is pursuing a science degree hard?
July 23, 2011 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Is pursuing a science degree hard?

I am getting ready to buckle up for university in September, but I have no idea what major I should go into.

I've been doing research for quite awhile, and nothing seems to be worth the time and energy of going to school. A Humanities major has no marketability. Almost everyone is going for a business degree or teaching degree, and these are more and more losing demand. Social Sciences interest me, but again.. Not very useful in the job market.

There is one degree in Earth and Ocean Sciences at my school which very much interests me, but I am unsure about whether I could handle the requirements. I took almost zero science courses in highschool, and my first year of studies would be getting my math 12 chem 12 and possibly bio 12.

There is a calculus requirement that also makes me very uneasy to commit, I took math 12 in highschool and evened a "C-" although I was never in class and lacked motivation at that phase in my life.

I don't know, has anyone here pursued a science degree? How difficult did you find it? Would you say it's possible with motivation hard work alone?

any input would be very appreciated

posted by Snorlax to Education (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Think about it this way. At any given time there are many thousands of college students successfully studying sciences, most of them not particularly brilliant. So no, it's not that hard in an absolute sense.

If you're not inclined to study sciences, it will be hard (but not that hard). Similarly, studying humanities would be hard for someone not inclined to study humanities.
posted by jayder at 7:49 PM on July 23, 2011

In many degrees that have heavy requirements, the requirements are structured to "weed out" students who can't handle the math and the other content. So the first courses are going to be hard, yes.

Typically there is a good culture of study groups and tutoring available from the school. You will need to be disciplined and take advantage of all the resources available to help you learn the material.

Will you have an undergraduate advisor? Does the science department you're considering majoring in, list a faculty member as "Director of Undergraduate Studies" or a similar title? Talk to those people about your specific questions and qualifications.

Ocean and Earth Sciences is an increasingly important field with lots of interesting and varied jobs. Science degrees force you to get a good math background, which can be applied to many other fields such as business etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:51 PM on July 23, 2011

I just got a Biology degree from the College of William and Mary. Though it was noticeably more rigorous than my humanities-major friends, I was not exceptionally motivated, and still got a B+ average. (W&M is noted for being much less grade-inflated than other schools, too.)

If you're in the US, you've got 2 years or so to really decide. Until then, take a smattering of classes you think you will find interesting (and a couple you'd never considered just to spice it up). If you enjoy your classes, keep taking those. Your interests may change over your collegiate career, so be open to new fields and new opportunities.

...But to put it simply, I agree with Jacqueline.
posted by cmchap at 7:52 PM on July 23, 2011

The odds are you've been admitted to a school where you're an average student who will get average grades, barring other factors. Your weak background in the sciences is a minus, but your motivation and willingness to put in the time are serious positives. You may be spending more than 40 hours a week on your classes to make up for your deficits, particularly in the first year. But it should be OK, and it's important to aim at things you care about. Go for it.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:56 PM on July 23, 2011

If you're having trouble with advanced math, you won't find science easy.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:00 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I took three semesters of calculus and two of differential equations for my meteorology degree, and yes, there were times I wondered what the hell I was doing there. My Physics I class was horrid, with a terrible professor who the department turned a blind eye to because it "was his turn to teach Physics I"

That being said, it can be done if you work hard and are motivated, as well as truly interested in the subject. Keeping that interest in mind is important as you slog through the "weed out" classes.

I found that studying for my math and science classes was quite a bit different than my humanities electives. There wasn't much keeping up with the reading or pulling all nighters to finish a paper (although you probably will write papers in your upper level classes, just of a different sort). If your calc classes are anything like mine, you will be assigned problems for homework but will not have to turn any in. You still need to do. those. problems. If you do not work through them and figure out the different types of problems ahead of time, you will not do well on the tests. Agree with Monsieur Caution that you will have to put a lot of time into the classes, but if you are motivated enough, it is possible to succeed even with not much science in your background.

Good luck!
posted by weathergal at 8:02 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Science is largely about applied mathematics and analytical thinking, by which I mean being systematic and precise (as opposed to intuitive). Many people in the sciences naturally drift there because they show these characteristics early on and are nudged in that direction. But in the end aptitude and inclination only get you to the door and success comes to those who work hard at understanding and mastering the material; those without natural aptitude can overcome it and reach the same level in the end, but they will have to work harder.

You will be opening a lot of doors if you decide to work your way up to speed with the math. Being good with numbers and being able to think analytically and systematically will be assets in so so many career paths. And now is precisely the best time for you to make such a commitment, as you will never have as much time to dedicate to studying or resources to help you learn as during your undergrad degree.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:03 PM on July 23, 2011

When you go to college, study what you find most interesting. And get an internship, because that's how you'll get paid.

Your first year or so of college is completely exploratory. It's difficult to screw up, because you can always convert an abandoned major into something else. If you think that you want to study science, go for it. College is set up EXACTLY FOR THIS.

And don't worry about requirements. Passion covers up a multitude of missing prereqs.

(Beware that if you go into the sciences you'll have labs that suck up your time but don't fully repay you in credit hours. Other than that, it's not a bad gig.)
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:04 PM on July 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks 'lobster mitten'

I have to say the only real reason why I would pursue a science degree like this is because I know the benefits and the doors it would open, and that I do genuinely have a passion and curiosity about the world and geography.

I would like to think that the motivation alone behind that would be able to carry me through, but I don't know.. There is a higher chance that I am just being naive about the entire thing.. I was never really academically inclined in school.

On the plus side, I would be doing a transfer between schools, so those classes to "weed out" student that I very well know exist like calculus, could be taken at my local unviersity and faculty that are much more student friendly.

Anyways, I have a semester or two to "get a feel" for the course load and what not. I just wanted to get some sophisticated feedback first.
posted by Snorlax at 8:05 PM on July 23, 2011

Response by poster: thanks PercussivePaul,
posted by Snorlax at 8:09 PM on July 23, 2011

One question: are you in the U.S.? The college and university system in the US is somewhat different from the way it is in Canada, England, Australia, and other countries. It might help people to give you better answers if you said what country you would be going to school in. (Otherwise people will assume U.S.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:16 PM on July 23, 2011

Response by poster: I'm in Canada.

Taking a year or two at UFV then transfering to UVIC to finish the program.
posted by Snorlax at 8:18 PM on July 23, 2011

Yes, math and science classes are difficult and challenging.

1. Commit to going to all classes and labs. Don't miss any.
2. Commit to doing all the assigned problem sets. Don't skip any.
3. Get a tutor and work with them at the first sign that you are having trouble accomplishing number 2.
4. Visit your professor and teaching assistants at their office hours and tell them which problems are giving you problems.
5. Really study for each test.

Earth and Ocean Science will be fascinating. New information is being discovered every year. The material you will be studying will be different than what was taught when you were born.

Good Luck!
posted by Edward L at 8:22 PM on July 23, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, and I did talk to an academic advisor.

She suggested '50 hour week' between class, study, and study groups.. lol
posted by Snorlax at 8:23 PM on July 23, 2011

The academic advisor is correct. Plan for 3 hours outside of class for every 1 hour in class.
posted by Edward L at 8:25 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you're not into science for the love of science right now, taking up a science major will probably not change your mind on that. There were a lot of ex-biology majors in the English department, and I have known a fair chunk of ex-science majors who graduated with the degree and turned out not to love working in it. They were trying to choose something "sensible." Some of the ones I know ended up going back to school in the areas they actually loved. And yeah, it is SUPER hard. I love science but I can't do math worth shit, so I couldn't get a science degree. So yeah, that is going to be crucial for you. If your only interest (plus the practicality factor) is in earth science, great! But ... I'd look into backup majors too if you really weren't much into math and science before this.

Realistically speaking, don't declare a major until you have to here. Try taking the math and science classes and see if you can survive them first. Most people these days go through at least 3 majors (bombing out of them too!) before they settle on one they can do/are interested in.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:33 PM on July 23, 2011

Response by poster: thanks jenfullmoon
posted by Snorlax at 8:44 PM on July 23, 2011

It depends way more on the way you approach things than aptitude. If you run up against a wall (and you will often), you have to find a way through the wall to an answer. Most of learning science and math is unintuitive and runs counter to common sense understandings. Interest helps yes, as does logical thinking and problem solving skills, but it also requires a desire for real understanding and a high level of stubborn (not-going-to-give-upness) about it.

Also it's great you're thinking about what you want to get out of college now, but don't discount other fields and majors too early. You don't need to do the best in the most employable major to get a good job. For that matter you'll probably change careers at some point in your life anyway (according to surveys), so don't sweat it too much.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 8:47 PM on July 23, 2011

It really helps to make science inclined friends to dive head first into the madness with.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:01 PM on July 23, 2011

Best answer: I failed algebra II twice in high school.

I finished up a B.S. in math a few years back. I had to brush up on the basics, remedial stuff that most math majors wouldn't have to take, but I did it -- mainly just through persistence. I was never a math genius, but I worked harder than almost all of my peers. I certainly envied the guys who just seemed to do everything effortlessly, but I know a lot of people assumed that I was a math genius too, when really it was just that I pretty much lived at the library.

That path does require that you have some passion for the field though, but I found studying something that was truly challenging to be much more rewarding than coasting along an easier path.
posted by ZeroDivides at 9:07 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I avoided taking math during my time in undergrad because I thought that math majors as a group were in a league of their own. After I graduated, I went to work for a university and decided to take more math.

It turns out that math classes — even upper-division math classes where you don't even "do problems" in the sense you're familiar with — still have students with a range of aptitude and motivation. I just finished taking my second course in analysis. Some students did worse than others. Some students seemed more interested than others. Most students went to office hours, asked questions about things they didn't understand, came to group study and homework sessions, and so on.

In the end, everybody did fine. Even in advanced math and science, simple patience and persistence will be most of your grade.
posted by Nomyte at 9:08 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had tons of anxiety about math since middle school. The handful of math classes I've taken in college though (and as a returning student) I've done very well in. I really wasn't studying the material as I should have been, I basically assumed you didn't have to. But once I actually practiced math (and believe me, it's hard to imagine something I want to do less) my confidence improved greatly and I really did quite OK.

Something to consider if you're able- take less than a full load, and take your time with the math pre-reqs. I took several math classes while taking 2 other classes- english, humanities. I was able to concentrate much more. Last semester I took Into to Chem with 4 other classes (mostly humanities, but French which took a great deal of study time). I really, really had to work to stay afloat and I regretted that decision. I completely had to bust my ass in Chem- but if me, the 9th grade Algebra I summer school attendee, can handle that level of Science and Math, I believe anyone can.

Another thing to consider is that different colleges (within the same University) might have different requirements for the same majors. The amount of science/math coursework to get the same degree at the Engineering school would be much more daunting than the 'Arts and Sciences' college or local equivalent.
posted by tremspeed at 9:26 PM on July 23, 2011

You would be a perfect candidate for using the Kahn Academy. Science requires math. You can't get around that basic requirement. What you can do is take some survey courses (often harder than you would expect) and spend your motivated time doing an outside math program to prepare you for the real thing at university so that those beginning math classes would actually make sense. Yes, it will cost you time and energy that seems futile without a concrete goal. But getting your maths right will open up a universe of alternatives and unimaginable possibilities.
posted by ptm at 9:31 PM on July 23, 2011

That 50 hour week will apply to whatever major your choose, if you do it right. I easily spent that much time, if not more, on coursework as an English major. If you want to do well, you really will have to put for significant effort. Part of what a BA or BS is *supposed* to mean is that someone has sufficient discipline to slog and produce.

I don't know where you are, but if you're in the US, use your first two years to finish up your general ed requirements, some of which ought to be the prerequisite science classes. You can always change your major. I did. I remember during orientation on interview with a department chair, she told me that most kids change majors at least once, usually 2-3 times. There's no shame in it. Take all your classes seriously and pay attention to what you do well in, not what you can half-ass your way through. Opportunities will present themselves. Choose your final major junior year accordingly.
posted by smirkette at 9:38 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks for the kahm academy recommendation PTM, really interesting
posted by Snorlax at 9:45 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Many people I know who are much smarter than I am were English majors. When I see then analyze language and literature, I realize that they can do stuff that I can't do and see things that I can't see. That said, I know lots of people who washed out of science and engineering, but I don't know anyone who says, "I started out in English/History/Psychology, but couldn't handle it, so I switched to [easier major]." You generally can't coast through a science major, and you're going to have to learn to deal with that. It will take a lot of work, but everyone else will be in the same boat. The number of brilliant people for whom all this stuff just comes naturally is very small.

But if all you want is a job that's very marketable, accounting is an option, too. "Science" is not an open door to a good job. If anything, the quantitative skills you develop studying science can be parlayed into a good job. What I'm trying to say is that you should think carefully about what you're doing. It's not like you major in Earth and Ocean Sciences and suddenly right at graduation you have employers lined up willing to hire you. You have a few years to figure this out while you're in school, but what you really need to do is develop a plan.
posted by deanc at 10:05 PM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

"That 50 hour week will apply to whatever major your choose, if you do it right. "
I couldn't agree more.
I also had a weak background in the hard science/math subjects when I decided to go back to university in my 30's for a BScN degree. Not quite the same as the Faculty of Science degree but still a challenging endeavor that required Stats/Research/variety of electives to support the core nursing science courses. I beleive hard work and dedication along with accessing available resources are CRUCIAL for success in any post-secondary education.
My boyfriend asked me if the other students put in as many hours on homework/projects as I did and my answer was no, but then again the other students mostly have a C average while I currently hold an A average at the end of 4 years. Plus, the great thing about a science degree is there are many after-degree programs you can look at later on if you have a mind to.
Best of luck with school, it won't be easy but it will be an accomplishment that you'll have forever once it's done!!
posted by blubutterfly at 10:10 PM on July 23, 2011

You have time to figure out whether you can hack it.

Because even a humanities degree will require some math and science courses as general education requirements, you can probably take some of the required classes for your major without them later going to waste if you decide to change your plans. For example, at my school, there is a "mathematical reasoning" requirement that can be satisfied by taking one of several classes above the college algebra level, including calculus. You should find out the requirements at your chosen school and see what you can take as a sample.

In my opinion, the hardest part about a science degree is the discipline it requires. Calculus isn't particularly hard, but you do have to have good study habits to get a good grade, unless you're uncommonly genius.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:11 AM on July 24, 2011

Best answer: Sorry, this is really long. TLDR: do math and science if you can hack it, work really hard in all cases

You are correct that your University/College record nowadays makes up a huge amount of what potential employers look at if they are trying to determine whether or not to hire you for a job out of college. Since this job is going to be the way you support yourself and your family, I am glad to see that you have done some research and want to make this decision very carefully, because it is a major decision (no pun intended) in your life. However, it is not the only factor, nor will you likely have only one job, so you will have a chance to correct mistakes, so please don't think it's the be-all, end-all of your existence. Also, someone please correct me if any of this does not apply to the Canadian schooling system, I am an American. In addition, I'm not trying to scare, but guide. My experience is graduating with a science degree, ultimately Biology, but Microbiology and Marine Biology were my majors in the middle. I am currently searching for a job after working in a medical office and as a programmer. So I have some experience, take it or leave it.

Since you are planning on transferring, the FINAL DECISION on your major can be pushed back slightly, but you should have a general idea of where you want to go/ what you want to do so that you can make sure you can get into the college you want to transfer into, meeting their admissions technical standards (grades) and prerequisites (classes). So you can relax a little.

Changing your major is not a huge deal, on the surface. It takes a visit to a counselor and some paperwork. The only thing that changes are your requirements for your degree. If you meet these requirements, you get your degree. The difficulty comes into gaining your degree within your budget and on time. Classes cost money, and if you keep changing your major and having to take new classes, you may run out of money before you get a degree, or rack up a large amount of debt in doing so. Also, your college may have a credit cap, so you may be forced to graduate once you have accumulated enough prerequisites for a major. However, if you are changing between schools (e.g. English to Science, English to Engineering, Science to Engineering), you may have to meet certain conditions.

I caution you on assuming that just because you have a science degree, you are guaranteed a job, or even simply more likely to find a job. A degree is ultimately a piece of paper, and grades are of minimal concern outside of academia. Job skills are most important. Since many jobs nowadays require some years of lab or field work, you must develop these before you can get hired. Most undergraduates do not have these types of skills, graduate school becomes almost a requirement. In addition, many science positions are based upon public support, and even the ones that aren't depend upon grant money, so learning to write grants is very important as well, as well as developing good relationship skills. Ultimately, you are trying to get money out of people, so you will have to match either their interests, or their desires. And if that money dries up, then everybody will be screwed.

You are probably looking at graduate school if you want a job in your field. This means two things: Keeping your grades up and developing good relationships with your professors. Other good things are getting awards and doing extracurriculars (sports, clubs,etc. become a leader, it helps your planning skills for the future e.g. parties, and you meet cool people and develop leadership skills). Talk or e-mail graduate students in your field to get a feel of what the job prospects are like before you make a decision.

If you are looking for a good job right out of college, you should look into pursuing an engineering degree. These are difficult to obtain. There will be A LOT of science and math, and many weeder courses. However, the value in a degree is how difficult it is to obtain, and how many real-world applications there are for the skills you have learned. A degree's value goes down if its not difficult to obtain. So if you are truly driven, and are motivated and hard working, you can absolutely do this. As mentioned above, accounting is also an avenue worth pursuing, as is electrician. Also, you must be "certified" to get a lot of jobs these days, so you may have to take more courses and tests to advance in your career.

Developing other skills, such as bartending (highly recommend), working retail, or writing articles will allow you to be more flexible in your job search in the future, as potential fall backs for if you find you cannot find a job in your selected major/field. In addition, many of them enable you to develop interpersonal skills, which are key in any job. You can do this part-time while you go to school (bonus: MONEY!!!).

One final caveat. This is what I am finding now. Keep in mind conditions may change. The economy may go up or down. Keep your head up and aware of what is going on in the world at large. Also, I must stress that your MAJOR DOES NOT MAKE YOU. Much of the time, people end up working something entirely different than what they went to college for and thought they would be doing entering college (myself and many of my friends included). Research the job market always.

So ultimately, for you, I would recommend doing a couple of math and science classes, REALLY push yourself to do as well as possible in them. If you can stick it out and do well, then I would recommend exploring engineering majors. If you decide this is not for you, or do not do so well in math or science, you can still pursue the major, but be sure to work really hard, develop relationships with as many people in your field as is possible, and do lab work on something that you like and hopefully get published. Field work and lab experience is VITAL. Even so, you may need more schooling in order to get a job in the field. If you decide to do something entirely different, you should work extremely hard at an internship and gain as much real-world competitive experience in the field. Basically, if you think something is beyond your level, you should try to achieve it. Don't get discouraged, get creative and seek advice on how to improve. You WILL run into walls, but don't be afraid to try to climb over them. Even more so, I would like to encourage you to find where what you like to do intersects with what you can get paid for.

Motivation and hard work can get you far, but keep in mind that it is a marathon, and not a sprint. Developing your motivation and perseverance will get you farther than simply burning them up without replenishing your tank. Good luck.

PS: Party and have a good time! It's college, live it up! You have only one time to do it, so do it right! But while you can't guarantee a perfect life from college, you sure can screw it up pretty bad, so keep it under control.
posted by wayofthedodo at 12:23 AM on July 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Making yourself marketable is important, especially if you're going to school on someone else's money. I do strongly suggest, however, that you take this time in college to find trite as that sounds. If you are undecided about what you want to study (as I was in my Freshman year), I suggest looking through the required courses and browse through it to see what interests you. While you take these courses, go talk to these professors and get an idea for what you can expect out of that major, the department of faculty, career opportunities, etc. Usually you are required to declare your major by sophomore year...I would use the first semester to take some what easier courses, and go visit faculty, and deans or associate deans in the departments of your interest.

As deanc said, Accounting is your best bet, and if you do well, grade wise, and get involved in school networking events, you'll be able to get into big 4 accounting firms and you'll get to work 70hrs a week! AND travel to great places like Iowa at entry level salary! Ok, I am being silly, I am sure Iowa is great, and Accountants will still have job security longer than others.

In addition to Accounting, Finance is marketable as well. BUT...all these undergrad subjects are very competitive unless you do VERY well. If you are open to grad school, pursuing in humanities major while taking certain courses that help you better prepare for grad school would be my suggestion.

I studied Literature and Economics in undergrad. Literature because I wanted to become a better writer, didn't really help, as you can tell. But reading helped me more than I can express in my ability to analyze ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, which became VERY useful in law school. I studied Economics because it was theoretical and included some math, even though wasn't as difficult as Engineering or Medical School would demand. That Econ background, (while undergrad Econ would be considered elementary in real life), helped me get a decent job cause business knowledge is ALWAYS useful.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading literature more than studying Economics. I think studying Literature also made me a better or a deeper person, (if I say so myself), than if I had studied a subject like Chemical Engineering. It helps me understand people and the world better, encourages me to question the motive/source of information, make my own opinions, versus taking things at its face value. While getting a degree is important and that's why you're going to school, do look for ways to broaden your mind and deepen your soul. That'll pay off big time.

I hope this helps.
posted by icollectpurses at 12:25 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

In general, the best advice I got before I went to college was that your brain is still developing now and it's at a good place to incorporate broad new ways of thinking. It won't be as easy to learn new languages, new analytical methods, or new ways to approach problems ten years from now; your brain will lose some of its plasticity, and you won't have as much energy. So get the hard stuff done now. Take the absolute toughest math, science and engineering courses you can hack. Keep taking harder classes until you reach the absolute limits of your ability. That's how you make the best use of your time in college.

I'm surprised nobody has explicitly called out computer science in this thread. It's a great major for people who want to get jobs right out of school, EXCEPT that software is very prone to booms and busts, so while it's clearly booming right now, it may not be when you graduate. Even so, it gives you a great set of skills and approaches that will make you employable in a wide variety of fields.
posted by troublesome at 12:40 AM on July 24, 2011

Best answer: I pursued a science degree first time in college. Chemistry, in fact. A combination of bad math skills, bad study skills, and undiagnosed Depression and ADHD meant that I fell flat on my face during my first semester, and I eventually switched to a Humanities major. A few years later, I graduated with a Communication Arts - Film degree, but no real desire to work in that industry.

20 years later, I'm now employed in Software Development, where I've been doing QA work for the past decade or so. I have decided that at some point, I do want to go back to school, to either study Computer Science or Meteorology, a field that I've loved since I was a kid, but never really had the wherewithal to pursue. However, my math skills are now extremely rusty, and they seriously need to be improved before I can pursue any schooling in this. So, for the past three months or so, I've sat down nearly every night with a high school Algebra textbook, and am methodically working through all the problems. And the thing I'm discovering now, now that I have a goal in mind and my mind issues all treated? Algebra is actually kinda fun. But it definitely is a lot of work, and you have to put those hours in on working on all the problems.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:14 AM on July 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

It may be hard, but the more interested you are in the subject matter, the more likely it is that you will find a way of doing it.

You might be better off, actually, since just the thought of doing a science degree has you girding your loins for battle. Some of your classmates will be expecting a tiptoe through the tulips and will be very surprised.

But, to answer your original question: my first degree was in humanities and was hard, but I was also able to get my degree without doing very much work. Or any, for extended periods of time. As long as you could support your argument you could pretty much write whatever you wanted and not be wrong.

Then I took a degree in the sciences and that was hard. There wasn't only one right answer, usually, but there were definitely answers that were strictly right or strictly wrong, and I had to get the right ones if I didn't want to flunk. I had substantial work experience in the subject matter, but I still had to sweat blood over it. I got a distinction.

tl;dr science degrees are harder than wafty, pansyish humanities degrees, but pursue the subject you like best.
posted by tel3path at 3:51 AM on July 24, 2011

I have a math degree. (I could plug math as something that makes you quite employable, too. Not because there are loads of jobs that specifically want people who can do abstract algebra, but because it's proof you can think and learn new things. Going to a career fair as a math major is an interesting experience. There are employers who just want engineers or CS people and then it becomes clear all the other employers want to talk to you more than anyone else, including the engineers and CS types, which is awkward.)

Mostly, I'm answering to plug good preparation more than anything. I'm now in grad school and TA for calculus courses. An awful lot of students just scrape through not really being able to do calculus, not because calculus is hard, but because they don't under basic math and problem-solving. If you can comfortably solve word problems using the material up to and including Math 12 (I googled--I'm not in Canada), you're probably good to go.

Going off something tel3path said, my mother asked me recently why I had given up on history or politics (the things it looked like I would do up to the second half of my senior year of high school). It took a little thought, but I realised it was because I wanted there to be an objectively right answer. I wanted the things I did to be right or wrong on some basis other than whether they were convincing. So I find things like writing papers in humanities classes frustrating because I can't know if I'm right and knowing I'm right is what let me know to stop working.
posted by hoyland at 5:37 AM on July 24, 2011

I want to revise and extend my remarks. The thing is, if you're specifically focused on a major that can get you a job in college, we have a pretty good idea of what those majors are: you study things like accounting, nursing, pharmacy, and teaching. This is what people who need to know there's a job waiting for them on the other side major in. If they were known as "the smart one" in their families, they became doctors.

Of course, that's not what I did, and that's not what my friends did, and we all have jobs, having majored in various science/engineering-related fields. But I'm just saying, if you want to major in something that has a clear job waiting for you after graduation, your path is clear.

But just remember, because this really helps: when you find something really hard and difficult to understand, just remember that all of your classmates are going through the exact same thing.
posted by deanc at 6:52 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

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