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The only major i've ever really considered is something I'll probably suck at. What do I do?

kriscentalkriscental Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
For the past 5 years of my life, I've been committed to one career path and one career path only: Engineering. The type of engineer has varied (Aerospace, Computer, Software, Environmental), but it's always been my goal. I'm a high school girl finishing up junior year and starting to narrow down colleges, focusing on Engineering. The problem is, I suck at math. Every class i'm taking right now is a breeze EXCEPT for AP Calculus AB. I just don't understand it! I've been struggling the whole year, going between tutors, studying for hours, coming in for help (and a whole lot of tears lol) but it just is not clicking.

By some stroke of luck, I've managed a very low B-, but with the final coming up, that might turn into a C. On top of that, I'm behind on my Science classes. I was supposed to take AP Chem this year, but unsurprisingly, I sucked at that too and had to drop it. I passed AP Bio with a B last year, but now i'm stressing about next year, where i'm most likely going to have to take Physics (because of engineering), which I might struggle with just as much, as well as AP Chem. From everything that I've seen, Engineering isn't going to work out for me, which sucks because i'm honestly really interested in it. I plan on taking AP Calc BC next year, but i'm scared it's just going to get worse.

I had never even considered the possibility that I might not be amazing at engineering, so I haven't really thought about any other majors. I'm stressed beyond belief, because I really feel like I have to narrow down colleges, but how am I supposed to do that if I have no idea what i'm going to major in? The entire situation just makes me feel like a total idiot, and i'm terrified for the future. Should I start looking for other majors? I don't even know where to start.
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Replies to: The only major i've ever really considered is something I'll probably suck at. What do I do?

  • Snowball CitySnowball City Registered User Posts: 1,466 Senior Member
    I don't have a whole lot of advice except to make sure you get your foundations well laid even if it isn't in an AP class. Can you take regular chemistry instead of AP?

    What is it that attracted you to engineering? Do you like problem solving? Do you like tangible results? There are so many careers that we can discuss if you can verbalize the type of mental exercises you enjoy.

    Have you taken statistics yet? How did that go?
  • bodanglesbodangles Registered User Posts: 8,357 Senior Member
    See how senior year goes. Meanwhile, be looking at your other options. If you're really set on something engineering-related, maybe engineering technology programs would be a good fit. Or maybe you'd like something else in a completely different field even better. Do some research and see what sounds good to you.

    Maybe you'll be surprised. Some of BC should be review of AB, and material's usually easier the second time around. Manometer problems in my material balances class gave me ridiculous amounts of trouble, and then I saw them again in fluids and was like "Why did I ever struggle with this?"
  • kriscentalkriscental Registered User Posts: 14 New Member
    @Snowball City I can take regular chemistry, but I really don't want to. I feel like it'd look better on my resume to take another AP science class besides Bio, especially since I have a 'W' for AP Chem now. I haven't taken statistics yet, and I don't think I will, at least in high school. My schedule is looking to be pretty full next year.

    I think the main reason I became interested in Engineering is because I liked problem solving a lot, and even though I'm not great at Calc, when I do understand it and do well, I honestly enjoy it. For me, the biggest thing I want out of a job is to be able to do or make something that has a lasting impact on society. I want to help send the first person to Mars, or build machinery that utilizes alternative energy affordably and efficiently, or design something as revolutionary as the iPhone. Something like that I guess.
  • alooknacalooknac Registered User Posts: 998 Member
    Try some career aptitude/interest testing. Your guidance office might have something, or check with a nearby community college if there is one. There may be career paths you never even thought of. There may be paths that have the qualities that attracted you to engineering but rely less on math. Or maybe you'll find out that your capabilities are just fine, as long as you don't apply to MIT.

    I have never been clear on exactly what engineers do, so I wonder how much math is involved on a day to day basis, or is it just something you have to get through? It wouldn't be fun to have a career (or major) that was a continual struggle.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 24,955 Senior Member
    edited May 16
    Lots of kids want to "impact society" and don't realize engineering, as fascinating as it is, is really about the day to day tasks, the pieces, not always the individual creating something big on his/her own. And engineering requires a collaborative nature.

    You don't need to be *the engineer* who's responsible for the math and scientific principles, to work in the field and with the folks. You can be part of the "lasting" good, without being an engineer, per se.

    No idea what tier of colleges you want to aim for. But the more competitive the college, the more you need the math skills, AP physics and at least AP chem, with good grades and the right STEM related scores.

    You have time. But I'd suggest learning what other occupations are needed by engineering firms. it doesn't need to be an engineer or "tech" job to bring you close to that sort of work, that thinking, that sort of problem solving.
  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 2,842 Senior Member
    "the toughest problems to solve are the ones involving people."

    The best quote ever from CC (and very true)!

    The introduction to star trek (the TV show) used to say "Space, the final frontier". I have thought for a while that this is wrong. The final frontier is the inside of the human brain.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,552 Senior Member
    It is really best to take physics and chemistry in high school (they do not necessarily have to be AP level courses). Engineering curricula typically include physics and chemistry; taking them in college without having seen the concepts in high school will be more difficult.
  • scmom12scmom12 Registered User Posts: 2,723 Senior Member
    Relax. Lots of students go to engineering programs without AP level sciences although you ought to take them in some form in HS. Looking at our local state U, for example, to be a mechanical engineer you only need a year of general chemistry, so you don't need to love it or do perfect in it to be an engineer. Anecdotes aren't perfect arguments but my brother had to do pre-cal once he got to college (not offered in HS) and had to have tutoring but still graduated with engineering degree and is coming up on 30 years in the field.

    Explore your interests - computers, statistics, business, philosophy etc involve logical thinking and problem solving. In the meantime, take the level of chemistry and physics where you can make at least a B and don't see your experiences as the end of possibility of being engineer. Take some time to look at some engineering programs on colleges' websites to get a feel for what's expected and what students are doing. Look at ABET accredited programs but beyond that look at a variety of schools.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 7,011 Senior Member
    Luckily you can go to any one of thousands of great colleges and spend two whole years deciding what you actually do want to study. Doesn't seem to me that you really want to be an engineer. Go figure out what to study when you get to college. You don't need to declare a major for a long time. That's the beauty of the American higher education system.
  • bodanglesbodangles Registered User Posts: 8,357 Senior Member
    If you don't start on an engineering track freshman year you're probably not graduating in four years, though.
  • gearmomgearmom Registered User Posts: 2,774 Senior Member
    You might want to consider Technical Writing. Also I would not panic over math yet. I got a C in Calculus in High school with a really tough teacher and had no problem in college.
  • eyemgheyemgh Registered User Posts: 3,877 Senior Member
    I agree 100% with @bodangles, the engineering curricula are so packed and so sequential, that you really need to start in engineering or plan on taking more than 4 years. Even students who start in engineering sometimes take longer. It's FAR easier to switch out of engineering than into it.

    As for the math, it's probably the best predictor of future engineering success. It's very important that you get the foundational concepts because they build on each other. Many of your future engineering concepts are just applied, advanced maths. I'd go to Kahn Academy over the summer and start over. Additionally, BC repeats much of what's in AB, so you'll get a second shot. Maybe you'll get a different and more effective teacher.

    Good luck.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 7,011 Senior Member
    edited May 17
    I am reading between the lines, I admit. This is a person who is 16 or 17. At the age of 11 or 12, she decided she wanted to be an engineer. Now, five years older and wiser, it seems that she is questioning her choice. And so she should be. Far better to do it now, than be switching majors at a college that maybe isn't best for what her real calling is.

    It's great to be interested in engineering. But she struggled with AP chem and dropped it. She struggled with AP Bio and got a B. She isn't excelling in calc, but she's excelling in all her other classes, which are, presumably, social sciences, English, history, FL, etc... Maybe this student isn't really a STEM person. Maybe this student would excel in some other field of study.

    She says she is very stressed by this. It sounds like a classic case of trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole. OP, have you taken one of those tests that helps determine where your interests lie? Maybe you could use one of those to see if engineering really is for you.

    Here are two illustrations of my point, using computer science rather than engineering: My own kid became intensely interested in coding for a time. She taught herself to code in a couple of different languages and created a bunch of pages, or whatever they are called (I am clueless.) She then applied to a competitive summer program to do coding for college credit. She completed the course, had a great time, and learned a lot about coding. The biggest thing she learned was that she didn't actually like coding. What she really liked is what she created when she coded. Thus ended her interest in pursuing that as a major. Tale 2: D's best friend attended CS summer camps several years running. She applied to a well-known university for CS and was accepted. Guess what? She hates it. It's all math all the time. It isn't interesting to her anymore. She doesn't want to spend her life working with computers. She is switching out of her major. I regularly see posts on CC from college students who have come to similar realizations.

    OP, the good news is that you have all summer to research colleges. Maybe your heart truly wants to stick it out. Be aware that you need very good grades to get into engineering programs at many colleges. So if you are struggling now, physics and Calc BC won't be easy. Not trying to put you off, but spend some time thinking about what will happen if you don't study engineering. Will it be the end of the world? No. It means you will simply study something that is of true interest to you, and you don't have to decide right now. Get a Fiske or Princeton guide and come up with a college list over the summer. You have months before you have to apply. You will be fine.
  • eyemgheyemgh Registered User Posts: 3,877 Senior Member
    Yea, after I re-read the original post, I'm not sure that it was even between the lines. :D

    OP, what attracted you to engineering in the first place? Many have a misconception of what engineering actually is. That's why I ask.
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