Enter The Workforce Or Start All Over?

Judge Josh–

Damn, man, I wish I’d come across outlawstudent.com back in high school.

Better late than never, Zach!

Here’s my elaborate dilemma:

I’m a senior at Alfred University. I have 36k in student loan debt (before interest), assuming I graduate in the spring.

Welcome to the wonderful world of student loan debt – where no matter how old you are or how successful you become, you’ll always be a few hundred bucks lighter than you should be each month!

What’s worse, I still don’t know what I want to do. I changed my original major of communications to marketing, thinking I could land a well-paying job while still writing and thinking creatively…but I’m now disgusted with marketing. My real passions are ethics, philosophy, psychology, theology, etc–but the prospects of these fields look shaky. As I’ve learned through a few internships, the life of a marketing student is much different than the life of an employee with a marketing degree. I’m sure the contrast is even more evident in a field like psychology.

You mean you’ve come this far and still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up?  Man – you sound like, well, like about half of all college students I have ever encountered – and an even higher percentage of post college workers!

I am, however, confident in my academic ability. My brother is a mechanical engineer at Cornell, and in many ways I think I was dealt his math/science brain except focused on the social sciences. I have a 3.8, 2030 SATs. And while I feel understimulated in marketing, I’m already buried in debt and I feel like time is running out.

Should I just graduate and see if I can stomach the marketing rat race and pay off my debt? Or should I rack up another couple of years’ debt to earn a more promising and lucrative degree, say, accounting? Or even start over in engineering?

I have pretty much given up on “get paid to do what you enjoy.” It seems like math-intensive fields are the only ones that pay well. Maybe I should independently study philosophy as a hobby and do what makes financial sense for my career now…

I just wish that when I abandoned English I had gone all the way to accounting instead of riding the fence with marketing which I now hate anyway.


These types of submissions are always a bit tougher for me.  Should I hate my job but make money, or should I scrap everything that I have done up to this point in school (except for the debt that came with it) and follow my dreams so that I will love what I do?

Of course, standard answer would be to do what makes you happy and, if you’re truly passionate about it, you will find a way to make a comfortable living doing it.  That’s what I did, and that’s what I hope everyone else can do as well.

But I am also a realist and I know that not everyone gets to do exactly what they want to do and make a living at it.  I have a young son who wants to be an artist when he grows up.  It’s all he talks about.  I have no problem with that whatsoever – and I constantly encourage him to draw, paint, etc.   However, unless a LOT changes between now and when he gets older, and unless he TOTALLY missed my lack-of-any-artistic-ability-whatsoever genetic makeup, I don’t think his dream will come true (I know – art is a very wide field, and that’s what I tell him, but he specifically wants to be a painter).  I hope I am wrong.

In your case, Zach, it sounds like you really haven’t settled in on a dream career yet, and for that reason, I wouldn’t encourage you to drop everything and start over right now.  If you came to me and said that you were certain you wanted to be a psychologist, I might have told you to go for it.  But as it is, you just aren’t sure yet, and I could see you digging yourself an even deeper hole if you were to scrap your current path, start down another and eventually find out that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be either.

That’s not to say that you are stuck doing something you hate for the rest of your life.  Make some money while you find out what you really want to do in your spare time.  Then, once you have a little cash, go for that dream.  Just make sure beforehand that it’s truly what you want to do.  It’s a rough life if you are constantly looking for that greener grass and never quite finding it.

What do you guys think? Should Zach suck it up and use his marketing degree or continue in debt and school to do something else?

5 thoughts on “Enter The Workforce Or Start All Over?”

  1. Zach, since you are a senior and about to graduate, just finish what you are doing right now. When you get a job in that field, and start paying your student loans. You can always go back and do what you want later. You have come this far for you go go back and restart. Just graduate and get you degree, get your job and go back.

  2. Good Morning Zach,
    You might as well finish off the degree you’re in, hustle it up working for some time to pay off what you owe, and then go back to follow your dreams. Do not give up on your goals, or else you’re gonna always live regretting that you couldnt accomplish what you love to do in this life.
    Work hard for what you get in life, and be humble. You will find lots of people that will support you and help you achieve your dreams.

  3. Zach, you are very close to the finish-line. I had a very similar dilemma where I had one year left in a Political Science program, decided I wanted to be a business major instead, and would have had to start almost completely over. Instead of switching and adding debt and years in school with no credibility, I chose to graduate and pursue an MBA. I encourage you to pursue graduate school in your ultimate field. The coursework is definitely more gratifying. Take a year to breathe and get some experience in your budding field and look at your graduate school search with new eyes.

  4. Hi Zach,I think you should just go ahead and finish your course and try and work for a while to at least payback your loans.Having come this far then you can obviously manage your final year of studies and stomach a couple of years of work. Also the few years you’ll spend paying back your loan will give you time to think things through, research alot about the various fields you’ve mentioned,consult both students and professionals in those field and then make up your mind.Whatever you chose,all the best

  5. Zach you need to finish what you started. You got this far, don’t give up. Hang in there, for all you know, you just might enjoy what your majoring in. Life throws curve balls every where. Like the other people have said you can Always go back after paying your debt. Have you ever thought about the healthcare field? They can use people like yourself, smart. Also certain healthcare fields have service cancelable loans. Check it out. However, I suggest very highly you finish what you started, we are never to young to learn and grow. Hope this helps you.
    Aloha with many happy days ahead of you. Keep trucking

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