Do you think college was/is useful?

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Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Aggrax on Thu Oct 09, 2014 2:42 am

Recently my parents have tried to get me interested in going back to college. I dropped out 4 years ago due to failing grades, poor attendance and because I felt like I just wasn't smart enough to do well in that environment. Over the past two years I held 2 full time jobs, both of which I was fired from for reasons that boil down to being lazy/incompetent. Since then I've had trouble finding full time employment and have blown through my savings.

My parents believe that I should use this as an opportunity to go back to school and get a degree of some sort. They've given the usual reasons that I'll make more money and be more likely to find employment. However, I just don't think it would be all that useful. Considering I only have a handful of passed classes on my transcript (with a roughly equal amount of F/DNCs) I would basically be starting all over again. In addition, I would need to find a new major (my previous one was education, huge joke that was) and I have no idea what that would be. Finally, I have no money left in the college savings fund my parents put away due to my past failures. Which means I would either need to get a loan (which I don't want because of how much debt that would likely put me in) or ask my parents to pay for it (which I refuse to do under any circumstances).

I've made it clear to them that I think college is a waste of time and money and that I have no intention of going back. I wanted to know if anyone here found going to college to be all that useful?
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Gentleman Johnny on Thu Oct 09, 2014 2:49 am

Without directly answering your question, have you considered a shorter trade school with job placement help? You can get trained as an entry level mechanic, computer programmer, travel agent (yes, they exist), casino dealer, welder and a bunch of other things in a few months for a lot less than college.

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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Aggrax on Thu Oct 09, 2014 3:11 am

I did take a quick look into a shorter trade school recently. But it would still cost more money than I would be able to get my hands on in any reasonable amount of time. Additionally, I'm pretty bad at working with my hands, so it seems like a waste of time to try for a more hands on trade like welder.

Incidentally, I actually majored in Computer Programming when I started college. Completely failing my C++ class is what made me change my major to Education.
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Gentleman Johnny on Thu Oct 09, 2014 3:22 am

One more thought. Chek out Codeacademy.com. Go through the web developer set (HTML, CSS, Javascript) and do the projects that are appropriate as you go. Pick up either php or Ruby On Rails across other similar free courses. Throw a few projects together for a portfolo, maybe screw around with Wordpress (which is just a pre-packaged php site setup) and you'll have more practical web development knowledge than most CS grads.

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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by eselle28 on Thu Oct 09, 2014 3:30 am

College was useful to me as a means of qualifying for various white collar office jobs that often don't consider people without a degree, regardless of of work responsibilities, and for setting the stage to go to graduate school. Is it useful for everyone? I don't think so. Is it a good idea for someone who's a few years out of high school, who doesn't have clear career goals, and who'd be borrowing money to attend? I'm going to vote no.

I suspect their push to college is a generalized way of pushing for you to consider a career path and a way of resolving the issues that have made it hard for you to succeed at work and school. That, I think, might be a worthwhile goal. Is there a community college in your area that offers classes in certification programs? Sometimes those cost less than places that brand themselves as trade schools, and you might want to check out the available programs.
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Guest on Thu Oct 09, 2014 6:08 am

I didn't take up my initial places to go to college, instead choosing to go from school into an office job for four years. When I was 21, I decided what career I wanted to pursue and was lucky enough to be able to go to college to get qualified, with a combination of loans, parents, working, and help from government as I was going in as an older student.

My course was vocational and I required it to do my job, so I would say college was both useful and essential for me. But I was older, had picked up a lot of general business skills, and went with a very specific career in mind. At least over here (UK) employers are moving away from the idea that a degree in anything makes you a good employee. I know a lot of people who have got a degree in whatever and then struggled out in the real world because they thought it made them more generally employable than it did.

If you have no idea what job you want to do I would say working and saving up might be your best bet, but that's only because it worked out for me!

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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by UristMcBunny on Thu Oct 09, 2014 8:33 am

Degrees, at least around here, aren't actually worth so much any more. It's useful to have qualifications and skills in general, and to have the specific ones useful for the line of work you're going into, but vocational skills seem to be treated as more valuable than just some random degree in a subject not related to your chosen job.

Uni is also a very expensive thing to do when you don't know what you want out of it. If you have a specific career in mind where a degree is specifically useful, it can be a good thing. Or if you're going to study to be a teacher in whatever, a lot of people here do a degree and add teacher training to it.

Actually, given your reasons for getting fired, I'd say a higher priority right now might be improving your CV. At the moment, any prospective employer is going to call up your most recent jobs for references, and you're not going to come out of that well. Take on some volunteer work, or sign up with agencies offering temporary placements, and you'll eventually have new, more recent references to put on your CV.

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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by reboot on Thu Oct 09, 2014 9:34 am

I am older and graduated college in the mid 1990s so for my generation bachelors degrees got you a bit farther than they do now. That said, they no longer have the same jump that they used to, but are still minimum qualifications for many jobs.

If you are aiming for straight hireability, definitely be picky about the field and school you choose. STEM and applied fields (e.g. econ) will get you farther and not be as likely require a masters degree to advance in the workforce.

Trade schools and apprentice placement are definitely worth looking at. Not all require manual dexterity because more jobs now are all about programming and operating equipment than doing the work yourself. Look at local community colleges and see if they have any apprentice programs with local employers.

GJ's advice is very good because most coding based jobs care about skills more than degrees. Another piece of software I might look into learning is CAD. Between 3D printing and the automation of manufacturing, I can see a coming demand for people who know that program.
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Guest on Thu Oct 09, 2014 9:54 am

I hate the way we look at college in the US.

Did I get value out of college? No. I hated college, and almost nothing I learned in college was of any real practical value: I had to learn how to be a programmer all over again after graduation.

It probably gave me a 5-6 month headstart in being a good programmer. But I paid for that 5-6 months with $140K and 4 years of my life.

On the other hand, my diploma? Verrrrry useful, since every job I've had has required one.

The way higher education functions in this country right now is one of its more spectacular failures: we tell people, "Here. If you pay me $150K, I'll increase the chance you'll get a high-paying desk job from 20% to 70%." They're not making any promises, and a lot of people who get the college education never wind up with a better job than they'd have without it: they just have the same job and crippling debt to keep it company. Most jobs don't require any skills that you learned in college, they just want to know you went, like it's some kind of fitness test: well, they could get into college, so that means they're smart enough for this job.

Colleges don't teach life skills or professional skills, and the ability to graduate college says absolutely nothing about your ability to do well in the work force.

But man, that little piece of paper has definitely made me more than the $140K I spent for it over the last 12 years. :-/

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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by reboundstudent on Thu Oct 09, 2014 10:38 am

I think college is required for a lot of professions around here, even something basic like an office secretary. I have seen so, so, soooo many entry-level jobs that require at least a degree or "2-3 years equivalent experience." I was told, flat out, by a manager from our Development team that he will never hire self-taught programmers ever again-even when they are good at their job, they lack the theoretical background, and often aren't up to industry standards.

I know loans are scary, but a 2-year trade school/community loans really aren't that horribly scary. Now that doesn't mean you should take out an absurd amount of loans-take out enough to cover tuition, and you'll probably end up with about $10,000-$15,000 by the end of it. That sounds like a lot, but spread out over 10 years, it's actually less than a car payment per month. Just to give you an idea, I have $34,000 in college debt. It's a lot, don't get me wrong, but my additional schooling helped push my income much higher than I would have gotten otherwise, and it opened doors that would have been closed otherwise.

What sort of skills did you use in your job?
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Conreezy on Thu Oct 09, 2014 10:54 am

College can be very important, depending on what you want to do.  There's no other way to be a doctor, for instance.

Still, I'm all about finding a trade and getting a job, studying part-time while working to keep moving ahead.  That's what I did for years, only recently leaving my job to go back full time. It's a lot easier to handle school at 29 compared to 19.
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Mel on Thu Oct 09, 2014 11:26 am

In your particular case, I don't think rushing back to college would be useful.  It sounds to me as though both in school before and in your past jobs, your biggest problem has been motivation--keeping up the energy to keep at it and do good (or at least decent) work. You say you felt like you weren't "smart enough" for college, too--that could be because of the motivational issue or it could be that traditional academics just aren't structured in a way that fits your needs well (which doesn't make you not smart, it just means you learn better in different ways). I suspect if you dive back in without a clearer sense of direction, you'll flounder again.

I would suggest that the first thing you'd want to do is explore what sort of job/career/trade you might actually enjoy doing (or if that's not possible, at least that you won't dislike doing), and then try to gain some experience in that field (through volunteering, online workshops, others have given some good suggestions of paths to try) to make sure it keeps your interest.  If you're enthusiastic about the work, it'll be a lot easier for you to keep the focus to pick up the skills you need and to gain respect from employers (or clients, if it's a path that leads to self-employment). Maybe you'll find you want to pursue a job that requires more education, college or otherwise, and that's the point when I think you should be seriously considering that and how you can make it happen.

To answer the question in a more general sense, I think college is useful if you (general you) want to pursue a career that requires it (completely, or in order to get a decent position), or if you're not sure what career you want to pursue but you have a sense it's likely to be something where a degree will be an asset and you perform reasonably well in academic settings.  In most fields having any degree at all is useful, and a lot of people figure out what they want to do by taking some introductory courses and seeing what appeals.  But if you know you want to go into a field where a different sort of training is more usual, obviously that's the way to go and there should be no shame about it, and for those who are unsure but aren't academically inclined, I think my advice about about exploring options and getting more of a direction first is probably a good idea to make sure you can make the most of the experience (and time and money) if you do go.

Personal experiences: I got a 4-year BA and have never needed it for the work I've done, but I'm glad I did it because I know it'll make it easier for me to get jobs in future if I need to go back to something other than the writing and because I did learn a lot of interesting things that expanded my understanding of the world (which I appreciate both personally and for my writing). However I am both someone who seems to take to academics naturally, and I didn't have to worry about the financial side because I went on full scholarship (mainly thanks to the first point).

My husband, by contrast, also did a four-year BA and has never needed it for a job so far, but he doesn't really feel it was worth it. He found most of his classes more frustrating than enjoyable and racked up a fair bit of debt. His feelings about it change from time to time, but in general I think he wishes he'd had a clearer direction before he started more than he wishes he hadn't gone at all.
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Werel on Thu Oct 09, 2014 5:28 pm

Aggrax wrote:I think college is a waste of time and money

All you need to know, right there. Wink

But seriously, like others have said, without a clear idea of why you're going to college, you're unlikely to get anything out of it. Nthing the suggestion of finding temporary or volunteer work in a field that interests you somewhat--  if you end up needing a degree to do work you have experiential knowledge of liking, you've got motivation built right in. And if you get good at the work and don't end up needing an expensive degree, Yahtzee! Your parents sound like they're just hopping on the Isn't This What All Upwardly Mobile People Are Supposed to Do train, not like they think there's a good reason for you specifically to go to college. (Can we please run some informational workshops for parents? With a title like "Disillusionment 101: Love Your Children Enough to Let Them Skip College"?)

And coming from somebody who's been either a student or employed in academia for most of the last decade: ruuuunnnn. Stay out there in the real world. Learn some applicable skills. Get an actual job that will feed you while still leaving you enough time to enjoy life. In a field with growth potential. RUN BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE AND YOU'RE TRAPPED IN HERE WITH US. Razz

(I think, in my brain, higher education looks something like the Lost Souls Room from Beetlejuice)

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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by The Wisp on Thu Oct 09, 2014 9:40 pm

Just thinking over the issue, I think there 4 good reasons to get a 4-year degree as an "older" adult (as in, not right out of high school) who will have to pay for a large portion or all of the education:

1. They want to teach and/or do research for a living (likely requires grad school as well).

2. They have a deep passion for a specific academic subject or for education in general, and thus highly value education for its own sake.

3. They want a job that requires a high level of technical knowledge that you can only realistically obtain by getting a 4-year degree.

4. They want a job in a very competitive field where applicants without a BA will probably be discarded even if a someone without a BA could theoretically do the job just as well.

You don't seem to fit any of these categories. I think "finish your college degree" is pretty standard advice for aimless adults, but I'm not sure it is the best option. I second what others have said: try to find some direction for your life. Explore options through community college classes, volunteer, research trade schools, etc. You may find that once you find direction in your life, a 4-year degree will start looking like a much better option, but I wouldn't advise it right now.

Speaking for myself, I believe education is intrinsically valuable, I have a deep passion for a couple subjects, and I want to eventually (ideally) want to get a PhD and do research in a particular field. Additionally, my undergrad is free because my parents are paying for it, which I'm very grateful for. I also went to college right out of high school (though, initially, only a community college) and continued to live with my parents. College is very "useful" and valuable to me, but I'm not sure how relevant that is to your case, as we seem to coming at higher education with very different perspectives, life circumstances, and priorities.
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Guest on Fri Oct 10, 2014 5:04 am

"Disillusionment 101: Love Your Children Enough to Let Them Skip College"
Werel, this made me sporfle. When I dropped my Maths/Chem degree places at some pretty prestigious universities to go and be an office grunt, my parents were so disappointed they wrote apology letters to all my teachers. My mum freely admits now I made the right decision.

Still love chem though, and have just discovered you can buy all the glassware to set up a home lab very cheaply on ebay! TO THE ERLENMEYER FLASKS!

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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Aggrax on Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:26 am

Thank you everyone that took the time to respond.

Having read over everything written here and taken some time to reflect, the problem is the same one I've had over and over again in my life. The fact that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing or what I want to do.

My Dad's advice over the past year has always boiled down to "pick something you like an do it" which has frustrated me to no end. Nothing that I *like* doing is going to get me a job. I don't really have a marketable skill, unless someone wants to pay me to whine about how useless I am.

The worst thing is, I desperately need a job that will offer benefits. In less than a year I can no longer stay on my parents health insurance. I have very poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes due to years of very bad health management and irresponsible decisions. Affording insulin with insurance is tough enough, without it I don't think I could do it.

College, to my parents, seems like the best option because that's what they know and what they have seen work. My middle brother has always excelled in school without even seeming to try and could graduate with a 4.0. My youngest brother just started school and has been doing very well in his first semester. They haven't said it, but the message I keep getting is "College works, it's you who keeps messing up. Now get back in there and stop failing."

Even though I agree that college would be a bad idea right now, a big part of me wants to just do what they say. Because dropping out? Those last two jobs that fired me? The poor financial and dietary management that left me in the situation I'm in? Those were me trying to take control of my life and all I did was make it worse.
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Mel on Fri Oct 10, 2014 7:49 am

Aggrax wrote:My Dad's advice over the past year has always boiled down to "pick something you like an do it" which has frustrated me to no end. Nothing that I *like* doing is going to get me a job. I don't really have a marketable skill, unless someone wants to pay me to whine about how useless I am.

There's a difference between what you like and what you're skilled at, though, right? Presumably you have interests other than whining? Wink The trick is looking at what you like and figuring out which of those things relate to work you could actually do, and then developing the skills (through school/volunteering/etc.) to be able to do that work.

If you're stuck on the first part of that, why don't you tell us what you like doing, even if you don't see how it could translate into a job? Someone here will probably have ideas.

Aggrax wrote:
Even though I agree that college would be a bad idea right now, a big part of me wants to just do what they say. Because dropping out? Those last two jobs that fired me? The poor financial and dietary management that left me in the situation I'm in? Those were me trying to take control of my life and all I did was make it worse.

I understand why you'd feel this way, and given your current health situation, I would even say that maybe right now you need to focus on getting a job, any job, rather than a job you like. But, a) once you are back in school it will still be up to you to control your performance and attendance and so on, yeah? So this only actually works if you can take control of your life to some extent anyway. And b) with most programs I think you'd be off your parents' insurance well before you have a degree anyway. This is actually a case where I think it'd be better to find some sort of trade or community college program that's relatively short (we have one year programs here in Canada, must be the same down there?) and offers a pretty direct track into a line of work--maybe not an ideal one, but that will mean less competition for the jobs, and you could at least choose the most acceptable of the options available. Or really, taking a job that doesn't require a degree but does offer health insurance, even if it's one you wouldn't have applied for originally because of some factor that made it seem like not a good long-term option or whatever, if there are any that fit that criteria. And then you could think more in terms of a larger career once your immediate needs are taken care of.

It sounds like a tough situation to be in. I hope you're able to find a direction that works for you.
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Guest on Fri Oct 10, 2014 7:54 am

It is a tough one, because having an interest in something and wanting to do it as a job are two very different things. My parents were upset when I gave up art because I am a "good drawer". But I always knew I could never produce any kind of art to a deadline, I could never get up in the morning and set myself firm targets for something like that.

I'd always liked gardening and engineering but I'm surprised that I ended up as a landscaper. Particularly as I knew absolutely nothing about the industry before going to college (I have been very lucky in that respect).

So Aggrax, what are you into? What interests you? What hobbies do you have, what do you do around the house? There are some things you can think about to narrow it down:
Indoors or outdoors?
Sedentary or active?
Words or images?
Regular hours, irregular hours?
Travelling or working in one place?
Lots of people around or no?

The answers to these questions might not always be things you're comfortable with NOW, particularly if you are depressed. For example, on bad days I don't want anyone around, but I know from experience that long periods of solitude reinforce my depression, so I insisted when I joined this job that I would only work from home three days a week, no matter how long the commute was to the office.

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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Conreezy on Fri Oct 10, 2014 9:42 am

embertine wrote:
"Disillusionment 101: Love Your Children Enough to Let Them Skip College"
Werel, this made me sporfle.  When I dropped my Maths/Chem degree places at some pretty prestigious universities to go and be an office grunt, my parents were so disappointed they wrote apology letters to all my teachers.  My mum freely admits now I made the right decision.

Still love chem though, and have just discovered you can buy all the glassware to set up a home lab very cheaply on ebay!  TO THE ERLENMEYER FLASKS!

I have the customers if you have the product...
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Guest on Fri Oct 10, 2014 9:45 am

Con, I'm more of the "discover cold fusion in an accident involving benzene, cat fluff and cheese sandwiches, leaving the centre of England a smoking crater" type of scientist than the "see a business opportunity maybe, but not definitely, involving crystal meth" type of scientist.

Not that cooking meth doesn't sometimes involve smoking craters, from what I gather.

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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Aggrax on Fri Oct 10, 2014 3:18 pm

Mel wrote:There's a difference between what you like and what you're skilled at, though, right?  Presumably you have interests other than whining?  Wink  The trick is looking at what you like and figuring out which of those things relate to work you could actually do, and then developing the skills (through school/volunteering/etc.) to be able to do that work.

If you're stuck on the first part of that, why don't you tell us what you like doing, even if you don't see how it could translate into a job?  Someone here will probably have ideas.

embertine wrote:So Aggrax, what are you into? What interests you? What hobbies do you have, what do you do around the house? There are some things you can think about to narrow it down:
Indoors or outdoors?
Sedentary or active?
Words or images?
Regular hours, irregular hours?
Travelling or working in one place?
Lots of people around or no?

Well, my hobbies are mostly reading novels (YA stuff, Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy are the big three), video games (Mostly World of Warcraft and some various Nintendo titles), and playing tabletop roleplaying games. As for skills... I'm an okay typist and I know how to swim. That's pretty much it. I don't really do a whole lot around the house except lay around and my sleep schedule is completely bonkers, as my post times here kinda show. I tend to want to fall into familiar routines, so I wouldn't want to travel around much. I don't really care how many people are around as long as I have some space of my own.
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Mel on Fri Oct 10, 2014 4:14 pm

Aggrax wrote:Well, my hobbies are mostly reading novels (YA stuff, Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy are the big three), video games (Mostly World of Warcraft and some various Nintendo titles), and playing tabletop roleplaying games. As for skills... I'm an okay typist and I know how to swim. That's pretty much it. I don't really do a whole lot around the house except lay around and my sleep schedule is completely bonkers, as my post times here kinda show. I tend to want to fall into familiar routines, so I wouldn't want to travel around much. I don't really care how many people are around as long as I have some space of my own.

Okay, reading is definitely something you can work with in a lot of ways. There's editing and copyediting fiction, which can be done working for a company or (increasingly) freelance, although the latter won't provide you with insurance. There's writing reviews, though I suspect that's a more difficult career to get into (more desirable, fewer skills required). There's also all the various jobs that circle around publishing fiction, like marketing/PR and interior/exterior design. There's working in a bookstore, where being well-read is an asset because you can rec books to customers. Etc.

Similarly with video games, even if you're not inclined toward making them yourself, there are careers involving packaging, marketing, selling, writing about them, etc.

The key is not to find a job doing exactly what you're already doing, but that involves something that interests you enough that you wouldn't mind doing it and may even enjoy it at least some of the time.

It sounds like it might also help you got yourself more involved in life in general right now. Hard to feel motivated to do something big like figure out a career path if you're mostly just "laying around." Wink Can you get out of the house more, explore some activities that might help you discover new interests, talk with more people, etc., all of which will give you a broader sense of possibility?
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by The Wisp on Fri Oct 10, 2014 7:28 pm

Aggrax, have you considered that you might be depressed? There are some forms of depression that manifest as the lack of motivation you describe without sadness or suicidal tendencies or anything. Maybe see a psychiatrist?
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by kath on Fri Oct 10, 2014 11:45 pm

Yeah, I think dealing with whatever's going on that have contributed to your past patterns of behavior would need to be addressed / broken with before you could find a good path forward. I think Wisp's suggestion is great. If you just keep trying to make yourself "better," you might just keep having demoralizing experiences. And there's every possibility that there are issues that aren't "I'm just terminally lazy".

(I loved university myself. I got a visual arts degree. I did co-op work terms to give me some employability. My career since has had nothing to do with it - except the art part, which makes me a very trivial amount of money - but I'm still considering going and getting an MFA ... Co-op worked great for me, I have never had trouble finding full-time work since graduating.)
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Re: Do you think college was/is useful?

Post by Aggrax on Sat Oct 11, 2014 4:24 am

The Wisp wrote:Aggrax, have you considered that you might be depressed? There are some forms of depression that manifest as the lack of motivation you describe without sadness or suicidal tendencies or anything. Maybe see a psychiatrist?

I'm not depressed. In the past, I've believed differently, but I was wrong. I was using depression as an excuse instead of owning up to the real problem. That fact that I was, and very much still am, very lazy and irresponsible.
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Aggrax

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