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First things first. I am not a good person - I have never pretended to be. But I tried to make my parents (more importantly my dad) proud. Today I screwed up. I sat for an exam that I don't understand the work for, despite trying my best. I got desperate (this module is a prerequisite for everything next year), and I cheated. I had all the tutorials on my phone (I study using my phone, not my laptop, I didn't plan to cheat) and I tried to scrape together some answers. I was caught. Whatever happens I will not make credits this year (if I'm not expelled - which I deserve). I am so disgusted with myself. I have already taken full responsibility for my actions. No point in lying. I have struggled with engineering ever since I started (I've already taken 3 years to do 2 years worth of work). My question is, how do I handle myself going forward? What is the point of trying anymore?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Buzz, scaaahu, henning -- reinstate Monica, user3209815, Enthusiastic Engineer Jun 28 '18 at 7:32

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  • 6
    You are in a bad situation, obviously. The advice I'd give is much like what I wrote previously: academia.stackexchange.com/a/111717/75368. Also, having owned the problem, you are in a good place to move on without it affecting your future or self worth beyond the obvious penalties. Be the person you want to be. – Buffy Jun 27 '18 at 17:55
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    Make sure you understand this and repeat it to yourself every day. "I do not live for my parents." If your parents are sensible and understanding they will be more proud of you living your life and becoming what you are instead of just blindly following what they think might be best for you just because it worked out for them. One day your parents won't be there any more. Who are you going to make proud then? Make yourself proud and follow your personal aspirations and follow them through and not only your parents will be proud of you but also your partner & kids one day. – lowtechsun Jun 27 '18 at 22:00
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    Set aside what your parents want you to do for a moment. What do you want to do, and where do your aptitudes and passion lie? – smci Jun 27 '18 at 22:01
  • What is your goal? Do you want to minimize damage, find another subject to study, decide whether or not to drop out, set boundaries against your parents...? If your asking about the first goal, this is a relevant, perhaps even duplicate question: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/30539/… – henning -- reinstate Monica Jun 28 '18 at 6:24
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It seems that you already know what to do. You said it yourself, you've struggled with engineering since you started and you had to cheat on an exam that is a pre-req for your future courses. Classes aren't going to get easier and you would be wasting your time and money pursuing this degree. Is there a reason why you're still in engineering? Is there anything personal keeping you in this curriculum? Re-evaluate where you want your life to head.

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    Sound advice. You only live once. Make the most of it. – Buffy Jun 27 '18 at 19:09
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    +1 and I'll add that if there's something you want to do that requires you to stay in engineering, then that's the point of continuing to try. If there's nothing - then quit and do something else you actually enjoy. – Allure Jun 27 '18 at 21:25
  • Struggling with something doesn't mean that it's pointless continuing to study. The degree is just a worthless piece of paper, but the experience and knowledge will set you for life. – JohnEye Jun 27 '18 at 22:26
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    I think that without a "worthless piece of paper" it will be nearly impossible to get a job in the engineering field. How is OP supposed to get an internship? How are they going to get relevant experience? – lin Jun 28 '18 at 22:00
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You screwed up. That doesn’t make you a bad person! You took responsibility (good!) and now you should move forward. I really like Buffy’s answer: be the person you want to be. It is never too late for that.

It could be that engineering is not your cup of tea. Then your challenge is to find out what really motivates you and change direction. It could also be that you have not learned yet how to study for exams (or how to motivate yourself to study). I would look for a counselor or (study) advisor to help you to get on track.

Just an idea: take some part-time voluntary work if you get stuck in ‘feeling a bad person’. You will see how much you will be appreciated and it puts things into perspective.

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I would recommend that you take a real look at yourself and whether you want to be an engineer. This is the most important question you need to assess right now before going forward.

The first thing that your professors should have taught you about engineering is that there's a LOT of failure in it : This means, you fail all of the times you thought you understood something but didn't really get it, all of the times you thought you had a design that worked but didn't and all of the times that your designed was passed over for someone else's. What's more noticeable about engineering vs say the humanities , is that you have quantifiable ways to determine if you failed or not. In addition, with an engineering mind you will always think of ways where your design or system will fail...so this experience with failure helps you anticipate the problems might experience in the real world.

So in your case, you just got hit with one of the many types of failures that plagues many people...cheating to get ahead. Remember that with knowledge, as in design, there are no shortcuts. In addition, you honestly identified your method of studying that is really counterproductive for the majority of students.

Going forward, if you can accept that engineering is a difficult road because of these challenges but find it enjoyable enough that you aren't afraid of the possibility of failure then you are in the right field. The lagging behind in schoolwork isn't what is that important. Right now, and assuming you are honest in your introduction, the fact that you have in fact completed 2 years of work is nothing to scoff at and you should feel good about that work.

So, if you can answer these motivational questions and you are still interested in the discipline of engineering, your solutions to your academic issues are solvable by first having an honest dialog with your adviser and the school's honor court and explain how this was a very real moment of weakness spawned by pressures to perform and feeling inadequate in your skill level. Next, explain both to yourself (and to the honor court) that you are going to put in hard work to figure out where your weaknesses are, and you will work with tutors , the school's writing center or any other resources given by your university (to help fill in gaps in students' knowledge) to help get you feeling on par with your peers and coursework. You might even want to look at seeing if your university has assistance with identifying learning disabilities. Remember that there's no shame in any of these things

Third, seek out more resources on how to be a good student and learn about the lower limit law of 10,000 hours for the amount of time it takes to master a subject. Lastly, have a "real" talk with your parents and explain that you are eager to make this change but that your completion of the degree might take longer than you both had anticipated.

There's no shame in taking more time as everyone has completely different backgrounds when it comes to starting an engineering degree. The key aspect to being a good engineer is the same principle that helps you get the engineering degree : work hard at understanding the system and don't be afraid to tinker , play , fail and repeat until you finally succeed.

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Since this just happened today, my first piece of advice is not to make any big decisions while you are emotional. You are obviously feeling very down about yourself, and yes, you have done a bad thing. Take some time to remove yourself from the situation and try to relax. Talk to your parents and let time pass; have a cry if you need to. Do not feel compelled to take any drastic actions at the moment, and let the process play out however it will play out. Part of that process is going to be a punishment for your actions in your exam.

At some point when you are over the initial shock of this situation, you are going to have to make some practical decisions about your future, and also some character decisions about the kind of person you want to be, and in particular, how you will respond when you encounter adversity. You will need to decide if engineering is a suitable program for you, or whether you would be better at another field. You will also need to decide whether you are going to allow yourself to fail at things, or whether that prospect is so terrifying that you will seek shortcuts and deceptions to give the appearance of success.

It is evident from your post that you are young, so you have plenty of time to forge the kind of character you can be proud of, and learn enough to attain competence in some career field. Any resolution you make on the day of being caught for misbehaviour is going to look self-serving, so the real test is going to be whether you can establish some sense of good character for yourself that will give you the strength to act honestly the next time you encounter a difficult situation.

In answer to your title question: you do not need to learn to live with being a dishonest cheat. Rather, you can learn to craft your own character so that you are no longer dishonest, and no longer cheat. Once you make these decisions for yourself, and practice them over time, and automate honesty and good character, you will instead learn to live with being an honest person who does not cheat; and that is much more satisfying. I'll leave you with this pearl of wisdom from a philosopher who wrote about this kind of thing:

Just as man’s physical survival depends on his own effort, so does his psychological survival. Man faces two corollary, interdependent fields of action in which a constant exercise of choice and a constant creative process are demanded of him: the world around him and his own soul (by “soul,” I mean his consciousness). Just as he has to produce the material values he needs to sustain his life, so he has to acquire the values of character that enable him to sustain it and that make his life worth living. He is born without the knowledge of either. He has to discover both—and translate them into reality—and survive by shaping the world and himself in the image of his values.

--- Ayn Rand (1969) The Romantic Manifesto, p. 169.

  • Comments deleted. If you have a problem with the quote in the answer, discuss the quote and not its author. – Wrzlprmft Jun 28 '18 at 8:09
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The top ranked answer to this question is a good one- you already know what to do, etc- but I wanted to add a little more nuance around some language in the question: "I am not a good person..." and "how do I handle myself going forward? What is the point of even trying any more?"

I hear a very important issue in that language that I don't see being addressed in either the top answer or the other answers. This is the decision about even trying.

In school, one gets points for even trying. School is compulsory, curriculum is fixed, students travel in largely uniform cohorts. Even seemingly life-impacting decisions around courses of study in college are still ultimately just very narrow gradations in a very limited landscape.

Life is BIG. Much bigger than school. Life is LONG (one hopes). Life is made up of many PLACES. Your life is uniquely yours and your job in life is to find your PLACE, to tell your story, to find the authentic you.

In life, one gets no points for even trying. Even trying is lying to oneself. And the most important thing to find in life is how to not lie to oneself. It is harder than it seems.

The lies to oneself lead to lies outside, to others.

The education system- due to no fault of anyone, just the nature of any fixed system applied to a population- teaches some people that the only choice they have is to even try. That's a lie.

Do not blame yourself for even trying. It is important to you to earn the respect and love and pride of the people you love. That's natural.

But my advice is- set yourself a goal to listen to that voice inside that doesn't want to even try anymore. Listen to it and cultivate it, and learn how to share it with others, when the time is right. Work to understand why you have felt you had to choose to even try rather than listen to that voice. Understand what about your circumstances, yourself, the people you love, has led you to this PLACE of even trying.

Try to work to find a PLACE where you can still have the people and things you love, and you have to work hard, and probably sacrifice, perhaps a great deal, but where you don't have to even try any more. The authenticity is worth everything.

So you do know what to do. You are on the path. Find and listen to that voice.

PS- it is also a lie to say "I am not a good person." Many people say this for the same reasons they even try. Of course we are all terrible people, awful failures, too often much less than our best selves. Saying "I am not a good person" is a way of finding humility, which is better than cultivating hubris. But there is a way in which it is also a lie.

Try to find a way to be more gentle with yourself- you can be, you are, a good person, who does not have to even try. There is a PLACE where you can find and live your truth without having to even try.

Good luck to you.

1

Nine years ago, I graduated with an undergrad degree in chemical engineering. I am of average intelligence, and to pass I studied my dick loose - 6 to 8 hours a day, easily 5 days a week.

Due to time being a limited resource, I didn't work through college, using student loans to pay my way. The loans racked up, along with their interest.

I graduated a month after the highest unemployment due to the recession. Although I spent months before graduating looking for a job, I didn't find one. And the thought of lenders hounding me for payment, or my parents having to make the payments with their meager income stressed me out.

I tried hard to land a decent paying gig. Eventually, I took a not-great paying job at a university doing neuroscience research. I still work here, granted making more money (though I live in my friend's garage due to living in an expensive city).

(Bear with me)

Neuroscience, while fascinating, is not my passion. Outer space is - and I decided to get a masters in electrical engineering (while working at the university) to help move in that direction. Once again, not the smartest man - it just took a lot of time. Five years working full time and going to school.

I finished and moved to another city. I spent the better part of a year looking for a job in aerospace (and after a while I tried any field). Never found one. Helped my brother through one trip to rock-bottom due to alcoholism (which is quite a ride).

I couldn't find a job in the new city, money dried up, got desperate - went back to neuroscience, sadly. Even worse, I ended up doing the kind of research that I found morally objectionable. Left that job for a year contract doing neuroscience I can stomach.

Now, I intend to leave a career in "engineering" behind. Engineering had never panned out for me. I dunno why. But, honestly, I had to go through all that I did - to learn it wasn't the life for me (or I wasn't the life for it).

The moral of the story is, you'll experience things in life that take you from one point to the next. Realize that you may need to be here. And you may need to learn the lessons that come your way.

Lastly, sometimes the hard way is the only way to learn a lesson.

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