Advice needed on engineering studies and future

Thread Starter

Wei Tan

Joined Aug 8, 2019
0
Good morning readers. I'm here to seek for advice for my best friend, let's call her Candy. Candy joined a degree in either electrical, electronics or electric engineering for nearly 2 years. Along her studies, she faced many hardships (she told me all the hardships she faced but I managed to only listen as I'm not from engineering stream).

This is how her lectures go. Notes, followed by a touch on exercises and then the lecturers will the new chapter comes in.

And these are her responsibilities in terms of studies. She has a total of 4 subjects taught by the same lecturer, 3 tough ones and 1 easy subject. For the 3 subjects she will study the notes, refer textbooks for anything that she didn't understand and attempt exercises (twice at most, although she's expected to do it 5 times according to her lecturers). At the same time, she needs to complete her coursework (2 each except for the toughest subject of 6 coursework - 2 major coursework which is separated into 3 'mini' coursework).

She lives with her parents. She usually goes back home after her lessons which sometimes can be 4 to 5pm. When she reaches home, she takes a rest before helping with some chores or continue studying. Sometimes she cook, sometimes she buys dinner for her family as both her parents are busy. After dinner, it depends, sometimes she will be doing house chores and study or she will be studying before resting around midnight. That's if she's not studying until after midnight. Along the way, she will chat with me a bit and sometimes with her juniors. So, this summarises a day of her life if she does not go for a hangout. Sometimes I do visit her and sometimes, around once every 2 months, she will go for a hangout.

Initially, she's able to keep up with her lessons but as soon as she works on exercises and rushes heavy coursework, she became slower in catching up with lessons. As time goes on, she didn't have the time to attempt the exercises anymore as coursework filled up her time.

She didn't procrastinate (she hates gaming and clubbing) and instead tried to look for missing parts which she needed. When I visited her at home, she'll be beside me working on her coursework while I will sometimes get her some food to make her relax as well as listen to her suffers and talking to her. She does complain that she isn’t able to do her exercises as she is busy with her coursework. As soon as she finishes her coursework, she'll work on another coursework which has the fastest dateline (usually 50% done). After submitting the final first round of coursework, the 2nd round comes and the process goes on til a week or 2 before her study break. This leads to lack of time to study. A total of 40 over chapters for all subjects to squeeze in a maxed out 2 weeks.

As of exercises, the lecturer refused to provide any solutions, stating that it's very easy and she can check with her friends and if many of the friends got the same answer, her answers is probably correct. In fact, it is really hard for her and many of the smarter friends too.

Along her studies, she constantly forget to do her chores and sometimes her parents gave her some scolding and asked how she could forget them. Well, she admits, she became irresponsible due to workloads. Some chores that were told to her previously are just 5 minutes ago and she will forget them. She was feeling forced to be reluctant to do house chores due to workload.

She turned down many invitations to hangout even for her previous lecturers' invitation for farewell and graduation. She even said that she did not get to learn useful skills for life such as cooking, how to count huge amount of money fast (yep, I taught her that, i was shocked that there's a way to do so), how to post a mail and how to apply a job properly (as shes going to a workforce soon). Many foods also got expired as she forgets to eat them. She said she has no life ad should have joined other courses. At times, she thought of making a U-Turn to join another course but she told me that she needs to clean up the mess and stay til the end before making any turns although she is now scared about her course.


All I can say is stay strong for 1 more year and she'll be fine. She did complain to me that her grades are not good as her lecturer loves to fail his/her students. I saw quite a number of them retake or resit his/her subject. The lecturer is also very stingy in terms of marks, especially towards students who aim for top grades. The lecturer will find every small fault to deduct marks. I can only say that she did her best but I know, it is easier said than done. For many valid reasons, she cried. I will let her cry all she wants but I am unsure of what to say besides telling that I am there for her besides hugging and kissing her.

So are there any advice I can give her? I am not from these courses so I am a bit bad at giving advices besides the aforementioned.
That is all I can recall for now. If there is anything I would like to add, I will type them below here with the word “Edit: “ Thank you for your time and I hope to hear your advice soon.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
8,849
Welcome to AAC!

It sounds like your friend has an issue with motivation.

While I was going to college, I was taking care of my 3 younger siblings while working almost full time to pay for college. If I got more than a few hours of sleep a night, I considered myself lucky. I often didn't eat dinner until 1 or 2 in the morning (I usually worked from 6pm-midnight week nights, more on weekends with split shifts).

Engineering isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be. If it was, everyone would get an engineering degree. Your friend needs to buck up and that needs to come from within. You can be supportive, but the motivation needs to come from her. If she doesn't like what she's studying for her major, or the subjects are too hard, it might be that she should have chosen an easier path.

If I had it to do over, I'd be a business major, learn about accounting/economics stuff and try to become a VP in finance or CEO of a company. I spent most of my career satisfied with being competent in my work as an individual contributor. I hated being a manager because I took it seriously and managing poor performers was draining emotionally and physically. I had co-workers who were mainly concerned about their next raise or promotion; they didn't do anything unless it was going to look good on their next review. I was taught to do a good job and people would recognize you for your accomplishments. In an ideal world, that might be true. In the real world, you need to blow your own horn and pat yourself on the back to get ahead.
 

Wolframore

Joined Jan 21, 2019
1,243
I studied electronics and then got an MBA... business is not much easier... Accounting can be very challenging, economics and finance is math intensive requiring up to calculus... even operations management can require math that takes multiple iterations to solve... assignments also take a lot of time... 1 credit hour can mean up anywhere from 2-4 hours out of the classroom... or more if you can afford it. The course provides only up to 30-40% of the information needed to complete your assignment, you have to discover the rest. Your friend could use more time so if there are other responsibilities that take time away from studies, it is not ideal. Sometimes people find that the field is not a good fit for whatever reason. I started my business courses at Boston University through the military but quickly discovered it was much more than I thought and stopped a year into it.... I went back to school after my service and completed it but went back knowing what it would take.

Maybe @Yaakov can shed more light from his experience as a professor
 
Last edited:

Thread Starter

Wei Tan

Joined Aug 8, 2019
0
Welcome to AAC!

It sounds like your friend has an issue with motivation.

While I was going to college, I was taking care of my 3 younger siblings while working almost full time to pay for college. If I got more than a few hours of sleep a night, I considered myself lucky. I often didn't eat dinner until 1 or 2 in the morning (I usually worked from 6pm-midnight week nights, more on weekends with split shifts).

Engineering isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be. If it was, everyone would get an engineering degree. Your friend needs to buck up and that needs to come from within. You can be supportive, but the motivation needs to come from her. If she doesn't like what she's studying for her major, or the subjects are too hard, it might be that she should have chosen an easier path.

If I had it to do over, I'd be a business major, learn about accounting/economics stuff and try to become a VP in finance or CEO of a company. I spent most of my career satisfied with being competent in my work as an individual contributor. I hated being a manager because I took it seriously and managing poor performers was draining emotionally and physically. I had co-workers who were mainly concerned about their next raise or promotion; they didn't do anything unless it was going to look good on their next review. I was taught to do a good job and people would recognize you for your accomplishments. In an ideal world, that might be true. In the real world, you need to blow your own horn and pat yourself on the back to get ahead.
Hello, thanks for the warm welcome.

Candy gets motivation via reviews of expensive facial products, huge houses and more on materialistic motivation. Her friend's father is a very successful (again, its either one of the 3 types of engineer) who owns a Ferrari and many other cool cars. These are what motivated her before her lecturer extinguish the motivation. She will try to gain back some motivation by those things and sometimes chatting with her juniors who are from a college course. This repeats in a cycle. She's one optimistic girl. I respect her for that, despite all the hardships. Is there any way I could help to further motivate her?

Wow, you are a responsible sibling. How do you manage to balance up your work and studies? She would like to work part time for side income but she is not able to do so due to workloads.

I had to agree it isn't an easy one. She told me the same, that she should have chosen an easier one. But she refused to do so at the moment, stating that she needs to finish what she started. Therefore, I can only agree with her choice besides providing some advice when needed.

Is it possible for an engineering degree holder to be a VP or a CEO? Candy wishes to be one of them.
And thanks for sharing your working experience as well, since I will also be joining the workforce sooner or later.

Are there any ideas to overcome the lecturers' attitudes? She already has trust issues with them. In some experiences, she did what the lecturer told her but got punished for "not following instructions". She and a few friends tried to explain to them but it was all in vain, the announcements were deleted and they have no evidence that the lecturer told them to do so. Any advice would be useful for those who are reading this. I will be joining degree soon as well, so it is better to get prepared.
 

Thread Starter

Wei Tan

Joined Aug 8, 2019
0
The course provides only up to 30-40% of the information needed to complete your assignment, you have to discover the rest.
Yes, I often see Candy referring to textbooks to see missing information for notes (though sometimes many of the information she got is not needed for the subject). As of assignments, she said that the notes are just almost useless. She will depend on online resources, followed by textbooks.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
8,849
Wow, you are a responsible sibling. How do you manage to balance up your work and studies? She would like to work part time for side income but she is not able to do so due to workloads.
You do what you have to do. My parents died and the only way for us to stay together was for the oldest to be the head of household. My older sister did it for 3 years, I did it for 4. That continued until there was only one left.
I had to agree it isn't an easy one. She told me the same, that she should have chosen an easier one. But she refused to do so at the moment, stating that she needs to finish what she started. Therefore, I can only agree with her choice besides providing some advice when needed.
What makes her think it gets easier if/when she graduates? If she's ill suited for the major, what makes her better suited to the profession?
Is it possible for an engineering degree holder to be a VP or a CEO? Candy wishes to be one of them.
Yes, but the odds against that happening are large. I worked at a company where most of the VP's were engineers, but that was a very small percentage of the overall engineering population.
Are there any ideas to overcome the lecturers' attitudes? She already has trust issues with them.
Other than take classes offered by other instructors or transferring to a different college, there's not much she can do. I had very few college professors that impressed me with their knowledge and teaching ability. These days, a lot of professors are more interested in anything other than teaching. When I was in college, most of the professors taught because that's what they were good at. There was a saying back then, "those who can, do; those who can't, teach". When I was taking evening classes, the best professors were those who worked and were moonlighting as instructors. The full time professors just wanted to get tenure.
 
Last edited:

Thread Starter

Wei Tan

Joined Aug 8, 2019
0
You do what you have to do. My parents died and the only way for us to stay together was for the oldest to be the head of household. My older sister did it for 3 years, I did it for 4. That continued until there was only one left.
I am sorry to hear that.

What makes her think it gets easier if/when she graduates? If she's ill suited for the major, what makes her better suited to the profession?
She is into gadgets and technological stuffs, so she chose this engineering. She used to have Accounting vs Engineering but based on her passion, she made up her mind. I would say its the lecturers and the people surrounding her which affected her that way. Not to say it gets easier, I will try my best to put them in words here. Just an example, in her studies, lecturers will upload an assignment for the students to do. Somewhere in the middle where a group of students failed to get the required results, he/she will inform the class on the new change as well in the announcement board and she will make the changes according to the announcement. After submitting, her marks will be deducted saying that she made some changes. She consulted him/her only to receive "No, I did not ask you to change anything. Why are you changing my question?". Her classmates (a small group of brave ones) and she herself explained about the announcement but got scolded saying that he/she did not say so. They tried to look for the announcement again, but they could not find it, as he/she removed it (unsure of removal date). Its a norm in that course. Her juniors, seniors faced a lot, some got fed up to talk over and some got scared as they are afraid of their marks being deducted for "being rude". To me, (correct me if I am wrong, I have not worked in any office or factory before), these should not happen in companies as these attitudes will cause losses to the company.

Other than take classes offered by other instructors or transferring to a different college, there's not much she can do.
Nope, she cannot choose any lecturers and there is only 1 lecturer for that subjects. Transferring to another college... hmm I will see if she is willing to do so, else I guess she have nothing much left to do.

I had very few college professors that impressed me with their knowledge and teaching ability. These days, a lot of professors are more interested in anything other than teaching.
Very true. As of her, out of a large group of them who taught her in degree, only 1 can be considered marginally good. I would say they are more interested in the huge salary. I have read posts of some anonymous lecturers confessing that they fail students so that they retake the subject and the lecturers will get paid. Another group of them admitted they love failing students as the lecturers themselves did not get as great grades as compared to what their students actually deserve.
 

Glenn Holland

Joined Dec 26, 2014
649
Welcome to AAC!

It sounds like your friend has an issue with motivation.

While I was going to college, I was taking care of my 3 younger siblings while working almost full time to pay for college. If I got more than a few hours of sleep a night, I considered myself lucky. I often didn't eat dinner until 1 or 2 in the morning (I usually worked from 6pm-midnight week nights, more on weekends with split shifts).

Engineering isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be. If it was, everyone would get an engineering degree. Your friend needs to buck up and that needs to come from within. You can be supportive, but the motivation needs to come from her. If she doesn't like what she's studying for her major, or the subjects are too hard, it might be that she should have chosen an easier path.

If I had it to do over, I'd be a business major, learn about accounting/economics stuff and try to become a VP in finance or CEO of a company. I spent most of my career satisfied with being competent in my work as an individual contributor. I hated being a manager because I took it seriously and managing poor performers was draining emotionally and physically. I had co-workers who were mainly concerned about their next raise or promotion; they didn't do anything unless it was going to look good on their next review. I was taught to do a good job and people would recognize you for your accomplishments. In an ideal world, that might be true. In the real world, you need to blow your own horn and pat yourself on the back to get ahead.
From my reading of the initial post, I don't see this as a "motivation" problem. I see it as a problem with severe overload on the person's life. A college education is actually a measurement of the person's skill and qualifications in a given area and the student should be able to focus on the course work without extraneous interference. I'm going to post a separate comment and my personal experience on this issue and you can go from there.
 

Glenn Holland

Joined Dec 26, 2014
649
Giving some thought to this issue, my first question is whether she has taken the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)?

The SAT is a very good indicator of success in college and a low score (especially in mathematical reasoning) is an ominous sign that going to college is not the best option.

I'm speaking from my personal experience as a totally failed student who never ever would think of setting foot on a college campus. However, my parents thought I should go to college so I didn't have to work at a job they thought was demeaning (like being a plumber or a tradesman). They also misinterpreted my interest and fascination in electrical and mechanical things as being an indicator of engineering talent.

However, that's all it was - an interest and fascination with absolutely no potential for academic development. As a result of my parent's grandiose and delusional thinking, I squandered 4 years of my life (and over $5000) and I had to walk away from college with a solid 1.00 minus GPA and I nearly wound up living on the street.

Going to college should be about developing the person's inherent skill - not a means of trying flee from a lower socio-economic status. In conclusion, you need to qualitatively measure her true skill set and determine if she has any real potential for succeeding in an academic environment or whether she should pursue some alternative field like vocational ed..
 
Last edited:

Brian Griffin

Joined May 17, 2013
63
I'm going to assume if the thread OP is from SE Asia, judging from the user name.

If this is the case, it looks like the college environment has a severe mismatch with 'Candy' skills. A good college does not indiscriminately fail or pass students. Setting the passing marks too low or high does not teach students anything. It would only give them more problems when they graduate. What if they can't secure employment after graduation? They would have suffered a barrage of anxiety and depression and many other psychological ailments from that unemployment/underemployment. They would also need to pay the student loans, and if they have spent a lot of money on a degree that is not guaranteed to give them work in the end, where did we go wrong there? If we allow this to happen long, we could have violent crimes on the streets.

Worst of all, in this commercialized universe, the intake of lecturers are not properly regulated. When I worked in a university, I found out there are many lecturers who do not have proper skills and knowledge to teach engineering subjects. Most of them would dish poorly written lecture notes, tutorials and lab manuals are not correctly done (majority of these are using very outdated tools). To revise the lab manuals, you may need to go through a lot of red tape just to get it done, but that long period would have discouraged anyone from doing so. I stopped working in academics once I saw too much politics and other nonsense in the university and went to being an engineer.

@Wei Tan , I have a few suggestions there:

1.) If Candy's university contains a complete sports complex (that belongs to the university and not hitching on other adjacent schools) and is located in a very open space, chances are there are many student bodies and clubs. Advise her to join these clubs and participate. Having participation in sports in college is good for the resume. Plus, this builds up personal skills too as a bonus.

2.) If (1) doesn't apply there, bail out and switch to another college. Recreation in the college is actually important for students and helps improve the GPA. It is in the research. Cooping up in the room and forcing one to understand the materials is a one-way trip to serious psychiatric issues. If the college doesn't have all these things, more money could be wasted to fix skill or health problems in the future.

3.) Have Candy discuss this with a psychologist. This is a classic, Asian parent syndrome she had been succumbing all the time.

Going to college should be about developing the person's inherent skill - not a means of trying flee from a lower socio-economic status. In conclusion, you need to qualitatively measure her true skill set and determine if she has any real potential for succeeding in an academic environment or whether she should pursue some alternative field like vocational ed..
Unfortunately, in Asian society, higher education is extremely important for them to escape poverty. Like it or not, they think even a lousy degree could get them far. This mentality has brought us more trouble than we have expected. Vocational schools aren't popular due to the negative stigma they have in my place. The overzealous, helicoper parents think delinquents and "low IQ" people only end in such schools. In the end, these parents would make sure their kids get a degree, or die from embarassment if they don't have any.

I would talk about Asian parenting until the cows come home, but what I'm suggesting to the thread OP is, check the college's environment, and if there are not enough support, bail out and find alternatives.
 

Thread Starter

Wei Tan

Joined Aug 8, 2019
0
What school is this?
I prefer not to say, I sincerely apologise. But the accounting, law and business courses here are good. The lecturers treated us very well and I really really enjoy the classes. My friends and I will always come out with happy faces. Even sad course-mates who attend the class will come out of the classrooms happily. That is how fun these courses are over here.

As of those anonymous lecturers, I read them online with another friend of mine who wants to be an Accounting lecturer in the States.
 

Brian Griffin

Joined May 17, 2013
63
She is into gadgets and technological stuffs, so she chose this engineering. She used to have Accounting vs Engineering but based on her passion, she made up her mind.
One more thing, interest in gadgets and tech stuff doesn't mean she could be inclined to do better in engineering. She need to check her skills before entering engineering school. Did she worked with writing programs or working with electronics as a teenager? What I have seen is, I found very skillful engineers who started programming in they childhood days and by the time they are teens, they are already adept to writing/understanding more complex algorithms. Assumptions should not be made - she need to bring her 'tools' before she 'work' in the engineering school. The 'tools' are skills. These skills can be more than just programming, it could also cover physical skills such as sports, or skills such as playing music instruments. It may sound unimportant, and knowing these helps us in surviving engineering schools.

Talking about interest, I have a great interest in performing classical music. But I f@¢ked up a lot of thumb positions and complicated passages on a cello, and kept breaking my fingernails on a classical guitar. I'm not a Julliard/Berkeley material, and I am honest to admit about this. I can't even enter a music school despite getting a distinction in my ABRSM cert. It is not as straight forward as I thought. However, playing with the simpler Bach's cello suites or The Swan helps me clear my mind and helps me get new ideas for my personal projects.
 

Thread Starter

Wei Tan

Joined Aug 8, 2019
0
I squandered 4 years of my life (and over $5000) and I had to walk away from college with a solid 1.00 minus GPA and I nearly wound up living on the street.
May I ask how did you go through this problem?

In conclusion, you need to qualitatively measure her true skill set and determine if she has any real potential for succeeding in an academic environment or whether she should pursue some alternative field like vocational ed.
Alright, I understand. Thanks for the explanation and also the SAT. Both of us did not take this test before. Will it be accurate for students who take easy courses? (As they may be weak, but their GPAs are easily 3.5 and above).
 

Thread Starter

Wei Tan

Joined Aug 8, 2019
0
Setting the passing marks too low or high does not teach students anything. It would only give them more problems when they graduate. What if they can't secure employment after graduation? They would have suffered a barrage of anxiety and depression and many other psychological ailments from that unemployment/underemployment. They would also need to pay the student loans, and if they have spent a lot of money on a degree that is not guaranteed to give them work in the end, where did we go wrong there? If we allow this to happen long, we could have violent crimes on the streets.
I agree with this. I am afraid she will have this issue but I dare not talk to her about that.

I stopped working in academics once I saw too much politics and other nonsense in the university and went to being an engineer.
According to her, most of them were from factories (I assume engineers mostly work in factories) and a small minority works in office or companies. Some of them do hold very good posts, up to Engineering Director with big bucks. There are a few who started education career until this day.

If the college doesn't have all these things, more money could be wasted to fix skill or health problems in the future.
Yes, this happens to her friends who stayed up very late to study, skipping many many meals and yet, they will say "I'm fine". Occasionally, they suffer from gastric pain, tiredness, and coughs (I suspect due to lack of water). Once in a while, they play outdoor sports like soccer.

Have Candy discuss this with a psychologist. This is a classic, Asian parent syndrome she had been succumbing all the time.
This is common in Asia. It's the horrible stigma that only those with mental-illness will seek for psychologists. And I gave them the institution psychology's contact so she can reach out to them either by calling or using e-mails.
 

Thread Starter

Wei Tan

Joined Aug 8, 2019
0
One more thing, interest in gadgets and tech stuff doesn't mean she could be inclined to do better in engineering. She need to check her skills before entering engineering school. Did she worked with writing programs or working with electronics as a teenager? What I have seen is, I found very skillful engineers who started programming in they childhood days and by the time they are teens, they are already adept to writing/understanding more complex algorithms. Assumptions should not be made - she need to bring her 'tools' before she 'work' in the engineering school. The 'tools' are skills. These skills can be more than just programming, it could also cover physical skills such as sports, or skills such as playing music instruments. It may sound unimportant, and knowing these helps us in surviving engineering schools.

Talking about interest, I have a great interest in performing classical music. But I f@¢ked up a lot of thumb positions and complicated passages on a cello, and kept breaking my fingernails on a classical guitar. I'm not a Julliard/Berkeley material, and I am honest to admit about this. I can't even enter a music school despite getting a distinction in my ABRSM cert. It is not as straight forward as I thought. However, playing with the simpler Bach's cello suites or The Swan helps me clear my mind and helps me get new ideas for my personal projects.
Her studies used to be very good before joining her degree. In her previous education, a 3.7 is the lowest GPA, despite having a mixture of tough subjects and easier ones. Her usual is easily 3.8+.

Off-topic, do you perform music as a hobby?
 

Brian Griffin

Joined May 17, 2013
63
I agree with this. I am afraid she will have this issue but I dare not talk to her about that.
This is something one should do. Hiding from the problem doesn't mean the problem will be solved. I mustered whatever courage I had to seek a mental health professional. In the end, it was worth it.

According to her, most of them were from factories (I assume engineers mostly work in factories) and a small minority works in office or companies. Some of them do hold very good posts, up to Engineering Director with big bucks. There are a few who started education career until this day.
She need to know that not all engineers are paid well. However, if you have amassed or gained experience after a few more years in work, they are usually paid handsomely and living a comfortable life, but not up to the point that they are filthy rich or becoming a big CEO or director.

Her studies used to be very good before joining her degree. In her previous education, a 3.7 is the lowest GPA, despite having a mixture of tough subjects and easier ones. Her usual is easily 3.8+.
Studies at the foundation levels and personal skills are almost mutually exclusive. Some engineering subjects are pretty demanding and requires skills that you learned at home. I worked as a lab technician in a campus and I was horrified to see many students couldn't figure out how to switch on a transistor, or even have the programming skills at the 4th year! I picked up programming embedded systems off-campus too from 8 to 32-bits. I did not choose to wait for the college to dish me this subject.

Off-topic, do you perform music as a hobby?
Yes. I'm possibly slightly tone deaf. It helps me work and think clearly when I'm stuck at an assignment or a personal project.
 
Top