Rethinking my Major


New Member
May 11, 2015
Hello all,

This is my first post on this website, and while it is not necessarily an 'ROTC' specific program I wanted to post it on this site because I feel that the members here will be able to relate to my situation the most. First off, a little background information: I'm currently a First-Year Engineering major at Purdue, hoping to get accepted into either the Mechanical or Aerospace Engineering departments after I complete the last prerequisites this summer. Like many others, I came into college with a great GPA, test scores, and received the 4-year AROTC scholarship (I accepted) and thought that I would do fine in college. However, I'm now done with my first year and I'm really starting to rethink whether or not I have what it takes to actually graduate with a good enough GPA in engineering to get a good job, if I should decide to leave the military early on. I got a 2.9 first semester and am looking at between a 2.7-2.9 this semester. The only thing holding me back from switching majors at this point is the fact that I know I have a guaranteed job after college because of the military, but I am still worried if it will hurt me in the long run should I decide to leave the military. I am also decently involved on campus (ROTC, Fraternity member, as well as my Fraternity's Riley Dance Marathon representative), but I do not know how much that will play into effect from an employer's perspective. I know of friends who had sub 2.0 GPA's while being engineering majors who then got over 3.5's after switching to some sort of business major. Purdue statistically has the lowest grade inflation in the U.S., but I feel like many employers will overlook that statistic. So to sum everything up, my question is whether or not you all would recommend considering a different major (I am also very interested in business majors) or if you think I should stay on track even with my very low GPA. I am only looking for others' opinions on this matter, because my parents always give me the response of 'at least you have a guaranteed job after college', and I feel like that is a terrible perspective to have. Sorry for the long post, but please let me know if you have any helpful advice.
There is a strong likelihood that your GPA will pick up if you like the study of engineering after you get past the entry level (weeding out) courses. Study what interests you and do the best you can. At Purdue, I would look at the College of Technology and the engineering/ business majors in that college which are a little less "severe" than the Business or Engineering colleges. There is no way of knowing if you will make the Army a career (or if the Army will let you). But if you fulfill your minimum Army ROTC commitment and apply for engineering jobs 4 or 5 years later, I am not sure how strongly GPA is looked at. Purdue has a very well respected Engineering school and I would think a degree and military experience trumps fresh graduates with higher GPA's. GPA wasn't as big a deal after my military service when I applied for civilian jobs but I wasn't an Engineer so others would need to comment.
I wold definitely say that your military experience combined with that engineering degree is definitely the way to go.
First, your GPA is not "very low". It is perfectly normal for first-year engineering students, and not just at Purdue. If and when it really is too low, the school will be the first to tell you, and help you to get back on track. But you wouldn't be in the program at all unless the school was convinced that you can succeed. That being said, it is hard for excellent students, who got A's in high school, to be satisfied with the B's and C's they are going to get as engineering majors - particularly when all of their non-engineering friends are getting better grades with far less effort. You have to grind it out and not get discouraged.

Second, an engineering degree opens doors for you, even in other fields. An engineer can always get an MBA, but it is almost impossible for business grads to acquire the technical knowledge that engineers have. Also, irrespective of your GPA, an engineering degree tells employers that you have a strong work ethic and time-management skills.

Third, a Purdue engineering degree is a very prestigious credential, and all the more so because the standards are so high. In my opinion, you should embrace the challenge, do the best you can, and not worry too much about your GPA.
I personally find that you will not succeed in something that you do not enjoy. If you hate your major, then change it!

I hated my Applied Math major, so I changed it to Meteorology. I don't like that either, so I tacked on an Art History minor (my favorite subject of all time), to make school bearable.

Now, I'm probably going to get discharged from AF, so I can change my major again to Environmental Science, which is something that I dislike less than Meteorology.

However, there are two schools of thought.

1. Major in what you enjoy. Then I would be an unemployed, French-speaking homeless guy who can tell you everything about the architectural history of Los Angeles.
2. Major in what is useful/lucrative. Then you major in engineering, or STEM. You serve your time, retire, get into the private sector, and end up making bank.

I like a combination of both - take the best halves of each, and put together. Major in something you sort of enjoy (or don't absolutely hate), which is also useful (or not as un-useful).
I am only looking for others' opinions on this matter, because my parents always give me the response of 'at least you have a guaranteed job after college', and I feel like that is a terrible perspective to have.

One thing to remember with AROTC is that you Do Not have a guaranteed full time job after graduation. In AROTC, you have to compete for Active Duty (Full Time Job), if your not high enough on the OML you could be forced to Reserves.National Guard (Part Time Job).

Being an Engineering major will give you the full ADM points for the OML, but GPA will still need to be acceptable. If the program is still in place when you commission you could ADSO in the Special Branching Program for the Engineering Branch, which could give you Active Duty even if you fall below the AD Cutoff.

The first year in Engineering can be tough, though I remember my son telling me when he met with his advisor to register for sophomore year, the advisor's comment was "Kid, your going to hate me next year" It really doesn't get easier, students that make it through just get better in tune with the grind the second year.

Just some things to consider.
Jcleppe: I had forgotten that the Army is not like the Air Force, in that they do not automatically send every cadet to active duty.

Here at my school, I hear from my AROTC buddies that getting active duty is actually fairly difficult, and only a selected few get the privilege - and all others go reserve or national guard.

Air Force makes everybody active duty once they graduate, which I always thought made more sense, as why would they spend all that money sending you to school and then not really use you (aka place you into reserves)?
Here at my school, I hear from my AROTC buddies that getting active duty is actually fairly difficult, and only a selected few get the privilege - and all others go reserve or national guard.

It's not quite that bad, at least not yet. This year 78% of the Army ROTC Cadets that wanted Active Duty received it, many cadets choose the Reserve/National Guard or have accepted GRFD scholarships that require them upfront to join the Reserve/Guard.

To be clear, it is competitive, but it's Not just a Selected Few.
Purdue ROTC. We all have opinions, here is mine as a corporate recruiter. 2.7-3.0 GPA will not hurt you from a job perspective from Purdue university. Depends on how you interview and you personality, but your GPA will not hurt you as far as the private sector, in my opinion. Your major and school are desirable. Now the thing for you to decide, is are you doing it just for a job or are you majoring in engineering because you like to solve problems? If the answer is problem solving stay put and do the best you can, you will be desirable on paper. Learn to lead people and projects also and you may rule the world. FYI my DS is an Engineering Major with a 3.0, the Army may not want him full time, but 2 other companies do so far, and the pay is better. I'm not suggesting you don't serve, only don't give up because of a GPA at this point if you like solving problems.

Also, I know as a recruiter that Purdue offers a Mechanical Engineering degree and a Mechanical Engineering Technology Degree. The MET degree has a little less calculus and other "Hard stuff" and is still a respected degree. Starting pay is usually a little less, and the target jobs are more engineering services to start. But after a few years its up to you anyway, and I don't think the army cares whether its ME or MET. I'm not sure of the other branches.

Good Luck
For very many people, what they study or major in during their college years can have absolutely ZERO relation to their careers, even in the military.

If your goal is to be XXX, look up the qualifications (for instance, if you really REALLY desire to be a test pilot, do not major in French with a side of architectural history). Plan from that point, and yes, you may love or loath your coursework, but it will put you on a path to success in your chosen occupation.

And remember, the needs of the (AF, Army, Navy... ) come first, before your big plans.
The "mom" in me must speak up. Have you considered that maybe you have over-reached with your activities? Is the fraternity taking up too much of your time in addition to the time you must spend on ROTC requirements? Starting college is quite an adjustment and add the ROTC in with that and it must be a bit overwhelming. I do think that you should focus on a degree that you will enjoy in the civilian world and that going with a degree because it is what might help you in the military would be a mistake. My DS is getting a degree in cybersecurity and hopes he will be able to utilize that in the military. He chose that degree not because of the military, but because he wants that to be his career as a civilian. As has been mentioned in other threads, there is no guarantee of being able to retire from the military so you will have to face the civilian life sooner or later. Don't give up yet! If that is the degree you want, keep pluggin away.