. Life isn't going to go the way you think.

    Maybe you will get a job designing medical electronics, the company that hired you will start losing money on medical electronics and will instead start making light bulbs, so you will end up designing light bulbs.

    You dumb friend will get a job designing light bulbs, the company that makes the light bulbs designs a light bulb for a microscope that everyone wants. The company then makes a lot of money from this light bulb and decides to get into medical electronics. So your dumb friend ends up making medical electronics.

    The most important thing is the company you work for and the people you work with.
    Don't worry about the future too much.
  6. Nov 29, 2012 #5
    I appreciate the responses.

    @jim I have heard that book mentioned before, I think I'll take a look at it.
    All of you make a lot of sense. I'm just finding it impossible to relax and not think about the future when all I ever hear is how bad the economy and job market is and how everyone grows up and hates their job and blah blah blah. I'm just trying to secure a good future with a meaningful existence. Even just trying to get an internship WITH prior experiences is a complete rat race. I'm really getting the vibe that there isn't much opportunity out there for someone not at the top of their class, and my adviser and professors have basically told me the same.

    I suppose the only thing I can do is relax and then do my best, as you've all said. I'll have to practice up haha.
  7. Nov 29, 2012 #6
    I really don't think people look at the grades that closely. I was a manager of EE for the longest time. I never once ask people their grades. People can manage to get the right answer and get good grades and don't learn anything.

    I always gave them a test and if they fail, it's over..........BUT, BUT. I don't do trick question. I put out a problem, I let the candidate explain to me how they approach the problem. I give them hints and let them pickup if they make mistake. That's how real life work environment is, You get feedback and you learn and correct. I rather have someone that is willing to look and learn than to have one that is stubborn and insisting that they are right.

    Don't worry about the grades, if you are in a good school and you have 3.1, I won't even ask about this anymore. You way over think, How I wish more people in this country ( US) can be more humble and think a little less of themselves instead of thinking they are the star. You earn credit in my book just by reading what you wrote.........And I am not trying to make you feel better, I always call it out as it is. You should see my response on another post about someone don't like math.....that I pretty much said if that's not what he want at all, that he should re-evaluate getting into EE!!!.....In a loving way!!!!:rofl:
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