I recently got a really tough question from a reader. This is a subject that can offend a lot of people.
I’m a junior in college going for a degree in accounting. I’m doing alright in school but I’m starting to realize how much I hate the subject. I originally picked it because I thought it would be a good job but now I just don’t think I’d want the job (even if it was good.) I think I made a mistake. I know you talk about how people shouldn’t go to college until they’re sure about it. Do you think I should be quitting in this situation?
The first thing you need to do is accept that this is no longer a decision based solely on your feelings. Yes. I don’t think any student should go to college if they’re not passionate (or highly interested) in the subject matter. That being said, you have already invested a ton of time and money into this. Now that you’ve invested in it, you need to look at the problem from a much more complicated perspective.
To start, I recommend looking at your situation from as logical a position as you can. You don’t have to decide based on the logic but it can help you understand where you’re truly at. Doing this should take a few minutes of research. I’ll do a sample to help you follow along. (Insert your own numbers. Different colleges require dramatically different numbers.)
Assume a student pays $30,000 a year for college. Assuming that student paid the college loans with debt then the student owes $60,000 by the time they’re in junior year. (Naturally, most students don’t have this much to worry about in debt but this is just an example.) That debt will need to get paid off somehow.
If a student drops out with 60k in debt then they probably couldn’t get as good a job as if they graduated. Lets be enthusiastic and say graduating would offer the student 60k a year in income and quitting would only offer the student 30k a year. Now assume the student is a virtual monk and lives on 20k a year in both scenarios and pays the rest of their money towards student loans.
If the student quits college, they’ll pay 10k a year for 6 years to pay off 60k in debt (excluding interest which would add a notable but, for our quick and dirty purposes, unimportant amount of time.)
If the student graduates they’ll pay 40k a year for 3 years to pay off 120k in debt (again with the previous disclaimer.) Naturally, you might want to add 2 years to that for the actual college time.
Notice the huge discrepancy. It will take ½ the time to pay off college if the student just graduates. These numbers aren’t perfect but they can help illustrate how important it is to stick it out when you’re most of the way through college.
College is an investment. I would have never recommended picking a college major before you’re 100% certain but after you’ve invested a large sum of money into the process, the decisions should be much more difficult.
If you actually run these numbers yourself you might be pleasantly surprised. If you don’t have much debt and aren’t going into a high salary career after graduation, it may look okay for you to quit. Sadly, with the way high schools and colleges push students into loans, this isn’t always the case.
If you found a career that you truly love and want to spend the rest of your life doing then, despite the costs, you might want to quit college and do it. That being said, if you aren’t absolutely 100% sure about what you want to do then quitting college when you’re already heavily invested can be a terribly risky choice.
You may not love accounting but accounting may be what can pay off your student loans faster. Not loving accounting is okay. The real question is whether or not you’d love doing anything in particular. Many college students quit college just to pay off their loans with a crappy minimum wage job they hate (just as much as they would have hated their potential career.) The years in that minimum wage job just end up taking away extra years of their life.
If you graduate and pay off your student loans with a good job then it will be much easier to never have to worry about accounting again. Many students quit college to do those crappy jobs just to go back to college when they realize how impractical not finishing their degree is.
I hate giving this advice but sometimes, after you make a bad decision, you’ve got to make up for it with some smart decisions. Ideally, this is a mistake that no one would have to suffer from. Hopefully you can take it as a lesson. Run your numbers and see what looks like the smarter way to proceed. I suggest you strongly consider finishing college even if you happened to really be struggling with it.
Of course, all this is personal. Only you know the information required to answer this question. I hope going through this process can help you make the right decision.
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