college workloads and assumptions of others

laurilyeOctober 5, 2007

I have a son in his third year of college in electrical engineering.

His class are outrageously difficult. Physics and the like.

He's unusually bright, and understands such things in a way that leaves me in awe, but he still has probably 3 hours of homework per class, every day. If he has a test to study for, basically he studies until he finally has to go to bed, sometimes after three in the morning. He understands his field is very competetive, and his grades will be the deciding factor in the jobs he will be eligible for, so he applies himself, and never ever complains. I could never do what is required as he has. I am quite proud of him for his dedication and maturity.

He has absolutely no life. I have fought with him before about getting out and having a little fun once in a while. He has about 8 buddies who basically lived here, during high school. They had more than their share of crazy good times. They come by, out together having a good time, he would love to, but he turns them down. Now they just wait till breaks in school like christmas, to see him. I can't believe how well he handles watching every one he knows moving out, having jobs and decent money, being young bachelors with no parental supervision. I can tell ya, these guys are having a ball. He never complains, or even appears jealous. I would be, lol

Due to illness, he had to drop 4 classes, mid way thru, and was not allowed back to school for 6 months, it killed his grades and his transcript looks pitiful because of it. College doesn't as why, they just put your application in the bottom of the pile. so he has had to take larger work loads than normal to make up for lost time. This has made him about a year older for the grade he is in, leaving him open to assumptions and judgements, that he's slacking thru school living off of mommy and daddy so he doesn't have to get a real job.

My question is, has any one else had a child in school working their ( l )'s off, that were judged unfairly, as someone who didn't work, living off their parents, and did they have a way of handling it that helped. My son has talked about getting a job a few times, and I have discouraged it, I don't see how he could manage both. He doesn't have 4 hours to spare, let alone 8 from the studies he has.

He really deserves to be admired for his commitment and sacrifice, in my opinion. I am so tired of defending him to people who don't know what college really involves, especially to the dental assistants and lab technicians, who worked their way thru school, and don't realize the difference between understanding how a tooth is distracted from understanding physics, and that they are presented questions that they take two weeks to answerer



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I do think employeers look at/for employees who work and go to school, they want to know that they have a work experience. At least summers.

Will that prevent him from getting a job, will being the year older than his classmates affect this. I would say no to both.

In college his age does not matter for the classes he's in. It is not High School. He will have students younger than him get better grades, he'll be in with older students who worked and are going back to school. Some will work full time and school part time, etc.

So what I'm trying to say here is to remove that thought from your mind. The transcript will possibly affect him. POSSIBLY. If he dropped the classes though, there will be no grade to pull down his GPA. WHy does he need larger class loads? He does not HAVE to finish in 4 years, many students take 5 years to get a 4 year degree, it is actually the norm now.

Good luck, there is a great demand for Engineers, and I doubt he'll have to worry about having to find a job.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 6:05PM
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I can't imagine why at college age a year would be in any way obvious as "older". Are you sure you are not reading something into this?
Lots of kids work their way through college....and lots of others live in an apartment or a dorrn and have to see to their own laundry food and shopping etc.
Frankly I think your son DOES have it easy, compared to other engineering students. Not diuscounting how hard he works...but that's what it's all about.
One of my daughter's good friends went to MIT, Nuclear engineering, a 5 year program and he would finish with a masters. He took a break after 2 years...just needed to, and also needed to earn some money, went back and finished...yeah it was hard but he managed to date my daughter during some of that time and work as a dJ and a waiter...and graduate with honors.
Yeah...I know lots of people have no idea what college is, but that's their problem....just ignore any comments. You should feel no need to defend him, let him do that himself.
But really he is lucky to have a place at home, mom to defend him and cook his meals and do his laundry, lots of people work their way through an engineering degree, as well as medical school, dental school and law school.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 5, 2007 at 6:23PM
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Hi Laurily

My DD is in third year University, living on campus. We pay her accommodation charge and she pays for everything else, like books, internet, and her endless amount of "stuff" that she needs to survive. She will also pay for her tuition, when she gets a proper job. At the college there are all sorts of ages, and some of the students pay for the whole thing themselves, by slaving away at jobs, and class. Some are older students who have worked for years, saved the money and now spend it on their studies. Its such a diverse group of people I don't think anyone makes assumptions or judgements, because they are all working so hard to get ahead.

My DD does have friends from school, who are living the high life, and travelling, cars, clothes, etc, but it doesn't affect my DD at all. She is doing what she wants to do, and thats it. She knows her "reward" will come when she has finished her degree.

I am sure that your son is in the same situation as my DD.

Perhaps it is a good idea for him to seek work in the summer holidays, so he can get out in the world.

I can understand your concern about him not socialising, but he must see people when he goes to the campus. Maybe that is all he is happy with at this stage. He sounds like he is focusing all his time on his course, that's okay.

Let him be, he sounds like he is doing the right thing. Good luck to him.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 2:55AM
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My husband also has eng. degrees. Mechanical by trade with Nuclear and Electrical thrown in in his present job. He worked his way through college. With small amounts of money sent to him by his parents. He shared an apartment with 3 other guys and he still had great grades. Studied like the dickens but also went out and socialized. So, living at home I also think your son has it easier then most eng. students. If that is how he wants to do it and it is working for him then let him be. You owe no one an explanation. People arrive at their goals in different ways. There is no one right way. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 6:49AM
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It sounds as if your son is happy and doing well. Are people, such as the lab techs and dental assts. you mentioned, questioning your son or you? If him, and he is bugged by it, then help him learn how to rebuff rude questions (Miss Manners offers great suggestions for how not to answer questions that should never have been asked.) If those people are quizzing you, then perhaps you need to develop the same skill and not be drawn into such conversations.

FWIW, I've never heard of a college student being described as a year older (or younger) than their "grade." These days, it's also far more common for students to take a gap year before college, or to work and take reduced course loads, both of which delays graduation. Many new grads are 22 - 25, not 21. No one really cares, and it surely doesn't seem to hurt their career chances. Please don't let others create problems for you, or worse, for your son. He has plenty of more important things to consider now.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 3:28PM
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I, too, think you're putting way too much emphasis on his age--there is NO 'age for his grade' in college. Some people are older because it took them an extra year in high school to get their act together. Some are older because they made bad choices in college and are going through on the 5 year plan (or 6--or in the case of my niece--the '7 year plan'). Some people take a year off before enrolling in college. Some are out of school many years before going back. I've found that most college classes have quite a mix of ages, and no one thinks anything of it at all. My dd had a man in his late 50's in her class, in her major. Truth be told? She'd messed around for a couple of years, so was about 2 years older than she was 'supposed' to be (???? whatever that means) when she started in the major she graduated in--and she was STILL the youngest in the department. So don't think anything of the age thing--I'm actually having a hard time figuring out why anyone who had been to college would be commenting on it at all. Because they KNOW that there's a huge range of ages.

Well, anyway, sounds as if your son has his head on straight, is hard working, and will make a success of things.

I wouldn't worry too much about the gap in his resume, either--when he adds a note about his health, I think it will turn to an advantage that he fought back to regain his health and then to succeed in such a difficult field--at least with any employer who's worth working for.

I'd wish him luck, but I have a feeling he makes his own luck. For you? Just relax, let him do his job, and continue to be as proud of him as you are.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 11:50PM
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Thank you all so much. It's nice to have input from people who know first hand what engineering classes are like.

As I read your generous responses, I realized I left you all a bit unsure who was concerned here, him or I. His dad and I have practically taken him by the ear, and put him in a car with his buddies, so he will get a break and have some laughs, and he is always glad he did.

For some reason, this post made me see what I already knew, but was careful not to admit to you and even to myself. He has a girlfriend who is 3 years older, with a 10 yr old daughter. For alot of understandable reasons, she is more than anxious to loose the title single mom and get married. He wants to wait till he graduates to marry, and this makes her resent how much school he has left, She is really laying on the pressure. If she want to go out She complains in front of his friends and her family, about how much he studies, and I have been there when she has stated that she is the only one who works, leaving out the fact he is in college full time, as if it isn't an appropriate detail for such a remark. She believes that because she was able to get thru dental assistant school and still party, that engineering school should be the same, she knows it's not true, but when she wants to do something one evening and he has a test the next day, she resorts back to these kind of judgements, saying it not only to him, but she says it to his friends and her family, and even my husband and I. It's tough as a parent to watch, because It tears him down and belittles the hard work he puts forth with consistancy and with out whining. I see it in his face, and we have talked about it, they have broke up over it but they always get back together.

I guess I didn't want to admit it was not just people in general, but her, because there is basically nothing I can do to make this right for him. That is about them and thier issues, and I have no place in the middle of it. I don't want to meddle in his life, tho I sometimes do accidentally.

As far as working, he has worked thru the summers. And he's mentioned working during school. We have told him, it's his choice, but if it's strictly money driving that idea, to know we can give him what he needs. I hate to tell this, but we lost a family business we had for 32 years, last year, and it was messy. It was and still is a a very tough time, and there was no way to hide that from our kids. What it has done to him is make him feel guilty for the expense of college. We have a college fund, that is much smaller than it was, but its still enough. But he knows that the bank was able to 75 percent of our retirement, but we still will not starve. We have tried to convince him of this, but when he sees us watch our funds in little ways we never ever did before, he feels like hes partly the cause.

Wow, people; this is getting more complicated and pathetic by the minute. And as I try to make it sound better or lighter I seem to do the opposite, so I am just going to stop and thank you all for your help.

I am going to realize that this problem is with his girlfriend and is something only he can handle. And your inquiring minds are what made me realize that so thanks to you all.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 11:12AM
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Your latest post makes this whole drama make more sense...

As you already know, someone who truly loves another person will want what's best for that person -- even when it's inconvenient. In other words, if your son's girlfriend truly loves him, she will want him to study, get good grades, and finish his degree with the best possible options available for his (and their) future. If she's at all mature, the short-term fun of going out and partying would be put into proper perspective, and she would never demean him in public - especially not for doing the right thing.

Is there a way you could get this message through to your son without mentioning the girlfriend at all? Just getting him to realize that she's putting her own selfish desires above what's legitimately best for him? And that's not how a good future-spouse behaves.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 11:56AM
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Yes things are clearer now, and what a complicated situation you are all in. Life is a challenge for you all at this time.

I think Sweeby hit the nail on the head. One should question the girl's intentions. She really is totally selfish, in putting her needs before others. It is interesting for you all to see, how she handles this stressful situation. It really is a portal for the future marriage of these two people. Lets face it marriage is really difficult at times, and its how you both handle the hard times which counts as a measure of the "success" of the union.

If she is raving on now, the way she does to everyone who will listen, she shows that she lacks maturity on many fronts. I would also question the worth of this woman as a mother for your grand children. She is not the ideal role model for the child that she already has.

Perhaps in your clever motherly way, you can introduce these elements of doubt in your son's mind. I would not go down the road of open critisism of the woman. I know its difficult to find the words.

I applaud your wonderful son for being so vigilant with his studies and working hard towards his goal in the face of a lot of distraction. His studies come first, that's it, in my mind.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 8:57PM
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Yes, definitely puts a different spin on things. I was assuming that it was 'fringe friends' who were making the remarks.

Well, his girlfriend is definitely more in love with herself than him from the sounds of things. But the last thing a parent can do successfully with a child that age, is try to manage their love life. In a case like this, I've found, it's best to sit back, say nothing, and wait for your child to see the light. The glimmer usually comes much quicker if they aren't in the position of having to defend the girl/boy friend to their parents. So, grit your teeth, sit back, take up an engrossing hobby to keep your mind occupied--and just wait. He sounds like a guy who's too smart to let this little cookie get away with her shenanigans for too long.

The one thing you should do is reassure him that the ONLY investment that you care about is his education. If he truly is uncomfortable about the cost, tell him not to worry about it now, but once he's graduated, he's welcome to make a few deposites to the retirement fund, if he feels it's important to him--and do accept gracefully, if he does that voluntarily and it's important to him.

Hang in there. You obviously did a great job with him. He'll be okay in the long run, just give him the time to finish the great education you started for him (and I'm talking about the 'life' education, not the college one).

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 10:54PM
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I agree that
- his age vis-a-vis that of his peers is a non-issue
- the issue here is the conflict between what he needs to do for his education and his relationship with his girlfriend, not what "people" do or don't understand about the enormous demands of engineering school.

I am only joining in to make two other observations. First, don't be too hard on the girlfriend. I'm not saying that he should short his studying to accommodate her desires for a social life! Far from it -- this may not be the best relationship for him at all, and anyway, he has to put school first.

But if I am doing the math right, she is about 24 or so, right? And she has a 10 year old daughter. That does indeed support other posters' concerns about her own judgment -- but it also makes me think that this girl knows a thing or two about balancing school and outside life! Her program was certainly not anywhere near as demanding as his -- but she had a child to care for while she was at it. So I can see why she feels like after having to put in all that time of sacrifice herself for so many years for her own career, she doesn't want to keep postponing having fun while someone else does it for his. That may just make them a bad match, or anyway a bad match for this time in his life. But I don't think it makes her a bad or selfish person.

Which brings me to the second observation. As azzalea put it so well, interfering in their relationship or expressing reservations about her is sure to backfire. Stay out of it. Just encourage his sticking to his good attitude about studying. If his relationship with her interferes with that, he will find it out himself; if YOU point it out, he will just dig in his heels and defend her, not only to you, but to himself, which will mean he will start discounting his own interests in favor of advocating for her when he thinks about the relationship himself.

Ditto pushing him to go party with his pals. I would back off from that, too, even though he has been glad that he went out when you pushed him in the past. He may have other reasons for wanting to back away a little from those friends, or he may really prefer immersing himself in his studies for a while and postponing fun. Some people find they work better that way. Engineering, law, and medical students often seem to disappear from the earth for a few years -- but they eventually return! Let him find his own balance. He has enough to worry about without adding the fear that you are disappointed with or concerned about his choices or pressuring him to strike a different balance -- he's already getting that from his girlfriend. You can say, "Yes, but she's doing that for her own reasons; we're doing it for his own good." But from his point of view, it probably feels pretty much the same. He doesn't want to displease either of you.

Of course you would have to step in if he were in crisis. But it sounds to me like his choices are pretty good ones, so I would let him be. Often, the hardest thing for us parents to do is to know when to shut up and when to speak up. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 11:46AM
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