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May 27, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Fixing Your Life (Because Ours Are Written Off)

Hector and Janet,

The end of the semester is nearing, and I’m a little concerned. I’ve been thinking recently that perhaps I’m in the wrong place. I came to university with a clear idea of what I wanted to do and how I should go about getting there. I was open-minded, but now I’m not so sure that I am studying the right thing. Am I better placed to cut my losses and change my degree now, or keep going and hope it falls into place later?

Sincerely,
Disillusioned Deborah

 

Janet:

Debs,

What an extremely valid question you have, my dear. I was lucky in deciding to go to university: I knew that it was my natural progression after secondary school, and as part of having ‘a series of options’, I had fluked a scholarship conditional on my doing a Commerce degree. So I enrolled for one, tossed in a BA, got dressed one day in early March (+1 on desert boots in 2010, -5000 on tucking my jeans into them) and rocked up, hoping for the best. By the end of my first trimester, I’d decided to pick up a Law degree the next year.

This was an easy decision to make: I figured my now-later graduation would coincide with Joyce* having fixed the economy and the re-election of Labour raining jobs in the civil service down upon me. Plus, I’d been assured from the get-go that my expert suburban negotiation over remotes and car use was a gateway to human-rights advocacy. Changing my degree would have been a far more difficult decision had I been considering dropping out entirely to work, or really switching it up and rendering the papers I’d done theretofore a “complete waste of time”.

Thinking about ‘cutting losses’ versus ‘seeing what happens’ leads me to draw an analogy between your situation and that of my own, with my first (and most recent) boyfriend, back in 2009. I mulled over subconsciously whether I was ‘still into it’ for a while, and decided one day that no, I was not, and I did not want to hang around to see whether I would be later. So I told him that. In a field. While this analogy is very bad, perhaps my point is that I was, and you are, smart enough to trust your own judgment on what you should be doing. You’re also young enough that if you make a mistake, the nature of time might mean that it’s not reversible, but nor is it insurmountable. Practically, it makes sense not to drop out mid-trimester so that any changes are as clean a break as possible and it’s easier to pick up later if you so desire. Even more practically, needs must, so do what you want to do and God bless all who sail in you.

Degree regret is common. I have it. I am sorry that you also have it. Make good decisions. I am aware this is not advice.

Movin’ on up,
Janet.

*I know what you’re thinking. “She means English.” No I bloody don’t mean English.

 

Hector:

Dear Deb,

Look, it happens to a lot of people. Realising one day that you’ve made a huge mistake is pretty common. That’s one thing though, and the other thing is deciding what to do about it. Yeah, you can switch degrees, but that can be expensive. Can be? Hell, it will be. You’ll have wasted credits, and that means wasted dollars. But that’s not what matters to you! Let’s face it, if you had changed your mind based on economical values, you would have already done a cost-benefit analysis and switched your degrees by now.

Degree-switching is a tough gig. It’s definitely not in any way analogous to shopping for clothes, where you can chop and change with no real consequences. It means lost friends, a new campus, being a fish out of water in a big salty pond with no paddle and absolutely no chance at redemption. Because you can’t switch back. Faculties are basically gangs, and switchers get stitches. You don’t cross that line without spilling some blood, son. Watch your back.

Just kidding. There are genuinely very few real consequences to switching around your studies. If you want my advice, and I can’t imagine that you’ve written in for any other reason, I’d advise you to look deep into your heart and see what you find there. Chances are, you’ve already made your decision and you’re just afraid of what might happen. But you’re at University, now, and it’s time to stand up for what you believe in.

On the other hand, don’t forget that there are risks and penalties that you need to be aware of. Besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, you need to remember that you can’t really afford to keep on switching degrees indefinitely. If you really want to be at university forever with no prospects of employment, just do postgrad. Zing.

Also, think about whether you are doing something completely academic, like a BA in Media Studies, something practical and vocation-based, like Architecture, or something in between, like Science. Then think about what you think your degree is going to do for you, and if you’ll get more out of a new one.

It’s not like clothes-shopping, though. I can’t stress that enough.

Couldn’t think of an applicable Arrested Development quote,
Hector.

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