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Should I give up on becoming an engineer?

  1. Nov 21, 2011 #1
    I'm 19, I am about to try to pass physics with a 60%(I might try to retake the course) but will most likely fail.. I have a 2.2 GPA and it's probably about to go down to 2.0 after this semester is over.

    I have no problems with the material in the classes I'm taking, I can usually do the work. I just don't have the patience for the material. I mostly get C's and D's in my classes because I get bored. I have excellent math skills, but I average C's in all of my Calculus classes. What is wrong with me, and why can't I get an A in anything, my highest grade was a B+ in astronomy, and I attended like 4 classes total, all of my answers were based off previous knowledge of astronomy.

    Should I quit engineering? I can do the work, I just don't know how to get the work done.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 21, 2011 #2


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    Why do you want to become an engineer? Your post reeks of the sentiment "I hate this stuff." It could be because you're not as good as you think you are and the material is, in fact, difficult for you. If this is the case, it doesn't sound like your motivation for becoming an engineer is great enough to power you through to the end. On the other hand, it could also be because the stuff just doesn't interest you, so you just don't have the motivation to learn the material. In this case, perhaps you'd be better off in a major that actually interests you.

    Your post also makes me wonder about how accurate your self-assessment is. For example, if you had excellent math skills, you wouldn't be getting Cs in calculus. You say you don't have patience and you get bored. It sounds to me like you get frustrated and give up.
  4. Nov 21, 2011 #3
    I do get bored, I get frustrated when I feel prepared for an exam but i'm not. The reason I got an average of C's in calculus was because I only attended test days and several days in between when I felt like going and there were tons of quizzes i missed. Attendance will always be an issue for me. When I graduated high school I did so missing over half of the school days, and that carried on to my college career. I'm already into my second year and it's not slowing down, actually getting worse.

    Motivation and attendance are the main problems. I'm motivated to learn but once I learn the concept I stop looking at problems, and end up falling behind. I hate going to class because I feel like it's wasting my time, I've missed several quizzes and tests because I just don't feel like going to school. But I really want to have an engineering degree.

    I really like solving problems, my mind doesn't sit right with things other than engineering. If it's too much reading, I get bored, If it is too easy, I get bored and fall behind. If it's too complex, I put it off until later or see how somebody else did it.

    How do you guys study, please in detail tell me how you spend your studying days, I am honestly curious to know. Also those with 3.75-4.00 how do you spend your days? Do you read every word of each chapter in your physics books? Write down every concept? How many problems do you practice?

    Also, how many of you lived on campus while getting good grades? I want to try that also to test to see if the reason i do bad is because I live about an hour away from my university.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2011
  5. Nov 21, 2011 #4


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    Well, there's what you say and then there's what you do. What you do is a better indicator of what you truly think and how you truly feel. You say you're motivated, yet you can't be bothered to go to class, even to take exams, or keep up with the material. You say you really want the degree, yet everything you've done (and not done) says you really don't care that much.

    You're well beyond being helped by getting tips on an internet forum. There are obvious things you can do to try improve your grades, like doing the homework and going to class, yet you dismiss them because you would get bored. I really think you need to talk to someone in person about what's going on with you. Have you talked to your advisor? Your school probably has numerous resources that might help you. Take advantage of them.
  6. Nov 21, 2011 #5
    The main question I really want answered now is:

    "How do you guys study, please in detail tell me how you spend your studying days, I am honestly curious to know. Also those with 3.75-4.00 how do you spend your days? Do you read every word of each chapter in your physics books? Write down every concept? How many problems do you practice?

    Also, how many of you lived on campus while getting good grades? I want to try that also to test to see if the reason i do bad is because I live about an hour away from my university."

    I basically answered myself with all the other stuff, but how do people study? I don't know how to study, i've looked at many websites with "study tips" but their too vague and I learn nothing from them.
  7. Nov 21, 2011 #6
    My study habits:

    - Find a good book for the course, start first by surveying the textbook and the list of references. If none worked well, find other book(s) which can allow me to keep up with the syllabus. I often like to check which books being used by other universities.

    - I sometimes just go to the relevant section or an interesting section of the library and start browsing, one can come across awesome books.

    - Actual reading of the book, take my time with it (I might spend 1 hour in a single page depending on its content, not far fetched for science books), reading means reading the book along with using a pen and sheets in order to write things down, this includes writing my own explanations and definitions, drawing graphs and so.

    - Doing the exercises if possible, but not all of them, some can be long (I dislike those).

    - Avoiding people who annoy me (or waste my time) socially and academically (I still hang out with my good friends).

    - Never giving up, being persistent and patient is a key.

    - If there is something that I don't understand then I meet up with the professor/instructor or his /her teaching assistant, I don't like to ask class mates for various reasons.

    - I keep my stuff well organized and tidy, this includes my desk and the place where I live.

    - If the course is using slides, then I print them before the lecture actually takes place so that I can write my own notes on them.

    - Study location can have an impact, I am not a fan of libraries.

    - If I screwed something, then I try to analyze the situation to figure out the source of any problem(s), e.g. distraction factors.

    What works for me need not work for you, so its up to you to figure out whats fits you most.

    Edit # 2: updated.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2011
  8. Nov 21, 2011 #7
    How many hours a day do you think you spend studying? Sounds like you have a 10 hour study day or something.

    I think I only have about 2-3 hours that I can study after school. Yet it doesn't feel enough.

    This is my average school day:
    Wake up at 7 am
    Leave for school at 7:30 am
    get there at about 9 am
    physics starts at 9:30 am ends 10:20
    I go to the school gym and work out for about an hour and a half.. (Yes it's a necessity)
    Go to calc 3 at 12 am get out at 1:20
    Go to chem at 1:30 end at 2:20
    leave and get home at about 4 o clock, by this time i'm extremely tired.
    I come home and try to do 1 to 3 physics problems per day(10-12 due at the end of the week)
    Look over my calc, phys, and chem notes for about an hour total(20 minutes each).

    Even after that, I never feel confident about my work, I always feel like i'm wrong when I put answers in(mainly because it's true).

    Is that even suffice studying time?
  9. Nov 21, 2011 #8
    When I was an undergraduate, I often skipped entire courses if attendance was not mandatory. I would only sit for the exams and usually I pulled Bs in those courses.

    I was a musicology major and spent 3-6 hours in class or studying music theory/history, 3-4 hours a day playing my trumpet and 6 hours a day working a dead end job. I would only read my science textbooks casually, and I would work problems until I felt I was able to perform ably on the exam. This resulted in straight Bs in my science classes BUT I had a 4.0 in my music history, music theory, and music performance classes. I took those seriously since it was my major ... the science stuff was just interesting to me and I took it with the same seriousness (or lack thereof).

    It wasn't until I ultimately decided to go to medical school that I had to really work my butt off. Since then, I've been extremely hard working, and now that I'm working towards an eventual PhD, I spend 6-10 hours a day 6 days a week doing math and physics. I find pdf versions of books and do every problem in them, I ebay and amazon textbooks that are one edition too old (so they are super cheap) and do every problem in the book. The more problems you work, the better you will understand the material and with that mastery comes more questions which makes you look deeper and learn higher levels of that material. When you have mastered those more difficult things, keep doing it and eventually you'll get to the point where you're an expert in whatever field.

    The best advice I can give is work problems and more problems and even more problems, whether it be physics, math, engineering, chemistry, etc... the more stuff that is thrown at you and the longer you spend digesting all the information, the better you will be. It's kinda a no brainer, but yeah long term potentiation (LTP) is how your brain alters itself and learns and remembers things, so the more time you spend regularly solving problems and digesting the information and concepts from these subjects, the better you'll do when asked to prove that you truly understand things and can apply them via an exam, an interview, on the job, etc...

    Over the years, this concept has really lost its profoundness: for ever hour you spend in class, you should spend 3-4 hours outside of class studying ... so if you have two MWF classes for an hour each, you should also be spending 6-8 hours outside of class doing problems/reading/studying. The same goes for TR classes ... if you're in those for 3 hours each day ... well between Tues/Thurs/Sat you should be spending 18-24 hours studying those courses. University education should really be significantly more time consuming than a 40 hour work week ... when you're done with school and only working a 9-5, it should seem like a breeze since you'll finally have evenings and weekends free for relaxation.

    This is just my take on it many years after the fact ... I just wish I wouldn't have had to work a full time job while I was an undergraduate, because I really didn't get as good of an education as if I would have focused my time and energy on learning stuff in school.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2011
  10. Nov 21, 2011 #9
    24/7: No way, but if I study something then I give it a good hard shot.
    What I wrote in my earlier post was just a condensation of my experience through 7 years (and counting) of university education.

    Naps were a necessity for me. A state of tiredness must be avoided at all costs when studying.
    Even now, even after some studying or some activity I still love naps to relax and wake up with a fresh mind then start studying.
    I used to go to the gym but this was during the evenings, I found it as way to de-stress.

    Regarding looking at the notes, I can't say much on this matter.

    The mass of my study was during the lecture free days and the weekend. This is why I tried to organize my lectures to consume as little weekdays as possible and finish early.

    A suggestion: Why not go to the gym after the lectures and use the morning slot for studying or catching up with one of the courses.
  11. Nov 21, 2011 #10
    Interesting, and you don't go insane working so much? [to bpatrick]

    Also, I was wondering, if I dropped out of my current university with a 2.0, would I even be able to make it back to a university later on?
    Or if I just dropped out and made it to another university, would I have to transfer my credits over, or could I start from scratch again? I would love to get rid of those years of bad grades to start over again.

    I really hate the fact that I'm wasting my 17-21 year old life trying to get a degree that probably won't even guarantee a job. People say those years are more important to have for the memories, and then just go to college later. I'm only 19 now and about halfway done. I feel like i'm just trapped, I can't enjoy life while i'm young.
  12. Nov 21, 2011 #11
    Well I use the bus system, and it's very unreliable half the time. So I like to leave early as possible so I can make it home before dark, the only free time I have to work out is after my first class.
  13. Nov 21, 2011 #12
    Ok like right now I'm having problems with a Gravitation problem, the book I have shows nothing like it, doesn't explain what to do with it, so how do I know what to do with it? I'm at home, the internet doesn't have any solution guide to it either.

    I know the formulas I need for this problem, but i don't know where to start. What do I do?
  14. Nov 21, 2011 #13
    Well, if I ever feel like I'm going insane, I only put in a 6 hour day doing science stuff. I'll go out with friends or my fiancee or just stay in.

    What would drive me insane (and a little window into what I put up with on my dead-end job during college) is taking a pre-cut cardboard box off a skid, folding it into it's box shape, taping the bottom and folding the top flaps out then putting it on an assembly line for 6 hours straight ... with one 15 min break after the first 3 hours ... no music to listen to (had to wear ear plugs due to all the machinery), nothing colorful to look at, and the only thing that I could really see was a machine right beside me that did the exact same thing that I was doing but for boxes that were a different size (and different product) going about 10x faster than me ... really makes what you're doing seem meaningful, lol.

    I'd GLADLY be spending 6-10 hour days working math/physics problems or reading papers on neurology or studying physical biochemistry or anything vs 36 hour weeks of assembling cardboard boxes or any other equally mundane dead end job.
  15. Nov 21, 2011 #14


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    I think you need to start by making a list of what you do want to do, not what you don't.

    From this thread, that seems to be
    1. Work out in a gym
    2. Avoid travelling when it's dark.

    That's not much to work with, but I guess if you moved south to avoid dark winter nights and because a sports coach, you could made a living from it.

    Seriously, the world doesn't owe you (or anybody else) a living. And you only get one life, so it's a shame to waste it.
  16. Nov 21, 2011 #15


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    I live 40 minutes away from mine, and distance has not been an issue. I get to the library when it opens and study before my first class. I then go to the library in between classes to study. After my last class, I study at the library until I feel like I've made an acceptable amount of progress on what I had planned to get done that day. Sometimes this means I don't get home until 10 or 11PM, but I cannot say that a 40-45 minute commute has had any negative affect on my studies.
  17. Nov 21, 2011 #16
    I know exactly what you mean. I feel like I'm wasting my time right now in college, because my GPA will drop until the school kicks me out.. I really don't want that to happen, but for some reason, it seems inevitable in my head that it will happen.

    I'm so helpless and lost, I can't even think of a place to start to get back on my feet. I honestly will make a list of things, prioritize things in my life, even if you said it jokingly. It seems like it could be really helpful right now.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2011
  18. Nov 21, 2011 #17
    I was kinda in the same boat, and you really have some bad **** happen, or something significant to make you mature.

    Do practice problems out of the *** and you will do well on exams. Go to ****ing class. You aren't as smart as you think you are. So suck it up, and grow up. Eventually you will have to get a job, and you have to show up there on time every day.

    Most of all you have to start doing things for yourself, not because you're supposed to be in college, or because you want to set yourself apart from others.

    literally take pics of your hw problems and post them on here in the help section...
  19. Nov 21, 2011 #18

    You sound a lot like myself. I was having a lot of the same problems as you until recently when I changed my major from physics to computer science. Perhaps in your studies, you're finding that the deeper you go in your courses, the more you feel detached. At this point, look at the university's offerings. Engineering is a LOT of work; if you're having difficulties right now (especially with your 2.2 GPA) you should seriously reconsider changing majors to something a little less taxing and more enjoyable. Perhaps all the logic you enjoy about physics and math can be translated into some other major, like computer science. Don't be so narrow-minded about choosing an area of study. Do your homework and there's bound to be something for you. Talk to professors or other colleagues about this. College is the place to find yourself; at 19, you're still young, but you better act fast or things will quickly catch up to you.

    Good luck.
  20. Nov 21, 2011 #19
    Yes, I agree that OP should try computer science classes.
  21. Nov 21, 2011 #20
    Although this might increase alertness later, I recall one of the best times to work out is in the morning.

    Moreover, to answer the initial question:
    I don't have a set amount, as my schedule is not uniform and I am not blessed with the luxury of avoiding a part time job during school work (despite my good gpa). However, I work on school related subjects each day as much as I can. This is dependent on how awake I am, how interested I am, and how much time I actually have. I don't condone an unhealthy lifestyle, but I have most definitely abused caffeine throughout my university school years..
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