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I know the magnitude of my life vector and now I need direction
July 12, 2011 11:50 PM   Subscribe

I've failed college and I don't feel like returning, at all. In fact, every single day I stay here seems like a waste. So, I might as well do what I was planning on graduation: Get as far away as possible and start over. Question is, where?

After three terrible semesters in a row, my GPA has fallen low enough for me to be thrown out of my faculty. My options are either to appeal the decision and assuming I get back in try to complete my degree or try and transfer to another faculty and hope that enough credits transfer over. Trouble is, I only have three semesters worth of useful, good credits followed by a few D's and a long list of F's. By the most optimistic estimate, I still have another two more years of courses to complete my degree and more still to try for any other.

And that is assuming that I'd even want to stay. Living with my parents is growing more difficult each day as I'm dependent on them financially and they seem intent on using that to exert control over my life. My relationship with them has been steadily declining with my marks and this final embarrassment has driven it into the ground.

Yes, I am in therapy and on medication, so no advice of that nature please.

I have some money saved up (about 5 grand) and no debts other than govt. student loans, which I can keep from accruing interest while I maintain my status as a student. What I want to do is as follows: transfer to a community college* somewhere far away, probably the west coast and get a job and live on my own for once. I do eventually want to get a degree, even if it takes me another four years, as long as I can do it without the constant barrage of verbal abuse, weird manipulation and gaslighting.

So after all that, my questions are: Is this plan feasible? Where do I go (i.e. anything specific in the way of college recommendations)? Is there anything specific I should do or be doing?. Any recommendations or advice in general for an aimless 21 year-old is welcome. Thank you.

* I doubt any universities will still let me apply for fall 2011 entry.
posted by shoebox to Education (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is just a leftfield suggestion. Get a TESOL certificate or whatever is a good esl/efl qualification near you. Not a dodgy online course.

Go and teach in a foreign country, travel the world a bit.

Then save a bit of money and do an MA in applied linguistics. I believe people do it distance learning from the University of Shanghai. which might be cheaperr. Good for a career in esl, or you have a masters if you just need any degree.

I have not looked into this uni just read forum posts. Do you homework obviously.
posted by Not Supplied at 12:09 AM on July 13, 2011


"Go and teach in a foreign country, travel the world a bit."

Korea and Japan require a degree from an accredited four year college to get a teaching visa. A TESOL certificate is nice but you won't be able to do anything without a diploma.

Not sure about China but I'm pretty sure the same rules apply. The Asian ESL scene has "tightened up" pretty significantly since the "wild west" days of ten years ago.
posted by bardic at 12:43 AM on July 13, 2011


Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon is a very nice community college. I started off there, and it's very close to the University of Oregon. I actually took some courses at UofO while attending Lane. It was a less stressful course of action, for me. Not sure what the job market is like in Eugene currently (as I don't currently live there) but I have friends in college there who have been able to find jobs in coffee shops and things like that.

Best of luck!
posted by I_love_the_rain at 1:48 AM on July 13, 2011


I was in the exact same place you were in a little over 10 years ago. I was a smart kid, but utterly lacking in discipline. I went to college right when I was 18 like everyone else and threw my entire first year away, failing everything or coming close enough as made no difference.

What I realized was that I was not ready for school yet. There is no shame in that, and accepting that was half the battle for me. I dropped out, moved home and waited tables for a couple of months.

Then I joined the Marines. It changed my life. The Marine Corps gave me structure and self-discipline, two things I needed desperately. When I got out of the Marine Corps 5 years later, I went to an Ivy League university. I was ready for school.

I'm not telling you to join the Marines - but anything that would let you make a clean break and force you to reinvent yourself might be good for you. If the idea of going overseas and fighting doesn't appeal to you, consider the Air Force. The vast majority of enlisted jobs in the Air Force are non-combat. I don't know too much about the Peace Corps, but that might be worth a look too, though I've heard from friends that they are pretty selective.
posted by CRM114 at 2:28 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


This sounds not only feasible, but like a fabulous idea. California has great community colleges, and 5k should be enough to get you started. Although, don't rush back to school just on account of the loans - you might be better off working for a while and deciding what to do.
posted by yarly at 4:11 AM on July 13, 2011


I'd suggest taking a year or two off from school. Go on the income-based repayment plan, establish residency, try your hand at working to support yourself. Start back at college when you want to and can explain why in a way that makes sense to people who want rational explanations for things.

I do not recommend California for this right now. Their college system is quite unstable and crowded (and it's expensive and difficult to live there.) That was exactly what I did (I only needed four classes, lived with my dad for a while, etc.) but the financial difficulties were, well, overwhelming, especially after I was on my own.

Research community college programs and see if you can't find one or two that sound interesting and are in places with decent job prospects. Consider also tuition costs (the feds are pretty picky about timely completion and success ratios and such.) If you live in Montgomery Co., Ohio, there's at least one CC that has $50 tuition ($80 if you're in Ohio but outside the county, $180 if you aren't an Ohio resident.)
posted by SMPA at 4:25 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


California has great community colleges, and 5k should be enough to get you started. Although, don't rush back to school just on account of the loans - you might be better off working for a while and deciding what to do.

I believe establishing residency in California for tuition purposes fairly difficult (for a start, you have to show you're in California for reasons other than education). That said, they do seem to have a good framework for students wanting to transfer to four year universities (at least UCs and CSUs) from the experience of friends.

From the vocabulary, it sounds like shoebox may not be in the US. (Canada?)
posted by hoyland at 4:37 AM on July 13, 2011


Seconding that you consider the military. I only squeaked by through college, but after a term of service went back to grad school and did very well for myself. Plus you can get lots of experiences you never would have otherwise in the civilian world.
posted by procrastination at 5:49 AM on July 13, 2011


Your parents are exerting control because you are disappointing them and you let them exert control because you are completely and entirely dependent on them.

I second the Air Force recommendation.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:04 AM on July 13, 2011


OK, you're in Canada, so many answers above do not apply. Just go! Spend a couple of years working at whatever shit jobs you can find. Also do some volunteering. I don't know how student loans work in Canada, but is there some repayment plan that is based on income?

Are you thinking Vancouver or Victoria? Go there. Stay in hostels for a week or two. Check out places you'd want to live. Find a room in a shared house. Find a job nearby. Get plenty of exercise by exploring on foot. Don't tell anyone how much money you have and spend as little of it as possible.

Just go, and good luck.
posted by mareli at 6:08 AM on July 13, 2011


Ah, you're right, previously asked questions indicate an Ontario resident. Now I really, really don't support the California plan. :)

But working for a while and then going back is still your best bet. My sister-in-law is back at the University of Toronto after taking time out to be a mom, and seems like she feels far more focused and happy to be there, despite being crazy busy with my niece and nephew.
posted by SMPA at 6:12 AM on July 13, 2011


The Greyhound bus company sells a discovery pass that would let you travel all around Canada and the US for a fixed rate. You could do that for a few months. Come up with a loose plan for where to go and where to stay, then just hop on a bus when you start getting bored somewhere. Maybe you'd find somewhere you liked.

I met a Korean girl once who was seeing Canada that way. It sounded like fun to me. Since the US and Canadian dollar are about at par now, crossing the border wouldn't be that expensive. Just know of a hostel or two in case the customs people ask where you plan to stay.
posted by Net Prophet at 6:48 AM on July 13, 2011


Go and teach in a foreign country, travel the world a bit.

The thought ocurred to me, but don't you need post-secondary credentials for most teaching opportunities? As for travelling, I'd prefer to wait until I have something to return to, which currently isn't much.

And yes, I am in Ontario (sorry, should have made that clear). I mentioned west coast because that seemed the furthest populated region I could get without crossing borders. I wasn't really thinking anything specific, to be honest. Nor was I really averse to looking towards the US, either (is it really that bad down there?).

As for military, it hadn't much crossed my mind as I was never into the whole "running, jumping, climbing trees, putting on makeup when you're up there" stuff :)
posted by shoebox at 6:52 AM on July 13, 2011


As for travelling, I'd prefer to wait until I have something to return to, which currently isn't much.

This actually seems a bit backwards. Travel is in many ways easier when you don't have ties and obligations back home — you're free to form new ties and take on new obligations in the country you're visiting, or even to settle down there for good if it strikes your fancy. Spending months or years in a place where you're prevented from putting down any actual roots can be really lonely and alienating. If you go now while you're unencumbered, the best case scenario looks a lot better (maybe you'll find your dream job, or the ideal city for you to live in, or meet a beautiful Person Of The Relevant Gender and settle down in perfect bliss together...), and the worst case scenario doesn't look any worse.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:05 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Forget about post secondary education for the time being. You aren't ready...yet. And like others have said, there is no shame in that. You have not failed life.

I understand, I have been there. I failed all of my courses the first year of university (also in Canada), so I was booted out of school for a year. All of the sudden, I had to say goodbye to my first apartment and move back in with my parents. I had no job. I felt depressed and humiliated. One day a friend mentioned that a friend of hers had worked out west at a resort, so I applied to resorts in Jasper, Banff, Whistler, etc. I ended up accepting a six month contract in Jasper. I stayed for four years. Again, this might not be for you, but it certainly gave me a new lease on life. I learned how to work hard and my accommodations were taken care of. At 23, I took my work ethic and life skills back to university and have done pretty well for myself. At 18, I was convinced that flunking out of university was the end of the world, at 32, I look back fondly on it as a learning experience that led into some of the best years of my life. Feel free to Memail if you have any questions. Good luck. You will be okay.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:07 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was in the same position 4.5 years ago. I bombed college, depressed. I didn't have any support beyond my car and $3000. I moved from Michigan to Portland. I'd guess your Canadian equivalent is going to Vancouver or Victoria.

If possible, try to establish a support network quickly. The two ingredients are friends and a job. For my journey, I had friends that I lived with at the start and I got a (shitty) job. There is a hell of a lot of work involved to get yourself back on your feet and your mind in a comfortable place, but it certainly can be done.

Get on craigslist and start working on the job and a place to live. Be prepared to take a cut in your quality of life to start with. You can do it.

Also: this may seem goofy, but don't forget to grab all of your personal documents. Passport, birth certificate and social insurance cards are all a must. Don't make my mistake.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:29 AM on July 13, 2011


Many people experience educational set backs. I did, and it made me re-evaluate what was important to me. The realization I came to was education is important, I haven't made a full faith effort, my grades were not an accurate reflection of the my skills and abilities, and I needed to shape up.
Can you pin point what has been contributing factors to your poor academic skills such as wrong program, just being in your parents house, or not being happy?
After doing so, you can make changes to your behavior to quit doing whatever is contributing to your temporary setback. If you are considering schools all the way across the great white north, it appears you do value education. Perhaps you could switch schools nearby therefore unloading poor marks on your transcript, save money, move out and go from there.

Best of luck.
posted by handbanana at 7:29 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mentioned west coast because that seemed the furthest populated region I could get without crossing borders.

So hop on a bus. I lived in Banff for a few years and every time I took the Greyhound back from Calgary there would be a handful of young people who just got on in Quebec City and got off the bus to visit places on the way out west. If they liked a place, they'd stay for a while. Like futureisunwritten says, many people end up in these ski resort towns, there are always jobs there - the hotels, the facilities, the restaurants that support the tourists are used to people doing this. Lots of the Quebecois kids were doing it in between CEGEP and university, so a degree is really not required. Some places will have community colleges - southern Alberta has Bow Valley College which has branches throughout the province, including one 20 minutes from Banff.
posted by kyla at 7:32 AM on July 13, 2011


I find you to be very realistic and focused. I agree with you that it is best not to continue to waste your money at a university you are clearly not a good fit for.

I have some money saved up (about 5 grand) and no debts other than govt. student loans, which I can keep from accruing interest while I maintain my status as a student.
Perhaps you can get a local job and in parallel focus on: paying of that loan and moving out of your parent's house

What I want to do is as follows: transfer to a community college* somewhere far away, probably the west coast and get a job and live on my own for once.
Your saved money will help with that - yes, but you may need to work in the state before you are able to gain residency for tuition purposes. Look at the school you want to attend and speak with the residency officer there as being a resident of the state is completely different from "residency for tuition purposes".

I know it scary not to be in school, but focus on determining best what you want to do with your future and not just take random coursework to create the illusion you are moving forward with your career. Finding work locally before that big move may help you with that.

Good Luck
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 7:51 AM on July 13, 2011


Go and teach in a foreign country, travel the world a bit.

The thought ocurred to me, but don't you need post-secondary credentials for most teaching opportunities? As for travelling, I'd prefer to wait until I have something to return to, which currently isn't much.


I believe Bardic is right about the scene in Asia, but I think there will be teaching opportunities worldwide where a CELTA, TESOL etc will get you a job. If you're interested, try poking around the forums on dave's esl cafe

Whether or not an MA in applied linguistics would be affordable later I don't really know, but it is possible to do them based on experience if you've taken your job seriously and read up on things.

Anyway, if you do this or another project that's not plugging you right into a career there are possibilities after, it's not a dead end. Only you know yourself, but if I was talking to my younger self I'd quote nebulawindphone. You're young and a bit aimless, you don't have to get a degree right this second...why not see a bit of life and see where it takes you.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2011


As for military, it hadn't much crossed my mind as I was never into the whole "running, jumping, climbing trees, putting on makeup when you're up there" stuff :)

except for some time in basic, and unless you go into the ground combat fields, this really isn't what the modern military does. The modern military needs a lot more mechanics, technicians, equipment operators and clerks than it needs infantry. If you are mechanically inclined and don't have a huge problem with authority (volunteering to be in the military means someone is going to tell you what to do for a large part of your day) you can actually learn something useful during your term. LIke how to repair a helicopter or drive a forklift or a bunch more stuff, and sometimes the student loan thing can be deferred during service as well. It is not the worst way to get some direction and focus in life and learn a lot of useful skills. An open and honest talk with a recruiter is not the worst idea, just be really, really honest about why you are their, what you are looking for and don't sign anything without thinking about it for a few days. A few years of military life has turned around a lot of people into more productive lives.
posted by bartonlong at 11:14 AM on July 13, 2011


I know people who took time off from school and did forestry work in BC and saved money. For them it was great, though physically demanding.

Staying in Canada with a good social service network might be a better move than trying to come to the US where you would have to worry about maintaining your immigration status and you wouldn't automatically have health insurance.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:01 PM on July 13, 2011


Forget about post secondary education for the time being. You aren't ready...yet.

Agreed. I don't see what college has to offer you other than a(nother) respite from getting a real job and starting life.

Get training in something -- welding, bartending, HVAC repair -- and spend a few years working and living. College isn't going anywhere.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2011


I'm British, and people I know who've more or less dropped out of uni for a while have done things like, become a ski instructor in the Alps, lead tours in the middle east, work in bars in the Mediterranean, or working on a farm in the Australia outback.

Probably as a Canadian you're entitled to all sorts of working holiday visas - you could look into taking advantage of those. That would take you further afield than western Canada. And, even if you do a job that you could have been doing at home in an English-speaking country, it will still challenge you in all sorts of exciting ways.
posted by plonkee at 1:24 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


plonkee is right, you could look into working holidays. But you may want to spend six months working and living on your own in Canada, first--save some extra cash and get confident about supporting yourself on your own before you leave the country. (I'm Canadian and have gone to Japan and Australia on working holiday visas, and I know there are lots of others out there. It can be a great experience. Pay is very good in Australia and the dollar is strong right now.) I think 5k is not enough to go on working holiday with--if you wind up having trouble finding a job and don't want to ask your parents for support, you will need a bigger cushion.

Think pretty carefully about where you want to go in Canada. I went to university in Victoria, and I probably wouldn't recommend it. It's very difficult to find the kind of basic office jobs you might want to look for. (On the other hand, there are good community colleges there, and it's a nice place to live, so if you're sure you want to go back to school right now and wouldn't mind working in food service or retail, it might be an OK move.) I'm not sure about Vancouver, but have heard it's a bit tough to find a job there, too. Consider the prairies (a lot of people your age are leaving there, so you might find it easier to get a job) and definitely do your research.

I think you have a great opportunity to take some time and really be smart about school, when you go back. Honestly, I sortof wish I had quit or flunked out of my BA--it's turned out to be more or less useless to me in post-university life. If I could go back and do it again, I would take some time off and experience working life BEFORE choosing my major. I think studying a bit later and bringing more life experience to decisionmaking about your education is a great way to go, and you have a real opportunity here.

Feel free to MeMail me, particularly if you wind up going on working holiday or moving to Victoria. Been there done that!
posted by equivocator at 6:30 PM on July 13, 2011


Have you considered taking an AmeriCorps position? They generally come with health insurance and a small stipend--not much, but enough to support (frugally) living on your own. Doing AmeriCorps also entitles you to an education award of around $5,000 that you can use later in life for a wide variety of education expenses, including community college costs and repaying student loans. I think existing loans can be put on hold while you do an AmeriCorps stint as well, but check me on that.

The time commitment is short--usually 10 months--and while you won't make a lot of money, you will probably learn a lot, meet other cool young people, and have something on your resume that might open more doors than your average coffeeshop-type job. There are lots of different AmeriCorps programs and posts to choose from.

You definitely shouldn't do the college thing if that's not working for you right now. But figuring out what to do with yourself when you're not on a pre-defined path like college can be hard, and you might find yourself kind of lost (and without much money besides). A service program like AmeriCorps offers structure and exposure to new ideas, without demanding a huge commitment. And in a year, armed with some more experience, maturity, and money, you're bound to have a much better chance of succeeding in school (community college or otherwise). Good luck!
posted by aka burlap at 7:20 PM on July 13, 2011


Doh, didn't read everything. Iif you're a Canadian citizen, AmeriCorps is out. I don't know if what kind of similar public service programs exist in Canada, but there's probably something worth checking out!
posted by aka burlap at 7:25 PM on July 13, 2011


It occurs to me that I also know someone who spent time after university working an office job in an oil field (or possibly a mining operation? I think oil) in Alberta, and was able to make a bunch of money that way to serve as a cushion.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:32 PM on July 13, 2011


Aha, I have remembered the Canadian youth public service program: Katimavik. I don't know anything about it, just that it exists.
posted by equivocator at 8:06 PM on July 13, 2011


Many people experience educational set backs. I did, and it made me re-evaluate what was important to me. The realization I came to was education is important, I haven't made a full faith effort, my grades were not an accurate reflection of the my skills and abilities, and I needed to shape up.

Yes. Exactly. Thank you. Nice to hear others saying what I've been thinking. That's to all of you who've commented here as well. I've been feeling scared as hell to deviate from my preordained path in life into total uncertainty, even if it was what I've wanted since I was 16. I know in the rational part of my brain that my supposed future of ending up as the starving, begging, loser degenerate that my parents insist is guaranteed, once I leave their auspices, was exaggerated and hyperbolic as usual, but somehow It's still nice to hear from others that you can eke out an existence with some will and determination.


Can you pin point what has been contributing factors to your poor academic skills such as wrong program, just being in your parents house, or not being happy?


(C), primary cause of which is (B) and tangentially (A). I say tangentially because even though it was a slog at times, I didn't entirely mind. I know how lucky I am to even be able to attend a decent university at all, much less be heavily subsidized. I know it will never always be fun and that I need to pull myself through boring and difficult material. I know that some of my crazy dreams need to be postponed until I get my act together and others need to stay as they are: dreams.

Although, I suppose just having them crushed over and over again since adolescence took its toll on me over the years.
posted by shoebox at 8:12 PM on July 13, 2011


first--save some extra cash and get confident about supporting yourself on your own before you leave the country. [...] I think 5k is not enough to go on working holiday with--if you wind up having trouble finding a job and don't want to ask your parents for support, you will need a bigger cushion.

This is more or less my thinking when it comes to just strapping on a backpack and hitting the open road. My first goal is to just completely wean myself off from my family for now and be fully independent. I worry if I do decide to run around the world now that I won't have any support or resources to bail myself out of any potential trouble I encounter. If I end up in a prison cell in Guatemala or Italy or something, I'd rather not spend my free phone call (do they even have those in other places?) trying to convince the second cheapest lawyer in the telephone directory to take my case pro bono.

Honestly, I sortof wish I had quit or flunked out of my BA--it's turned out to be more or less useless to me in post-university life

I don't know, really. At this point I'd just like a piece of paper that says I'm hireable and allowed to go on to better things, tbh. I guess it's just the certainty of having something concrete to show people as opposed to simply relying on their kindness and good will in hiring me. I know it may be a bit silly, but it just seems to me that pretty much everyone who's managed to be successful without post-secondary education is some combination of: privileged/wealthy, talented, socially adept, and 20 years older than me.
posted by shoebox at 8:21 PM on July 13, 2011


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