3rd year in university and getting nowhere. What should I do?

submitted by SubArcticTundra edited

Lemmy, I have completed tens of modules across several different universities. I have been course-hopping for long enough that I’d have a bachelors degree by now had I found and stayed on a course that suited me. I *can’t be asked* to commit to one and study it for *yet another* 3 years before I get a degree*. Yet I feel like all of the effort that I have expended up to this point will go unacknowledged, just because it was spread across several unis and doesn’t fall into any of their pre-defined study plans. I am a person driven by short bouts of intense curiosity of the type that dives down Wikipedia rabbitholes**. I want to do a highly qualified job but am failing to fit in to the rigid framework that academia sets you. I have several Master’s theses that I’d start researching *tomorrow* if the system let me. Yet without so much as a bachelor’s I might as well go work in a supermarket. How do I move on from here?

*Perhaps it’s also because I’m now in my early 20s and finally want to have some time to explore.
**I am a logical thinker and predominantly interested in STEM topics.

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jordanlund , edited

It sounds like what you're looking for is a Generalist Degree:


You'd need to find a school that offers it and accepts your transfer credits.

It also might help talking to a doctor about an ADHD diagnosis. Your inability to focus may be medical.

SubArcticTundra [OP]

Hmm, I will look into this. You're right, I have been diagnosed with ADHD. Pills have definitely helped me focus on long readings and studying, but I feel I am still more suited to problem-based learning than test-based cramming.


I feel I am still more suited to problem-based learning than test-based cramming.

Not to belabor a point made elsewhere, but this sounds like you might be a good fit for some sort of coding work. If that doesn't interest you, don't bother. People who aren't interested but who know there's money there have ruined the field. But it's worth exploring just in case you might actually enjoy it.


I am a person driven by short bouts of intense curiosity of the type that dives down Wikipedia rabbitholes

Is uni right for you at this point in your life?

You say you are early 20s why not do a gap year to get out of acidemia and you may find your calling. A working holiday in another country will open your eyes to what acidemia can't teach you.

SubArcticTundra [OP]

I've been thinking about this too. What puts me off is that it would just postpone the 3 more years of being bound to a uni campus into the future by one year.


It has the possibility of setting your mind right though, in terms of deciding what you want and desire/will to stick to it. Only you can say if it's right for you.


Honestly, don’t worry about that. It’s more worth it to go to school and do something you want, even if it takes longer, because you’ll save time and money in the long run.


I think you're sabotaging yourself. Get an entry position in software engineering (not necessarily code, see management positions for example as well) since you can work in many different domains.

Westcoastdg , edited

Counterpoint, if this dude can't complete a bachelor's yet he thinks he has "multiple Masters theses" he could complete "if only the system would let him", he is definitely unfit to be any type of manager at this stage.

I have similar focus issues and it sucks, but literally everyone in their early twenties feels this way at some point. I would agree with getting a job, or just focusing to complete any BA, having to compare one's skill set in a specific consistent thing against other people is important for a reality check


Completely agree with this point. OP sounds like they need to figure out their issues first. I don't think any commitment should be made to any longterm course or career yet. Probably best to take an entry level job in any area of interest with the current qualifications and go from there. Develop a focus, develop and interest, know what to aim for.


I have recently told this to a niece in a similar situation: I was also in a situation like that, and I wish someone had told me to just go work for a year or so, you can go back to studying after. At worst you earn some money, while at best you earn perspective and figure out what you really want (and earn some money).


At worst you earn some money, while at best you earn perspective and figure out what you really want (and earn some money).

At best you stop accumulating debt for a while until you have a better reason to do so.


This makes sense for most people, but OP sounds like the type of person I am: leaving school for a year meant leaving school entirely. Because getting back to it is *hard.*

I would suggest sticking it through and talking with an advisor to get on track and prevent any more deviations from the path. *Just getting it done* would have served me well in my early 20s and it wouldn't have taken me 9 years to finish a Bachelor's.


I'll second what another commenter said about talking to a doctor, because it does sound like this might be more than just disinterest. That said, drop out. Get a job and work for a while. Try different things. The path we think we want in our late teens and early 20s is often very different from where we end up, and that can be a good thing. I finally quit trying to force myself to finish my degree when I was 22 and I wish I'd done it much sooner. I did eventually go back and get a different degree in my 30s, but in the meantime, I worked at jobs I never expected to find interesting and learned a ton while building a solid resume. College is great, but it's not for everyone, and it's definitely not for everyone at "college age."

SubArcticTundra [OP] , edited

How hard would you say it is to get into a field without the required degree? Because I feel like what's weighing me down is not that I'm unwilling to learn, but that I struggle to prosper under the monotonous lecture->exam system that is a requirement for most degrees.


It's really dependent on the field. I started a job as a temp and then proved that I was smart enough to do other things, so I got hired permanently, but it wasn't in the field I was studying, just something I ended up enjoying. There are some jobs where that won't cut it. Whatever your dream job is might be one of those, but I don't really believe in dream jobs, so I was open to stuff that seemed kind of weird on the surface. I learned a lot about what mattered to me in a job doing that.


Where do you live? If the US, (but look into it if not) check out Western Governor's University. The format might be exactly what you're looking for.

They have one or two assignments per class and let you take those assignments as quickly as you want. So you could finish a course in 3 days if you want (which is exactly what I did several times). I got through my Bachelor's in 1 year, and my Master's in 1 month. Literally 1 month. And each degree had included industry certifications. I was able to do it so fast because I could hyper focus on the content, not have to sit in lectures all day, and take the test when I knew I could pass. It was perfect for me.

What nobody seems to say is that what the degree is in doesn't matter *that much* and nobody cares where it's from. It's mostly a checkbox for hiring.

People are suggesting to take a year off. I disagree because you sound like me. Taking a year off meant I didn't go back for 8 years. Took me almost a decade just to get a Bachelor's.

If WGU is not an option for you, stick it out with one program and *just get it done.* It'll suck much less now than later. And trust me when I say I know how hard it is now. Don't worry about what the degree is in, don't worry about how long it takes while you're in it, just get it done *now* because you'll regret not doing it if you wait too long.

SubArcticTundra [OP] , edited

Ooh this sounds perfect for me. I'll have a look if something similar exists over in my country. Was yours an online course? (It sounds like it would suit the format). Yeah I feel like if I went on hiatus now I would settle in a job/place I wouldn't want to leave but be stuck with limited prospects. I might sign up for a bachelors in coding (which I can already do) just to tick the box and devote all my remaining effort to extracurriculars/internships in the fields I'm interested in.


Yeah, entirely online. It was absolutely perfect for me, so hopefully something exists near you. I don't know if WGU takes international students, but look into it because it's asynchronous, so you don't need to worry about timezones.


Anyway, good luck out there! Commit fully to something because that regret later sucks.

Kaiyoto , edited

Pick something and go with it. Something in ballpark of what you think you want to go for. It may not be the right choice but you'll have a degree and you can work on a second if you really have or take some certifications. But what's important is that you make a decision. Even if that decision is to take a year off and think about it, that's a decision.

helpImTrappedOnline , edited

I'm no career coach, just a random fool online

(I can't even spell career)

I'd do a few of the following - first and foremost, stop sinking money into classes - with no goal its not doing you any good. - try doing some internships to get a grasp of what you want to do. "Logic thinker and STEM" are too broad - pick one the four letters and focus. - The trades are also an option, someone has to design the buidlings, electrical systems, IT infurstructure, AV systems, fire systems, plumbing, HVAC - there's a ton design/enginnering work that involves all kinds of STEM topics long before the crustruction workers even know about the project. - there's need for STEM in all kinds of fields, the key is finding something you are good at and can make money of your skills.

SubArcticTundra [OP]

Yes, this is what I was thinking to myself. Do you have any idea what kind of person would be able to assess my strengths and give me a few pointers for what to try? I've actually made a list of the kinds of tasks I think I would be good at, but they could be applied in a lot of different positions, and I don't know who to send it to...

helpImTrappedOnline , edited

I commented this in a different spot, but I'll say it again.

What ever school you're taking classes from should have a career consoler/advisor of some sort. Those people are there to help you, and some are better at it than others - if the first person doesn't help much, try someone else. (They are also paid to keep in you in school no matter what, so if you do consider taking a break - maybe leave that part out)

(Typcall me took one quick last note and turned into an essay - sorry)

One last note, No matter what happens:

get a job to pay off student debt you may have.

I'm going to assume for a minute your in America's crap "system" to extract as much money from young adults as possible.

Don't get caught up in late fees, loan consolidation schemes, debt forbearance, "pay later" crap - pay at least the minimum every month.

Its okay to have a random job fresh out of collage for a while, being able to hold a job is a good resume builder and for references. The main thing is to keep a look out for new opportinies.

If you can pay extra, pay into the loans with highest cost - highest intrest loans first. Pay as much extra as you can, while still building a savings. ***

Once you start paying off individual loans, the monthly cost will drop - if needed paying off the lowest balance ones is good to get montly lower. But only for the sort term, the highest intrest loans will end up costing more in the future if you let the intrest build up.

I recommend keeping a 6 month buffer/oh shit money, incase you lose your job or your car implodes - have 6 month of funds to cover the essentials. I know its not easy, especially starting out, it might a take a few years to get there, but in my opinion, building up a financial pillow is going to be one of the best thing you can do for your adult self.

Personal story time, fresh out of collage I worked for 3 years out of collage doing maintance work for a facorty, I didn't really enjoy it, but learned a lot. The pay was okay, enough to pay the loan minimums and get by. Once I had a comfortable financial buffer, I started looking for work in my field of interest. Applied to a few places and eventually got hired, pay was better but I still lived like I was getting the "okay" pay - all the extra got dumped into loans (and some into savings). A few years later, I was student debt free and refocued that spending into savings for a house.

***That advice is a genralization - do the math to figure out what works out the best.

Let's say I have four 10-year loans, I don't remember how often/if they were compounded, but I went with compounded monthly for intrest calculation - I also rounded to nearest hundred) (The calculations also don't account for the principle going down over time with the minimum payments) * $8000 at 5% * $5000 at 5% * $7000 at 4% * $10,000 at 2% * The $8000 loan at 5% intrest ends up costing an extra $5200 in intrest. * The $5000 loan at 5%, ends up costing $3200 in intrest * The $7000 loan at 4% is $3400 intrest. * And the $10000 at 2% is $2100.

While temping to start with lowest $5k because its easy, you'll just pay that in the 8k's intrest. You might also want to pay the big $10k one to make less daunting, but waiting to pay that will actually save the most long term. (You'll still have the mimniums to pay on each loan - always always pay the minimumns, set up auto pay if you can and let it do its thing)

When paying extra you want to pay whatever loan is going to cost the highest in intrest. (Recalculated every time you pay extra). In this case, start with 8k loan until the intrest in lower that $3400, which happens to be when the principle is down to 5k. At that point pay the $7 loan until intrest lower than $3200, which doesn't take much with $6.5k dropping it $3200. From here, depending on how much you can put in, I'd just work on getting rid of them one at a time to get the monthly cost down (reducing how much you need to pay each month). When I started my monthly was $300+, by the time I finished it was $50

Keep going until everything is $0.

Here's another option you may get: Let's say I consolidate them all for a lower monthly bill at a 4% intrest rate and don't pay a dime over the minimum for an extended 15 years. That sounds good right?

Indivually the total interest for 10 years was about $13,900. Total cost $43,000.

$30,000 at 4% over 15 years = $24,600. A 30k loan ends costing $54,600

A good compound deal (10 year loan, componded monthly) that is sub $13.9k is $30,000, would be a 3.5% intrest rate, making the total instrest $12,550.

However, I belive consolidating also takes away some of options for loan forgiveness, pausing, and other aid provided by the govnment loans vs. a private loan.

Always do the math, and read the fine print.

Also find a proper loan calculator to do the math better then I did with a basic intrest calculator....I'm sure if this was Reddit, someone would correct all my the math in the comments and call me a moron. That beging said, I am just bloke on the internetxwith too much free time sharing what worked for him, not a fincial expert who knows anything about your situation.

SubArcticTundra [OP]

This is all super useful advice. Thank you so much for this


Go talk to your advisor. They should be able to help you pick a program that let's you finish as quickly as possible. If your university doesn't offer a quick out, look into other schools. Many have programs specifically for people in your situation with a varied collection of coursework.


What should I do?

Well, if all the universities are telling you the same, then maybe you should consider the possibility that one of them may be right: follow one of their plans.


You sound like me when I started uni. I actually just picked something I thought I was good at. It took me 8 years and a mountain of debt to graduate (I don’t suggest this route). Now, after 13 years in this profession, I’m trying to do something different.

It might help to hear what you’ve studied so far, as well as your interests, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

SubArcticTundra [OP]

I think my dream job would be designing things that undergo growth/change. Cities, cell cultures, social networks, prosthetic organs, ... . What connects all of these is problem-solving to fit specific requirements, and that they are all empirical things that have to be studied from the outside using statistics and graphs. I don't even know what this job position is called.

I studied 2 first years of biochemistry and 1 of bioengineering. My thinking was to study the bio stuff because I figured that design was something I could learn outside of uni. I was happy on my BioEng course but had to quit due to money.
Unfortunately my current BioChem course is very demanding and isn't leaving me any time to focus on my other interests. I am also beginning to lose steam and motivation, and I just want my bachelors to finally be over and done with tbh, so I can go out and get my hands busy.

I also wonder whether straddling so many subjects, including the needed skills (like statistics, machine learning, etc.) isn't too ambitious. They're all skills I'd be interested to learn, but I don't know how many people would actually end up being employed as jacks-of-all-trades in the job I describe above. What's more, it seems like it must be a really uncommon job and I'm afraid I would struggle to find an open position like that.


As for straddling many subjects - its an okay thing to do, however you will not find a job that fits everything you're interested in.

Thats okay, you can have a job (for example) re-designing city roads based on issues with traffic flow (lots of graphs and statistics there), while also reading into other topics. There's also things like wildlife mangment that keeps track of wildlife population, from keeping track of their illnesses, to keepinh a a balance between over+population and extinct.

Topics you enjoy may or may not cross over into your work, and thats okay.

People are considered lucky to have a job they enjoy for a reason - most of us have a shit job that pays the bill, while we spend our free time pursuing hobbies and interests.

My advise is to go get a paid internship doing something for a year, talk to a recruitment agency or some professional (be careful with a random self-advertised "career coach" that sounds fishy).

Read this part:

Sense you're in enrolled in collage, or even a recent student of one, they should have a whole career department you can reach out tofor free. Even if your online, a phone converstation with someone can offer new perspective. They get paid to help you so their "alumni working in feild they went to school for" ratio goes up. Use the resources available to you.


Want to second "Talk to the career counseling office" - you are paying for it, and they really want you to get a good job so it can add to your school's/programs clout. Use it!!

SubArcticTundra [OP]

Ooh, the recruitment agency is a really good idea actually. I would be talking to someone who would fit my skills to a job sooner or later anyway, so talking to them about my prospective skills sounds useful too.


What have you studied so far, and what made you leave the last course?

SubArcticTundra [OP]

Two of the years were spent in 1st year Biochemistry. The first time round I was quite happy but had to quit because it was too expensive, and the second time round it was cheaper but the course is significantly more demanding. I'm not that serious about becoming a biochemist, and there are other skills, like machine learning and a few other engineering subjects that I wanted to be able to learn in my free time.


I see. Well, you say you're "not that serious" about wanting to be a biochemist, but is it still something you want ? Since you also said earlier that you couldn't commit to something else three more years, to keep going in that track doesn't seem like a bad option.

Otherwise, if you find a work project involving one or several of the subjects that interest you, that'd be the other good option.

I'm a student myself, and I've jumped a few times from a study to another, but now I'm committing to physics and I don't intend to let go. But there's also a few skills and fields of interest I like learning on the side... That's not a contradiction, everyone is interested in different things and has a skill set that's doesn't depend only ln their work. I intend to be a good amateur artist and an informed layman on several subjects, but physics is what I want to study professionally.

Committing to something doesn't mean you should give up on all the rest, just that you should set boundaries on what will be the thing you'll be an professional in and the rest. Even if you go a different path, don't think of the time you devoted to biochemistry as wasted time... It'll have fed your culture and skill set. Maybe it'll be useful to you, maybe not, but either way it's not a negative thing. A choice is good if it is a choice you've made. And you're not *that* late anyway, some have "wasted" more years than that.

Of course, I'm just a student myself, not a teacher or anything. Beside, I'm French and our university systems might be a bit different, so take it with a grain of salt.


I saw like one person mention it, so I want to mention it too. Have you tried programming? If you haven’t, go to freecodecamp.org and try one of the first couple of courses. It’s what I’m going to peruse after 13 years of a meh job.


The key is that *what* your degree in really doesn't matter all that much. And it doesn't really matter where you got it from either.

Having the degree is just a checkbox for hiring requirements. *Some* jobs will want specific "computer science-related" or "engineering" related degrees, but those are generally specialized jobs.

Just get *a* degree and you'll see things open up for you. Later on, if you want to go more specialized, get a Master's or second bachelor's.

Take it from me, I didn't get a degree until I was 9 years out from high school and now I'm pursuing a doctorate. Timelines barely matter, the degree itself barely matters, everyone is making everything up. Don't be so hard on yourself.

SubArcticTundra [OP]

Thanks for this reminder. I think I give in to imposter syndrome too much. Because I'm also aware of the dunning kruger effect


Get an internship or something so that you have an end goal in mind for your degree. Taking a collection of random classes isn't what gets you a degree and it seems like you don't have a goal other than getting a degree.

Nemo Wuming

Start your own business, based on what you like to do AND on what some people around you need.

Become really good at it, and you will find people who will pay you to do it for them.

Do the best you can, and enjoy doing it, even if you don't get so much money at first.

Eventually, as your reputation grows, so will your income, but it doesn't really matter how long it takes because you are enjoying yourself already.

As we die, the question isn't "how much money I had?", but instead "how many of those days were worth living?"