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Struggles in school(EE) and some advice needed.

  1. Jan 3, 2007 #1
    I have seen alot of educational based questions here so i thought Id ask one.

    I am a current EE and computer engineering student, I haven't started on any of the EE classes yet and have only really done computer science stuff. Even so I would like to get this degree as I really enjoy this stuff.

    There is a problem though, I see this thread https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=148779 and read it and feel horrible. I don't have a very high GPA. I study a lot, and when I say a lot I mean I cant study anymore, as there are only 24 hours in a day and I need at least 3 hours of sleep a night or I will fall over. In all the extra time I am either in classes or in the library studying. I don't do much else, except maybe once a week I spend a hour in the grocery store and spend maybe a half hour in the bathroom a day. Well what I am getting at is, even though I study a lot, I still do bad. I only have a 2.4 gpa now and am really struggling in classes that my friends make look so easy. They barely study and don't have phenomenal GPA's either, but they get better grades than me and don't put in a 1/8th of the time I do studying. I guess this could possibly because I Have a learning disability and always have throughout my entire life. Even though in HS they said i didn't anymore.

    I do really love the material and want to overcome the odds, I don't want to study business and such like the rest. But wonder if I am wasting my time, as even though I am struggling, what company would want a person like me when they could have the next guy. I am not even sure if it is the learning disability or not. Though i don't want to be screwed when i go to get a job. hopefully some of you professionals and other students could possibly give some advice.

    so far in college the classes I have struggled the most in have been math and science and the classes I have done the best in have been History, Computer Science and English. Even though I have not done all to well in the math and science i still really like it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 3, 2007 #2
    First of all, you need to sleep more. I know you're probably exaggerating when you say 3 hours, but 8 is really what you should be aiming for. I think I'm a pretty bright guy in some areas, but I'm a wreck without sleep. This isn't folksy listen-to-your-mother advice, there is plenty of hard science to back this up. You might as well be somewhat drunk all the time (like some b-school guys I know). The same goes for nutrition and exercise - skimping on these things seems to be an obvious way to save time and get ahead, but you can't think if you're unhealthy.

    Next, I refuse to believe you're actually studying all those hours. You may be sitting in an uncomfortable chair, staring at the ceiling with books in front of you, but you're not actually studying. We've all been there. I've been diagnosed with ADD (I'll omit my normal discussion about what constitutes a disorder versus a personality trait). I've sat around "studying" for hours on end.

    Studying in epic marathons is useless. Try this: look at your watch before you hit the books. Start studying, and as soon as you notice yourself spacing-out note how much time elapsed, get up, get a drink of water, take a two to five minute break. Then set an egg timer (or something quieter if you're in a library) for a little more than whatever that time was. No matter what, work diligently until you hear that bell. It's motivating because you know you'll get a break. Keep doing this, increasing the time a bit every few days. If you can't focus for even 5 minutes, start the timer at 10. Never give up this habit, always give yourself little breaks (but remember to get back to work!). The breaks seem like wasted time, but the time you are studying/working will be much more efficient.

    Get to know your professors. Go to office hours. GO TO OFFICE HOURS. Get what you paid for. Most professors will be very cheery to finally see someone show up. If not, who cares, it's their job! Tell them you've got a learning disability, and that you don't want pity or any special treatment because of it, but their honest advice on how to do well in their course. Ask where students get tripped up. Ask what tutoring is available.

    Speaking of tutoring, many schools have tons of it for free, and it goes largely unused. My school has a math lab, for instance, where math grad students who want to be teachers in the future will help you do your homework and explain things to you. They get teaching experience, you get one on one instruction, everyone wins. This is not unique to math, but that's probably the subject you see it most in.

    Anyway, your school almost certainly offers something, use it.

    Following this advice will require you to swallow your pride. But that's what learning is all about, embracing your previous ignorance.

    Also, if a doctor has told you that you have a learning disability, your university can make accomodations for you (in fact, I think they're legally required to). It's up to you if you feel alright using them (I don't, but I'm stubborn) but you should at least inquire.

    Oh, and cheer up - you love what you study, which is more than most people can say. You also happen to study the greatest subject ever ;-)
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2007
  4. Jan 3, 2007 #3
    First off, I do not think GPA's are as big of a factor as most people would like you to believe. I know people (including myself) that have gotten EE jobs without the employer asking for a GPA or even checking to see if you actually graduated from a University. I think passion and creativity make the best engineers. Alot of engineers that I graduated with had a hard time being creative. I believe someone with not-so-good grades paired with a creative/determined mind would make a much better engineer than a 4.0 graduate that can't create his/her own ideas.

    I would also step your math and engineering classes down per semester. Instead of being a full-time student, take a few less classes a semester. Even if it takes you six years to graduate, you will still have a diploma. It takes some engineering students 5+ years to graduate and there is nothing wrong with it. They still get great jobs and they love what they do.
  5. Jan 3, 2007 #4


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    If you are studying all those hours you claim to, then something is not connection properly as you cannot raise your GPA. You must change your study habits/approach. Studying with an over taxed unrested brain won't get you anywhere and you are simply wasting time. Its important to be rested. Even a quick 15-20 minute nap will revive you.

    You also said that your are struggling with math and science. Well unfortunately, your double major uses them intensively; EE more so. So unless you try to improve your skills in these areas, you won't get much done. Its important to have the basics down firmly or will encounter difficulties in your EE courses. Just take it slow and dont stress yourself too much.

    Please remember, its not the quantity of studying you do, but the quality that matters.

    I dont know who your employer is, but not asking for a degree for an EE position is hard to believe.
  6. Jan 4, 2007 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    Your post has a lot of important things in it, Llama. First, if you are pursuing something that you really enjoy and love, keep it up. That should be at the core of what you work towards. Honestly, enjoying your work is such an important thing in life.

    Second, it does sound like your learning disability is a factor in making some subjects very difficult to do well in (and to learn the material well in, which is not necesarily the same thing all the time). Have you had any consulting help in working with your learning disability? That would seem to be a key to helping you do the best you can do in your EE school work. I know that at my kids' elementary school in a PTG meeting recently, we had a presentation about the school's programs to help kids with dyslexia (sp? -- why do they have to make the name of a spatial learning disability so dang hard to remember how to spell???!!!). They said that a large percentage of kids in school had this learning disability to some degree, and the special learning tutoring techniques that they used helped the kids a lot in learning how to learn and remember better. For example, they talked about combining both verbal and spatial learning to help dyslexic kids to better retain verbal material. The multiple modalities of learning helped them to cross-correlate the information, which greatly helped their recall skills. Anyway, it sounds from your level of motivation that the learning disability angle is a big leverage in your possibilities for improving your performance in the classes that you enjoy so much.

    Finally, I'd suggest that you look into building some side projects (during school breaks, it sounds like) in EE and CS to get some practical exposure to the field, and to start to make yourself a more valuable candidate for your first EE job. I don't know if this advice was mentioned in the linked threads that you mentioned in your OP, but I advocate EE students to build some projects and kits on the side on their own to start to get some practical experience with real-world stuff. This does several things -- It helps you to start to see what is really useful out of all your schoolwork for building real-world stuff, it helps you to start to see what kind of work interests you the most (uC, RF, power, etc.), it helps you to start "asking the right questions" of yourself and your teachers in your schoolwork, and it gives you some extra experience and accomplishments that you can show to prospective employers in your interviews.

    Honestly, if I interview a candidate with a low GPA but they have built and understand several key projects on their own, I'll give them a lot of credit for that outside work. Especially if they tell me in the interview that they have a learning disability that they are working on (I wouldn't put that on the resume), and if I can see from the projects and tell in the interview that they understand the material, then I'll tend to discount the GPA number some.

    Hang in there son, and check out the science behind getting around your learning disability as much as you can. And build a few kits and uC projects in your spare time in your school breaks, both to validate your love for the subject material, and to start to build your value as an EE graduate in interviews and your first EE job.
  7. Jan 4, 2007 #6
    The employer I work for never asked for a diploma or a GPA. I have also talked with several graduates who too have not been asked for their dimploma. But, the questions that I got asked during my interview would have been very difficult to answer without the degree in EE. A healthy background in EE was required to answer them. The company I work for is also only thirty engineers deep. So it is a little more personal than say a larger one.
  8. Jan 4, 2007 #7
    Hi Llama77,

    Please stick with EE! If you love the material, then you should stick with it no matter what the cost.

    The question I have for you is: Do you understand the material? You say you study all the time, and that you love the material, so is the problem that you don't UNDERSTAND the material, or that you can not perform on exams and homework?
  9. Jan 4, 2007 #8
    id like to thank everybody for the advice, it has been very helpful and reassuring.

    Its not that I don't understand it, its just that it takes a much longer time for things to click and for me to get it, compared to the average student. I have never done well on tests, though in labs I get near perfect scores. a few of my teacher said not to worry about the tests to much as real world engineers don't take tests, and the labs are much more critical.

    Id also like to point out my interests, as maybe some of you can offer advice on what side projects I should do as berkeman recommended. I am interested in VSLI and Microprocessors. Possible ways through EE that would allow further microprocessor development, so we don't hit that planned brick wall.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2007
  10. Jan 5, 2007 #9


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'd recommend getting a microcontroller (uC) evaluation board, and writing a few programs to exercise the IOs. Like, make a stepper motor controller with the uC, and control some motion project (like a small robot, or an x-y table, etc.)

    Then you can look into doing more complex IO by using a CPLD that you write the code for in Verilog. Once you get comfortable with programming real-time uCs and making your own circuits using CPLDs, you will be way ahead of the game.

    EDIT -- Microchip's PIC uCs are a popular choice, BTW.
  11. Jan 6, 2007 #10
    which college do you do you go to Llama?
  12. Jan 6, 2007 #11
    University at Buffalo.
  13. Jan 15, 2007 #12
    Hey Llama, I just had to register and reply after reading your post. As with everyone else here, I encourage you to keep going. I'm a junior majoring in EE as well. I study hard and make good grades ....but I don't really enjoy studying EE material at all. I can honestly say that people like you deserve a chance at a job more than people like me...because the best workers are the ones that have true passion. So once again, stick with it, continue to study hard, and you should have no problem getting a job :cool:
  14. Jan 19, 2007 #13
    they kicked einstein from school saying that he had bad grades. i am ee student.... this material is not to be studied but to be understand ...i have the same gpa as u becasue i can't study by heart the formulas but whe ni try a project i learn more then opening a book ... and irecommend for u this site because it is more realistic than a book ...science are made for solving problems and not creating it .... cheer up and u study for urself not for the gpa...
  15. Jan 21, 2007 #14
    I'm a junior in EE, and I, as you have struggled. But it was entirely of my own doing, I'm far smarter than I allow myself to be. I've never studied, I never do homework, I'm pretty much the worst student ever. But I'm taking a class this winterim (actually two three hour 300 level EE courses) and I studied, I got an A on a test! I completely forgot how great it feels! And I'm busting my butt in both classes and doing well. You just have to find your knack... find what makes you learn. I know when I've studied too much, or when I just need to sit back and take a 30 minute breather. Expecting yourself, or your mind, to be able to compute, reason, and think for more than about two hours at a time is lunacy. Baby steps :)
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