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[P]
Finish College, or Not?

By DJBongHit in Culture
Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:41:59 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

I know this has been asked here on k5 before, but it was before it's hiatus, and I'd like to hear people's opinions on some other related questions, too. My question is about whether or not to finish college.


I'm a third year CS major at the University of Maryland, but I still have as many credits as many first-year students (due to various circumstances) and am in financial hell. I thankfully didn't have to get a loan for college, but bad decisions have led to credit card debts and the like. So I'm considering leaving school (possibly temporarily, possibly permanently) and entering the real world.

What got me thinking about it was over the summer when I got a job offer to move out to Los Angeles and work at a small IT company for $100,000/year. I turned down the offer, but am beginning to regret it now. This semester isn't going well and I'm getting deeper and deeper into debt. Trying to survive on less than $10,000/year and still pay for food, rent, cigarettes, and entertainment (guess what that is?) is pretty difficult, and certainly leaves no room for repaying credit card companies. Not to mention the fact that I'm already getting so behind in my schoolwork that I may not even pass this semester. I'm beginning to think that college just is not worth the effort.

So I'm asking y'all about any advice you may have about my situation. What would you do if you were in my position? How would you go about approaching the subject with the parental units (they're both professors at MIT and are obviously intent on keeping me in school)? And if I do leave college, does anybody have any good recommendation on places to live with a relatively low cost of living and which is friendly to people in the IT field (available jobs, good connectivity, etc...)?

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Finish College, or Not? | 67 comments (62 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
The value of a degree (3.09 / 11) (#1)
by electricbarbarella on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 05:11:25 AM EST

Most of the people I know (both pre-graduation and already in the computer work force; some with degrees, some not) say that a degree only gets you your first job, if that. If you can get that first job without a degree, go for it. The work experience is worth more in the long run anyway.

-Andy Martin, Home of the Whopper.
Not everything is quantifiable.
Re: The value of a degree (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by bflame on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 07:10:42 AM EST

As someone who has been working in the field for over 15 years, I have hit a point where not having a degree is hurting me. The last couple job interviews I have been on have both resulted in the comments like your resume is just a little junior compaired to what we normally see. After pressing one of them, I found out that it was the lack of that college degree that cost me the job.

[ Parent ]
Re: The value of a degree (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by Louis_Wu on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 01:32:10 AM EST

I want to emphasize that college is more than a piece of paper which gets you a job. The parent post shows the long term dangers of not having that piece of paper ("You mean your VP of Tribble Counting doesn't even have a college degree? What kind of half-arsed company are you guys running here?"), but there are less concrete losses you might experience.

I'm finishing my senior project for my degree in Mechanical Engineering, and while I'm tired of school now, I'm glad I had some of those stupid General Education classes. I like philosophy, I enjoyed literature, political science was a fun A. College is an experience of expansion, where things are questioned and answers sought.

But you've been there a while, so you probably know this. It sounds like getting a job is a good option, but I suggest you go back to school eventually. You may want to, you may not. But if you make plans to go back to college (like leaving this term smoothly, not just dropping out and getting F's), your parents may be a bit more understanding.

Whatever you do, good luck. God speed.



Louis_Wu
"The power to tax is the power to destroy."
John Marshal, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
[ Parent ]
College? (2.14 / 7) (#2)
by Jack9 on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 06:08:23 AM EST

In california, you CERTAINLY dont need a degree. 4 years and still going, I make more than either of my parents. 2 years of college, out the window. Maybe I'll get that degree I never needed one day...who knows.
Often wrong but never in doubt.
I am Jack9.
Everyone knows me.

A similar situation to my own... (3.20 / 5) (#3)
by mjg on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 06:10:19 AM EST

I'm in a similar situation, weighing up the risks and benefits of dropping college for a job, or struggling with college for one more year to complete my degree.

In my case, I do have a rather hefty loan now, but I make enough to live and go to college from a part time (non-computing related) job. My problem isn't so much money, although the loan weighs on my mind, but the fact that I have all but lost interest in a large part of the degree I'm taking. I beleive that I should have done a Computer Science degree, and what I'm doing now is more business related...

I'm taking a break now until the next semester starts, and trying to work out what to do. My worry is that I try and finish the degree I'm most of the way towards, but just can't muster the motivation required to complete it... and I end up another year down the track, another large chunk of money down the drain, and nowhere else.

So, I consider the option of taking a job. I've got an interview lined up for what sounds like an interesting job, which will gain me a good share of experience. It's not the kind of work I ideally expected to be doing, but it might be good none-the-less (or it may not). My biggest worry with this option is, will I ever finish my degree, or get back into education and get a computer science degree? I hope to eventually end up in a research position, so a degree leading into a Masters or even a Ph.D will most likely be needed for that.

I feel that it would be pretty easy to fall into the trap of leaving college "temporarily", earning good money, and not being able to move back into being a low paid, lowly student...

I'm afraid I can't offer any advice, and I dare say you've had the same thoughts I have about this. I am very interested to see what more experienced K5 readers will have to say about this, though.



Forget College, Finish Growing Up (4.53 / 15) (#6)
by zan5hin on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:05:16 AM EST

From reading this story it sounds as if the real problem is learning to be disciplined. The real purpose of college in this country today is to act as a measure of one's discipline. Can you complete these tasks in this manner by this time? Yes you have to jump through stupid hoops. But what do you think the business world is going to ask you to do?

I know that the current “information technology worker shortage” has made getting a job seem very easy. I know that startups are willing to take on just about anyone and that incentives to go to work are fantastic. But I also know that every thing runs in cycles, and that this cycle will end in time. There will come a day when the availability of jobs will dry up, when the companies stop asking what can we do for you? Instead they will be asking what can you do for us and why should we hire you? And, while I personally feel it is a lousy measure of one’s ability or knowledge, a completed college degree will be valuable again. The major reason companies look for degrees and grade point averages is to thin the herd at hiring time. All that’s happening today is that the college requirement has been lowered to “little or some.”

Even if the marketplace never corrects itself there will come a day when you the person will want to be able to say, “I completed this degree.” I know this from personal experience. At the end of 4-years in college I left without my degree. I got a job and started working. Since then I have had many jobs and steadily progressed. I have been extremely fortunate in my career, and today I am highly successful as an independent consultant. But at every stage along the way I was made aware, directly or indirectly, that not having a college degree tainted me. Finally after 13 years I completed the final requirements and I am proud to say I have my degree. Did it make a difference in my salary potential? No. Did it make a difference in the way I feel about myself? Yes.
i don' know mon, i jes make de coleslaw...
Re: Forget College, Finish Growing Up (none / 0) (#29)
by bailout911 on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:53:04 PM EST

I can't say I've ever really thought of it that way. I am also a 3rd year college student and probably would have taken a $100,000/year job if it was offered to me. I must say, though, that I am probably as undisciplined as anyone and often decide that it's not worth my time to do this or that, even when I know that it really is. It seems to me that college students these days (including myself) make excuses for situations they don't like. I.E. "This professor can't teach, doesn't speak english, blah blah blah" or, "There's no reason for me to learn this, I'm never going to use <insert favorite subject> in my job!!". To say that the real purpose of college is to learn discipline really makes sense to me, although it may take me 5 or 6 years to finally learn it. --The cows are not what they seems--

[ Parent ]
Think further ahead. (4.72 / 11) (#7)
by Merekat on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:41:13 AM EST

It sounds like you're stuck in a cycle of failure and debt which can't be making you very happy at the moment and makes it unlikely you can finish school. But rather than dropping out altogether, see if you can take a year out. I know a few people who have done that and it gave them a few useful insights and they appreciated school more afterwards.

What one person experienced was that although he had an income greater than when he was a student, and even got promoted, pretty soon he hit a ceiling. Having no degree certainly won't stop you getting a job, especially if you are actually good at what you do. No degree is, however an excuse for people to pay you less and not promote you or to give you less interesting jobs. He went back after a year (and cut up his credit cards).

Don't worry about the parental units. If you show them that this is a responsible decision you are making, and that you are not just running away or taking an easy choice, they may actually be relieved.
---
I've always had the greatest respect for other peoples crack-pot beliefs.
- Sam the Eagle, The Muppet Show

Re: Think further ahead. (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by dieman on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 02:08:59 PM EST

Except youll have to monkey with the finaid people to take a year off.
---
blah
[ Parent ]
I lived that life, and it's difficult. (3.40 / 5) (#8)
by bkosse on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:45:25 AM EST

Well, no smoking, but I made less per anum than you are. I, too, dropped out of college.

Let me tell you that it is very often difficult to get that first job under your belt to give you real experience in the career you want to get into, and often that career isn't what you originally thought you'd want to do.

Try to finish, for your own sake. At least then, the option to change career is available.
-- Ben Kosse

My thoughts... (3.37 / 8) (#9)
by Carnage4Life on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:47:32 AM EST

What got me thinking about it was over the summer when I got a job offer to move out to Los Angeles and work at a small IT company for $100,000/year.

That isn't as large as it sounds once you adjust for the cost of living in California around other techies, but it is still considerable.

I turned down the offer, but am beginning to regret it now. This semester isn't going well and I'm getting deeper and deeper into debt. Trying to survive on less than $10,000/year and still pay for food, rent, cigarettes, and entertainment (guess what that is?) is pretty difficult, and certainly leaves no room for repaying credit card companies. Not to mention the fact that I'm already getting so behind in my schoolwork that I may not even pass this semester. I'm beginning to think that college just is not worth the effort.

We've discussed this twice already on K5, before the DOS and after the DOS.

So I'm asking y'all about any advice you may have about my situation. What would you do if you were in my position? How would you go about approaching the subject with the parental units (they're both professors at MIT and are obviously intent on keeping me in school)?

I've been in a similar situation. I'm from a rather large family and everyone before me has either gotten an M.D. or a Ph.D. I'm pretty sure that I'll finish undergrad but not much else. To convince my folks that this would be a good idea (and to stop me from becoming the black sheep of the family), I spoke to a few college advisors and professors and every one of them said that taking the right offer (in my case a 90K job as a consultant for some B2B/eCommerce company) is more advantageous than going to school in the current technology climate. With the words of college professors and my academic advisor to back me up, my parents have offered little resistance for me stopping my education at the undergrad level.

And if I do leave college, does anybody have any good recommendation on places to live with a relatively low cost of living and which is friendly to people in the IT field (available jobs, good connectivity, etc...)?

Atlanta, and Dallas/Austin are the both rather favorable to techies right now.

A semester to get inspired (3.00 / 4) (#10)
by reshippie on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:27:52 AM EST

I was in a similar situation. I was dragging through school, realizing more and more that I didn't want to be an EE(Electrical engineer). I didn't really care about school. I was probably skipping about half of my classes during the week.

That was last year. I left in the middle of the spring semester, and recouped at home, and relaxed a bit. Now I'm doing my transfer apps, and working a dumbass temp job that allows me to post here, since they don't have much for me. I can't wait to get back to school now.

I actually think this time off has been great. It has allowed me to recenter myself, and now I can't wait to go study CS.

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)

degrees are where the money is at (3.62 / 8) (#13)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 10:16:42 AM EST

There will always be exceptions, but in general people with degrees make more money than people without.

To repeat what I said here , a tech with a four year degree will on average make $11,000 more per year than a tech with some college but no degree according to CRN's 1999 IT salary survey.

But if you want to bail, check out the Midwest. Cities like Cincinnati, Ohio are currently booming in the IT sector (If you have any C++ or Unix experience send me your resume and I'll have recruiters calling you by the end of the week). The cost of living is below the national average and we have both cable modems and dsl throughout most of the area.

If you are in your third year, I would reccomend you finish where you're at, but if debt is a problem consider finishing your degree part time while getting a decent job.

just my two cents

-l

Turning down the job was your second mistake. (3.25 / 12) (#14)
by marlowe on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 11:22:13 AM EST

You should've taken the job. You can always get the degree later, so long as you don't starve to death now. But first get get your habits under control. It's hard to get ahead in life when you're stoned most of the time, even if you do have a good income.

I know whereof I speak. I know a guy who worked for IBM in the seventies, when they had their monopoly. He was making good money, getting all sorts of stock options, but he was a stinking drunk. Various other substances, too. He blew all his money on drugs, women and booze, ruined his health, and died poor at the ripe old age of 56.

And then there's the proverbial lottery winner who ends up in debt in a few years...


-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
Re: Turning down the job was your second mistake. (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by khallow on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 01:06:05 PM EST

Come on. Turning down a job from a startup isn't a real mistake. Will that startup be in business long enough to justify your move to LA? I've had the dubious priviledge of being hired (at least I got an email saying I was hired) by a startup that went belly up two days later (usually it takes a little longer for my talents to kick in! :). Degrees last longer than startups do.

OTOH, his comments on substance abuse are on target. You're blowing money on cigarettes and weed? No wonder you can't make ends meet.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

Re: Turning down the job was your second mistake. (1.00 / 1) (#33)
by Smiling Dragon on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:01:45 PM EST

Woah! "It's hard to get ahead in life when you're stoned most of the time"? Hello Assumption!


-- Sometimes understanding is the booby prize - Neal Stephenson
[ Parent ]
Take everything said here with a grain of salt... (4.11 / 9) (#15)
by fprintf on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 12:08:41 PM EST

You may trust your peers, but I say read the advice from the experienced individuals (say, 30's and older) very carefully about the value of college.

I personally would be happy to hire someone without a college degree. However, given a comparison between people with two fairly close experience levels the nod will always go to the individual with the degree. You see, the degree shows that a person has made a choice and has elected to stick with it until finished. It exhibits discipline -- especially in a difficult field like Engineering/Computer Science.

With that said, perhaps something that satisfies both requirements. You can get a tech job now and go to school part time. If it is, as you say, that you only have 1 years worth of transferable credits, then you have very little to lose by bailing out now. Just stay in school if you can, and possibly consider that your entertainment may be the cause of your lack of motivation. (it was for me, I got kicked out of Clarkson University for two semesters of low GPA due to lack of motivation brought on by my weed habit).

Good luck to you! Also, you may want to refer to the other discussions that have been on Kuro5hin.
Wear sunscreen.
Re: Take everything said here with a grain of salt (none / 0) (#18)
by vsync on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 01:45:54 PM EST

What about someone who made the decision that college was not worth the time and stuck with it? What if they held a job for a number of years? There are other (and better, in my view) ways of measuring perserverance.

--
"The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
[ Parent ]
Experience vs Degree (none / 0) (#31)
by Smiling Dragon on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:58:32 PM EST

Aye, but I believe the comparison was between people with two fairly close experience levels.

I tend to also see my degree as proof that I've learnt how to learn - It's not the same as experiance, granted, but it means that the experiance you have is probably richer as you've had the grounding to gain more from it.


-- Sometimes understanding is the booby prize - Neal Stephenson
[ Parent ]
TO go to college (1.25 / 4) (#16)
by genisis on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 12:31:26 PM EST

This could easily also be used for:

Should I go to college or not?

Re: TO go to college (none / 0) (#32)
by spinfire on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:59:55 PM EST

I had a similar thought, as a current junior in High School. In 6 years (after college) who knows where the computing industry/culture/technology will be? Nevertheless, i still want to go to college.

As i see it, the best option might be to take some time off before college or midway through and return when the time is right. However, thats what bill gates did and look where he is....
Freelance Hacker. spinfire on FooNET.
[ Parent ]

Dont be a bum (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by maketo on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 02:08:28 PM EST

Finish school. It speaks for your character. Unless you are one of those selected ones that dont need school to do something great in the field. Nota bene: the hype has it that college dropouts are kicking ass around. Maybe, but that is because the media rules our lives.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
"Finish college or not?" (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by ksandstr on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 02:27:52 PM EST

Eh. I dropped out of the finnish rough equivalent of high school, then went to a school where you can finish the rest of the classes in the evenings and stayed there for a year. Then I went to work at an IT startup. Maybe I'll finish my studies during the next depression or something. Distance learning sounds pretty good too.

If you can get a job doing OS/FS things which doesn't require relocation, I'd say go for it. You can finish school after the company goes under or you leave them. A job (especially a first "real" job) gets you a profession and some work experience, which can't be bad in the long run.



Fin.
oh how hard it is :) (none / 0) (#28)
by Smiling Dragon on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:52:37 PM EST

Go back after a year in the working world? I expect that would be damned hard to give up that regular paycheck, _and_ start paying out big bucks as well.

Better to 'do or do not'. If you can go back and continue studies then that's great but it's not an easy move for most people, usually only done out of necessity.

-- Sometimes understanding is the booby prize - Neal Stephenson
[ Parent ]
Some advice... (4.14 / 7) (#24)
by GandalfGreyhame on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 03:44:22 PM EST

First of all, I would say finish college. Degree = Good thing. But that's already been hashed over. Second of all, I would say to stop smoking the fucking weed! Since its not addictive for you, stop doing it. Do something else, something that gives you a genuine challenge.

I've seen some of your work*, and I think you're pretty damn good at this stuff. But there's always room for improvement. Try and do more, do it better. And not, I repeat not, while stoned.

-Gandalf

*This image is, as it says on the bottom of it, (c) 2000 by our beloved DJBongHit. I've also mirrored it on my own computer in case he dosen't want his gallery pounded or anything like that, so, depending on my college's isp's mood, the link may not always work.

OT weed (3.60 / 5) (#25)
by iGrrrl on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 04:41:15 PM EST

Actually, it is addictive, BUT because the active ingredient is stored in the body, it tails off naturally when you stop smoking. If you block the receptors of a regular THC user, they have classic withdrawl symptoms.

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Re: OT weed (1.00 / 1) (#41)
by Funakoshi on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 11:01:48 PM EST

And you get your information from where?

[ Parent ]
Re: OT weed (1.00 / 1) (#46)
by el_guapo on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 11:15:35 PM EST

I think he gets it from first hand knowledge....
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
[ Parent ]
Re: OT weed (4.00 / 3) (#67)
by iGrrrl on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 01:17:39 PM EST

I get my information from neurobiology literature, meaning primary research publications.

This is the same literature where I learned that there are no known cannabinoid receptors in the brain stem. Deaths from opioid (i.e. heroin) overdose come from suppression of autonomic responses like breathing by the drug reacting with receptors in the brain stem areas that control these functions. Relevance: It explains why no one dies from OD of weed.


--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Re: OT weed (1.00 / 1) (#45)
by DJBongHit on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 11:06:24 PM EST

Actually, it is addictive, BUT because the active ingredient is stored in the body, it tails off naturally when you stop smoking. If you block the receptors of a regular THC user, they have classic withdrawl symptoms.

Well, I'm not sure I believe this, but even if it is true, for all intents and purposes, weed isn't addictive.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Re: OT weed (4.00 / 3) (#66)
by iGrrrl on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 01:11:40 PM EST

We can talk about addiction in two ways. One reflects physical dependence, as happens with opioids and nicotine. The other refers to so-called psychological dependence, which despite the name also includes underlying changes in neurochemistry. In cases of physical dependence, one finds also the neurochemical changes in the reward pathways of so-called psychological dependence.

Many addictions share the same general reward pathways. This statement should not be read as judgmental; I base my statements in physiology. <wry> I'm quite certain there are perfectly legal net-related activities which have altered my reward pathways in a way to reflect addiction. </wry>

So, no. I'll agree that weed is not addictive in the "kill someone or sell your body to get it" sense. If that's the only standard you care to use, it is a bit short-sighted, IMHO.


--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Re: OT weed (3.00 / 2) (#55)
by inpHilltr8r on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 02:33:05 AM EST

It's not exactly a difficult withdrawal. About a month of increasingly wacked out dreams, and feeling more awake than normal, then nothing, IMHE.

Giving up tobacco is proving harder (I'm british, we mix our dope with rolling tobacco), still feel the urge for a roll-up during moments of stress.


[ Parent ]
Re: Some advice... (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by DJBongHit on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 05:35:11 PM EST

Second of all, I would say to stop smoking the fucking weed! Since its not addictive for you, stop doing it. Do something else, something that gives you a genuine challenge.

Why? It's something I enjoy doing. I have to say, though, recently I've become a little more appreciative of sobriety and will probably lay off the weed a bit.

I've seen some of your work*, and I think you're pretty damn good at this stuff. But there's always room for improvement. Try and do more, do it better. And not, I repeat not, while stoned.

LOL. I agree that it's probably better to do coding and things like that when sober, but art, IMHO, is better done stoned - inspirational images flow into my head much easier and I also tend to have a better eye for color and layout.

This image is, as it says on the bottom of it, (c) 2000 by our beloved DJBongHit. I've also mirrored it on my own computer in case he dosen't want his gallery pounded or anything like that, so, depending on my college's isp's mood, the link may not always work.

If anybody's interested, the rest of my stuff is at http://www.wam.umd.edu/~spong/art/.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
One College Student to the Next (3.33 / 3) (#27)
by KatPhive on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 06:20:10 PM EST

I know that you may think that things are really diffucult right now. I too am in the circumstances of not being able to live due to financial diffuculties (I live on just over $6,000 a year including tuition, well below the poverty line). And like you I am a third year student with the hopes of getting out in the not-so-near-future. Some days are harder than others but I have to say that I think what I am doing here is the most important thing that I have ever done. College isn't about getting the piece of paper, true, it should be about learning and bettering one's self. However... Anyone who has been in this circumstance knows what it is really about. So if you have learned everything that you are going to from this circumstance, go and get that job in California, but if you don't know, err on the safe side. Get your degree. Kat -Every tool is a wepon if you hold it right.

A somewhat positive college dropout experience (3.50 / 4) (#30)
by daviddennis on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 08:57:55 PM EST

I went to UCSB for three years, was drifting, uninterested in the work, and really wanted to check out the glamour of the big city.

It took me three years of being in about the same financial position as I was in during college, but then I got lucky and found a consulting firm willing to take me on. I now work for one of the consulting firm's former clients (with the consulting firm's blessing) at a $100k salary.

I'd say take advantage of the boom - if you can get a good job now, you can always return to college during the bust, having saved a few bucks and gained a bit of life's experience.

D

amazing.com has amazing things.
We know why you don't have any credits... (2.66 / 3) (#34)
by Mr. Penguin on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:02:47 PM EST

Those of us who know you, DJ, know why you don't have that many credits -- too much weed!

Seriously, though, you really should finish college. I did what you didn't, and took a well-paying job during my sophomore year. I don't really regret it, and the company that I'm working for is paying for me to finish (and possibly continue) my education. If you can get a deal like that, then it's okay. But it really takes much longer to finish school while you're working.

I can tell you this. While classes can be tedious and boring, college is fun. I don't know of anywhere else you can schedule your day around sleeping and getting high. Even the cushy IT/IS jobs don't usually allow that.

All I'm saying is that right now, you're young and you've got plenty of time to make a lot of money. Live life to it's fullest, because there's a lot of responsiblity that comes with a big pay check.



What are your goals (3.66 / 3) (#35)
by aphrael on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:13:15 PM EST

I think you need to consider why you're in college, and what you are trying to gain from it.

I went into college as a political science major and had obtained enough credits to graduate by the end of my second year; in the meantime, I (a) gave up on politics and switched to computers; and (b) stopped paying attention to school and spent all of my time hanging out with friends and smoking. Eventually, after a few years of this, they kicked me out (graciously allowing me to get the political science degree).

I've since concluded that I shouldn't have gone straight into college: what I needed to get at that time was the social stuff, and it completely distracted me from the academic goals I thought I was pursuing. It sounds like you're having a similar problem: you aren't accumulating credits because you're being distracted by something else, which is probably more important right now; you should sit down and think about why you are in school, and why you are distracted.

Staying in college because it's what your supposed to do / is expected of you / etc is bullshit; it won't make you happy, you won't be any good at it, and you'll look back five years later and wish you hadn't. Staying in college because you think it will ultimately help your career might be a reasonable thing to do, if you can bring yourself to do something you aren't enjoying in order to get a payback in the future --- this is something almost every stoner i've ever known has had trouble with, and it's a philisophically disturbing question: is it really right to sacrifice today for a tomorrow which may never come?<?p>

If you are in college because there's some thing or set of things that you want to learn about, then stay there. But if there isn't something you love that's driving you to stay there, and you are having trouble forcing yourself to do something you don't care about, then get out, and do something you want to do.



Amen (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by Smiling Dragon on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:24:38 PM EST

Summed up nicely, I reckon you've hit the nail right on the head with that.

As for the pay today for tomorrow's gain part, it's a bit of a gamble but it's a good lesson to learn, sometimes the gain tomorrow is huge comapred to the little cost today, sometimes it was just a big waste of time. I think both are valuable lessons.

-- Sometimes understanding is the booby prize - Neal Stephenson
[ Parent ]
Did the degree, glad I did (3.00 / 3) (#36)
by Smiling Dragon on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:19:42 PM EST

Not for the reasons you'd think though. Mostly the university experiance taught me the ways of dealing with lots of unreasonable people and working to tight deadlines with unreasonable demands :)

Damned handy, now I can deal with the crap that working for the govenment throws you and come away only bitter and twisted instead of fully insane.

But really, my degree gave me a big leg-up getting the first job, and I know I'd never be in my current (second) job without it - they even wanted to talk to my research supervisor FFS! It shows an ability to learn fast and often teaches you a few new ways to look at problems.

If you bail on it, and are anything like me, you won't be able to go back later, throwing the pay cheque and shelling out all that cash is very hard once you've tasted the working income.

Part time study can work but is sometimes harder as work requirements in IT are very bursty, as are study requirements, if both go boom at the same time.... seeya later to sleeping.

Just know what you're getting into either way. If you want to drop it, consider re-configuring your degree to something slimmer instead, go for a diploma or some such - try to come away with something. Talk to course coordinators, they helped me loads during my 'mid-study crisis' :)

If you plan to stick it out - good on ya, but make sure you don't just do it becuase it's the 'right thing to do' instead of because you really want it.

Unhelpful as always but I wish you luck on it, it's a bloody tough call, I know from experiance.

-- Sometimes understanding is the booby prize - Neal Stephenson
(3.33 / 3) (#38)
by Hillgiant on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:25:47 PM EST

If you are willing to give up that 100k salary if (when) the economy goes south, I say go for it (dropping out). But, unless you go back relatively quickly, you will have to spend the rest of your life trying to explain why you never finished your degree. Sure Mr. Gates and Mr. Dell got away with it, but if you are having problems with getting your act together now, what makes you think you're going to make the Fortune 500.

Also, if they pay you 100k, they are going to expect that much work out of you. So, say good-bye to your slacker lifestyle.

Personally, I keep wondering why I left college.


-----
"It is impossible to say what I mean." -johnny

On a person-to-person level (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by daani on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 09:30:56 PM EST

I think you already know what you want to do, you just need the courage to give up a goal that you have been chasing for a very long time. I don't know you, but I've read a lot of stuff by you on the 'net. You don't strike me as the kind of guy who _needs_ college. Maybe your career will hit a brick wall if you don't finish, but that's all speculation at the moment. And if it does, who cares? If I've read you correctly, your ambition is far loftier than how much money you get paid in the computer industry.

But like I said, I don't know you.

Re: On a person-to-person level (none / 0) (#40)
by DJBongHit on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 10:38:07 PM EST

I think you already know what you want to do, you just need the courage to give up a goal that you have been chasing for a very long time.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

I don't know you, but I've read a lot of stuff by you on the 'net. You don't strike me as the kind of guy who _needs_ college.

Just out of curiosity, what stuff of mine have you read?

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Re: On a person-to-person level (none / 0) (#58)
by daani on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 06:35:19 AM EST

/. k5 and smokedot posts + comments. You adhere to what I would describe as a classical american libertarian philosophy, and apply it with emphasis on civil liberties and logic to most everything you discuss. Fair enough (for one line)?

PS: Know matter what anyone tells you, don't stop smoking drugs because "it's the sensible thing....". Simple MJ is doing more for you mentally and physically than many users appreciate.

[ Parent ]

Re: On a person-to-person level (none / 0) (#60)
by DJBongHit on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 08:07:44 AM EST

/. k5 and smokedot posts + comments. You adhere to what I would describe as a classical american libertarian philosophy, and apply it with emphasis on civil liberties and logic to most everything you discuss. Fair enough (for one line)?

Yup, that describes me pretty well :-)

PS: Know matter what anyone tells you, don't stop smoking drugs because "it's the sensible thing....". Simple MJ is doing more for you mentally and physically than many users appreciate.

I definitely agree. I'm not one of those people who smokes pot just to get wasted - I do it to enhance my experiences and open my mind to new things (this is one reason why I don't particularly like drinking - it doesn't have the mental stimulation that pot does). And pretty much the only people who tell me I should stop smoking pot are people who have never smoked it themselves, and therefore don't know what they're talking about anyway :-)

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Not necessarily the norm, but... (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by Stmpjmpr on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 11:04:24 PM EST

I almost (3 classes, I think) have my degree, but have been away from college for a few years now. I'm working as a programmer, and can't imagine quitting to go back and finish (although night school is probably in the near future). My degree is not related to computers, math, or programming.

Anyway, we recently hired a guy with a Masters in Computer Science. Put simply, he just isn't any good. Sure, he can do homework assignments and pass tests, but in the real world where he has to be creative and face harsh deadlines, he's miserable.

This doesn't reflect on graduate students as a whole, of course, but it does say 2 things to me:

1. A 6-year degree in CS doesn't mean you can code.
2. Don't waste 6 years of your life studying something you don't know you'll like in the real world.

As someone who's 3 classes shy of a BS in CompSci (3.00 / 1) (#43)
by John_Booty on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 11:04:33 PM EST

OK, to sum up this rambling post... if you get a solid basic understanding of CS theory from college, and some good real-world experience, the lack of a completed degree will NOT hold you back. But don't underestimate the positive benefits of college either. :)

In my personal experience, I'd day that a year or two of professional programming experience will make up for having only a partial college education.

Employers seem more interested in my experience and skills than in my lack of a degree. During job interviews, I'm very frank- I tell them I dropped out of college for monetary reasons and that I completed all of my CS requirements anyway- it's only a couple of history classes I need to get that magical piece of paper called a degree. :)

Still, at least some college is very beneficial. College gives you a chance to learn the theory behind a lot of what you'll do in the real world. I rarely need to write advanced data structures like queues, stacks, tree, etc in my real-life job but I'm damn sure glad I know what they are and how they work. I never need to code in assembly IRL, but I thank god for those assembly classes in college because they taught me how a CPU works! Unless you're in the upper 99.9% of self-motivated self-learners, you're never going to get the solid theoretical knowledge you'd gain in college by working on your own.

Here's what college doesn't teach you (at a typical school)... working in a team, dealing with other peoples' (usually shitty) code, and making all kinds of random software systems work together.

Most coding at college is done in a vaccuum. The professor gives you an assignment, you write all the code yourself, and that's it. IRL, you typically are dealing with all kinds of crazy shit that other people have written. In my current job, I'm part of a project that involves getting a central server, distributed servers across the country, various cash registers, and keychain-based electronic devices to talk ecahother. Fun as hell, and nothing they prepared me for in school.


_______________________________________________________________
Anime, game, and music reviews at www.bootyproject.org... by fans, for fans.
No sympathy from this corner (3.57 / 7) (#44)
by pac4854 on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 11:05:00 PM EST

You wanna know what my options were when I was your age? Of course not, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. I had a choice of staying in college and getting a draft exemption or going to Viet Nam. I didn't have a scholarship, my parents weren't professors at MIT, and my hometown only had a two-year school. Wanna guess where I ended up for the next four years?

You've got it easy beyond belief compared to the decisions I was faced with. My entire professional and personal life has been shaped by four years in the Marine Corps. Not a day goes by that I don't wonder where I might be now if there had not been a Viet Nam war and I had had the freedom to pursue a formal education. Yeah, I'm a little bit bitter about it, but ya gotta face reality. Shit happens.

Make any goddamn decision you want, but quit whining about your choices. They're a helluva lot better than I had.
-- Microsoft is to the internet what Jerry Springer is to television.
Re: No sympathy from this corner (1.00 / 1) (#56)
by one61803 on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 02:33:46 AM EST

Why don't you take your own advice and quit whining about your own life?

[ Parent ]
Re: No sympathy from this corner (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by pac4854 on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:45:45 PM EST

You're right, it does sound like a whine. I wish there were a "retract" option in K5. I'm not a professional writer. I really wanted to try to express the feelings of my entire generation, the Viet Nam generation, not just me. I failed miserably. I'll do better next time; failure is such a wonderful teacher.

I have it really easy compared to a lot of my fellow veterans. There's this guy I see every day down on Main Street where I work that rides a tricycle with a US flag and a black MIA flag flying from poles stuck in the basket. His left arm is fibreglass, and he can't speak because of shrapnel wounds to his throat. He hits me up for a couple of cigarettes most mornings, and we talk, sort of.

And I always wonder what he'd be doing if Viet Nam hadn't happened to him. But for a senseless war, he might be my doctor, or the mayor, or the CEO of a dot-com. But he's not, he's a crippled alcoholic who lives under a bridge. So when I say that I wonder what my life would be like if there had been no Viet Nam, he's part of that. This is really hard to explain to someone who hasn't had the experience. Vets out there might understand, but there's nothing I can do from a keyboard to get this across to you.

Your advice is well taken. Thanks.

-- Microsoft is to the internet what Jerry Springer is to television.
[ Parent ]
Re: No sympathy from this corner (2.00 / 1) (#57)
by aphrael on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 03:09:14 AM EST

It really didn't seem to me that DJBongHit was whining; I thought he was asking for advice from the members of his community. Seemed like a reasonable thing to do to me, but then again, maybe i'm naive and idealistic.

[ Parent ]
University of Maryland (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by elliot on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 11:29:06 PM EST

If I were a student at the University of Maryland, I too would be seriously doubting my future as a Terrapin. Being a Marylander I have hometown pride (for their basketball team) but academically and socially the school is inadequate. Hell with it, get out of school if you can find a job without a degree, then move to California and get your tutition at a real CS school (Berkeley or Stanford) and please your parents with a nice piece of paper. Either that or go north, to say Penn State (if you still want the GIGANTIC school), or Delaware which is close-by, and a great school.

Stay in school and grow as an adult (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by kostya on Wed Oct 04, 2000 at 11:32:40 PM EST

I had no choice when I quit school. My wife and I grossed $18k together, and even in Ohio, that was poor. When she got sick, someone had to pay the bills--real bills. I worked as a secretary and then as a customer service rep, answering calls from pissed of clients and stuffing mailings in between calls. I literally worked my way up from the mail room.

I didn't have a choice. I had to put myself through school, and I had to quit because my family came first. I don't know your situation, but you sound like you have a choice. Don't take the easy way out.

There are MANY, MANY ways to settle your debts responsibly and get back to the business of being a student. But then they also require you owning up to your mistakes. I'm not saying you aren't "man enough"--it is just that quiting school is the easy way out.

In my case, quitting was the much harder road. I have had to scrape for everything I have. But I have become a different person in the process. Stick with school and brace yourself for growth--in the long run it will be the smarter choice.



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
Regardless.. (3.00 / 1) (#49)
by mindstrm on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:41:44 AM EST

How much a west-coast IT firm is willing to pay you today means *NOTHING* 5 or 10 years from now on your resume. The tech world is on an upswing right now, high salaries are paid (don't forget to check the cost of living and quality of life where the jobs is before you sell yourself). If you are that close to a CS Degree, get the degree. If you think you are getting the degree solely so you can get a job, you'd be wrong. Of course you can find meaningful work without it. Hey.. I don't have a degree.. (wish I did, may go back for one) and I'm doing great in the IT world. But I know that some day soon it's gonna hit me; i'll be moving on up to managing the entire IT department and suddenly the upper management will say 'but he doesn't even have a university degree'. It DOES matter.

Then again, you might find that you'd rather take a few courses and take up a life of scuba diving, being a part-time instructor at some resort in the carribean living tax free and diving every day. Hmm...


go (2.50 / 2) (#50)
by referee on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 01:06:43 AM EST

DJ, I'm in the same position, and going for it in January. I'm westcoast bound. The whole thing scares the shit out of me, but fuck it. Be Bold, it'll work out.
  • put up another website, pimping your skillz
  • make smokedot a site about quiting smoking or at the least don't put it on your resume, a shame not to use it though, nice job.
  • the recruiters i know don't check college degrees that aren't related(specially out of state), you now have a degree in * (not sure if this is worth it though)
  • get linux certified for $200 lpi.org

    taking risks is a big high

    ericreff(a)usa.net

  • Innovative topic. (1.00 / 2) (#51)
    by StatGrape on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 01:26:02 AM EST

    Exactly how many times does this same subject have to be clobbered before it's finally dead? Why don't we discuss the impending death of K5 again instead... oh wait, there's one of those in the queue.

    The horse, she is long dead fellas.

    NerdPerfect

    Been there - leaving will be a mistake. A bad one. (4.50 / 2) (#52)
    by xtal on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 01:31:45 AM EST

    Well, I was trying to stay away from here because it sucks time from sleep.. and then I see a post like this one :). I was in the exact same boat you were in; I had a good chance at a high paying startup in second year (I work for one now, and I'm done). I finished my Electrical Engineering degree, and it was one of the hardest things I've done - and probably, in the long run, one of the most worthwhile. Here's some reasons that made up my mind, some from me, some from friends and family.

    First off: Because you started university, you're in a slightly different position than someone who never went. Maybe this doesn't matter, but not finishing will mean getting to explain why you didn't finish in many or all of your future job interviews. Not a pleasant thought. University isn't about learning so much as it is about proving you can start something that's hard, multi-year, and requires massive sacrifice - and you can finish it. That's why I stayed - I had something to prove. It's also (one of) the reasons employers like college grads.

    Second: Credibility. Not to diss smokedot.. But it's easier preaching legalization if you have a university degree, if for no other reason than you can play by the rules long enough to get somewhere. If you ever get arrested, that university degree might keep you out of FPMITAP (See office space :). I'm Canadian, and US drug laws scare the $hit out of me.

    Third: Computers come, computers go. A university degree will never be taken from you, no matter what happens to the economy, linux, microsoft, whatever. It differientates you from the masses, and if you want to get somewhere in a corporation or large company, it's a prerequisite. I didn't learn squat about code in school. Or mpeg, or anything else I do to pay the rent. But my iron ring says that I can solve problems, even if I haven't been trained. I did learn about a lot of things I might not have touched - like advanced math, multivariable calculus, and OS theory - some of which has been most useful.

    Fourth: Well, no other reason. See it out and you'll be happy in the long run, macaroni sucks in the short term though :).

    The only exception to this if it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity a la Microsoft. You'll have to call that. If it isn't.. the jobs will be there when you're done.

    Hope that helps.


    A couple of notes from personal experience (3.50 / 2) (#54)
    by robl on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 02:24:11 AM EST

    Let's be honest here. There have been very successful college drop-outs, Bill Gates being one of them. You need to decide what you want to do with your life.

    If you want to start your own company and venture out in the world of dot-companies, a college degree doesn't matter. What does matter, is a product, and your ability to manage it. That's it. And the combination can be very, very hard. If it doesn't sell, you don't get paid.

    If however you're going off into the world where you are working for a company, a college degree can make all the difference in the world. The larger a company it is, the more the college degree will matter, regardless of how much you know. The sad fact is that the managers who decide raises and promotions are as many as 2 to 3 levels separated from the employee. And when those managers make decisions, they do it from the perspective of a spreadsheet, not from their personal experience of working with you.

    There is a trend where companies try to get college students right out of college with the promise of a large salary. It usually happens to the best and brightest, and it's been happening for a few years now, at least since 1995.

    The problem is, if you're like most of the CS/CE/EE graduates I know, you're going to want to switch jobs before the end of two or three years. The turnover rate for people under the age of 27 is high enough that you should probably assume you will when making your decision. And then you will tell your future employer at the interview why you didn't finish your degree. Many a grad, well, graduated out of college, to become disgruntled with the expectations in the corporate world. "Yes, you are being paid to sit in a cube in the basement to code for us. No, you can't wear jeans."

    Lastly, school and work are not mutually exclusive you know. You can go part time while working in the day. Many people have done it. Yes it takes longer, but many people are more satisfied with the result. They have a degree and no debt.

    --R

    money for pain (3.00 / 1) (#59)
    by dammitallgoodnamesgone on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 07:11:41 AM EST

    I'm currently in my second year of CES - Computer and Electronic Systems, which is a CS and an EE degree rolled into one. from 1st to 2nd year there was a 50% drop-out rate and last year that was 70%. However anyone heading for a 2:2 or above (i.e anyone getting more than 50%in exams) is likely to be paid around £22,000 in their final year, as companies are so desperate for grads they have to hire them before they even finish. I took a gap year and considered not even going to uni but I was told that just for the piece of paper I would get an extra £5000 ($7000, I think) - even with the same skills. It seems to me that going to uni comes down to money for pain. Are you willing to put up with several years of pain for a better life. One final note - in the UK at least companies hire graduates because "they've proved thay can learn fast". If you've proved you can learn fast then that may be enough to prevent hitting the ceiling. just my $0.02

    My advice (2.00 / 1) (#61)
    by Caranguejeira on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:52:01 AM EST

    Stay in school. You might make a decent living even without a degree, for now. But your future could be less certain.

    School is an investement, not a debt. It opens up possibilities that didn't exist before. Maybe you aren't interested in those possibilities, but I wouldn't pass them up.

    If you're not from a wealthy family... (none / 0) (#63)
    by marlowe on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 04:17:24 PM EST

    school is a debt.

    Those student loans gotta be paid back.


    -- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
    [ Parent ]
    Re: If you're not from a wealthy family... (none / 0) (#64)
    by Caranguejeira on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 05:47:36 PM EST

    > Those student loans gotta be paid back.

    So does a mortgage. The point is, when it is all paid for, hopefully you have equity. That's what makes an investment: after sacrificing your hard earned cash, you come out ahead.

    All investements require you to risk something. The key is to never invest more than you can afford to lose.

    Now, can you afford losing an education?

    There are people in this world who are so impoverished, they could never afford college. I submit that there is no one in the United States who couldn't work their way through college if they put their mind to it. Problem is, Americans are too busy entertaining themselves that they can't afford college either.



    [ Parent ]
    Try to stick it out (2.00 / 1) (#62)
    by dalesun on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 02:43:15 PM EST

    Try to stick it out. What they teach you may not seem to be worth it, but what you gain from succeeding at the whole experience will be. A job will usually have even more challenges and BS to deal with and be less flexible and forgiving. You have already demonstrated a level of competence and insight that is rare, smart people will recognize this and understand its value. You don't need a degree, but it will make a nice balance to your alternative side and can open doors for you. Perhaps you could work AND go to school (many employer's will also pay your tuition), but if you're already stretched thin something will have to give. Just don't quit school for a job unless it's for a solid company and you expect to love it--that's really hard to find and it might be worth some sacrifice.

    Finish College, or Not? | 67 comments (62 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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