College: To Engineer or not?

I’ve loved my time in robotics, but I’m getting to the point where I’ve got to decide if this is really what I want to do with my life. Engineering is a load of fun, but I’m still strongly considering Political Science. Given that Dean’s Homework is taking more of a political leaning, I still think I’d be embracing the ideals of FIRST if I went that way. They really aren’t all that different, one solves physical problems while the other solves people/political problems, but I’m really having trouble deciding between the two.

My questions for CD are… “Are you a FIRST fanatic that has considered studying something other than engineering? What influenced your decision? Do you have any advice for someone about to make a major decision like this?”



Chris, I am a senior in high school who is eagerly awaiting acceptance letters to arrive in the mail any day now. I am what you may call a FIRST fanatic, I mentor FLL and FVC while competing in FRC. But, I also faced, and am still facing, the same problem. I love FIRST… alot, but I also have a strong love for American History. On every college application I submitted I placed Mechanical Engineering and American History as my first and second choice of major (respectively). I am still somewhat unsure as to what I am going to study. My advice is to follow your heart. If nothing else, you can always switch your area of study. But if you don’t think you will enjoy what you are going to end up doing for the rest of your career, chance are, it’s not what you were meant to do.


I’m in the same boat with Jay, I LOVE HISTORY.

Do what feels right. Do what you want. Dean won’t cry at night because you didn’t go into engineering, he’ll be happy that his program inspired someone to push themself farther and to do greater things.

People go to college for two reasons: to learn a skill like engineering, or to get a liberal arts education. Do what feels right, explore, find new things. I podcast, do web design, graphics, and am an engineer. Roll with the punches. Have fun.

If you need any help, IM me sometime, I’m more than willing to help (around going to classes and doing HW of course :wink: ).

Despite being the most enthusiastic member on my team in 12th grade and an adamant builder and web designer, I chose political science and sociology as my majors. My workload, my mind, and my livelihood thank me for that decision everyday. Despite anything Dean Kamen will have me believe, I know I can make a more relevant difference in this field and I know I’m using my mind a heck of a lot more than I would be doing an engineering degree. Of course I’m predisposed to encouraging you to study political science because that’s what I’m studying myself, but based on your comments I think you might be going about your decision the wrong way.

My advice? Don’t let Dean’s homework assignment enter into the equation; his homework is about spreading his organization and has nothing to do with you doing what you want to do. I’ve said this many times on the forum. FIRST for you is what you make of it. It shapes you as a person and is an experience you should feel lucky being a part of… but Dean’s homework and Dean’s opinions don’t have squat to do with what you want to do with your life beyond that. FIRST has given you perspective as it has for me, but I think that’s as far as it goes in terms of the role it should play in your decision. I still try to give back to FIRST as often as I can and I’m still immensely interested in it, three years removed as a student. It’s good that you took the right courses in high school and left your options open; I did too. But my passion lies in the social sciences, and I didn’t let my love for FIRST cloud my judgment and choose for me. The fact that I probably would have been a good mechanical engineer and that FIRST helped me realize this doesn’t change this. So don’t worry too much about “embracing the ideals of FIRST” in your decision, just do you.

Good luck, whatever you decide.

Take if from someone who’s been out working for many years, you have to do what you love and have a passion for. If you don’t have a passion for your work, your in the wrong business.

I’ve been heavily involved in my FIRST teams since the 2001 season (my freshman year of high school). I participated on team 93 in high school … last year I mentored team 857, and this year I’m mentoring 857 again and started a new local team, team 2153. I would say yes, I am a FIRST fanatic.

A FIRST fanatic who never had any desire to be an engineer. There. I said it. :wink:

I go to Michigan Technological University. I came to school here because I thought I wanted to be an engineer. My teachers, mentors and friends told me I should be an engineer because, duh, I was in FIRST! I could build robots! What more is there to do? … I got up to MTU and realized I’m no good at math, I hate physics and I really didn’t want to be an engineer. Of course, it took a few changes of major and quite a few wasted credit hours to reach this decision. My (final, for real) major is in Secondary English Education with a minor in Earth Sciences and a teaching certificate in Spanish (or maybe German; I have a year to decide yet).

I know - you’re thinking, “You do FIRST … and you’re going to be an English teacher?” Let me explain.

I actually came to the decision that I wanted to be an English teacher by mentoring 857. Really, it was like something just clicked one day and I said, “Wait, I don’t want to be an engineer. But I love doing FIRST. Why do I like FIRST? I really enjoy working and interacting with the high school students. Working with them and teaching them things is really, really cool. I should be a teacher. And I’m good at English. Like, really. So maybe I should be an English teacher!” and the rest is, as they say, history.

So, to wrap this all up. Influences can be really, really good. But don’t let them decide your life for you, especially when it comes to your education and career. Echoing what others have said in this post, you need to get an education in what you want to do, in what you’re passionate about. Can you see yourself engineering for the rest of your life? Will you enjoy that? Or would you rather engage in political science as a major and career? My parents told me from the beginning I should major in journalism, or English education, or something along those lines. I didn’t listen to them, I listened to my friends instead. Turns out my parents were right and my friends were wrong. In fact, when I told my parents I was switching my major, my dad said, “we were wondering when you would figure that out!”

If you’re truly torn between the two, one thing I would suggest is to declare your major as “General Education” and take a few introduction courses to engineering, political science, and maybe a few courses in a different direction (history, journalism, physics, whatever). This will give you some insight into how the rest of the courses relating to that major will go, and aid in your decision about your major.

Good luck! :slight_smile:

Thanks for all the advice!

I wanted to clarify that when I mentioned Dean’s Homework, that hasn’t really been a big influence on my decision, I’m just pointing out that there is a relationship between the two. The hard part is that I could easily see myself pursuing either passion, it’s just difficult to decide between them. Part of the issue lies in that the colleges that I’m applying to are kind of “specialized”. Like one offers exclusively engineering/buisness degrees, while the other exclusively offers political science/history degrees. One morning I’ll wake up sure that I want to be an engineer, the next, political science just seems like the only way to go…

/me is confused


OK, so I had this huge long post planned but in the spirit of making less for the mods to read I will keep it short and sweet.

Do what makes YOU happy. Not your mom, dad, brother, boyfriend, or girlfriend, YOU. It doesn’t matter if someone from team 4000 is happy in engineering and 3567 isnt. That is them this is you.

If you have any further questions IM me.

By the time you realize that you’re not masochistic enough to be an engineering student, it’s too late to turn back…

When choosing to apply to college, I decided to apply good schools that are well rounded, instead of just engineering schools. If I decide down the road that engineering isn’t the thing for me, I wont be completely stuck.

Ever since I joined FIRST I’ve really loved engineering, and thats what I want to major in college, but I do have a backup plan.

Like Jay said, follow your heart, it will lead you to what you truly want to do.

The most important thing in a career is to be happy with what you are doing. If you aren’t having fun at work, it doesn’t matter what you are doing.

Some advice. How many politicians can design a robot? How many engineers/scientists can have a political discussion? I think the number in the latter category is higher.

In college, you will need to take a bunch of courses as electives outside of your main field of study, especially in the first couple of years. Go into an engineering field. Pick a lot of early electives in other subject areas that interest you. Take some time early in your college life to experiment with different fields of study. When you find what you like stick to it. Your college application is NOT the decision point.

It is always easier to switch out of engineering than it is to switch into engineering.

I got an engineering degree, followed by an MBA. The other way around would not have been possible. Well, would have been a lot harder.

The important thing is to find what you really like and have a foundation that allows you to be flexible. Starting in engineering doesn’t close any doors…

I’m also a senior this year, but I’m not really considering going into engneering at all. Although I enjoy my time with FIRST immensely (I’ve been doing it since I was a freshman), I know I’m not interested enough in engineering to do it as a career. I want to be a radio producer (so, I suppose my career would be sort-of connected with broadcast engineering), but since most schools don’t have any sort of program related to that, I plan to study French, since I really love that. The only problem is that there isn’t much in the way of FIRST scholarships if you’re not studying engineering. :frowning: