Changing his mind, unsure of decision?

<p>My son has always been a math and science person, and after doing some engineering apprenticeships, decided to study engineering. Yesterday he came up with the comment that he really doesn't know what he wants to do. This might be coming on the heels of disappointment at the lack of affordability of his first choice school, but maybe he means it. </p>

<p>I know that kids often change their majors during the first couple of years, but he seems to be "lost" and giving up. How shoud I best approach this sudden lack of direction?</p>

<p>I would tell him to go forward with his original math/science plan but right from the start include taking courses in other areas that strike his fancy: business, art, languages, whatever it is that interests him, and see if one of those turns out to be his new major. If not, perhaps his love of math/science will be strengthened, and he will continue with that.</p>

<p>Yes, I will definitely encourage a broader experience of subjects. Thanks!</p>

<p>lkf725, not saying this is what you should try but if he were mine ,I'll be likely to say:</p>

<p>"Great! I was so worried that you were going to tunnel-vision through your college experience without as much as a thought toward the greater world outside of engineering. I'm so excited for you. This is the best news ever. Let's get some course catalogs out and find some cool stuff to take because you are free as a bird and you will never be this free again. Trust me. Look. Here's a Human Anatomy Seminar course-"The Truth About Elvis-Fat or Just Retaining Water?"and here's another related course in the Arts department, "Anna Nicole Smith-A Retrospective on The Importance of Perspective in Photography". And now since you won't be so locked into all those killer courses right away, I think you should consider being in the All-Tuba Band like you wanted to be in the beginning. Ooh, look- the Hillel. I know you aren't Jewish but that would be interesting.... ;)</p>

<p>P.S. The key to this plan working is-you have to believe it,too.Hang in there.</p>

<p>Engineering is a tough major and doesn't leave much room for exploring (too many required classes). A math or science major leaves more room for exploration. My S was thinking about engineering but realized he would rather do a math or science major "now that I know what engineering is"--is how he put it.</p>

<p>My son is just finishing his freshman year. He entered in the fall as a undeclared science major leaning toward either physics or engineering based on his skills and interests in math and science through high school. As we speak he is about to declare himself a philosophy major with english and math minors. I imagine several more permutations over the next three years. I'd reassure you and your son that all of this uncertainty is normal and he should try to take courses first based on the best professors he can find, and second based on topics which are interesting to him. Choosing courses based on the professor seems to open more doors (and eyes) for students then choosing courses on content and subject matter.</p>

<p>cur: Thanks for the laugh...I needed that (your examples are too funny!), but I see what you mean. I myself was undecided and changed majors in college. I guess I should be glad, rather than alarmed, that he is open-mined (thinking calm thoughts, trying to be positive...)</p>

<p>mstee: I had the same thought about the rigor of engineering, as opposed to physics or math. But how on earth will he know if he likes engineering if he doesn't try it? I thought that if he took a semester and found engineering to be a mistake, at least he tried it.</p>

<p>mol10e: Wow, I know what you mean about finding a good professor. It can really color a student's attitude about a subject, as I have seen in high school. How do you find the good ones?</p>

<p>I think he's really disappointed because the first choice school was just too darned expensive and he is also feeling unsure about leaving high school where he was the top of the heap. I just hope he's not depressed.</p>

<p>It is depressing not to be able to go to the school you want. It could be that the disappointment is affecting how he feels about moving on. Maybe he is having trouble getting excited about an engineering major at the school that isn't his first choice. Maybe he is worried that the program won't be as satisfying at the school he'll be attending. Maybe he just needs a little time to get used to the idea of going to this other school. </p>

<p>The engineering apprenticeships must have given him some idea of what engineering is about? Do you know what he liked/didn't like from those experiences? If he liked them, maybe he should stick to his plan to start out in engineering, with the idea that he is not locked into it. He might find that once he is at school, taking classes, that he'll get excited about it again.</p>

<p>Coureur is right. Engineering does not leave a lot of room for exploration, but there are usually some humanities and social science distribution credits in the first year.
If he were mine, and I thought he was on the mark with engineering(one of mine is!). I'd remind him that it is easier to transfer out of engineering than into it, I'd recommend he start out with the current plan and adjust it later if necessary.</p>

<p>Yes mstee, he did enjoy the apprecticeship experiences. Probably engineering is right for him. During the past few days, though, I notice that he has a sad look about him that he'd like to turn and run away. Totally out of character. He wanted to "go for a drive" yesterday, but my husband and I wouldn't let him take the car because he just seemed too distracted to be safe. I just know that a large part of the problem is that his favorite school is so expensive. He feels hurt that they didn't think more of him in the way of merit aid, and although we said we'd assume the additional debt, he doesn't want us to handicap our retirement and his younger sister's future. Really a thoughtful and mature attitude. But the "look" is still there in his eyes, and it breaks my heart.</p>

<p>I'm sure that this time next year everything will be fine and this will be just a bad distant memory.</p>

I said almost the same thing last night. It will certainly be easier to go from engineering to a science or math, than vise verse. That is the logical game plan, and I'm going to continue to encourage it.</p>

Thanks for your replies and advice...I really appreciate it all. Keep it coming!</p>

<p>As someone who began college as an engineering major and then found other things that I was better at and, more importantly, derived more gratification from, I think you handle the sudden lack of direction by being supportive, including being supportive of the indecision. </p>

<p>Funny, but one of my first profs <em>knew</em> I wasn't cut out to be an engineering student but it took me three years to reach the same conclusion. And he was a History prof, not an engineering prof.</p>

<p>The only worrying sign would be if the college he is going to doesn't have a lot of options outside of science/engineering.</p>

<p>One thing I have learned due to S planning engineering: Many engineering programs (including the one he is entering) do NOT leave room for distribtion requirements/exploration of other fields in the first or even the first two years.
I am not in love with this aspect, but it is real life in many curricula.</p>

<p>Several schools we visited recommend that, if one is thinking of engineering, it is a lot easier to move out of it after a semester or year than it is to move into it. Often, if a student changes INTO engineering, it will mean not being able to finish in 4 years. So most schools have recommended starting w. engineering if you are even thinking it's a maybe.</p>

<p>Of course, how do you know you want to try something else if you haven't browsed around in other fields? I suppose it's that you find out what you DON't like.</p>

<p>Also, where S will be going, that first year is NOT full of engineering classes - actually just one. The others are Physics, Math, Chem. So if they change majors, they have a start on another science major, or they've got that distribution area done.</p>

<p>S <em>thinks</em> he's sure of engineering but included in his college choice criteria that the school also have LAS so he can change if he wants.</p>

<p>Bottom line: check at the school your S is considering what the engineering curriculum is the first year or two; find out whether it is easier to transfer into or out; then have him think how interested he might be in engineering so he can decide whether to start there or start in another field.</p>

<p>If your son is going to a state school and the per-year cost isn't too high, I would suggest planning from the start to take 5 years to graduate instead of 4. This reduces the pressure each year and more importantly allows him to take classes outside of engineering.</p>

<p>If he has done apprenticeships were they long enough for him to get a good sense of whether engineering is the right career? One problem is that its hard to know at 17 how you want to spend 40+ years of your life, so choices can switch. The more exposure he gets, the more confident he can be in his choice.</p>

<p>Bottom line, though, I think this is an overwhelming time for many kids. There are specific factors to each kid, like the OP mentioned about not being able to attend the 1st choice school, but I think all kids share on some level more general worries. As HS students everyone is the same, but 4 years from today they will be launched down different paths with some doors seemingly closed forever. I suggest reassuring your son that the choices he makes now aren't permanent; they may make some paths easier and others more difficult, but there are few irreversible decisions made at his age. Just in a thread above this was a link to an article in a paper where engineers were going into all sorts of fields including finance. </p>

<p>The point to get across is that while he's chosen an initial direction out of the starting gate but he doesn't have to have everything figured out today. Nothings set in stone. He should continue to examine whether engineering is right for him, and its relatively easy to switch out of it to something else if he changes his mind. He should also work with the career center at college as part of this process; take aptitude tests, attend talks by visiting alums talking about their career no matter what the field, etc.</p>

<p>Wise post, mikemac, as well as wise advice from all the others. Even tho the point of my post was to talk about how engineering programs work, I too believe that there is no need, nor even any value, in knowing at this point what he wants to major in or "be when he grows up." Exploring many options in the first 2-4 semesters would be ideal, I think. However, if engineering is a big factor in the mix, he needs to think carefully about whether to start out full-bore engineering and change if it doesn't feel right; or start out exploring and maybe need more semesters/years to complete the engineering curriculum if he goes that route.</p>

<p>Let us know how his choices develop.</p>

<p>My son and I were watching "50 First Dates" a week or so ago when suddenly he announced that he wasn't sure about bio-engineering (his chosen major) and that he has always loved marine biology. He asked if I thought he would be able to switch from the engineering school to
A & S. Aside from thinking "My God, will this ever end?" (he had just chosen between biology at one school and bio-engineering at another) I decided to do a little research and started here at CC where I was given some guidance about marine biology programs. I was happy to see that engineering does not foreclose the marine biology option and I'll show the links to my son when he gets back from senior trip. Like I said on another thread, I think some of these kids feel locked in for life by selecting a major like engineering. It might help to point out that isn't necessarily true.</p>