My life is in shambles. How do I reclaim it?
August 30, 2010 5:46 AM   Subscribe

I nearly failed out of college a few years ago. I took a break, came back and finished my degree in 2009, but now I am unemployable because my GPA is a mess. Should I redo undergrad?

I graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in the Spring of 2009. The questions and answers in this thread are all very applicable to my situation, though I was able to finish my degree.

To sum up, I was suffering (and still am, intermittently) depression in college and failed for three semesters straight. I was forced to take academic leave, then returned to finish because I did not know what else to do.

My GPA was a 2.7 when I graduated. My experience in college was traumatic, and I am still coping with mistakes that I made when I was 21 (I am 26 now). I feel like I had the brains to be an extremely successful person, and it's depressing me further that I have wrecked my life for the past 5-6 years.

I have half-heartedly sought employment since graduating, but I've been unemployed for the last 8 months. My work since college has all been menial. Job seeking fills me with much anxiety, as when I seek menial work to get me through this period, I feel like I am prolonging my situation, and I feel inadequate when applying for EE jobs. My GPA is poison in every professional interview I am granted.

I have around 50k in student loans. I am neglecting those now. Surely my credit score is a disaster.

My parents are still propping me up at 26 as I seek employment in another city. This fills me with shame. I feel lazy and worthless.

I KNOW I'm smart enough to be successful, but I am afraid that I have closed the door on every possible avenue to success. With every passing month, I can feel my life slipping away from me further. I try not to focus on other people, but it distresses me when I hear that old friends are now very successful and I am wallowing away over here. When I see young professionals commuting to work on the train, I am filled with jealous envy.

My concern is not so much with pursuing something I'm passionate about. Plenty of people have rewarding, fulfilled lives while working jobs that simply pay the bills. This is how I feel about electrical engineering. I'm not passionate about it, but I know I can succeed at it, and that alone would fill me with much pride. It would be naive to think that every engineer, lawyer, or MBA was "passionate" about their work. I'm looking for the most practical route to get my life back on track.

I don't even know where to begin. Do I move home? Then what?

I am tempted to try undergrad again, but I really don't want to put life off for another 3-4 years. How quickly could I theoretically finish with all of my transfer credits from my first try? I would like to avoid returning to my old school because I was an out-of-state student, and tuition was expensive. My parents are very supportive, and I think they would help me, although I feel guilty asking for anything and would like to bust my ass and do it on my own.

Is it foolish to consider grad school an option? It feels foolish to me.

Should I just cope with my past and seek employment with my degree?

Have any other MeFites had success returning to college after a failed first try? Any advice?
posted by Team of Scientists to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that I saw a therapist when I returned to college last year through the university's support network. It was helpful, and I would like to continue, but my lack of income is prohibiting now. Surely, if I attended school again I would be ready to access similar resourced if met with similar episodes of depression.
posted by Team of Scientists at 5:51 AM on August 30, 2010

Is sharing your GPA a necessity to get a job? I mean a diploma is a diploma is a diploma. I wouldn't re-do anything.

Just keep moving in a direction, get experience in doing what you like/want/can do and things will fall into line.

Good luck.
posted by Mysticalchick at 5:55 AM on August 30, 2010

Is sharing your GPA a necessity to get a job? I mean a diploma is a diploma is a diploma. I wouldn't re-do anything.

It is for engineering jobs.
posted by atrazine at 5:57 AM on August 30, 2010

The last thing you need to do right now is go back to school. You're already $50K in debt and you don't want to dig that hole any deeper.

Your best bet is just to to put the other half of your heart into your job search. In a competitive job market, the employer can be very picky and your interview is the key to overcoming your GPA. Perhaps you need to brush up on ways to present yourself at the interview.

Don't be a slave to your GPA either. Come up with a good answer for when it comes up in interviews. You are not your GPA, so stop setting your value by it.
posted by inturnaround at 6:00 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

For some industries and jobs, GPA is relevant. For others it is not.

If your industry is one for which employers care about GPA, then you have a couple of choices:

(1) Find another industry in which to work, or
(2) Figure out how to get an employer to employ you in spite of your GPA.

The first option is easier than the second.

I don't see why you would want to pursue another undergrad degree. If you're 26 now, you'd be 30 before you have the second degree, and would have that much more in student loans. It's not like engineering is investment banking; it would take you a while to pay off all those loans.
posted by dfriedman at 6:02 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've never had a pitential employer ask about my GPA, and even big companies like Google care about it less than you think, especially if you are smart like you claim to be. Quit it with the half-hearted job search; you did that in college and you know how that turned out. It seems that your GPA is just a convenient scapegoat for not getting your shit together in the first place - it shouldn't matter if you learn to interview well.
posted by halogen at 6:04 AM on August 30, 2010 [6 favorites]

You said you're getting interviews, which is good. I think what you need to do is put the GPA into a narrative context. You need to come up with things that you learned from your struggles in college -- how it helped you to articulate your values, how you learned to keep going despite struggles, how you learned that you had tenacity and strength that you didn't know you had, and how that ability to transcend your own ego and keep going will make you an excellent engineer.

Or something like that. People love stories and would probably be willing to give you a chance if you can figure out how to make this a story about how near-failure can teach you how to achieve success.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:11 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you may want to consider the path of working for an electrical engineering company but maybe not as an electrical engineer. Maybe apply for any and all of the office jobs they have available. Your degree in electrical engineering may hold some relevance, and you can demonstrate your actual knowledge (vs what knowledge your GPA says you have). Then maybe once they know you and know what you know, maybe you can move into the electrical engineering as an electrical engineer.

Bear in mind as you conduct your job search that there are many paths to the same career. Yours may be more roundabout than someone else's.
posted by zizzle at 6:15 AM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's the old joke paraphrased "What do you call an electrical engineer that graduates last in his class?...An Electrical Engineer." In other words you have the degree, you should be able to sell yourself as an engineer. If at all possible withhold that information until after the interview. you can always say that you are having a problem getting transcripts from the school.
posted by Gungho at 6:16 AM on August 30, 2010

It's not your GPA. It's your depression. Try to get any job at all, to get yourself out of the house and moving, and get therapy. Talk to a physician, and consider medication. Resolving the depression will get you on track to resolve your other problems.
posted by theora55 at 6:16 AM on August 30, 2010 [6 favorites]

Yes, for an engineering job your GPA does matter. But it will always be your GPA. You can't just do college "again." There aren't do-overs or redos. You could get another degree, sure, but that will take years and it will cost money you don't have.

If you have been neglecting 50k in student loans, you really need to take care of that right away. You can't get rid of those loans in bankruptcy. You absolutely need to stop ignoring those and talk to your creditors. Take any job you can get that pays.

The other thing you need is therapy.
posted by twblalock at 6:22 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't hire you either, if this is at all how you come off in interviews. Look, lots of people screw up with the GPA. Anyone that's done anything worthwhile with themselves has screwed up something at least once. And seriously... You've really only been responsible for yourself for 8 years or so. There's no way you've pooched everything so badly in 8 years that you'll never turn it around.

Reposting from stuff I've said elsewhere, tell me, what did you actually _do_ during your schooling and with your jobs? Sit and think about what you've done and accomplished. Go through all your completed assignments, your extracurriculars, your jobs, and look at what you've done. Look at it through the lens of:

- What technical skills did I use to accomplish this? Have I shown myself very capable with the subject matter?

- What personal skills did I use to accomplish this? Was I resourceful in finding citations? Did I take a leadership role? Did I resolve group conflict? Did I show inventiveness in finding solutions?

zizzle has some great points about getting in easy and then transfering into the job you want. This is the old apply for general studies then transfer in to the highly competitive program at the college you like trick, only repurposed for the work force.

Also consider getting yourself an internship. An internship in your field could easily prove that you have the capacity to kick ass in the work force but just had some issues with college.

Just make sure you keep your head on straight and focus on results and accomplishments. A history of those will compensate for just about anything.

Finally, start listening to the Career Tools podcasts at Manager Tools and implementing the recommendations. Purchase their interviewing series. You don't have to be the best possible candidate, you just have to be the best available.
posted by bfranklin at 6:33 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you've received some great advice from the other commenters. Here's my two cents.

A few don'ts:

1) Don't let your low GPA bring down your confidence! You know that you're smart, and your low GPA is not a reflection of your capabilities. You were dealing with a lot as an undergrad, yet you made it through college. That's a huge accomplishment in itself. Your job search is just another obstacle that, with some perseverance, you will be able to overcome.

2) Don't focus your energy on other people's careers! Everyone's path is different. There is no use in comparing yourself to other young professionals you see. You have no idea what their story is or what kind of lives they lead.

3) Don't be ashamed of living with your parents. Lots (and I mean LOTS) of young people are moving back home because the job market is terrible.

4) Don't go back to school. Redoing an entire degree is not worth the lost income and extra debt you'll accumulate.


1) Focus on the present instead of the past (and even the future).

2) Consider leaving engineering. Find any job that pays. If you cannot get a job in your field, you may have to broaden your horizons, either temporarily or permanently. Any income is better than no income.

3) Do some networking with friends and family. Let people know you're looking for a job.

4) Volunteer with local organizations. Many non-profits hire hardworking volunteers when a position opens.

5) See a therapist or psychiatrist. (Maybe your parents could help pay for it?) There's no shame in talking about your difficulties or taking a medication that could help ease your worries.

Best of luck!
posted by camcol at 6:37 AM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: No, halogen, my GPA is not merely a "convenient scapegoat" for "not getting (my) shit together." You're suggesting that I wish to remain unemployed and drifting. I want desperately out of my current situation, and I come here asking for practical advice, not a condescending kick-in-the-pants pep talk from someone who is clearly sneering at me.
posted by Team of Scientists at 6:44 AM on August 30, 2010

I am with people who think it sounds more like depression than GPA problems, but I will chime in to say that you can subdivide your GPA if that will help. When you're putting a resume together, you can list your GPA in major classes only, or in upper-division (300 and above, or your school's equivalent, only), or even for the last two years or since you returned to school. You need to specify you're doing this, but it will make a difference to people if your grades were much better after your break from school than before, or strong in upper-division classes or in your major field.

One of my closest friends flunked out of school twice before finally finishing his degree in his 30s. People take all sorts of paths to get where they're going. Don't beat yourself up because yours had a detour or two. But do, if you can, dive whole-heartedly into the job search; you may have more success than you think if you really give job hunting a chance.
posted by not that girl at 6:45 AM on August 30, 2010

Have you looked into getting a forebearance on your loans? If you are unemployed or don't make much money you would almost certainly qualify if your loans are actual student loans. This will allow you to stop making payments for up to a year without going into default. Look on the website for whoever holds your loan for information. You will probably need to call and talk to a representative at some point, but they are very willing to work with you. (I've also managed to do it through the website without even talking to a human, so at least check out that option if talking to a person intimidates you.)

How were your grades after you went back to school? If you got decent grades after you got back from academic leave, maybe you could get someone from the school to write you a letter to vouch for the fact that you were doing well once you got your depression treated.

For what it's worth, I know someone who went through pretty much the same thing as you college-wise, and he's made a very nice career for himself in software development. For awhile his college experience loomed large in his mind as being a HUGE MESS he had made and then had to struggle to get himself out of, but a few years and some job successes later, he looks back and sees it as just a bump in the road. A fairly large bump to be sure, but no longer the defining story of his life.

Don't despair. You will find a way out of this. Bad credit doesn't have to be forever, it takes some time and diligence to get out of it but it can be done. And it's not the end of the world, it's more just a pain in the ass. For the few years it takes to get your credit score back on track, you buy things with cash, you rent your place instead of owning and if you can't pay cash for a car, you wind up paying an assload of interest to get financing. Sucks, but it won't kill you and you can still have a nice life.

Finding a job is tricky for everyone these days but if you persist you will almost certainly find something. You can always look into a change in field if you really can't find anyone in your current field who will give you a chance after hearing your "story," as A Terrible Llama brought up.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:55 AM on August 30, 2010

If all else fails, lower your expectations. Seriously. Some kind of menial or internship job IN YOUR FIELD is going to be less financially draining than going back to school, and as others have amply pointed out, going back will prove nothing if you basically learned the curricula. You will always have those holes in your background that have to be explained.

The good news, and I say this as a sometime hiring manager, although not in engineering - everyone has warts. A 2.7 GPA is far from the worst of them. LACK OF ANY JOB EXPERIENCE is bigger, and harder and harder to get over as you age. 26 is not so bad, but your window's closing.

I'd find a grunt job somewhere - whether you love or hate the company, whether you think they're going under in 2 weeks, whether the boss comes across as a jerk, whatever. Get on the field and off the sidelines. Develop some experience and a niche you like (or at least can get good at). Companies don't pay big bucks for EEs, they pay big bucks for someone who can solve their specific problems. After attending a prestigious kudzu league private school and getting an IT degree, Mrs. RKS got her first job on the strength of knowing one particular utility which she mostly learned while doing a co-op job.

And then use that job and the contacts you make as a stepping stone to the next. And so on. And so on. By your second or third job, your GPA is a minor footnote to the story which IS your previous job performance. By your second or third GOOD job, you can actively point out your GPA and laugh at the irony.

If you project as positive and confident (fake it until you make it!), you'll go places. MF is a good place to anonymously vent, but to your co-workers you act as if you've got it together. People want and need to hire confident winners, not angsty people. Sorry, but that's the way it is.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:00 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sorry dude, I'm n-thing the "don't use your GPA as an excuse" sentiment.

First of all, are you quite sure that EE is truly what you're cut out for? Maybe it's just not for you. With half-hearted attitude, a bad academic record, and the way the economy is right now, do you really think you stand much of a chance of getting hired?

I mean, you might get a job as an EE. But who's to say that you wouldn't fall into a depression again and the whole cycle from college wouldn't repeat.

It's like you said, you know you are smart enough to be successful, so why aren't you? Could it be that you are barking up the wrong tree? Maybe you should be pursuing something you're passionate about, because then you would be making progress in something that matters.

Think long term: What do you actually want to do in this world? What do you want to share with others? What do you love to do regardless of the money? What comes easy to you but hard to others? What skills do you have that other people are always complimenting you about?

It's definitely going to take time to develop those skills and talents to a level where you can contribute great value and make a good living. But it's better to start now developing them. Once you start taking some steps in that direction, I bet you'll have a much easier time finding a decent practical job that simply pays the bills. You'll start earning some self-respect and setting your sights higher than just menial jobs to get by.

Think ahead 15 or 20 years from now. By that time those young professionals commuting on the train that you're so jealous of will be middle-aged professionals commuting on the train, and you won't be so jealous of them then.

P.S. Face up to your student loans. Treat your money and your credit with respect. Call your lenders and ask them what deferment or forbearance options you have. They deal with situations like yours all the time. (See this is what I'm talking about -- SELF-RESPECT. How can you respect yourself if you can't even pick up the phone and deal with your debts? Do this now.)
posted by Theloupgarou at 7:02 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Start applying for more jobs that don't care about your GPA. There is a tendency for graduates to narrow their vision to jobs directly related to their degree, but really many employers are happy with ANY degree; it shows that you can set a goal and achieve it, and that you have a certain level of general education.

Really, only about 1 in 4 Americans has any kind of college degree. You already out-qualify most people. Try to expand the scope of your search, get a good reference under your belt (even if it's just mindless physical labor), and continue putting out applications to jobs while you work until you get one that satisfies you.
posted by Menthol at 7:13 AM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: My grades were very strong when I returned to finish. I only had to take 6 courses to finish, but they were mostly upper-level and relatively difficult. I do feel pretty proud of that, and it's something that I'm trying to play up in interviews. I'm not sure if there's a good way to incorporate that into my resume (it seems ridiculous to say on a resume "GPA in Final Two Semesters: 3.8!" and then conveniently disregard the rest of my grades), but perhaps it would work well in a cover letter.

Would I be better off to address my poor performance and subsequent recovery when I apply for jobs or would that simply weed me out from too many interview invitations?
posted by Team of Scientists at 7:16 AM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: That's fine, Theloupgarou. It was the tone of halogen's post that pissed me off.

But yes, I know that I am cut out for EE. In the classes where I attended like a model student, I always felt very capable and interested. My failures were in understanding how to "use" college as a tool for career success (e.g., developing relationships with profs, networking with my peers, volunteering for student projects) and in recognizing/repairing my own depression. I often felt like an outsider, as if most students besides myself understood something that escaped me.
posted by Team of Scientists at 7:29 AM on August 30, 2010

it seems ridiculous to say on a resume "GPA in Final Two Semesters: 3.8!" and then conveniently disregard the rest of my grades

Why does it seem ridiculous? Its pertinent information. The point of a resume is not to be a solemn accounting of the facts. Its there to get you a job. In fact I would recommend you format you resume like that exactly.
posted by Rubbstone at 7:32 AM on August 30, 2010

"No, halogen, my GPA is not merely a "convenient scapegoat" for "not getting (my) shit together." You're suggesting that I wish to remain unemployed and drifting. I want desperately out of my current situation, and I come here asking for practical advice, not a condescending kick-in-the-pants pep talk from someone who is clearly sneering at me."

Team of Scientists - it's important to realize that depression can lead to significant distortions in your perception of how other people are judging you. I can't speak for halogen, but reading his comment as a neutral outsider it is far from clear that he is sneering at you or that he thinks you want to be unemployed.

What I think he is saying:

According to you, your job search has been half-hearted. Given the current economy, this is pretty much sufficient to guarantee failure in finding a job.
According to you, your GPA is "poison", but you present no evidence that it has been the deciding factor in your not receiving a job offer. You state that you feel inadequate when applying for EE jobs. If you are allowing your potential employers to see that feeling of inadequacy during interviews, that could easily be more decisive than your GPA.
None of the above means you want to be unemployed. Depression just has a way of sabotaging your goals.

Speaking for myself, rather than halogen, I have no idea of how important GPA is in hiring an entry-level engineer. Several posters have stated that it is a factor, but I don't know how significant a factor it is compared to other considerations. I suspect you really don't either. Given that, your best shot at success is to do everything you can to maximize all the factors which are under your control - stop being half-hearted with your job search, start learning to really sell yourself in job interviews.

That said, job hunting in a bad economy can be demoralizing even for people with a lot of self-confidence. Even when you know what you need to do, it isn't always emotionally easy. You've received a lot of good advice in this thread. Try to follow it, but don't beat yourself up if it doesn't lead to immediate success. After you do the work for your daily job search, take the initiative to look after your own emotional well-being, whether that's time spent in therapy, exercise, hobbies, or whatever.

Good luck!
posted by tdismukes at 7:34 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Would I be better off to address my poor performance and subsequent recovery when I apply for jobs or would that simply weed me out from too many interview invitations?

If it were me, I'd avoid it until the interview, then address it as positively as you can. Something like:

"I want to be honest with you; I am not perfect. Looking at my grades you can see I went through a difficult period which lowered my overall GPA. I made mistakes and I struggled, but I forced myself to pull out of it, as you can also see by the improvement in my grades before I graduated.

"I can't promise you I will never make another mistake, because I'm a human being, and we all make mistakes. What I can promise you, and what my history shows, is that I will not give up. I will work hard and be dedicated for as long as you will let me and you will never regret giving me a chance to prove that to you.

"What we do today will echo in eternity. Are you not entertained?!? They will never take... OUR FREEDOM!!!"

Maybe not the last part, but you get the general idea.
posted by Menthol at 7:35 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are basically me, just 5 years younger.

I had a very, very similar situation. Went to college, had a bout of major depression, got terrible grades, then dropped out. I came home, got some medication & therapy and started getting better. Eventually i went back to school and finished up my degree with a pretty poor overall GPA. I started out by getting a crap job somewhat in my field. I was a computer science major and i got jobs like being in the call center for d-link technical support and "corporate software instruction". After a year and a half or so at these places, I dropped the GPA from my resume (just took it off entirely) and got a software development job. It's been gravy ever since.

mefi-mail me if you want to talk, i'd be more than willing to chat.
posted by escher at 7:42 AM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: You're right. I definitely overreacted to halogen's comments. I simply read the statement about being as "smart as you claim to be" and inferred that he was being snarky about my level of intelligence. Upon reading it again, it appears much more innocuous.

And yes, I can not offer proof that my GPA was the deciding factor in these interviews. I will say that things tend to get rather frosty when it comes up in an interview, but perhaps that's just my mind's reaction to something that I'm very insecure about. If I can overcome any perceived negative reaction to my GPA, then I can soldier on in the interview and present myself well.
posted by Team of Scientists at 8:11 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Team of Scientists, I can see why you think I'm sneering at you. I'm also 26, and I also graduated with a less-than-stellar GPA, not that far off from yours, in a scientific field after taking almost two years off from college after my third semester, and yes, depression had a lot to do with it. I also cared enough about my shit to know that a school will never punish you for having medical issues: all you need is to write a letter and gather the appropriate documentation. You've been paying thousands of dollars a year to ensure that people will listen to you.

Clearly you didn't bother doing that.

So yes, I agree: your position in life sucks, and I'm glad it's not me. I also looked through your past posting history, and I see that you have had years to figure out what to do. You haven't. So please forgive me if I'm skeptical that yet another AskMe question telling you how everything is going to be all right can help in your case.

I also believe in not posting answers that aren't helpful, and I judged this situation to be one in which the proverbial kick in the butt is the only thing that indeed has the potential to help you, because I've been there.

I'm in a happy place now, and trust me, luck had nothing to do with it. I'm also working my ass of working full-time and taking a full courseload of post-baccalaureate classes (and paying for them) in order to raise said undergraduate GPA so that by the time I'm 27 the world will be my oyster. Maybe it's what you should be doing, too, so you don't post another question just like this one a year from now.

posted by halogen at 8:17 AM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

...and I overreacted as well. Apologies.
posted by halogen at 8:18 AM on August 30, 2010

Don't lose heart, you can do it. You just have to learn some of the social interview skills they don't teach you in engineering school.

My and some of my friend's GPA's are worse than yours (as Comp Eng's). If asked, I say that grades weren't a priority for me in university and We've managed to get pretty good jobs, though some have struggled just as you have.

For you I'd suggest making your grades into a story about how you overcame difficulties. I wouldn't mention the depression because many people are undereducated and judgmental about it. Instead I'd say something like:
"I did well enough in highschool to get into the program, and when I got to university, I struggled because I wasn't prepared for how rigorous my engineering program was, so I took some time out to prepare myself, brushed up on my discipline and study skills and went back to school a year later. This time I put in 100% effort and managed to get a 3.8 GPA in my final 2 semesters. Unfortunately my earlier struggles put a damper on my average." After you've given them the spiel, if they still want to know, tell them your average. They'll be prepared to hear the worst and 2.7 ain't so bad now in their minds.

Also what kind of companies are you applying to? You might have more luck at startups or smaller companies where showing a bit of grit and personality can win them over instead of at a large company where some HR person who knows nothing is ticking off a checklist.
posted by captaincrouton at 8:31 AM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: It's true. I have been struggling with this for a while, and poorly at that. Believe me, it fills me with despair that the best solution I can conjure is to ask an internet message board for advice.

"I also cared enough about my shit to know that a school will never punish you for having medical issues: all you need is to write a letter and gather the appropriate documentation. You've been paying thousands of dollars a year to ensure that people will listen to you."

Can you elaborate on this? MeMail me if you want. Speaking of which, escher, I just dropped you a MeMail.
posted by Team of Scientists at 8:33 AM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: I've been looking at smaller companies. The larger ones usually have minimum GPA requirements in their job descriptions. Although, I've got a friend-of-a-friend who's with NAVSEA and seems to think I'd be a good fit over there, so I've been pursuing that.
posted by Team of Scientists at 8:38 AM on August 30, 2010

Your doing that thing depressed and anxious people do so well - living in a state of chronic overwhelm where every problem is so large and interconnected to other problems that it's not possible to make any headway. You have an idea of where you want to be - you need to prioritize how to get there.

Personally, I think you should prioritize getting your depression and anxiety problems treated. This means that you should find a way to get a therapist/counselor type person and evaluated for medication. There are many low cost clinics often affiliated with universities and serve as training grounds for graduate students who work under supervision. You can also contact the local psychological association where you are to find psychologists nearby who could help you.

If moving back in with your parents would help make that possible, I'd suggest you consider it strongly.
posted by jasper411 at 9:04 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

ToS, sorry for being mean. I mentioned that I took almost two years off from school. At one point, I just stopped going to classes, and wouldn't bother to even show up for tests. It was difficult to accept that there was more to it than my carelessness – to be honest, I somehow know that I could have done better if I tried – but my life was falling apart: not just school, but also my relationships with family, significant other and friends, and I was losing interest in activities that had pretty much defined my life up until then.

I finally agreed to meet with specialists, and received diagnoses that finally allowed me to make sense of what had been going wrong. I appealed to my school's Committee of Standings and Examinations and ended up with withdrawal grades for all of the semester's courses (that was a couple of weeks before finals time). The following semester was a complete failure, too, that – after a bike-car (I was on the bike) accident that made things considerably worse – left me with more withdrawals, and finally a voluntary leave of absence, which meant good standing so I could keep scholarships and registration priorities when I returned a year later. You can imagine how glad I am that their safety system didn't allow me to end up with a bunch of Fs on my transcript. I still had to prove that I spent my year "off" doing worthwhile things – picking up a whole new set of work skills and taking care of my medical issues – and it was probably the most growing up I'd had to do in 12 months in my life.

It might be too late to appeal on those grounds for you, but I was certainly surprised at how common this is, and to how many students it happens. My case wasn't an exception at all: there was a freaking well-established protocol of what to do when that happened, and everyone from psychiatrists to school counselors to the Dean of Undergraduates made a point of ensuring me that that's what they're there for. Maybe it's something you could look into ex post facto?

I've also mentioned post-baccalaureate coursework in the past; another great benefit is that it will defer all student loan repayments.
posted by halogen at 9:05 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I should add that while your GPA does definitely matter in an engineering field, it only matters for the first job you get. Once you have work experience, that is what potential employers will care about. They only rely on GPA because without work experience, there is no way to tell how good you are.

So once you get your first job, things will get a lot easier. You won't be asked about your GPA by future employers, and your co-workers will have no idea what it was. They will judge you by your current work rather than your GPA.
posted by twblalock at 9:16 AM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: Don't mention it, halogen.

It's interesting that you mention the growing up you had to do in order to remain in good standing at your school. I feel like I still haven't really grown up in all this time.

As far as my grades, I will look into it. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and prescribed meds when I attended counseling during my return to school, but I doubt that that will matter this far past the relevant time period. Plus this is welcome week back at school and I'm sure the administrators have enough on their hands right now. That one might be worth waiting a few weeks for.

Prior to this discussion, I was not even aware of post-baccalaureate courses as an option to improve your grades. I will certainly consider pursuing that very soon.
posted by Team of Scientists at 9:38 AM on August 30, 2010

um...a 2.7 GPA in electrical engineering is actually fairly decent. It might be considered a bad GPA if you were a liberal arts major, but for the hard sciences its actually an OK to good GPA.
posted by MXJ1983 at 9:59 AM on August 30, 2010

Many graduate programs ask for your 'major GPA' in addition to your overall GPA. Have you tried calculating that? It might be a good way to present your GPA on your resume.

Do you have any friends, family, mentors, or former professors/advisors that could help you to brainstorm and outline success stories or examples of your good work? It sounds like it's difficult for you to see any positives right now while you're dealing with depression, but you pulled it together, got a 3.8, and did what you needed to graduate. Someone with another perspective can probably help you with a more realistic viewpoint on what you've achieved. Use that to rewrite the story in your head.
posted by nuffsaid at 10:18 AM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: Unfortunately I don't have a line of communication with anyone from school who could help me like that, nuff. I was ashamed and tended to shut everyone else out, even when I returned from leave. That's part of what brings me to AskMeFi, and that's also part of where that desire to return to school comes from. I wish to go back and do it the right way. I could talk to advisors, professors, and peers so that I have references and advice that would benefit me now.

That's also why halogen's post on post-baccalaureate coursework is so encouraging. I could take some upper-level EE classes, improve my grades, and actually interact with some professors for once. I don't think I ever attended a single office hour in my entire college career.

Thanks to all for your advice and encouragement. I've resolved to tackle my depression head-on while I fully commit to a job hunt. I will be returning home this weekend to discuss a possible move back. I need to be more transparent with certain people about how I've been feeling. Like I said, I shut people out. I think I need to let others help me with this.

Also, while this was going on, I put out a couple feelers for job prospects that I had been avoiding, and I already heard back from one. It looks like I'll be at a job fair in September about that NAVSEA position.

Again, thanks to all. If I feel as motivated to fix myself every day as I do right now, then this will end successfully. Let's just see if I can keep this going.
posted by Team of Scientists at 10:54 AM on August 30, 2010

You've gotten some good advice so far, here's my .02.
There's plenty you can be doing every day. If you want to find a job, you must treat your job search just like a job. Here's some things you could try:
-Get up each morning at 8, eat breakfast, shower and get ready for work. Just like you had a job.
-Contact your college placement office for any help they can give you.
-Join your local alumni association and go to the meetings and activities.
-Join a local professional association for EE's and go to the meetings to meet people in your field.
-Volunteer somewhere to get some work experience, exposure and get out of the house.
-Read What Color Is Your Parachute and do the exercises and follow the directions.
-Set aside 1 hour a day to exercise (not during your "work hours"). his will help with your depression.
-Think about moving in with your parents so you can start paying your loans.
-Make a list of things you need to do to get a job and take action every day.

You'll feel better about yourself as you get active and moving towards your goals. Don't let setbacks get you down. Good luck.
posted by mikedelic at 6:27 PM on August 30, 2010

« Older What does it say in this Arabic banner?   |   Hand washing in the kitchen sink Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.