How do I find out what I want to study in college?
November 28, 2011 1:12 PM   Subscribe

I have been in college for 4 years and still don't know what to do in life. How do I find out what I want in life?

So basically I have been in college since past 4 years and seems like I have not done anything. I have changed my major lots of times (Pilot, Computer Information System, Accounting, Biology) and Im currently in Mechanical Engineering program...which Im failing almost all my classes. Everytime I start college, I enjoy it in the beginning but loose interest and motivation as semester goes on. So my question is, how do I find out what I want to do in life without wasting time and parents money. In engineering right now, it requires me to spend atleast 4-5 hours a day to the assigned work plus extra time to study for exams, I really have hard time keeping up with that. I cannot study for long hours stuck in library all day. I love being around people, staying active on my feet. I learn better when its more hands on where I can actually play around with it. I live with my parents who are very supportive but even they are loosing hope on me since I have not accomplished anything in the last 4 years.
posted by Parh6512 to Education (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered seeing what kind of job (even if not full-time) you might be able to get without graduating? Maybe some time in the workplace would give you a better idea of what kind of job you might prefer to work towards.

Also, certainly worth considering the links between this and other AskMe's you've asked.
posted by thegears at 1:30 PM on November 28, 2011

I often recommend that people start by finding yourvocation. In a nutshell, a vocation isn't a mere job, but a calling. You're going to need to spend some time thinking about what sorts of things you're good at, and what sorts of tasks you enjoy doing just for the sake of doing them, among other things.

Second, as you consider what you're going to do, don't forget that not everyonemust go to college, at least not to earn a living. College can be a handy starting point for certain kinds of work. But for others, it's not as useful as experience. College can be useful for broadening your social horizons and feeding your intellectual curiosity, but only if you take classes that do that. A strict technical or engineering program may not do that for you. But for some people, a four year degree is not a good value proposition.

You also seem to be having trouble applying yourself to get a passable outcome in your current classes. Consider taking a different approach to study and coursework that involves less sitting in the library and more interaction with your peers. Why not find a few other like-minded people for a study group? If that's not viable, talk to your professors and see if there are ways for you to do coursework in a more hands-on way. Either way, it's still up to you to try to get a passable result from your classes. Even if you change majors, your GPA will still be affected by what you're doing now.
posted by Hylas at 1:40 PM on November 28, 2011

The way to find out what you want in life is to actually go do stuff, because it's almost a certainty that whatever you're doing now is not what you'll be doing 10 years from now. Wasting time? How could you be wasting time doing stuff? You waste time not doing stuff.

Go join the Coast Guard. Spend a few years rescuing people for a living.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:49 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I recommend talking with folks who have a similar world-views/demeanors/goals/je ne sais quoi/&c and getting the inside scoop on what they do.

I know that sounds vague and maybe daunting, and I don't know for sure if it will help, but that's what it took to get me on track (10 years after college graduation age, at that).
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:50 PM on November 28, 2011

Is it possible for you to graduate without lots of extra time/money/effort? Can you change your major to something you've already done most of the requirements for? Maybe you can motivate yourself to finish school as quickly as possible, in whatever way you can, and then you can go out and try different things without having this hanging over your head.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:55 PM on November 28, 2011

I went back and looked at your other questions. You said you've never worked and your parents have provided you with everything, you're depressed, stressed, and directionless. You've asked a bunch of similar questions in the past month or so, and the answers you've gotten have been similar. It is hard and scary, but maybe it's time to take a leap and actually DO something -- leave the house, go out on your own, get a job (not that this is a great time for that, but still). You sound worried about disappointing your parents, but you also say they're already disappointed because you haven't accomplished anything. So why worry? (Yes, I know this is easy for a random stranger to say. Also the child of Indian immigrants, if that helps.) Don't worry about finding the correct path in life or doing what your parents want. Cut the cord. Pick something and do it. Give yourself a year and promise yourself you're not going to move back home during that year.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:02 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Do you want to work with something you don't necessarily love, but have the money for the hobbies you do?
Or do you want to work with something you really love, and maybe struggle to find funds for the other aspects of your life?

It's fairly rare that you can have your cake and eat it too in this sense (not to say some people luck into the right skill/hobby combination to make it work.) Try defining your future in the above terms first.

But in the short term, it sounds like you need a. some independence from your parents b. to pull in some money so you don't feel so pathetic and c. someone with backbone to force some determination into you (if you can't stand studying for 4-5 hours, will you be able to work an 8 hour day?) This is what the military, or parallel options, would be really useful for. The coast guard is a safe bet, as mentioned above.
posted by MangyCarface at 2:07 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Join the military. Join the Peace Corps. Give yourself to your fellow citizens for a while.
posted by ryanpoly at 2:13 PM on November 28, 2011

During your college years are traditionally supposed to be building the educational foundation for an autonomous adult life. If you're not spreading your wings in college (and from the question it seems obvious that you aren't), you need to find a way outside school to do so.

Maybe college isn't the environment for you right now at all. It sounds as though you aren't currently getting much from the experience. Why don't you try to take a semester off, work at a low-pressure job, and/or travel on the dirt cheap with a friend or relative? Take a bus or a train somewhere, stay in a crappy motel, go camping, do something you actually *enjoy* in a place far away from your family.

You say you love to be on your feet, interacting with people, so why not start by finding a job you can do now, where those interests/capabilities will be an asset, inside or outside school, and see how you feel? You're not growing, so you really do need to get out of your current routine/slump in order to gain the perspective you need to move forward. Otherwise things will stay the same until they break down really badly, and you may be forced to make a dramatic change under less favorable circumstances.
posted by devymetal at 4:00 PM on November 28, 2011

I don't have any answers for you but I just want to let you know there are others in your situation. After reading through your question and looking at your profile (we have the same initials!) I could have sworn I wrote this post.

I'm also the son of Indian immigrants, I'm currently failing my third year of a mechanical engineering program, and I too have no idea how to find out what I want to do. All I can say is talk to your friends--if not for answers, then even for the sympathy ("That sucks dude, let me buy you a beer"). They might not be in your same situation but if they're decent friends they'll have your back and express that. That's worth something, I guess.
posted by bumpjump at 4:31 PM on November 28, 2011

I think you need to change your framing a little. It sounds like you're pissing away these college years, switching majors like bananas, all based on the assumption when you find *that thing* all the pieces will fall into place and it'll be great.

The reality is - and it's good and bad - there probably is no *that thing*, leastaways not for you, at your age. There is a balance between do what you love, and love what you do, and I think you're a little too heavily focussed on the former at the moment and not the latter. You've failed a lot of different subjects, is the subject the problem, or is studying the problem? Is it something with these subjects or something with you? Maybe it's not the right time for college, maybe you don't have effective university habits. Maybe you're not used to hard work and struggling to succeed or even just to pass, I don't know.

it requires me to spend atleast 4-5 hours a day to the assigned work plus extra time to study for exams, I really have hard time keeping up with that.

I've got some pretty bad news for you: most jobs will require more work than that - even "hands-on" ones that pay decently - especially starting out, especially if it's based on a degree. I mean, that's basically a work-day right? Sure, you could get a job flipping burgers or whatever, but I think you will find that work, in addition to being completely unfulfilling, is also much harder than you think.

I don't have any sage advice about what you should major in, etc. There are great career counsellors at most unis to help with that, but think you need to consider reframing. Pieces don't "fall" into place; you put them into place. It's like a jigsaw puzzle; you can't just shake the bag out and all the pieces are assembled , you have to put them all together into a picture yourself, and it sounds at the moment like you're paralysed at the prospect of doing that.

When I faced a similar existential dilemma and crippling failure/ennui at university I decided I would just break my life into six month chunks, and did whatever I thought I needed to do for six months and wouldn't think about anything longer term. It was wonderfully liberating, I started handing in essays, taking up career-building hobbies, I felt powerful and that I had agency in my life, albeit for six months. I ended up doing that for several years.

Drop out and get a job or start passing. Either way will be hard and likely unpleasant at times, but either way will give you a skillset (working at something in spite of fear/lack of interest/ability) that will serve you for life.
posted by smoke at 4:34 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not everybody is ready to go to college right after high school. If you are 3 years in and still rudderless, it might be time for a break. Maybe a semester of full time grunt labor in a minimum wage job will help clarify a few things for you. Maybe 4 years in the military, or two years in the Peace Corp, will give you the time and independence to figure out what you want to be when you grow up.

Clearly, college is not working for you right now, so it's time to try something different.
posted by COD at 4:42 PM on November 28, 2011

I found grumblebee's comment in a past thread to be helpful for differentiating your passion from what you want to do with your life.
posted by rabbitfufu at 5:50 PM on November 28, 2011

If you are close to graduating, dig in and graduate any way you can. You don't get much partial credit in life for almost finishing college. Get that degree. It doesn't matter what it's in. Just get it done. Sounds like none of these subjects are sparking your passion, so it's time to revise the plan. College isn't where you're going to find your path in life. College is where you're going to learn lots of interesting things that could open doors to the path of your life later. Slap together a major you can live with, or something you have the most credits for already, and get your degree in that.

But also? Passion isn't all that. I don't love my job, but I like it and I feel good about the work I do. This is maybe less than I would have liked, but it's okay. Don't be afraid of going that route, either.
posted by elizeh at 7:48 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

What I would tell an 18-year-old me if I could: Forget about what you want to be when you grow up. Focus instead on getting a degree that will get you a decent paying job wherever you want to live (Mechanical Engineering would have worked nicely).

Then I could have graduated and started building a life, rather than graduating with a degree in something I "loved" (music) and working bullshit retail jobs for a decade before finally going to grad school in something that would make me some decent money.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:38 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Some great advices here. Seems like my problem is that I'm living with my parents and need to be more independent and experience the real world. Yes my parents are Indian and that is the reason why I have hard time explaining or convincing that this route would be best for me. Any advice on how I should explain this to my parents that this is what I want todo.
posted by Parh6512 at 10:51 AM on November 29, 2011

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