Goodbye Undergraduate Studies

Posted 11 Apr 2002 at 16:39 UTC by shlomif Share This

I have joined the Technion from the sole intent of becoming an able Electrical Engineer, where I was only proficient in programming before. I believe I am able to be good at doing research or development in EE-related fields, with some natural help from my colleagues. There are lecturers who can testify for my ability.

However, I discovered that the Technion's administration cares only about two statistics: the total number of points that were earned and your average grade. If you have earned enough points you get your diploma. If your grade is low enough, you may have to leave. Does it sounds like an assembly line for Electrical Engineers? It sure feels like that.

My problem is not that the Technion is too good for me. The opposite is the fact. I wish to be tested not as a student, but as a teacher, which is the ultimate form of student. And I wish to be tested by five or six Doctors or Professors of the faculty and of my choice, and be able to convey to them a message that I am a fully capable engineer in their field. As good as a graduate or perhaps better.

What does the Technion's diploma indicate? Does it indicate that I have passed so and so points with an average of so and so? Or does it indicate that I am a professional hard working developer and thinker who is capable of handling any task that can be given to me; who understands every layer of what the computer does in the complex operation of running a function in a P-Code language (from semiconductors to the interpreter); and who prestigious work-places can employ knowing the Technion made certain he is such.

If you believe the average/total points tuple better than you value the approximation and opinion of some of its qualified, fully competent members, than you overestimate the power of statistics.

I like to work hard, but I'm also a human being. I cannot afford to work hard only to get a grade that is slightly above the passing grade. I am tired of hard tests that are compensated only by a factor that makes the distribution of the grades look perfectly nice. I can longer think that all my anxieties are caused by something that is wrong in me, when it was obvious that when I used to work for info-tech firms, I had much fewer. I am tired of people telling me that the Technion is actually a good place to study in, and which I'll remember fondly a few years. But why don't I think so highly of it now.

So I decided to fight in order to get the lecturers to qualify me in person. I don't think it is standard procedure but it feels so. I actually liked studying some courses in the Technion. But I find studying more pointless. I feel that I have studied what I came to study, and what I did not yet, I will in the future. I always study new things, even when I'm working.

Workplaces seem to care about the Technion diploma too much. I kept thinking that I should not throw 8 semesters of my life down the drain so I had to study a 9th and a 10th. But I'm tired of hard work when I have to play into the Technion's statistics-based game. I wish to get an engineering degree. So, why does the Technion cares only that I prove how much abuse I can take?

The Technion makes claim for 24 hours and 7 days out of your time. I have ideas for fictitious stories to write, but don't have time because I'm supposed to be studying. I have ideas for philosophical yet perfectly practical essays. Again, the Technion does not allow me to have the time for them. There are software or otherwise technical projects that I'd like to work on some time, but my parents tell me that I should focus on studying instead. Hell, I desire a girlfriend, but it is obvious that I cannot give her enough attention, being a Technion student.

I actually wish to be a good student. But I know my engineering skills, much less my personal self-growth, is much more important than getting 30 extra points in the test. Which indicates absolutely nothing about your skills.

Even if we live in a digital age, and we are amazed by the power computers and digital communication has given us, we must still remember that it all comes down to people. A written test, no matter how objective and fair, cannot approximate a student's skill better than the objective opinion of a professional. Some people who are not very intelligent can get by the Technion by working hard and earning their grade. They deserve to get a B.Sc in Electrical Engineering.

But should I take the blame for being above average? For having spent some time working on DOS, or Basic, or C, or Linux? For genuinely wishing to earn knowledge? Did I not work equally as hard while still enjoying myself? Should the Technion process me like another one of those intelligent but not brilliant students, who are just seeking a certification? I came to study enough Electrical Engineering to be a capable engineer. Even if I "drop out" of the Technion, I would be snatched away for being a capable and experienced Linux developer.

I'd like to live one day as a tiger than a 1000 years as a sheep. I'll ask them how much they approximate my skills. I only want a graduate degree. Most of the Technion lecturers are good. But they are too afraid of each other to get things moving. But I'd rather know I quit from a badly designed system, than try to take more abuse it had to offer me.

Goodbye, Undergraduate Studies! Hello, World!


What are you trying to say?, posted 11 Apr 2002 at 20:56 UTC by AlanShutko » (Journeyer)

You took up a lot of space but seemed to veer wildly away from a point.

It seems that you've quit college because you think you're too good for it. Are you telling prospective employers that you are "professional hard working developer and thinker who is capable of handling any task that can be given" to you, but lack the self discipline and motivation to actually follow through?

You are "tired of hard tests that are compensated only by a factor that makes the distribution of the grades look perfectly nice." What will you do when facing a genuinely difficult problem in the real world? Give up and look for something easier?

A diploma is many things, not least a sign that you are capable of finishing what you start. You may think employers care too much about the diploma, but what they really care about is completion. Projects which don't get completed don't succeed in the real world.

One final hint: in the US at least, electrical engineering is often licensed profession. You cannot call yourself an engineer in some states without a PE license. (You can't even call yourself a "software engineer" in some states.) In that light, you clearly have not "[studied] enough Electrical Engineering to be a capable engineer". You haven't even studied enough to be an engineer in training in most states. Take a look at NSPE for instance. According to them, were you here you would need another 8-12 years of professional experience, because you chose to quit college.

You may have made the right choice for you. Only time will tell. But be aware that the portrait you are painting for others is that of a self-righteous dilettante, not a professional.

thats college, posted 12 Apr 2002 at 03:31 UTC by ishamael » (Journeyer)

I speak here from a strictly American background, so I apologize for any generalizations I make that do not apply to your situation.

thats colllege

Perhaps you had reason to expect something more from higher education, but I'm not sure why. School is an assembly line, theres no doubt about it. And administrators do care mostly or only about numbers, its a simple fact.

You say you wish to be tested as a teacher, what do you mean? Tested by half a dozen professors of your choosing? Damn, I wish I could get a degree like that. I'm sure I could buddy up to a few of them and bullshit the rest. Hell, why don't colleges do that? They'd be able to get us in and out much quicker.

A diploma, to me, indicates that youre responsible and inteligent enough to have survived a couple of years of being force-fed and regurgitating bullshit. A diploma does not speak for specific skills, how could it? Thats what a personal interaction, and to a lesser degree, a resume are for. A diploma is just a peice of paper with a school's name on it, giving you their endorcement as "yeah, this ones good."

The school does not make you. Make yourself ;) Schools and their administrators could really care less about you, I've found. You're paying to be there. You're paying to get their name on a peice of paper.

If you want an engineering degree, go earn it. Stop whining. School is hard, its not like you can go to the local supermarket and pick up a college degree.

As for your points about tests. Sure, tests aren't fair. But neither are professors. If you expect all professors to be perfectly objective in their opinions of the students, you're rather deluded. Professors are people too. They're biased, bigoted, misinformed, and make mistakes. Tests are not.

Some people who are not very intelligent can get by in college by working hard and earning their grade. These people earn the EE degree. You're giving up: this is too hard, I'm going home. Please, you don't deserve a degree. You deserve a swift kick in the ass.

Bleh. I'm sorry. But grow up, please. College is hard.

Tired of hard work?, posted 12 Apr 2002 at 04:51 UTC by olandgren » (Journeyer)

As a student currently going through college in the U.S, my opinions may be slightly biased. Ok, they're probably completely tainted.

First, a blatant ad hominem that you might want to think about a little: why are the tests hard if you are as smart as you think you are?

You're worried about hard tests? College is all about being stretched and challenged and made to learn. Hard tests do make you think and solve problems under a fixed time constraint. They check that you've learned the material you have studied in class, and can apply it or regurgitate it, depending on the type of the test and the type of class. I would question that you've learned the lessons that college is supposed to teach you if you think that tests are supposed to be easy. Yes, practical real-world stuff rarely has a direct connection to a test. You typically have more time to solve problems in the real world, are not limited to the constraints of your memory, can ask coworkers questions, and have dozens of other advantages. However, consider for a moment the scope of a test. A test is going to be on subject matter at the very least tangentially related to what you've been talking about in class. So you know what to expect. Secondly, you've been in class the entire semester, so you know what the professor expects in terms of a solution. Third, the test is going to be designed so that you can solve, or at least come up with a good approach to solving it. That 30 extra points on the test doesn't say anything about your real-world skills, but it sure as hell says something about your real-world ability to adapt to tasks. If you can't get a good grade on the test, what's going to happen when you get given a problem 10 times as hard and are told to solve it?

I'm getting too frustrated to be constructive, so I'll just quit while I might be ahead. I apologize if this makes you feel bad, but I think that you really need to think about college more carefully. It's not supposed to be easy, and it never has been.

Poor shlomif, posted 12 Apr 2002 at 06:06 UTC by tk » (Observer)

Just to change the atmosphere a bit:

Poor shlomif. I think I can sort of understand what he's been through. I'd prefer college any time though: my impression is that the Real World is a much, much harsher environment than one can imagine.

Maybe an EE degree Is Not For You?, posted 12 Apr 2002 at 09:31 UTC by nymia » (Master)

College life should be both fun and hard work. Fun in the sense you get to join so many organizations, like clubs and varsity teams. Hard work in the sense you'll be taking home a minimum of 7 600-page books to read in one week. Performing experiments in the lab by yourself, making sure your concepts is all straightened out. That was my life when I went through it. And if I was given a choice, I would go back and take it again, simply because it was fun and hard.

OK, so you think EE sucks, that's fine, you can step out and take a breather. But don't go away, you must go back and continue the game. Sometimes, the road gets rough and walls tend to become so high you can't jump it in one take. Perhaps you might want to transfer to Computer Science and immerse yourself with CS concepts. Try something new; take Accounting or Chemical Engineering, whatever that interests you. The main point is, like most of the people around me were saying: don't quit. Just do it!

Maybe you want to test yourself, challenge yourself by taking your midterm exam in only 50% of the allotted time and still pass it. If you can do it, you'll fly through it and graduate without even knowing it. But don't do it all the time, it's not fun challenging yourself always.

The secret of getting through it is by spending a lot of time in labs and libraries. Spend at least 3 hours a day in the library; reading about the lecture and related stuff and you'll be in good shape. Before you know it, 4 or 6 hours has already passed.

Students today are very fortunate they have access to the Internet where they can Google all they want, even retrieve necessary information within seconds. Gathering information today has become like ``magic,'' so to speak. In my time, there was no Internet, only the plain and simple rows of shelves in the library. Kind of boring to see all the books neatly organized, mostly QA prefixes were my favorites, though. But nowadays, who cares about QA prefixes, Google is much faster.

Friends, you'll have many friends if you join an org or team. Make sure you have at least a buddy you can always go to.

Come on dude, four or five years of fun and hard work isn't that bad?

Here's the bad news, I've seen a lot of students give up. And it wasn't fun, I'll tell you that, not fun at all seeing them go.

Take it easy and enjoy. But don't quit.

Test of endurance?, posted 12 Apr 2002 at 13:42 UTC by salmoni » (Master)

I am currently in the third year of my PhD, and to be honest, it has been a hard slog. I am not that interested in my subject any more, and get more enjoyment from developing free software. Of the many people I have talked to, pretty much everyone says that doing a PhD is a test of endurance more than anything else, and the same could well apply for any course of education (of course, exceptions exist).

Also, I'm not sure about having academics rate your work - tests are designed to get around any biases they may have (and every one of them will have plenty). I will get this for my viva, and I often wish that there was a more objective way to be rated, but at the cutting edge of science, it is impossible to construct good tests when the information being tested is new.

See if you can take some time off to relax and think for a couple of days (or even weeks) before you commit to a decision. If you cannot do this, my advice is to stick to it - the time will fly, and you may have a qualification at the end which is unlikely to count against you.

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