I seem to have misplaced my motivation.
August 16, 2012 4:25 PM   Subscribe

What motivated you to get through college successfully?

Over the past 8 months I've slowly realized I need some kind of higher education to be able to live on my own and have a life I enjoy (there's no denying that degree-holders average higher salaries than non-degree holders). If you look at my post history, I've asked questions regarding a few vastly different career paths.

The dilemma:

I have a history of being academically unsuccessful at large universities and community colleges, and both on a quarter system and semester system. I usually get bored of the material in any given class within a month and:

A) Start skipping class
B) Stop doing the work
C) Drop the class altogether
D) All of the above

I've made it to the end of the quarter/semester in ~15% of the classes I've ever enrolled in, and that was because those were all constantly stimulating. I've never been able to drudge through lower-division requirements and get to "the good stuff" like my peers because in the past I could never finish uninteresting courses.

My question:

What motivated you to get through uninteresting or boring material for months at a time in college? What was the internal voice telling you to do the work necessary to successfully graduate? Was it money? A career you were passionate about? Comparing your experience in the working world with being in school?
posted by bumpjump to Education (49 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I need some kind of higher education to be able to live on my own and have a life I enjoy

Print this out and refer to it every time you're facing material you don't find that interesting. Stick it above your desk, above your bed, on your laptop, wherever.
posted by modernnomad at 4:27 PM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

A shitty waitressing job.
posted by fshgrl at 4:29 PM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I enjoyed it. It wasn't getting "through" it for me, it was fun. Don't get me wrong, it was tough, too, with those shitty courses that don't have something stimulating - but the reality is that you can turn even the most dull professor and boring material into an exciting learning opportunity.

See if you can find ways to tie whatever you're learning about into other ideas and concepts. How does it all interrelate? Really throw yourself into the coursework.

I might also consider getting a coach of some sort, or a friend that you can be accountable to, that can do weekly (or more regularly) check-ins with you. You know, someone to help keep you on track.
posted by arnicae at 4:49 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was already used to the boring grind that was much of (though not all) of high school, and I'd figured out ways to trick myself into doing the work at least half-assedly even when I didn't feel like it.

One of the things I did was to figure out, as much as possible, was why something bored me. Was I bored because I didn't understand something, and so checked out? This was the most common boredom. Was I bored because I already knew the material like the back of my hand? This was basically never a cause of my boredom. Was I bored because I couldn't find a hook for relating the material somehow to my life or another subject I did like? The cure for that was actually to delve deeper into the subject and find a thing about it that I could love, or at least was related to something else I was interested in.

It also helped that I was at a school where it was assumed that pretty much everyone would graduate in four years. That kind of "flow" can be very effective for most people.
posted by rtha at 4:52 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Every year I finished meant another year I could come back for more partying.
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 4:53 PM on August 16, 2012

Last dying wish of both parents?
posted by alex_skazat at 4:57 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I did the math on how much each hour of class was costing me. Skipping class was just like burning up that amount of cash.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:59 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dropped out of school four times for the same reason as you.

Got my associates' because I had so many accumulated credits from my previous college attempts that I was only 9 classes away, and basically I just had electives. Figured I could get through 9 electives.

Working on my bachelor's now, about halfway done with no signs of stopping, because we want to move to the Bay Area and I need the ability to get a better job than what I've got now.

Find something that's important to you (not just a generic "something better than this") and use the degree as a step to fulfilling your dream.
posted by agress at 5:00 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Motivation flags. Discipline gets shit done. Relying on motivation, especially for long term projects or goals, is a recipe for failure. It's discipline that gets one through the boring, the tiresome, the stale, and the seemingly pointless.

I was incredibly unmotivated to finish my degree, but I was disciplined enough to do it anyway. That same discipline has served me well elsewhere.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:00 PM on August 16, 2012 [25 favorites]

Looked at other people chugging along and though, "if they can do it, why can't I?".
posted by dragonfruit at 5:04 PM on August 16, 2012

Every time I thought about giving up (so this was, roughly, 25 times per day..) I thought about the consequences of doing that (the flushed money, the short and long term consequences, etc.) and how they were 100x worse than whatever loathsome thing I was procrastinating on at that moment. I slogged through it that way.
posted by bleep at 5:06 PM on August 16, 2012

Installing and finishing sheet rock as a teenager. I already knew what it was like to really work for a living.
posted by Ardiril at 5:07 PM on August 16, 2012

I was one of those annoying people who generally took to school like a duck to water, and so didn't have to work too hard to motivate myself. But anytime I did start to give in to the sweet temptation to blow things off, the thing that stopped me cold was the nightmare-inducing terror of my parents' (and grandparents') disapproval and disappointment, coupled with the conviction that had been pounded into me since childhood that I would never be able to do anything worthwhile, ever, without a degree. (I realize now that this wasn't particularly mentally healthy, but that's where my head was at back then.)
posted by scody at 5:13 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Deciding to teach English in Japan. The program I wanted to join required a degree, so I had no option but to get my ass in gear. I had to repeat classes, and do summer courses, to make up for some classes where I'd flaked out-- but I did it.

It was a pretty fantastic life-changing year so I'm glad I did it. I'm not sure I would have graduated without that huge, tangible goal. And when I came back, having both a degree and international experience worked in my favour during the job search.
posted by avidreader at 5:14 PM on August 16, 2012

2 things:

1. Money. I tried to find a way to profit from my boring classes in any way possible. For example, I made myself kick ass at the snooze-worthy math classes so that I could land a very coveted job as a private tutor for other students with learning disabilities. Also, my school had a significant population of deaf students and I made money by taking notes for them -- the more I paid attention and really tried to grasp the lectures, the better my notes were, and the better my notes were, the more I got paid.

2. Friends. You really need to befriend somebody in any of your boring classes. Before and after class it will become your ritual to get together with them and make fun of the class, the teacher, the stupidity of the assignments, etc. It is healthy to blow off steam and I swear, recalling those memories of "OMG I cannot believe Professor X said..." will help you remember the stuff you were actually supposed to learn.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:17 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got hungry. By this I mean, I was seriously tired of shopping for on-sale cabbage and beans. I was tired of not running my AC (in Houston, in the summer) so I could save enough money to take a camping vacation in a state park. Poor is not fun.

I got embarrassed, or disillusioned, or something. I looked at my age group, the people who went to school and finished. They had better lives. Then I looked at my work peers. They had hard lives. I was embarrassed (?) that I had made the choices that I did. Embarrassed isn't quite the right word, but.... I really didn't want to believe that the world worked in such a way that I was more valuable the day after graduation that I was the day before. But, it was true. I was embarrassed that it took me so long to figure this out, even though everyone had told me this every day of my life and clearly lots of people knew it while I railed against the system (only to my detriment).

I got tired of reporting to people who had less snap than I did, who were in their positions simply because they had a piece of paper (a degree) and I didn't.

I got practical. I realized that deciding a major or whatever wasn't the ultimate last thing that was going to dictate my whole life. I needed a degree.

I got serious skin in the game. I was paying my own way (no help, no loans) and working full-time. I wanted value for my dollar, which I couldn't get if I didn't fully attend and complete the courses. I wanted to wring every penny's worth out of my classes because, well, see my comment about cabbage and beans. When you are filling your stomach with cabbage, that tuition bill better be worth it.

I got smart. If I was seriously bored in a class, I'd find something interesting. I'd do extra work and studying about those interesting areas just for kicks, not for grades. There's always something interesting. I was only hurting myself when I would say that I was so smart that I got bored easily. Really smart is finding something interesting -- being curious and wanting to know more -- about anything.
posted by Houstonian at 5:17 PM on August 16, 2012 [12 favorites]

Presumably you are currently now working at a job you don't enjoy, thus prompting you to want to pursue higher education in hopes of a better paying, more interesting career, right? But in the meantime, you still show up. So look at school as your job. For certain set hours each day, you're on campus, period - no going home to watch TV, no hanging out with friends if it's not to study, etc. - you're either at class or working in a library or cafe. I think making and sticking to a schedule and really treating it like a job that you may not like but still have to show up at can be really helpful.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:29 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

What motivated you to get through uninteresting or boring material for months at a time in college?

Guaranteed future misery if I didn't finish.

I knew a lot of people who were underemployed and unhappy. I didn't want my adult life to mirror theirs. I didn't have artistic talent or any sense of the possibility of the world. College was the only way out of the community I was in. I dragged myself through an extraordinarily difficult program because I saw no alternative.
posted by cnc at 5:33 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hated college, and there are two things that got me through (without taking any extra classes/ semesters / etc):

1. Graduating was never a question or an option. It was something I knew I was going / had to do if only to make all the drudgery amount to something. Oftentimes my biggest motivator to dive in was to get out as soon as possible.

2. Find some human professors and develop a human relationship with them. If you have a professor that seems like they have an interesting personality, take advantage of their office hours and go talk to them about class material, ask questions, talk about career options, etc. You an build relationships with profs that are in some magical place between friend and professional that strikes a warm but informing balance. They like seeing students engaged in student life and it will make classes a better learning experience if you an see Dr. Eisenhart for something other than a "hard grader".
posted by WeekendJen at 5:36 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Among other things, good relationships with some of my fellow students and professors.
posted by Good Brain at 5:40 PM on August 16, 2012

I had very mediocre high school grades and no money or intention for college. But went into army, had GI bill...was not sure if I was "right" for college but decided I would study as hard as I could for every test, every class so that if I did not make it it would because I wasn't right for college rather than that I might have done ok had I not goofed off. It paid off. Ended up getting PhD.
posted by Postroad at 5:46 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly, a lot of it was a lack of imagination on my part -- I didn't have a Plan B for what would happen if I didn't finish school. I wasn't the most motivated student in the world, and my GPA was paltry at best, but I kept showing up and did enough work and they graduated my ass. Knowing what I do now, I might have bailed and taken a different path, but at that point the only options I could see were staying in school or stagnating, and I looked at my friends stuck in part-time, minimum wage, no-benefits jobs, and I thought "Oh hell no!"

School isn't the right place for everyone, and I know lots of people doing well with no college, or a technical/vocational two year degree. So don't get so fixated on this one and only path that you lose sight of other options. But at the same time, the comment about about discipline is right -- it's not about how smart you are, or how motivated you are. It's whether or not you can show up and do enough work to be able to move on to the next stage.

And just at the basic day to day level, as someone with an education and (at least for now...) an interesting job that requires both technical and managerial skills, my life is far, far easier than is for most of the people I know with no higher education. I can go meet a friend downtown for coffee in the middle of the day, for example, without clocking out or asking permission or losing wages. The point being, there are benefits to becoming credentialed and skilled, whether you do that through university or on the job training or whatever.
posted by Forktine at 5:46 PM on August 16, 2012

Being 26 and knowing how damn hard it was to support myself without being able to say "yes, I have a degree."

(Also seconding "last wish of dying parent," unfortunately.)
posted by griphus at 5:47 PM on August 16, 2012

I loved college. No external motivation necessary. (I do need serious motivation for work now though...)

But, if I could offer some tips:

1) peer pressure! befriend people in your classes who always do the work. Meet them for studying, group projects, etc. (hopefully this will shame you into doing the work).

2) force yourself participate in class. If it's a huge class, meet one on one with the prof a couple of times. The idea is to get really invested to the pt where blowing it off is not an option.

3) take classes that are actually interesting to you (if at all possible)

4) Never, ever ever skip class. I really believe that if you can just show up every day that is more than half the battle in terms of finishing a class. (and college is pretty much the last time where just showing up counts for anything, so take advantage of it while you can).

4) think about all the money and time you've wasted if you don't actually graduate.
posted by murfed13 at 6:01 PM on August 16, 2012

So I went to college but didn't learn my numbers. Sorry!
posted by murfed13 at 6:01 PM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I could have written your post when I was ~19-20. I screwed around a few years, wasted a ton of money, tanked my GPA, etc. before I finally stopped enrolling in classes. At the time, I was working entry-level social service positions, which I liked a whole lot more than school—until I realized that no one would take me seriously without a degree. Also spent a lot of time bar tending to make ends meet—as others have noted, the desire to stop working in restaurants is a powerful motivator.

When I was ~30, I took my embarrassing transcripts (in addition to the crappy grades, I had changed majors a couple of times) to an adviser and asked him "what's the quickest route to graduating". For me, that was majoring in sociology—a subject I didn't actively abhor, but had no real passion for either. I graduated at 32 (also picked up a minor in economics) and 2 years after that I finished grad school.

Re motivation: the consequences of not having a degree was a tremendous motivating factor for me. I wish I hadn't had to actually experience this consequence to find the motivation.

Some practical advice that worked for me:

Improved study skills. High school had been easy, so I had zero study skills when I started college. When I went back to school, several of my friends were in grad school. I just flat out asked them how they prepared for classes/handled the work.

Learning to write well. This pays off in virtually every class outside of math. I was lucky in this regard—I was dating someone who was an excellent comp teacher. Most universities have writing centers.

Taking proficiency tests. With a few hours (~20) of study I was able to "proficiency out" of a couple of entry-level econ classes. (Also, see if you can still benefit from CLEP tests. IIRC you needed to take those in freshman year, but things may have changed/there may be other alternatives.)

Sitting at the front of the class and making eye contact with the instructor. It's easier to pay attention and your absence will be noticeable.

Finding a great teacher. For me, this was a matter of serendipity. I enrolled in a class and ended up with a professor who had real passion for what he taught and who pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of doing. Don't leave this to chance—talk to other students and actively seek out great teachers.

However, if nothing works for you now, consider taking some time off before you do too much damage to your record. School will be there when you are ready to return.
posted by she's not there at 6:20 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. College radio.
2. Feelings of shame re: dropping out.
3. Knowing that if I dropped out, I would likely have to do it all over again anyway.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:22 PM on August 16, 2012

OP, I just went through your old posts and was struck by your question about (unprescribed) adderall. Have you thought about talking to someone about whether you have ADD? I'm no doctor, but before you start your third try at college, it might be worth looking into.
posted by murfed13 at 6:33 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

1) peer pressure!

Yes. I didn't set out to make friends who mostly had good study habits and discipline, but the ones I spent the most time with - in classes, talking about classes, in activist meetings, at parties, at rehearsals, at sit-ins and belltower takeovers - were really good at doing what needed to be done even if it was boring and you hated it.

And it's different now that most people have personal computers; when I was in college, lots of us still used the computer lab for all-night-oh-shit-due-tomorrow writing of papers. There's a camaraderie you have with your fellow bleary-eyed procrastinators, all twitched out on caffeine at 4 am, and remembering to kick the kid in the next carrel (asleep under the desk) at 5 am.
posted by rtha at 6:35 PM on August 16, 2012

The fact that my mom would either stab me or, worse, stop paying for school, or, pinnacle of horribleness, guilt me to fucking death.
posted by elizardbits at 6:36 PM on August 16, 2012

What motivated you to get through uninteresting or boring material for months at a time in college?

I just decided that the material wasn't boring or uninteresting. I learned to find the value in the material, and since it was challenging and difficult to get through, it certainly wasn't boring. I purposefully internalized the "academic culture" of the class I was in: certainly, for the faculty, this material was the most important, most fascinating, most fundamental material you had to learn, right? So I looked at it from their perspective and worked from there.
posted by deanc at 6:39 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. Starting from 16, I was paying for my own full-time college classes, from full-time or nearly full-time work. Not doing well in those classes meant I was throwing thousands of dollars in the trash.

2. I was not going to have a roof over my head once I turned 18 and was not in school.

3. I enjoyed my major immensely - as many electives as possible are related to my major (so that I "accidentally" earned a related minor) or close enough. Other classes may have been lame, but they were going to allow me to reach my major. I flunked a class and dropped one or two, but the goal was there.

However, "I've made it to the end of the quarter/semester in ~15% of the classes I've ever enrolled in"

is abysmal. Do you even want to be in college?

I'm serious - what do you want to DO? Don't put it in vague language "earn more money!" because the truth is not ALL degree holders earn more than non-degree holders, and non-degree holders are at least not burdened with educational debt. Once debt is accounted for, my sister who only finished high school makes as much as I do with my graduate degree - plus she has more years of experience in her field than I do, even though she's younger, because she started right out of high school.

There's this stigma that you HAVE to go to college to do well. It's complete crap. You have to go to college to do well in certain areas. What area are you interested in? You don't say what your major/interest is. If you aren't passionate about that, school's going to be pretty difficult.

Comparing work and job experience, I actually had nearly the best job of my life without a degree. Fantastic hours, fantastic pay, fun work. The only problem was no benefits, and I'm sickly. Hell, if the ACA had been in effect a decade ago I may NOT have continued with college.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 6:42 PM on August 16, 2012

Comparing your experience in the working world with being in school?

Pretty much.

I also got over the idea that I was the specialist smartest person who had ever walked the earth. I was smart, and in an academic environment I was a very impressive kind of smart, but being smart didn't make me successful. Not to mention that being less smart than I was didn't make my peers less successful. Learning to work and discipline myself to do the work even when I didn't want to is what made me successful in college.

The third thing that made me successful in college was setting myself up to succeed. I wasn't good at math, so I made sure never to skip math class. I tended to oversleep so I only took afternoon classes. I was a better writer than I was a scientist so I studied history. Etc. You need to find a way to get through or around the classes that don't interest you, whether that's by testing out through placement tests, going to a college that teaches on a block system so you can gut out English Comp in three weeks, taking a self-paced class online so you can submit all the work in one frenzied week, or pursuing a trade or the military or the Coast Guard until you're more mature (no shame in waiting that out, I took two years away and worked boring jobs and grew up).
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:58 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I gritted my teeth. It was my third attempt and I knew I didn't have it in me to try again. I did a little grid thing, 24 classes, 13 weeks each and coloured each square in when the week was done. Sometimes, I would colour a bit of a square in, when I read something set because I just wanted to show myself I was a bit closer to finishing. I competed with myself, my classmates, my siblings to get the best damn results I could, even in classes I couldn't stand, just to show everyone I could.

I had this reminder from the last time I'd attempted it "I don't want to be a beanbag with shoes" - which was something my brother had said to me, had become part of my toolbox of motivation. I told myself motivation came after action, not before.

Sometimes I would sit at my desk and not go until I had finished what I set myself, and finished it properly. The stress of all this was so great that I developed agoraphobia AND had one pupil lock open, unbearably sensitive to light (both fixed now thanks).

I used the 15 minute technique - study for 15 minutes, break for 5 minutes. Sometimes it was study for 15 minutes and break for an hour.

However, I did it by distance education, which was kind of a life saver because I didn't have to turn up to classes. If I had had to, I don't know if I would have. At least I had the whole week to beat myself into submission.
posted by b33j at 7:07 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh and bumpjump OP, have you been tested for ADD?
posted by b33j at 7:09 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I guess in the end I didn't have any better options. Or at least, not any options that appealed to me at the time. I could have dropped out and worked a minimum-wage job in the service sector and worked my way up to management. Several of my friends did this and it worked out just fine. But I had already spent a lot of time and money getting where I was, and half of a college degree doesn't count for anything. Plus I had years of social conditioning that taught me to think of myself as an "educated person" and dropping out didn't seem to gibe with that vision of myself.

Honestly, you don't need a college degree to live on your own and support yourself. All you need is the willingness to work in a Home Depot, or to man the customer service line of a software company, or to wait tables. You can earn a decent income doing these things. Hell, you can earn enough to support yourself working at McDonalds if you climb the ladder to management. If that kind of work isn't for you, I guess you need a college degree.

The one thing that an undergraduate degree buys you is options. What might help is having an idea what you want to do after graduation. Are there particular fields you want to work in? You don't have to pick one thing, but having an idea of the options you want to have can be a powerful motivator.
posted by deathpanels at 8:04 PM on August 16, 2012

Response by poster: 1) I never expected this kind of a response, this is awesome. Thank you everyone.

2) Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth: what do you want to DO? Don't put it in vague language "earn more money!" because the truth is not ALL degree holders earn more than non-degree holders, and non-degree holders are at least not burdened with educational debt.

I want to have a job/career path that allows me to do these things:

- Have a ~$40-50k entry-level salary with just a bachelor's degree
- Spend time and money on my only real passion, which is making music
- Live comfortably (not paycheck-to-paycheck) in or in close proximity to a major US city
- Have enough disposable income to go to bars/events on some weekends
- Eat out at a really nice restaurant a few times a year
- Save up a nest egg for some property and have decent amount in a 401(k) by my mid-30s (I'm 24 right now)
- Eventually have a family

The reason I'm not looking at studying music/recording engineering/music business is because I've looked at average salary figures for those and I can't see myself ever being happy with that kind of money. Obviously I have materialistic goals, and I want to a degree that will give me at least 3 or 4 of those things. Working wage jobs and construction gigs like I am now leaves me with almost nothing after bills/groceries/misc. expenses, and that's with me living at home.

Hope that provides some insight.

3) murfed13 and b33j, I haven't been tested for ADD. I'm currently trying to find a psychiatrist that will accept my parents' insurance plan.

Again, I can't reiterate how grateful I am about everyones' responses. Thank you all so much, if you have more questions I'll try to answer thoroughly.
posted by bumpjump at 8:11 PM on August 16, 2012

Oh man, I hated college. HATED it. I suspected that most of the classes I took were a complete waste of time and that turned out to be true. I considered my diploma to be a RECEIPT, and quite frankly, I still do. Like you, I knew degree vs. non-degree meant an entirely different way of life and better options for travel, career, stability. I very nearly dropped out my senior year, but never did because then what would I have done?

My strategy was to let myself take one class I adored, absolutely loved. I talked my way into a 400-level architectural history class as an elective one semester and threw myself into it. I ended up minoring in creating writing completely by accident because I took so many writing classes. All that was enough for me to dredge through mind-numbing, generic 400-person lectures in Statistics (which I failed once and finally skimmed through with a C-) and Microbiology, putting as little effort into them as possible. The 4.0 I had in classes I loved balanced out the 2.0 I had in the other junk.

Only one employer (an organization that required security clearances) ever asked for my transcript. All the other ones needed was just the degree.

All you have to do is pass.
posted by mochapickle at 9:27 PM on August 16, 2012

I stayed in college for my student organization. (unknowncommand mentions college radio)

A few years later I told a dean of students there that I felt like I learned and grew the most through my activities outside of the classroom. He responded, "I tell parents every year that students only spend 10% of their time in the classroom"
posted by jander03 at 10:23 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I dropped out of university twice, once in Engineering and once in pre-med, for reasons you describe above. After returning to school at 26, I'm now halfway through a PhD in English, and despite all kinds of harrowing facts about job markets, competition and declining salaries, I'm fairly well situated for the future.

You won't be able to trick yourself into completing something you're not ready to complete. Yes, working menial jobs can be shitty -- incredibly so, but there are other avenues you can take besides spending all kinds of resources--money, time, psychic energy--going back to something you know in your heart of hearts you're not really ready to do. Think about why you think you need to go to school and do a critical think about how that lines up with what you actually enjoy doing.

I worked in silvaculture for two years before going back to school -- money was good and the time outdoors helped me ground myself. I met a pretty nice girl and formed a life with her. I became mature and confident enough not to sit in a lecture hall and get bored but to step up and take agency in my own education: meeting with profs, asking questions and getting involved. All of these things I couldn't have done when I first entered undergraduate education at 19.

It sounds like you're privileged enough, like me, to be able to take three cracks at this education thing. My advice is to make the third one count, if indeed you discover you need/want it at all. To do that, you best take your time and do it right. Be sure.
posted by Catchfire at 10:59 PM on August 16, 2012

My first attempt at college failed...mostly because I was homesick but didn't know it at the time.

Later in life, when things were getting tough, I'd feel too old to be going to college but I'd ask myself how old am I going to be if I don't finish college.
posted by CodeMonkey at 6:58 AM on August 17, 2012

Maybe you don't want what you think you want. Sometimes, I decide I want something, but I find that I keep procrastinating on doing what I need to do to make that thing happen. Other projects always seem to take priority, or I am always too tired, or it's never the right moment to work on it. I find that a lot of the time, when that is happening, it's because I don't actually want what I think I want, and I have to take a step back to figure out what I really want from how I have been behaving, like a me-scientist.

A concrete example of this is my friend's wedding. I obviously wanted to go (I assumed) but I kept putting off buying tickets and then I kept putting off buying a dress and then I didn't want to pack until the last minute and then I was crying next to my suitcase because, as it turned out, I did not want to go.

You say that you want to achieve a certain material goal, but in the moment you seem to choose living your present life (doing whatever you do instead of attending class) over what you need to do to get wealthier. Maybe you don't really want to be wealthy if it comes at the price of working a job you find as boring as your classes. If you really wanted to go make 50k as an accountant or whatever, I bet you'd be sitting through accounting classes right now and yawning. Maybe you feel like you should want to make 50k, but you don't really, so you keep working construction and filling your life with music.

To more directly answer your question, what motivates me to do the things I do is that they either give me pleasure or they are necessary steps to something I really want in reality. I lack motivation to do things that I am wrong about wanting to do, and I have been wrong a lot.
posted by prefpara at 7:59 AM on August 17, 2012

My question is, why do a 4 year degree at a regular college when what you are describing is learning a trade?

Electricians and Plumbers make the kind of money you're talking about. At least as you go through apprentice to journeyman to master you're working as you learn and earn. Similarly, mechanics make a very decent wage.

Nursing is an option. I believe an LPN is a two year course, and RN a three year course, and again, they both have the benefit of having most of the degree comprised of "Practicals" where you're actually on the job learning, rather than in a classroom. Radiology, respiratory therapy and physical therapy are all about that rate.

I also think that you're a bit deluded about a college degree leading immediately to making $40k to $50k annually at entry-level, unless it's a certification of some sort, like medical, or accounting or something like that.

What is your prospective major? What entry-level job do you think pays these wages? I have an MBA and I have 30 years experience and I'm only making a bit more than that. The job market doesn't sustain what you want, especially if you have problems motivating yourself to do boring stuff.

Work is boring. That's a fact. There is satisfaction in doing it well, there are days you get to learn new stuff, or come up with a neat idea, but the fact of the matter is that you have to get up, get to the office, and do what you do, no matter where your head is, or what else you'd rather be doing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2012

Response by poster: Ruthless Bunny: I'm considering doing civil engineering because I have most non-engineering prerequisites done (calculus, English, etc.). My relatively-recently-graduated engineer friends tell me an average engineering job out of college pays around $40-50k. After a PE certification salaries go a bit higher.
posted by bumpjump at 9:33 AM on August 17, 2012

Do you have any actual interest in civil engineering?
posted by griphus at 9:54 AM on August 17, 2012

- Have a ~$40-50k entry-level salary with just a bachelor's degree
- Spend time and money on my only real passion, which is making music
- Live comfortably (not paycheck-to-paycheck) in or in close proximity to a major US city
- Have enough disposable income to go to bars/events on some weekends
- Eat out at a really nice restaurant a few times a year
- Save up a nest egg for some property and have decent amount in a 401(k) by my mid-30s (I'm 24 right now)
- Eventually have a family
You know, what you might want is some kind of allied-health job, which is secure, unionized, and provides a solid salary based on specialized skills. This includes things like surgical techs, Perfusionists, and Radiologic Technologist. Some of these just require an AA-level of training/education.
posted by deanc at 10:41 AM on August 17, 2012

Stop thinking of college courses as entertainment. Embrace that they are boring and not too hard for you. Keep thanking your lucky stars you were not born in another place and/or time and all you do is harvest vegetables for someone else in a hot/cold/smelly field for all the years of your life. Go to classes, take great notes, do your homework in class if you can, daydream about everyone naked or crazy things happening to keep yourself amused, graduate and you're out of there!
posted by meepmeow at 5:46 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: griphus: Do you have any actual interest in civil engineering?

While I'm not passionate about it, I'm interested in it to the extent that I think I'd be able to sit at a desk and do calculations/design work for 8-10 hours a day. I'm also intrigued by transportation systems and am thinking about going for a Masters in Urban Planning maybe after a few years of work, depending on how I like it and what my debt situation is like.
posted by bumpjump at 7:20 PM on August 17, 2012

Make sure you like math (or are prepared to work hard to develop solid skills in advanced calculus) before you get into any engineering curriculum. If I had a dollar for every kid that liked designing bridges but who flunked fluid dynamics twice, I'd be retired by now.

My privilege is showing, but I really think you don't have to sacrifice your interests in music for the sake of income. For example, you might work for a music software company. There are lots of ways to make a living, especially if you're okay with making 40-50k annually. Yeah, you probably can't do that playing drums, but maybe you could still make a middle-class income while keeping a foot in the door of the music business.
posted by deathpanels at 10:27 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

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