Surviving College Past the Second Year

This was a “Note” I posted on Facebook but decided to move it here so that my blog looks less sparse.
Update, June 4, 2011

He survived his second year–yay! Home for the summer and working/going to summer school. Good to have at least one motivated child!

My son is in his second year of college at A&M. The second year seems to be the most challenging–that’s when Son#1 gave up and came back home. A lot of people that age are going through the same thing, so I thought I would write about my “college experience” (20 years in the making!). (This is the condensed version. I could write a novel series about it!)

I know you hate to hear “when I was a kid” but here it is anyway. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a translator at the UN. I did very well in Spanish (although you wouldn’t know it now) and thought it would be fun (except for the living in NYC part). My parents refused to pay for my college–girls who grew up in the 70s were supposed to get married and have babies, not careers!–so I joined the Air Force. In my senior year of high school, I worked as a janitor in one of the buildings downtown, and I cleaned the computer floor. At that time, computers were big behemoths (“main frames”) with keypunch cards, mag tape units, teletype machines, and huge hard drives called “RapidAccess Disk” or RAD, as big as a stove! (RAM was cabinets and cabinets full of cards with wire-wrapped magnets!) I often talked to the computer people on the floor who always worked late, so when I talked to the AF recruiter and he asked me what I wanted to do, I said, “Something with computers.” So I went to AF tech school to be a “digital flight simulator specialist” which is basically an electronic technician. I worked on the FB-111A simulator which was controlled by a 3 mainframe computers. Very fun job to have, because I also got to “fly” the simulator. I had to fly it to replicate whatever problem the pilot had written up. (e.g., if he said, “The BDHI sticks at flight level 3000 when I turn to heading 230,” I had to “take off,” go to 30,000 feet, and then turn to heading 230. Then fix whatever I thought the problem was, and try it again.) When I got out of the Air Force, I got a job at Hughes Aircraft working on a Navy system installed on aircraft carriers–which is how I met Bill. He worked on the same system. (They called us when the sailors couldn’t fix it–HA HA!) So, naturally, when I went to college, I thought getting a degree in Electrical Engineering or Computer Science would make sense, right? Every semester while I was in the AF, I was also in college, taking a class here and a class there–and letting them pay for 80% of the tuition. I got my general AA degree from UNH and an AAS in Training Devices (electronics and flight systems) from CCAF. But getting a BSEE meant a lot of math–PAST Calculus 3, etc. I had no problem with electronic circuits, binary/octal/hex, computer stuff, and doing the math if I had the formula written down, but I did have a problem remembering the formulas. I gave up and switched majors from BSEE, to BSCS, to BS Chemistry (I thought Environmental Engineering would be awesome), back to BSEE, then finally BA Communication. (BA, because I no longer needed math or science.) I also no longer needed any electives, because I had twice the credits I needed for my degree.

So what I’m saying is that MANY people change majors more than once. You just have to take the undergrad classes that can apply to about any degree, and hopefully during that time something will pop out at you that you’d really like to do for a career. For me it was writing–and I’m still doing “something with computers”!!