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deadweight's avatar

Confused potential uni drop-out. Any advice going in?

Asked by deadweight (14points) May 16th, 2012

I am a 19 yr old male. I am coming to the end of my first semester at a prestigious university. Problem is that I absolutely hate this and I am wrestling with some big decisions here.
I have always been intelligent and it was always assumed that I would make something of myself. Both my parents have degrees (mom is doctor and dad is consultant). As a result I’ve grown up in an upper-middle class environment where I wanted for nothing. I got an education at a private school, have insurance, medical-aid, funds set aside which I now have access to, a maid, swimming pool, my own laptop, blackberry and didn’t pay for any of it. It seems as though my end of the deal was simply to be a good student.
Which I was. I was always one of the top students, receiving merit awards and finally getting academic honours at high school. I also felt like I portrayed a good, “normal” student with high intelligence and a close group of friends even though I felt like I was not. I have always been quite introverted and private, so the many issues I had during my teenage yrs were well hidden. At the centre was a problem with constant fatigue and acting out which led to me being put on antidepressants for a few weeks (though I’m not diagnosed as depressed). This was followed by me acting out again at which point my self-cutting problem was exposed to my parents. I was sent for a session with one of my mother’s colleagues who said it was stress and worry, and left feeling like my issues were resolved. Despite all this private stuff I managed to do well in high school and get a place at the best university in my country.
Going in to university I had no idea of the commitment this would actually be. I realised within weeks that I hated the school (self-fulfilling prophesy?) and that I disliked the course. I already told my parents I had no interest in economics or where it would take me but eventually agreed with them that 3 yrs to get a serious degree and then after that I could do what I want. But since starting my motivation and work ethic have been shocking. I went there to learn but it felt a lot like regurgitating. I made no new friends and was lucky one old friend was studying there. A lot of the people seemed more interested in drinking or getting high, and like they were not there to learn but get the certificate. I thought there would be many more artists, scientists, revolutionaries and contemplators. I did meet some people I found interesting and introduced myself, but they ended up ignoring me when they got new friends which I put down to my poor social skills (I’m REALLY introverted which can make others feel awkward). I also live off-campus with people who make way too much noise and find sharing everything uncomfortable. Despite this, when I went home for easter break I pretended like everything was going well and exaggerated the good stuff. Well, going back was miserable and that darkness hasn’t lifted since. I really fell apart this second term. Stressing over a degree I did not want has really brought out the worst in me. My room is an utter disaster, I write thousand word essays the night before they’re due, did not go to some lectures for weeks at a time and just generally being useless. Not to mention all the weight I had lost from not eating and the dirty clothes from not doing laundry. All this time seems to have gone to sleeping. Yes, sleeping! I somehow have two seperate sleep cycles (afternoon and night) that probably come to twelve hrs a day. Somehow I have managed to do well in three of my four course but the one I failed happens to be my major-economics. Through my own recklessness and immaturity I have ruined the whole thing. Academics is the only thing I know I can do; essentially I’m a one trick pony and I’m screwing it up. I have never felt so hopeless and demotivated and I hate my life. I wanted to start cutting again but can’t because I stay in a commune. I can see the life I dreamed of slipping through my fingers like so much water. I mean what do I have left?!
This brought me to the question of drop-out or stick it out? If I drop-out it would only be temporary until I figured out what I want to do with my life. It would also give me time to sort myself out without further damage to my transcript. I feel that it is important that I live on my own and work and/or volunteer to get some true life experience. Living on my own will also teach me the basics that I was too inept to do like cooking and laundry (I’ve always had a maid do this). And hopefully the money I get from working will help pay back my parents for this wasted semester. I also have a lease here for another six months which I don’t know what to do with. I am aware that the job market is pretty dead right now and that I have no work experience or even a drivers license. Which leaves sticking it out and hoping the second term gets better and that my work ethic recovers after this break. Possibly a lot of first years feel this bad at the beginning, like they are begging to die, but then things turn around. I am also worried about disappointing my family and I will look like I couldn’t hack it. So maybe I should stay?! So confused!
I am aware my question is ridiculously long and gets a bit whiny at parts but I am glad to get it out there. So have other people felt like this and what did you do? If you dropped-out (temporarily) did you find it easy to get work? Was it a maturing experience? Did you figure out what you want to do? And if you stayed in did it eventually get better? Did the agony at the beginning make you a better person? And of course I would like to know for my situation which is better: drop-out or stick-it-out. Thank you to anybody who bothers to read this and special appreciation to those who reply.

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16 Answers

syz's avatar

When I went to college, the university had a higher population than any town I had ever lived in. Classes composed of hundreds of students, distant and uncaring instructors, and paralyzing shyness meant a miserable experience. I would go for literally days without speaking to anyone. I didn’t drink or smoke, so there was no “social lubrication”, either. I had roommates that I had nothing in common with that I didn’t like.

In high school, even advanced classes were easy. A breeze. And so I never developed any study skills. Which means I no longer got straight A’s – that was an unpleasant shock!

I came from a lower middle class family and had gotten a small scholarship, but money was tight, so I worked 2–3 part time jobs the entire time I was in school, and stayed and took classes over summer break – and it still took me 6 years to get a degree (but came out with no debt). I socialized…never.

And the things I learned in college? I’m not sure that I have ever used any of the information that was taught in my classes. But that doesn’t matter – getting a college degree tells an employer that you have the minimum intelligence needed not to flunk out and that you can finish something, not that you’ve arrived with any marketable skills.

But you know what? College is just a warm-up for life. I don’t mean to sound too negative, but this is the time to suck it up and make a commitment to finish, whatever it takes.

If you’re not convinced, take a per-determined amount of time off and find out what it’s like to survive on your own, as an adult. Without help from your folks, try getting an apartment and a job, and live independently. I’d wager a bet that it won’t take too long before the grind and monotony of trying to pay the bills each month will suddenly make that college experience a lot less distasteful.

If you do decide to stick it out, seek out what you need to succeed. Most universities have mental health support (you know why? ‘Cause you’re not the only person to feel this way!) Get regular counseling. Find something that you feel good about and commit yourself to it (photography club, a volunteer organization, cycling club – whatever, but find something that makes you feel good about yourself.

And as much as it makes me sound like an old fogy, what you decide now will influence the rest of your life.

YARNLADY's avatar

Talk to your academic counselor/adviser.

6rant6's avatar

I’ve been in a similar situation. I became disillusioned in graduate school and dropped out, flunking all my classes, which made it difficult when years later I decided I wanted to finish things.

My advice would be to take another look at college. It’s a place full of all kinds of great stuff. You may be focused on the stuff that disagrees with you and not seeking out the things that you will find engaging. Take different classes – things you didn’t think you were interested in. Do extracurricular stuff. Join clubs, volunteer, conduct man-in-the-street interviews with your classmates about their lives until you uncover what you want yours to look like.

It’s so much harder to go back once you’ve left. I encourage you to look for your bliss there. You’re so much more likely to find it at college than you are to find it working for Verizon. And if you decide you have to leave, plan on going back one day to finish the degree.

Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making any argument related to financial value. A university experience is irreplaceable in terms of exposure to different ideas. Even if it cost you money I would be saying, “Stay!”

syz's avatar

Just remember. In spite of what you hear, and see in the movies, college is not necessarily fun. It’s a tool, something to get through on your way to whatever you want to do with your life. And you need to get yourself straightened out so you can get through this.

Get some counseling. There’s no shame, no stigma – it too is a tool. Use it.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I thought there would be many more artists, scientists, revolutionaries and contemplators. No. Prestigious, expensive schools do not have those. The cheap, open-enrollment schools with the lackluster reputations are where you go to find those people.

Have you taken any other classes? You don’t have to drop out just because economics isn’t for you. You could take a semester or two trying different things out, seeing if something else is up your alley, if you want to major in something else.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Welcome to Fluther! I hope you find the guidance you are seeking from the members on this site.

What is clear is that you cannot tackle this alone. You need help.

I think that you need to tell your parents how you are feeling. They have a right to know. They love you and most likely will be your biggest supporters no matter how much the news may initially come as a surprise. They may be able to help consider ways of taking some of the pressure off of you. Parents, such as yours, only want to see their children succeed.

With returning thoughts of self-cutting, it sounds like you might also want to return to seeing a therapist, whether it is the same or different one. I’m no expert, but the weight-loss and change in sleeping habits may be a sign of depression.

As for whether to drop out, even if you finish of this semester, or keep plugging away, only you can decide what is best.

If you decide to stick it out, one failed class is not the end of the world, although it might feel so at the time. It’s possible that the professor prefers teaching other types or more advanced classes than the one you took, and attitude is not conducive to creating a positive learning environment. If the class is imperative to pass in order to receive the degree that you desire, take it again, and see if you can sign up with another professor. Seek opinions of those who have already taken the course. It may also help to get a tutor or join a study group.

The first year at a college/university is always the hardest. It’s often the first time the baby bird has been pushed out of the nest, and they aren’t prepared for the academic difference, as well as taking care of themselves. You might benefit from changing to a smaller school or a community college for a few years.

If you really feel that leaving is the best option for you at this time, this is something that needs to be discussed with your parents. For some people, this is the better choice. They haven’t found their love for a particular field yet, and working often provides the guidance in figuring out what they like and do not like.

I wish you the best of luck. Please keep us posted. We care and like to hear how stories, such as this, play out.

Cruiser's avatar

First off you are not there to make friends and no matter how hard you try to resist this…you will make them nonetheless and some lifelong lasting.

Second…you have the rest of your life to work or travel or whatever else you might do and you now should only have 3 more years of slugging it out in the classroom to get that degree you applied for.

If you are truly struggling with this Uni thing….I absolutely demand you seek out support amongst your peers and more importantly your deans, professors and teaching assistants. After all you are paying to be there and they are there to help you and the best 2 hours of my college career were getting yelled at by my dean who told me those very things and helped me immensely in mapping out the right strategy for getting my degree. Good luck with whatever choice you make.

TexasDude's avatar

Hmm… I don’t know what to tell you about your introversion, because I’m pretty much the ultimate extrovert, but I do understand parts of your situation because I was in your shoes, once, in a lot of ways.

I have to ask you, what do YOU enjoy? What is your passion? Forgive me if you or someone else answered this already and I just missed it because I’m cracked out of my mind right now. What consequences will there be if you changed your major to something you actually enjoy doing rather than what your parents want you to do? I know that circumstances are often complicated, but in my mind you are a grown-ass man and you should study what you damn well please if it’s going to get you out of your funk – which seems to me to be the problem here.

Bellatrix's avatar

You are 19 so nobody should expect you to have a clear goal of what you want to do right now. Don’t be too hard on yourself about this. Some people are lucky and are very sure about the path they want to follow, the rest of us have to try a few things before we finally figure that out (and for some of us, we later change our minds). I changed my mind about four times before I finally found what I wanted to study and I was a lot older than 19.

I apologise, but the wall of text got to me, have you talked to your mum and dad about this? Yes, I am sure they want you to achieve the best you can but I think they also want you to find the right path for you. So, sit them down and tell them how you are feeling.

Can you defer for a semester? Take some time out to think about what you want to do? I don’t mean sit and watch TV or play on the internet while you think. Go and get a job and work for six months to a year while you come to terms with whether this is what you want or not.

Do as a couple of people above have suggested. Speak to counsellors at your university. They see students struggling with these decisions all the time. They will be able to give you good advice. You are not the first student to go ‘what the heck am I doing here?’

Keep in mind, as much as you love your mum and dad, going to university is about you, not them. This is the time to start growing up and thinking about your future. If this isn’t the field you want to work in, then you have to start to sort out at least what direction you want to go in. Start thinking about what you do love to do. What inspires you and you lose time while doing that thing? What do you have questions about? It may well be with a bit more maturity under your belt this is the field for you, perhaps you are still a little too immature to go there yet? I don’t mean that in an insulting way. Perhaps a year of hard work doing something else is the thing you need to help you decide on the right direction. The right direction might not involve going to university!

Talk to you parents and a uni counsellor.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

You can succeed in University but you need to know why you have chosen Economics and whether this subject really stimulates and challenges you. You are not there to fulfill anyone else’s dreams and goals,

The transition from your previous life style to life as a university student is a major adjustment.
Your self-injurious behaviour suggests that you are feeling very distressed and anxious. You need help to deal with those emotions that are out of control as well as to review choices about your course of study and your personal goals. There is no shame is taking a reasonable and limited amount of time to figure these things out.

Confusion and uncertainty are common and even healthy at this stage in your life. Just don’t give up on yourself and your future. Don’t make any rash decisions about school without getting help from an academic adviser. Making changes at university must be done the right way so you don’t damage your future opportunities,

You will be fine, but it may take some time until things feel right for you.

RocketGuy's avatar

I was in the same situation. Here is what I later realized:
1) In high school, you were a big fish in a little pond. High school is not as hard as college.
2) Only the best in high school go to college. That means the average scores are higher. You will no longer be top dog unless you are really ACE.

So focus on what will work for you. Is it to gain as much knowledge as possible? Is it to get into a field that interests you? Is it to get a certain kind of job?

Don’t worry about what is or isn’t at your college. You go ahead and get as much as you can out of it. It is a rare opportunity.

rooeytoo's avatar

I always hated school but I liked money so I did what I had to do in order to make money in the real world. But I tired of that life after a few years so I chucked it all and started my own business in a field I loved. Of course I was able to do that because of the money I had earned going the way society says you should. So finishing school despite the fact that you don’t like it does have its advantages.

But mate you sound like you need to talk to a counselor. You need some help to sort out issues you have that are not related to school. And it sounds to me as if you have a heap of them. That is the first thing I would exhort you to do, find a councelor, shrink, whatever you can talk to and who can help you to figure out what is really going on inside your head.

The last thing is that in this world today there are more unemployed college graduates than people with a trade. If you really don’t like college, find yourself a position as an apprentice in a field that interests you. They make good money, very frequently better than someone with only a bachelors degree. Or a trade school, that is another option.

bewailknot's avatar

Is there the opportunity to take a leave of absence from the school? Maybe spending a year working at a crap job for peanuts will help you decide what is important to you. Why waste time and effort studying something you don’t want to at a place you don’t want to be? Maybe the chance to explore other options will help you discover something you love.

My office has a new college student working part time each year. They always get the most repetitive duties for minimum wage, and I remind them that is why they need to get that education – so they aren’t doing it when they’re 50.

iphigeneia's avatar

Your situation sounds really familiar. In my case, I enjoyed first semester, then it really started going downhill. How do you think your parents will feel? I’m not going to tell you to to listen to them, or to strike out entirely on your own, but I’m sure it’s a concern you already have and should factor into your decision.

First of all, I recommend you find a good counsellor. Someone who can help you with your problems and teach you to behave in a more extroverted way. It’s scary, but the vast majority of occupations are going to require people skills, and now is the perfect time to start working on them. I have made very few friends in class, meaning people I would invite to hang out with outside of studying. But there are heaps of people I can say hello to around campus, and I find it really helps to remember that you are not alone.

Change subjects if you need to. Even serious subjects can have value beyond potential salary, you just have to find that little thing that interests you. You won’t always enjoy it, you might even rarely enjoy it, but try anything that takes your fancy. Travel in the breaks. Find people with whom you can complain and bitch and moan about college. Find an economics study group, or get economics tutoring. Do what you can to make it through this semester, then this year, then if you know what you want to do, do that. Make a good go of it while money and circumstances are on your side, because it’s not going to be easy to get back on track if you try to enter the workforce and it doesn’t work out.

wundayatta's avatar

I find myself wondering what country/culture you are in. It matters because it changes the relationship to your parents and your university. It also may change things like the availability of counseling services. It sounded like you were saying you were in a three year program, which means you would have different academic requirements than the ones most Americans are used to.

Depending on your culture, talking to you parents may or may not be such a good idea. Would they be able to listen to what you are going through, or will they tell you to buckle down and get to work and stop wasting their time and money?

Counseling is good if there is counseling and if it is good counseling. Of course, if the counseling is not completely private, then you might not want to do it. The counselors might tell your parents.

I grew up in a family where education was seen as its own good. You got educated to prepare you for life, not a job. Your major wasn’t that important. The degree was important. I plan to make sure my children have an opportunity to get a degree, preferably with no debt. They can always go to school where I work for free. It’s not my favorite school, but it wouldn’t be bad if it came down to that.

I think that college is perhaps most important for the connections it gives you. You make friends who are likely to be your best friends for the rest of your life. You gain an automatic connection to other people from the uni wherever you meet them for the rest of your life. This helps in business and in finding jobs and all kinds of other things. You are going to the best uni in your country. That network is priceless.

I feel certain there must be artists and philosophers and whatever else you are looking for in your school. They are everywhere. Perhaps your introversion is keeping you from finding them. You will find them in philosophy classes and in art classes. Perhaps you should take one. In addition, there may be places where they live together. You just need to start hanging out in the right places.

Of course, you don’t have to do school now. You can take your time. Many people take a year or more off, and work and travel and just explore until they have a greater understanding of what they are doing in college. You could even take a year abroad in a foreign college in order to explore and go to school at the same time.

My brother took a year abroad and never came back. He ended up starting college all over again and graduating from a college in Scotland. My parents paid for it. Lucky them. He’s an artist. Later on they bought him a building in NYC so he would always have a place to live. Me? Well, I could always take care of myself, so they didn’t have to help me out.

Parents want you to be able to support yourself, first, and then be happy, second. Unless they are enlightened, and they want you to be happy first and foremost. Some would say that isn’t enlightened, but that’s a matter for discussion. Your parents will probably be very concerned about you and will try to help. They may have restrictions on what they will support you in doing. You have to find out what those boundaries are, and decide if you can live within them.

Finally, you do sound depressed. You might want to see a psychiatrist and get some meds. That could turn your attitude around, and get rid of the anxiety in social situations and make it a lot easier to do school. I’d get an evaluation in your shoes.

Sunny2's avatar

When you talk to a counselor, remember that they have heard this before. It won’t be new to them. And they will have suggestions for you.

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