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Non-Traditional Students and Aerospace Engineering

  1. Nov 30, 2012 #1
    A few years after I finished high school, I took a few subjects at my local community college with no real major in mind, didn't do very well and then left school for almost six years. I'm not going to make excuses for myself, I just wasn't a good student. Period. I didn't have a goal in mind. I take full responsibility for this. I let myself down.

    Fast forward many years to today and I have decided to change things. I finished community college this year and am transfering in Spring 2013 to UC Berkeley as an electrical engineering major. I will graduate at the age of 31 with a M.S. in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, taking advantage of their 5 year combined B.S./M.S. EECS program.

    I am concerned about being a non-traditional student. I would love to work at a place like SpaceX or JPL, however my past is a checkered one. I fully intend on my UC trancript looking stellar, however my CC transcript from the first "two years" is ridiculous. It looks something like this: Took some random classes in 2007- got a bunch of C's and a few D's, the D's which I removed with the "academic renewal process" which takes the bad grades out of your GPA but schools can still see them. Dissapeared from community college until 2011 then came back, got a few W's (withdrawls) then finally buckled down and transferred to Cal with a 3.75 as an EE major in 2013. I would have had a 3.95 had it not been for the C's I earned in those random classes all those years ago, which I could not remove from the record.

    I like to think my UC transcript will be the most important, and I fully intend on getting as many A's as I can during my time at Cal (I know this will not be easy) and shooting for a 3.8+ while at Berkeley. I am just worried about my bizzare academic history, and also my age. Normal "new graduate" applicants to places like SpaceX/JPL are around 22 years old. Even with a Masters under my belt, I feel like it's not going to matter much when I'm going to be so much older than the other applicants. Will they laugh me out of the room?

    I have heard that "age discrimination is illegal" but surely it happens..I have also heard that it's only years *since* you got your degree that matter that way the things you learned are not rusty/outdated. That sounds reasonable but I'm worried it's not the whole truth. I'm petrified someone is going to be reviewing my application and be like "WTF this guy just graduated with a B.S./M.S. and he's 31?! What a slacker.

    Will my age and shoddy community college record matter? Or is a 3.8+ M.S. from Cal good enough regardless of age/other factors? Is the final outcome enough to outshine all the bad stuff?

    Am I doomed before even beginning? I know there's kids who know they want to be an engineer from age 7 onwards and ace all their classes and follow the normal path, and I just wasn't that person. I'm never going to be that person. But I'm trying. Hard. I really want this. I'm hoping a second chance at the life I am dreaming about is more than just that, a dream.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2012 #2
    Hi Brian, are you already accepted to Cal?

    I can't give you any words of assurance, but I'm in a similar situation as you. I'm 25 and I too had a sketchy academic past in high school, then CC right after graduation. Not that I wasn't smart enough. I, like you, was just a horrendous student. Now I'm motivated and have a 3.89 gpa. I just submitted my application for mechanical engineering at Cal (plus others, but Berkeley is my #1)

    I also share the anxiety that I won't be successful after I complete my education. It seems like everyone has the same idea we do, and the market will be oversaturated with job applicants in the next decade. I sure hope not, but that's a consideration I weigh heavily.

    Then I remember how far I've come and that no matter what happens I should be proud of my accomplishments as a student. You should be too. At this point I'm committed so it's not like market conditions will sway my decision anyway. Only the committed make it.

    Anyway, I don't expect to hear about their decision for a few months. I'm just curious how you know you're transferring already?

    Edit: Oh I see. SPRING 2013. Sorry about that. But on that note how did you transfer for the Spring semester? I thought they were closed to all Spring applicants.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2012
  4. Aug 27, 2013 #3
    At 31, you don't have to worry about age discrimination. If you're in your late 50's, that's a different story...
  5. Aug 28, 2013 #4
    Everything you heard about the job market is true, except the positive stuff. Remember, its about how taylored your resume is, who you know, how well you can lie. As a student who had a stellar resume with practical extracurricular experience and still haven't found a job. I can tell you it's a joke.
  6. Aug 28, 2013 #5
    The UC system is actually intended to work this way. Your pattern is really not that uncommon. Sure, it deviates from the standard script, high school, college, grad school, job, but not everyone has to follow that script. It is very common for students to transfer from CC to the UC system. I'm more familiar with UCLA, it takes about 3000-4000 transfers per year, mostly from California CCs. It is probably easier to get in this way than the traditional way. If you can swing a 3.8 GPA from Berkeley, I don't think anyone will bat an eye at your age or your CC transcript.
  7. Aug 28, 2013 #6
    I agree with this. But that doesn't mean you'll have an easy time getting a job, just to be clear.
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