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dirty ethel rackham

Talk me down ... how to advise our young adults on careers/majors

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IMO there is NO WAY someone weak in Math should  Major in Engineering. I believe you are correct about that. Engineering is a very tough Major and many students who excel in Math are frequently in up to their neck.  A good university, in the school of Engineering, will test for Math placement. Not a good Major for someone who is weak in Math.  Your DH should not encourage an Engineering Major, based on that, IMO.

However, the list of universities includes Purdue Engineering. One of my late Uncles got his BSEE there and then a Ph.D. from Stanford.  One of my late colleagues/friends got his BSEE there.  I wonder what they are looking at and if they have the confidence to accept this student, it must be based on something concrete.  

And, there was a mention of Merit Aid, which is hard to get and also makes me believe this student has something going that is very positive.

I wonder about taking a MOOC course, for Calc, before beginning that in a university, to get an introduction, without it impacting the GPA and that would provide a "head start".

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As someone who teaches Algebra 2 and Precalculus, I have a few thoughts.

 

First, there are some topics that float back and forth between the classes depending on the standards for that particular state (school, book, online course, what have you.) One that springs to mind is matrices. I teach it in algebra 2, but in my state it’s a Precalculus topic. Parent graphs and transformations sometimes float between the two. Some trig topics float between the two. So it could be that your algebra 2 course and the final didn’t match that’s ok.

 

My other thought—logarithm properties. I have yet to meet a calculus student who could rattle off logarithm properties without looking them up. We use them enough in calculus (derivatives and integrals) that they learn them again and they understand them a little better. However, if the test was full of logarithms, that could have given her some pause.

 

Just my two cents. Since she already has to work hard at school, that will definitely help her in college. Purdue Engineering is tough, but if she gets stuck in calculus, I am sure they have support for it. Just encourage her to look for it. PM me, I’ll give you my email. I’ve helped many a kid through calculus.

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Agree that if your dd is getting accepted by these programs, there is no reason not to give it a shot. Now if Purdue (or wherever) is not affordable for a possible 5 year run (not uncommon for engineering students or students that change majors), take it off the list.

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From an ethical standpoint of the transcript ... how should I handle the Algebra 2 issue?  She got a B in the online pre-calc class through Mr. D. last semester.  

 

Was Algebra 2 not on the transcript included in her applications? If it was, you keep the same grade. If not, wow, double congrats to for getting accepted without it!  And just make it pass/fail, quit putting energy into worrying about it. 

 

If several good schools have accepted her into engineering, I think it's hard to make a case that engineering is definitely a mistake, and harder still to justify saying that you won't pay for that major. I think that you are (very understandably) overly worried about making sure things go smoothly for her, but none of us can guarantee that for our kids. 

 

Some students achieve mathematical understanding later than others. It took my oldest two years of crying and distress to get through algebra 1, lol. Two. Freaking. Years. She did not take calculus in high school. She is now a math minor at a STEM university. She got a B in honors calc 1, a C in calc 2, and is currently acing linear algebra. Many of the students with the same or lower grades had higher ACT math scores, had already taken calc, and/or were engineering majors. 

 

She also has two business majors, which is another thing I would never have expected, lol.  Our kids love to surprise us. 

 

My advice: as with any student, be very open about what you can and can't afford. There is nothing wrong with saying you will not pay for an extra year, she just needs to know. Check the course sequence at every school. Encourage her talk to the departments and be very open about possibly needing to catch up and have supports. Many, if not most, schools now have free tutoring centers, and lots of specific support for calculus. Some have specific STEM prep, which you can often take the summer before your freshman fall semester. This might be harder if the schools are far away, but just ask a million questions. They may have something online. They may offer special deals for students who start in summer (we ran into several schools that did this, the cost wound up being really minimal). 

 

Remember when we made most of the decisions for our kids? Those were some good times  :laugh:

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I wonder about taking a MOOC course, for Calc, before beginning that in a university, to get an introduction, without it impacting the GPA and that would provide a "head start".

 

There are people researching visualization skills who are seeing a correlation between good 3D visualization skills and success in engineering.  Some schools are screening and offering a visual/spatial development course in an effort to improve retention: for ex http://www.engr.utexas.edu/future/undergraduates/visualization, one of the common screening tests was developed at Purdue.  The OP's art skills may have developed her 3D skills enough to give her a good chance at success if she can review and nail the concepts and skills she doesn't firmly have from A2 -- using ALEKS assessment as the basis of know/don't know as well as inviting her to the board  to explain the unit circle and what one can determine from a graph or an equation of a function.  Some eng colleges are offering a math review over the summer, in person during summer session.

 

I guess I lean towards using some of the time for topping up to mastery of A2, Trig, & PreCalc, then  relaxing.  (gotta have some play hard after work hard).  Sites like mathisfun.com have a lot of opportunity for students to play with concepts that they may not have been walked thru in their high school course as well as fill in little gaps.  

 

Looking at Purdue's Civil Eng program, its very doable...they don't start Physics until second semester:

http://catalog.purdue.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=7&poid=6415. Good ramp up and allows study skills to be acquired. I would have no issue sending a student who already has good work habits. The tutoring and Purdue's Supplemental Instruction program will take care of weak spots in math, and her English proficiency will make the gen eds reasonable. 

Edited by Heigh Ho
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I meant to add my vote for ALEKS as a way of filling in any holes and strengthening her math foundation. It has the advantage of moving more quickly than a text or MOOC, as it assesses the student so they can move past mastered material, and does not require moving in a completely linear fashion. 

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Americorps can be a ton of work. If my dream were a technical field and I needed more math, a year at CC or associate's there would be a much better path than volunteering / gap before going to university, unless I had a lot of money for tutoring and outside motivation. But, that could be me just being unable to concentrate even when I really want something.

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Just wanted to throw out our experience.  Most of my kids were quite bright but had a really, really tough time with math.  They were more arts-oriented -- great with words and creativity and understanding historical concepts.  But math was always such a struggle, for all but one.  

 

For some reason, once they got into college, it all came together.  None of them became engineers, but some were required to take higher level math courses for their majors.  I don't now why it took so long for their brains to click in the math area, but there you go.  They said it just finally all made sense to them then.

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Americorps can be a ton of work. If my dream were a technical field and I needed more math, a year at CC or associate's there would be a much better path than volunteering / gap before going to university, unless I had a lot of money for tutoring and outside motivation. But, that could be me just being unable to concentrate even when I really want something.

 

Tutoring is free at an engineering school...they have math help, peer tutoring, and office hours available for nonminorities, before one needs to consider a paid tutor.  Here's Purdue's offering -   https://www.math.purdue.edu/academic/courses/helproom , Supplemental Instruction appears to be quite helpful.  

 

  Many engineering campuses are aware that their students have the ability, but did not have the opportunity in high school to access the honors level of math or develop the study skills, so they are gap filling as they provide the on-ramp.  The problem with going to the CC is that very few have coursework aimed for future engineers...even when they do, the calc is usually Larsen level, where the U brings them up to Stewart or higher.  That translates into a rough transfer. The better on-ramp is at the engineering college, not the CC, especially for someone who has ACT 34+ in humanities. Its not more math, its higher quality math that the future engineer needs. imho

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I did get her to agree to some more in depth aptitude and interest assessments and to tell her that she has time to make decisions . I just am wary of sending her into waters with an undertow.

I have been thinking about having my older DD do an assessment when she comes home for the summer as well. Have you looked at any particular one? I sat through a webinar for YouScience which is very affordable but haven't had time to research their competition yet,

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The problem with going to the CC is that very few have coursework aimed for future engineers...even when they do, the calc is usually Larsen level, where the U brings them up to Stewart or higher. That translates into a rough transfer.

This varies widely. It's worth investigating your own CC system.

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This varies widely. It's worth investigating your own CC system.

 

 

Yes, that is why I used the qualifier I did.

 

Its also possilble that it doesn't matter to a student who enjoys math, as they often extend on their own.

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Its going to depend on the college.  At UB, they would place her in Intermediate Algebra...so no calc in year one.  They aren't even looking at regents's scores now, just SAT/ACT and how well Alg 2 went, but they are using Aleks for those wanting to begin with calc.   http://advising.buffalo.edu/advisors/newstudentreg/pdfs/mathplacement.pdf   Definitely look at how the college does placement and what the support is going to be.

 

your UB link did not work maybe this one:

http://advising.buffalo.edu/advisors/newstudentreg/faq.php

 

I was curious since I almost went there (many years ago).

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My oldest son has gone through a huge amount of change in the direction he wanted for college.  He has always been very strong in math, science and has a talent for engineering. He also has some artistic bents as well.  HOWEVER, during his junior year he was sure he wanted to go into a design field.  Biggest issue?  He does not draw.  I mean, not even a little bit.  He does not like studying art (he enjoys art -- but doesn't like studying it).  I sat down with him and we watched videos (what's it like to be a/an), we read about the majors, we looked into the career paths.  And then, I set him up with some friends in EE, Mech E, Computer E, and other fields to shadow.  He came home after shadowing these guys and wouldn't you know it, was back to engineering. I was honest with him about what I saw, but I was willing to allow him to go the other direction.  I identified colleges, programs, and even set up a different course plan for his senior year, if he *really* wanted it.  I didn't tell him no.

 

I had to keep him in the driver's seat, but help him see what the careers entailed.  It is now something HE wants and is driving for.  He's a bit nervous about the college aspect, but has an engineering internship if he wants to do a gap year -- and really try the field. This child has a HUGE fear of failure -- would rather not try than fail in some ways, but once he's in, he's ALL in, and there is no stopping him. 

 

If your daughter really wants an engineering degree, there are standards that have to be met.  If it's an issue of not working hard enough it's one thing.  If it's an issue of no matter how hard she works, it's just not happening, that's a different story.  Career counseling can be helpful, but it can also be very subjective to how one is feeling on a given day.  My older brother tried for years to go engineering, but lacked the math chops.  He spent 8 years and gobs of money in loans to wind up in a whole different field.  I'm not sure he had any guidance, though -- other than "I just don't see it."  Help her explore and see her options -- as well as understand that sometimes our talents and gifts take us a different, and surprisingly fun different direction.

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Our experience is that it isn't what the student is that after a certain point, the student's aptitudes don't count.  What counts is what they are willing to do.  So not what they are good at but what they can make themselves do enough of to get good at.  (That is a terrible sentence but I am supposed to be doing something else.)  Getting through engineering school will require doing math problems all day for four years.  I would start the conversation by saying I was worried about her having a fairly happy college experience and then ask her if she is really capable of making herself do that or if she will be miserable.  Miserable is a good word.  It implies she could do it if she wanted to.  And she probably can.  If she waffles, ask her what she thinks she COULD make herself do for four years.  Working as an engineer might or might not involve lots of math.  Engineering is one of those things where the work and the school are very different.  If she said yes, she still wanted to go for engineering, then I would suggest that she take a community college intermediate/college algebra class the summer before going.  Even if she places out of the class on the placement test.  I tutored my friends in calculus in college.  They ALL needed tutoring because of weak algebra and trig skills, not because of the calculus.  Art and engineering often go together, so I actually find it encouraging that she is interested in art.

 

Our experience was that our very empathetic, good at people child ran screaming from the idea of working with mentally hurting people.  He was willing to work with hurting bodies but not hurting minds.  This is coming from a very stable, happy clan.

 

Lots of hugs.  I have been there.  I took my non-mathy-in-a-mathy-family student to an educational psychologist and got him tested because we couldn't figure out what was wrong with him.  I can laugh about it now but at the time, we were desperate to come up with something, anything that this child could do for a career.  I have made some major mistakes parenting, too, which we continue to pay for.  I can't bear to think about some of them.

 

Nan

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FTR, that ACT score would easily place her into calculus at my school. I just wrote up something for someone elsewhere that I'll paste here:

 

Here are some pre-algebra and algebra skills that frequently cause difficulties for students in my calculus classes.

Fractions.

Negative and rational (fractional) exponents.

Simplifying complex rational expressions (fractions in your fractions).

Expanding expressions like (x+h)2 (it's not x2 + h2 )

Graphing functions, especially piecewise-defined functions and transformations of functions. You might not have seen these yet -- they're more often taught in college algebra/precalculus.

Composing functions and especially evaluating f(x+h) -- if f(x) = x3, then f(x+h) = (x+h)3 and not x3 + h

Did I mention fractions? You might notice that 1, 2, and 3 all mentioned fractions.

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Sorry, a search with 'UB math placement' will pull up a chart in pdf.

 

This is what I found, it seems to allow for calculus with a score as low as 25, taking grades and ALEKS placement into account. The chart only goes up to >=27, so, unless I'm misreading it, a 28 would place her into calculus with only the ALEKS placement being taken into account. 

 

http://advising.buffalo.edu/advisors/newstudentreg/pdfs/mathplacement.pdf

 

The >=27 seems to be a fairly common cutoff point for calc. 

 

At Purdue, a 29 is automatic placement into calc; 28 requires the ALEKS test. 

 

Saint Louis uses the math index with ACT math score and overall high school GPA, or a placement test. They don't have a calculator at their site, but it looks like a 28 commonly requires a 3.3 GPA to take calculus. You can take a placement test if you disagree with your math index score. 

 

Kentucky requires ALEKS placement unless you have >=30. 

 

Marquette, I see no mention of placement testing. They recommend that civil engineering students come in with a math ACT of 24+, which she is comfortably above. 

 

OP, I don't think she is as far from prepared as you think, and interest/desire is really something she has to determine for herself. I think that reacting against engineering is likely to backfire and make her dig her heels in, and/or be resentful. If she does start having doubts, if this is more about proving herself rather than genuine interest, then you want to leave her a graceful exit. 

 

The best thing you can do, imo, is have her look at the requirements and talk to the departments. And I would definitely start ALEKS; the assessment may not be exactly what the colleges use, but it should give her a good idea of how prepared she is for calculus and how much work she has to do. 

Edited by katilac
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IMO there is NO WAY someone weak in Math should  Major in Engineering. I believe you are correct about that. Engineering is a very tough Major and many students who excel in Math are frequently in up to their neck.  A good university, in the school of Engineering, will test for Math placement. Not a good Major for someone who is weak in Math.  Your DH should not encourage an Engineering Major, based on that, IMO.

 

However, the list of universities includes Purdue Engineering. One of my late Uncles got his BSEE there and then a Ph.D. from Stanford.  One of my late colleagues/friends got his BSEE there.  I wonder what they are looking at and if they have the confidence to accept this student, it must be based on something concrete.  

 

And, there was a mention of Merit Aid, which is hard to get and also makes me believe this student has something going that is very positive.

 

I wonder about taking a MOOC course, for Calc, before beginning that in a university, to get an introduction, without it impacting the GPA and that would provide a "head start".

 

I think "weak in math" here is misleading. 90th percentile is not weak. It's in the top third even for college bound students.

 

Moreover, motivation matters--a lot.

 

And finally, you don't have to have an ace GPA from MIT to work on your dream job as a transportation civil engineer for a major city. You can graduate with a degree in civil engineering from a regional university with a 3.5 and get a great job!

 

You're right that OP's daughter is unlikely to be working for the top engineering firms in her college internships. At the same time, girls tend to outperform boys in math in school grades but underperform on tests. Why? Nobody knows for sure, but if my daughter were in the 90th percentile for math and had a desire to be an engineer I'd say go for it.

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Like your daughter, my son also had an awful Algebra II teacher. (Me, Kahn, and his common sense. I was the weakest factor.)

 

Like your daughter, he chose engineering.

 

I can’t remember his ACT math score, I think it was a 26-27?

 

In his initial placement, he did NOT place in (Engineering Math 1) essentially Calc I, the math needed first term for engineering students. Instead he had to take a math course designed to prep for it his first semester. He is still less than thrilled about it because now he is behind his group because he is currently in Calc I.

 

However, his current Calc I class is full of engineering students - so, whether they took it and failed, or had to do what he did, either way they’re all in the same boat now.

 

If you look at the four year engineering plan, if it’s anything like here, there are gen-ed classes that first semester. So, I think his first semester was:

 

Principles of Engineering

Principles of Chem

Calc I

Be Creative (fills a required fine arts credit)

 

Or something to this effect. While the Principles in Engineering might be a lost cause (or potentially an elective) in a Liberal Arts major, the rest could fill science, math, and/or gen ed requirements upon a transfer.

 

Her placement test at the university will place her in the right math for her abilities. Her first math class with a ready and able instructor will either confirm your suspicions or equip her for her next class.

 

In my opinion? A kiddo with a 28 in math is hardly math weak. I’d let her give it a shot. It’s one semester and potentially only one lost class.

Edited by BlsdMama
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then I would suggest that she take a community college intermediate/college algebra class the summer before going.

Nan

Lots of help and encouragement in this post! However, a quick warning - some colleges will consider you a transfer student if you take ANY college classes after graduating and before attending their school. This could potentially be a scholarship killer. Many schools treat post grad classes very differently from dual enrollment unfortunately.

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Good fall back related degrees might be technical writing and industrial engineering, that is a more big picture engineering with less math. I would select colleges with those as options. Many really smart math/engineering types can’t write well, so technical writing or something like that is good for a student who is good enough at math and engineering to understand them and translate what they say into actual English.

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Just a word of encouragement here - my daughter took Algebra 2 twice with C's, Precalc with a b and AP Calc with an A and a four on the AP exam (and brought her SAT math up from a 590 to a 770). It was all due to one great teacher - she had the aptitude but never had the desire or the guidance until junior and senior year. Now she's not going into any math related field, but that's mainly because she has zero interest, not because she has no math aptitude. It sounds like your daughter does have the aptitude AND the desire.

 

But I definitely like the career aptitude test and will be looking for a chance for my dd to take one!

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Just a word of encouragement here - my daughter took Algebra 2 twice with C's, Precalc with a b and AP Calc with an A and a four on the AP exam (and brought her SAT math up from a 590 to a 770). It was all due to one great teacher - she had the aptitude but never had the desire or the guidance until junior and senior year. Now she's not going into any math related field, but that's mainly because she has zero interest, not because she has no math aptitude. It sounds like your daughter does have the aptitude AND the desire.

 

But I definitely like the career aptitude test and will be looking for a chance for my dd to take one!

SanDiegoMom, who was her math teacher?

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.....She was hoping that she could always fit an art class in to feed her soul.  She doesn't want to major in art (ok, if money were no object and she didn't need to make a living, she'd love to go to art school.)  But we are not wealthy, just slightly upper middle class.  She still would love to be able to take a class in something that interests her, which is why I think she is better suited to a liberal arts and sciences type of degree.  None of the engineers I knew had room to take a class for fun.  

 

Wait. What???

 

I stopped reading the other comments at this one. Is your daughter choosing engineering because it's what's familiar in your family environment?

 

There are many careers that are focused towards the arts. Architecture, Interior Design,  Graphic Design, Digital Design and Fabrication, Web Design to name a few. Careers such as digital design and digital fabrication are up and coming as robotics are being applied to more and more industries. All of these fields combine artistic and technical skills but aren't as heavy on the math as engineering.

 

For research purposes, you might want to look at the Indiana University SOAAD (school of art, architecture and design) programs to get some ideas of careers that could be a better fit for your daughter. I'm sure such programs are offered at other schools, but the IU one is something that I am familiar with.

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It is too late for us to be looking into new schools, unless they have tons of scholarship funds left. Otherwise, we are looking at a gap year, something she doesn't want.

Edited by dirty ethel rackham
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Wait. What???

 

I stopped reading the other comments at this one. Is your daughter choosing engineering because it's what's familiar in your family environment?

 

There are many careers that are focused towards the arts. Architecture, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Digital Design and Fabrication, Web Design to name a few. Careers such as digital design and digital fabrication are up and coming as robotics are being applied to more and more industries. All of these fields combine artistic and technical skills but aren't as heavy on the math as engineering.

 

For research purposes, you might want to look at the Indiana University SOAAD (school of art, architecture and design) programs to get some ideas of careers that could be a better fit for your daughter. I'm sure such programs are offered at other schools, but the IU one is something that I am familiar with.

I had different reply earlier, but lost it when I went back to edit on my phone.

 

Dd is an artist as in fine art. She is not a graphic designer. She has always chose art tehnique classes over anything related to design. She is adamant that she does not want to major in that. She does want the opportunity to create art in college.

 

She is very attracted to the clear post-graduation path that engineering (environmental) provides. She is able to articulate what interest her about that major beyond that. I just don't think it is as good a fit as the biological sciences. She could have taken AP Physics 2 at her high school, but chose biotechnology and anatomy and physiology (both are honors courses, but not AP.)

 

Sent from my SM-G900T using Tapatalk

Edited by dirty ethel rackham
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  None of the engineers I knew had room to take a class for fun.

 

I did had time in undergrad, working and postgrad to take classes for fun, do volunteer work at the hospital, at a Down syndrome activity center, and free tutoring by word of mouth. I was also in three clubs (international business related, music related, computer related) on campus. My first degree is in civil and structural engineering, and environmental engineering falls under that for undergrad studies for my alma mater.

 

She does want the opportunity to create art in college. She is very attracted to the clear post-graduation path that engineering (environmental) provides. She is able to articulate what interest her about that major beyond that. I just don't think it is as good a fit as the biological sciences.

Environmental engineering is a big field, fundamental biology and chemistry is definitely useful to know. Unless the scope and sequence is physics heavy, environmental engineering is not traditionally as physics heavy as some other engineering.

 

She could look into taking fine arts as an extramural (not for credit) course in term time or summer time? Another way is to join an on campus art club as an extracurricular. I have friends who did that as the time commitment is less rigid than a class and they basically wanted peer support more than instruction.

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I just want to share another story of a dc doing the unexpected and succeeding so far. My dd is very strong in all language arts, particularly reading comprehension and literary analysis. She does pretty well in math, but it has never come easy, like English and history. 8th grade was her first year homeschooling and she switched Algebra 1 curriculums three times. Her precalc year she lived in France for six months and didn't complete all of it. She did go on to  successfully complete calculus in high school.

 

She applied to colleges planning to major in Economics or Political Science. Then, in April of her senior year, we overheard her conversation with the admission counselor, asking if she could switch her major...to Mechanical Engineering! He said yes, and today she is finishing her Sophomore year in Engineering. It has been a stretch for her, some classes have been really hard, but she's doing well. Her schedule is very full, and she has not been able to minor in English which she would really love to do. 

 

Last semester she earned All Academic Honors awarded to students who come in the top 25% of runners at the NCAA D-III Mideast Regional Championships who also had a GPA above 3.5. And we never would have thought she'd head in this direction. And my husband is an electrical engineer.

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It has been a stretch for her, some classes have been really hard, but she's doing well.  

 

This is great. I think it's so important to point out that something being a stretch, and really hard, is not an automatic reason not to do it! 

 

Isn't that what we're always telling our kids? To work hard, to take chances, to not always do the easiest thing? Yet, it seems we have this weird blind spot when it comes to math, and, more specifically, engineering. 

 

People so often talk about engineering as though it's different from all other majors, that one is either the 'engineer type' or not. That if math wasn't easy for you from an early age, and you didn't have a thousand dollars worth of Legos by age six, then you clearly aren't cut out to be an engineer.

 

I just don't believe that. My dd knows several classic engineering types who are struggling like crazy in the major, so the stereotype doesn't guarantee success. And I know several working engineers who never fit the type, they selected engineering mostly based on job prospects, and they did just fine. One person I know switched careers as an adult, going back for their engineering degree because they realized that studying to be an engineer was very different from being an engineer. They didn't enjoy their studies that much, but they like the job and do well. 

 

If math remains a mystery that you struggle with daily when you are a senior in high school, do you have much chance of succeeding as an engineering major? No, definitely not, that's not what I'm saying. But it is equally true that being a late bloomer in math who doesn't fit the stereotype doesn't doom you to failure. 

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Apparently I'm full of engineering thoughts today, because I'm going to add one more: it is much easier to switch out of an engineering major than into an engineering major. Somebody changing majors from engineering after freshman year has a much better chance at still graduating in four years, because many of the classes will still apply. It would be common for a freshman in engineering to take math, science, and composition, all of which are needed for every other major.  

 

The levels of math and science are likely higher than required for the new major, but they will still apply in most cases. For instance,my dd is minoring in math, so her straight calculus class substitutes for business calc, likewise for statistics. 

 

Disclaimer: no one would ever mistake me for an engineering type, and I think it's too late for me to become a late bloomer in math. These are just observations I have made of people I know and/or observe and hear about. 

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