Navigating a new school year

Hi all!

Welcome to a new school year! It's as awesome as I imagined it would be, as well as busier than I ever imagined it could be. Here's a general list of the stuff I do:

Classes:

  • Discrete Math - Just completed a midterm (phew)
  • Linearity II - Project in Optimizing Vaccine Distribution Systems
  • Computational Robotics - Programmed three robots to play a game of Marco Polo with each other
  • POE (Principles of Engineering) - On a project team building a piano-playing robot that can read sheet music

Other:

  • Research - We're going to Spain to present at a conference in Madrid in less than 4 days!
  • HPV - I'm a subteam leader on a team designing a system for automatic shifting
  • Curriculum Innovation - in a co-curricular as well as a student rep on a faculty committee (I want to do my AHS concentration in this!)
  • Fourth Grade Math - Fellow sophomore Gabrielle Ewall and I volunteer to co-teach an extracurricular math class for fourth graders at a local elementary school once a week
  • Work - I work in OSL (Office of Student Life) as well as being a ModSim NINJA for the first-years, which so far has been amazing. I really enjoy teaching in that space.
  • Machine Learning - a Co-Curricular learning about making computers learn for you
  • hack/reduce - I just got accepted to a role as a Campus Ambassador for this organization that seeks to involve more college students in the Big Data networks around Cambridge and Boston

Clubs:

  • Glass Club, Olin Dance Project, Computing Conversations, OFAC, Game Dev (and more)

But what I really wanted to talk about is the question I've been thinking about for the past few weeks is a little more far-reaching. It's a decision that's due for us sophomores in less than a week. What should my major be?

It started when I met with my advisor last week to discuss what I wanted. Should I follow the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) route I had originally imagined for myself, or should I take the trail of Engineering with Computing (E:C)? It's a common choice I'm not alone in stressing out over.

As my advisor helped me see, what I really want in my heart is to be an E:C major. I'm really interested in software. I love learning new languages and designing new code structures, and it's what really fascinates me and draws my work and attention in projects. It's what I want to do.

Shouldn't the choice be clear, then? Not quite. I never felt a particular intense draw to electrical engineering, but I don't dislike it. I always thought that doing the ECE major would just be a few extra classes that would result in my being deeply skilled in two fields instead of one. Plus, every college recruiter knows what Electrical and Computer Engineering is. E:C majors always get the "so, what exactly is your major?" question.

It took that talk to realize that I didn't really WANT to do the ECE major requirements. I'm a big proponent of personalized education, and jumping through tons of hoops to fulfill the extensive ECE requirements wasn't something I really wanted to do with my education. I wanted to take classes because I was really interested in their content. This was true of a few of the ECE classes - most notably, Computer Architechure, which I'll take next fall - but not all of them. How could having more degrees of freedom within the E:C major be a bad thing?

Well, it depends who you ask. Some say E:C is a cop-out because of the more flexible requirements. Some say it makes it harder to pass through resume-sorting algorithms. And some say having a "General Engineering" diploma (the concentration isn't listed on you actual piece of paper) just isn't as remarkable.

I say, do what you love. Do what you think will service you best for whatever path you choose after graduation. Even though E:C is a pretty well-defined concentration, I'm really excited about the idea of defining my own path through Olin. This relates to my somewhat unusual views that all Olin majors should be self-designed, so that all students are really pushed to engage with their education and define it. But I won't go into that. The takeaway is, do what will make you happy. Also, don't stress out about majors too much, you can change it at literally any point!

Posted in: Anne '17