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Question about STEM majors & worried about future

  1. Sep 9, 2014 #1
    I am a high school senior and I am going to go to college next year. For the last year or so I thought I would be doing engineering. I am worrying that I am not intelligent enough to do engineering. Of all the engineering disciplines I was most appealed to chemical engineering. I am currently in AP Chemistry and I took honors chem last year. I feel like I understand all the material and I remember almost everything from last year (we just finished a review unit) but I can never seem to do well on the tests / most the quizzes. On my first AP Physics test this year I got an 86.80 and my first chem test I got a 76. Of all the chem tests I took last year I got one A. The thing is I feel like I know the material much better than what test scores show. I feel like I should be getting A's on these but I'm not. I solve the problem sets outside of class or in class very quickly and get the right answers. It never seems to translate onto exams. As for studying, I do study in chemistry. I've never been a big "studier" and I am not 100% sure why. Studying never really helped me much. Reviewing notes, flash cards, doing practice problems etc. Did not give me much of an advantage. I usually take things in during class and the homework is a breeze. I feel this may be a problem later on when I am faced with grueling engineering courses.

    I routinely do well on math tests (I am currently in Pre-Calculus, I would be in AP calc if I was able to do Alg1 in 8th grade instead of freshman year). Algebra is a breeze to me and I feel I am grasping the trig in pre-calc well thus far. I'm planning on taking Calculus at CC over summer before I go to college.

    English and history are always ridiculously easy for me. But my career interests don't really lay in those areas.

    The average on that first chem test was an 87 and it was really disappointing to know that haven I got a 76. Plus the fact I got one A in Honors Chem last year on all tests. Chemistry has been my favorite class of all but what does it matter if I'm not good at it.

    So, I am trying to seek alternatives in case engineering does not work out for me. Is 'STEM' really that hyped up? I want to keep options open to me, like potentially doing a PhD one day but in case that does not work out I want an employable degree. At least from what I have heard, BS degrees in pure sciences or math generally aren't that employable at the bachelor's level. Only engineering really is in this whole "STEM" thing. My mother is very biased towards me doing engineering because she does not want me to be reliant on her (which I understand) if I pick a silly major.

    I am aware that college students change their major several times on average but I have been doing as much research as I can beforehand so I know what fields are even worth pursuing. I absolutely love Ancient History but there's no jobs there and I can't get a PhD in that field without tossing a few hundred thousand dollars in the trash.

    To be honest I am not really concerned about being rich. I am perfectly fine living a modest lifestyle if I can do what I love. I felt i was lucky at first for having my interests (engineering) lie in such a lucrative field but I have a feeling that it won't work out for me. I want back up plans but I want back ups for those back ups too if you know what I mean. (End goal to get a PhD but in case that doesnt work out, the BS degree is liveable itself).

    Sorry for the long-winded post, had a lot on my mind that I wanted to get out.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2014 #2


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    Gold Member

    If you are interested in chemical engineering I recommend you pursue it.

    If you think you know the material and still get bad grades, why don't you look at what you are doing wrong?
    If you think you understand the material chances are you have a good grasp on it, and there are just a few little things wrong. Talk to your teacher about it. Don't give up on something you enjoy simply because you get bad grades.

    In high school I too was never a big studier. When I got to more difficult classes in college I started to study. Obviously everyone has a method that clicks for them, mine was to go over practice problems until I truly understood the theory behind the solution. Then I would do more complicated problems. You too will find your method eventually!!
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