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In graduate school for electrical engineering classes over my head

  1. Aug 24, 2011 #1


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    So I graduated in undergrad in May 2008 with a BS in EE. I went directly into a PhD program with full funding. I put in a year and did decent in my classes and my research. But I didn't enjoy my research and I wasn't doing as well in my classes as I had hoped. I decided to take a leave of absence and find a job and work for a year. Well, I couldn't find a job so a yer later I went back to the same grad school. I was only half funded this time and I had to pay for half my tuition and half my living expenses. I hated my research when I returned and I thought my classes required too much writing so I left again. I also got really depressed which was a factor. The second time I left I worked for 6 months as a process engineer at a small company. I did not like the work I was doing and the pay was pretty low so I decided to leave and go back to the same grad school for the third time (I know, stupid).

    Now I am finding that the classes I signed up for are waaay over my head. I am taking analog and digital integrated circuits classes. The labs require cadence, which I have never used before, and the homework is over my head already and it's just the second week of class. Also, I don't have any funding this time around so I will be going deeper in debt (about 30K worth of debt for the year putting me at a total of 60K).

    I want to commit to just a masters and maybe do the PhD if I do well in my classes (I will need to find a research group though).

    I thought I'd try doing integrated circuit design which I thought would be more interesting than device physics, which is what my concentration was before. However, I am finding that I am simply not prepared for these classes. They are just way over my head.

    So my question is, is a masters really worth it if I am going to go into 30K more debt for it? I don't even know if I can do this. I really wanted a job in the semiconductor industry and my undergrad program did not really cover semiconductor devices and circuits at all so I decided to go to a different school for grad school.

    It is my dream to get a PhD and become a professor but I just don't think I have the capability to finish this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2011 #2


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    Sorry, I guess I just needed to vent to someone.
  4. Aug 25, 2011 #3
    Venting is good. It can be quite cathartic sometimes.

    I suggest talking to your adviser. You can also try talking to some of your professors if you feel comfortable doing so. Try to find out if you should choose a more appropriate topic of study for your current skill set. Find out what tutoring is available. Find out what topics you really need to focus on in your current schedule of classes so that you can spend less time on extraneous topics while you study.

    I also suggest going (back) to the financial aid department to try to find some scholarships. That amount of debt will make it hard for you to sleep at night.

    My final piece of advice (which you should take first) is to do some really careful self examination. Really ask yourself why you keep coming back to school. Is it something you love? Is it for the money when you graduate? Are you trying to prove something? Are you fulfilling someone else's wishes? Then figure out if that reason is worth all the time, hard work, and money that you'll have to invest in your education. If you come out a little luke warm or you can't really decide, then maybe you should give up on school. If you decide it really is what you want to do, make an agreement with yourself that this time you will stay in school and complete your degree.

    Good luck!

    (Please note: These are just my opinions. I'm not an expert.)
  5. Aug 25, 2011 #4

    Stephen Tashi

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    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
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