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also heard that it's only years *since* you got your degree that matter that way the things you learned are not rusty/outdated.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.