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I need to take a break/drop out...please help

MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
I've posted many times on this site before, mostly in other forum topics, but here's the latest rundown:

I'm a "junior" in college (21 years old) who has had a mess of a college experience so far. I began at my local branch campus of Penn State, and just this past Fall I transferred to the main University Park campus. But literally almost everything has been a disaster. I've changed my major 3 or 4 times because I was never sure what I wanted to do with my life. My passion was always astronomy/space, and that's what I began studying first, but I gave up on that in my 2nd semester of college because the math scared me. I changed to Political Science, did that for about 2 years, decided I was unhappy, and just switched back to Physics. The reason I'm posting this now is because this is the first semester I planned to be "back" pursuing a Physics/Astronomy major. I scheduled 4 core classes...Calculus, Chemistry, Chemistry Lab, and Physics.

I have always loved science as a person...there's nothing else in the world I think more highly of. And I always did decent in science in high school. I took two years of Physics in high school and got Bs.

But due to changing my major several times, along with working (admittedly now TOO MUCH) at my job that I've held for 5 years, my academic schedule has been a total mess. And I'm not retaining information. I don't feel like I've really learned hardly anything in college in the 3 years or so I've been here. I took my previous chemistry course a full year ago. I was planning to review and study that material over holiday break, but I ended up having to work at my job 60 hrs/week because I NEEDED MONEY to pay for things. And on top of that, my family had nothing to help me pay for college, so the entirety of my payments are student loans...federal AND private. I'm up over $60,000 in debt already.

My GPA overall is 3.2. Not terrible. But my point is, I'm not in the correct mental state right now. The spring semester just began and 2 of my professors are awful. I did well in Calculus 1 last year, but now my professor for Calculus 2 is teaching in a totally different way and I just can't do this. I took a step back, tried again...and nope. I just can't do this right now. Factor in due dates and constricting deadlines, and I'm pretty much having a mental breakdown.

I can drop my classes by tomorrow (Friday) night with no penalty, which is what I feel like I have to do, because there's no way I can do this right now. My mind is a mess. If I continue with these classes, guarantee you I'll have trouble just getting Cs.

I met with the head of undergrad Astrophysics today, and he is a great guy. I basically told him most of this, but he pretty much encouraged me to stay enrolled and push through. He said that it's "OK" if I don't understand everything in every class that I take. But respectfully, I don't think he understood the severity of my situation. I can't even mentally focus on my classes. And I'm such a perfectionist that I CANNOT ACCEPT being average or below average at anything I do. I'm a very deep, intellectual person, and I always aim to produce my best work. And when I feel like I CAN'T produce my best work, I feel like I have to take a break and give up (temporarily) entirely.

I hate everything about where I am right now. I don't enjoy college. I'm not motivated. I'm not focused. You might be thinking that I'm a partier, or otherwise reckless, but that's not true either. I'm very independent and introverted. Most of my time is spent alone, with nothing but myself. I'm an only child and my family knew nothing about college, so I've been ON MY OWN for most of my life. I believe in myself, and I know what I'm capable of. But right now feels like a time that I need to step away and get my self in order.

I'm posting this here because my college has no resources to receive quick help with an urgent crisis like this. You have to wait days and days for academic advising appointments or mental health appointments.

Please help me talk through this....I appreciate the help SO MUCH.

Replies to: I need to take a break/drop out...please help

  • MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    I wanted to touch just a little more on my life goals...

    I'm not the "average" person who aims to have a partner, kids, family, decent job...just enough to put a roof over their heads.

    I've always felt alone and like an outcast in society. I've never fit in. And I don't care. That's fine. I want to be true to myself and who I really am. Therefore, I want to spend my life doing something that will help the world in a big way. I see a way to do that through my passion for astronomy/space/science. I dream of being a part of future projects in space like asteroid defense, journeys to the moon and Mars, and any kind of space research.

    So, outside of this, I have nothing. I have very few friends, no social life...and like I said, that's fine.

    I just hate how my life has gone so far since I graduated high school. I hate the U.S. college system. I don't enjoy being in college, in a lecture with 300 people, disconnected from the professor, the students, and the material. I don't feel focused and my motivation keeps slipping.

    And the financial thing makes it even worse. I've worked at my $10/hr job for the past 5 years and saved up most of that money. And now all that money is going to pay my rent at my college apartment. Soon, it will be all gone. What am I going to do? I don't even spend money on anything except food and gas. I don't travel. I don't do anything else. And I'm still going to be in big trouble.

    But above all else, I don't feel like I can stick out this semester because my grades will be bad and I won't understand the material. I need to get away and take a healthy break. I can go back to my job at home...they always welcome me back. I can work there in the meantime just to keep an income.

    I don't want to give up on my goals of astronomy/space but I need to reset big time. So I'm considering things like taking a leave of absence, withdrawing from this semester, and maybe even transferring colleges in the future. But right now, I think I need to drop my classes tomorrow.
  • MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    My astronomy teacher in high school whom I was close with and knew my intellectual ability and passion told me this:
    "I see you doing something one day that doesn't even exist yet."

    That's what I keep thinking back to, because it's seems so true. I don't fit into normal society. I feel isolated and upset with everything. And I can't seem to follow a normal path.
  • yourmommayourmomma Registered User Posts: 458 Member
    As I see it you have two options. Quit now, go to work at your job and re-evaluate your situation in a few years. Sure you'll need to start paying off the debt, but better to cut your losses now. The beauty is you can always go back. But it isn't worth it if your not in the right mindset.

    The second option is go to a basic major - something general studies, English, history, etc. Something that will be quick to get your degree. Push thru and get your degree. Then get on with the next chapter of your life.
  • MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    @yourmomma I guess so. But I don't know if I'd be able to make it through "a few years" at my job, not doing anything else. I might go insane within my mind. Maybe I can just take a semester or two and then start up college again. I have considered going with an easy major, but I just don't think I would be satisfied with that, and it wouldn't allow me to do the things I want to do.
  • MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    edited January 12
    In an ideal world, I would just choose to start over from scratch. Start over with the most basic material for my major, because I WANT to be great, I want to be excellent. And you can't be great if you don't ever grasp a full understanding of the fundamental concepts of math and science. Starting fresh is what I feel like I have to do. But college doesn't make that easy...it doesn't work like that. I have to deal with enrollment dates, financial aid issues, etc.

    And on top of that, I can't seem to find anyone who can truly help me. They're all super busy professors and advisors who are disconnected from me and who don't understand the depth of my situation. No one does. I'm all alone.
  • MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    I really do just need to get away for a while. My mind is a mess, I'm unhappy and depressed every day even if I try to hide it.

    I can determine long-term plans in the near future. But right now, I need to end this semester. I will try to drop in with a generic adviser tomorrow to see what the option is. I think I have a few different options:

    1) Just drop all classes individually
    2) "Withdraw" from the semester...I'm not sure what the difference is between this and #1
    3) File for a leave of absence, which can last for up to one year but keeps you connected to the university so that you can return if you want
  • NASA2014NASA2014 Registered User Posts: 2,132 Senior Member
    I think you need to take some time off. You are young. Maybe take 1-3 years out of college. Have you considered joining the military?
  • MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    edited January 12
    @NASA I agree. My mental state is messed up right now and it's totally counterproductive to remain here when I'm not achieving what I know I should be. I'm smart enough to realize that. I've felt depressed and lost for a while, but I wanted to convince myself that it was OK and just to push through, but it's just too much. I know myself now, and I know I need to step away and reset my life for things to be right in the future. I can't keep fumbling around not getting anywhere.

    I have *thought* about the military recently, but only as something to do or gain experience. I've never been a "military person." I don't endorse war, and I certainly don't agree with a lot of things my country does. So I don't know if I could do that.
  • bodanglesbodangles Registered User Posts: 8,829 Senior Member
    edited January 12
    Your loans might start needing to be paid off after six months or so out of school. Look into that before you make any decisions.
  • MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    @bodangles Likely. Unfortunate, but if I have to start, then I'll have to start, paying whatever I can.
  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 3,523 Senior Member
    I expect that @bodangles is probably correct that if you drop out your loans will need to start being paid off. However, your loans are going to need to be paid eventually anyway, and if you continue in school the loan amount will just get larger.

    One problem that I see is that I don't know what a person does with a Bachelor's degree in Physics.

    My inclination is to think that right now you aren't in a good position to continue your education, and that it might be better to take a break for a while. Whether this is one semester or one year of a few years might be hard to predict at the current time. However, taking a break might clarify in your mind what you want to study, and if you are solid in terms of knowing what you want to study and why then this is likely to help you do better in university.

    It is difficult however for strangers on the Internet to know what the best step for you is right now.
  • bodanglesbodangles Registered User Posts: 8,829 Senior Member
    Also, on the off chance you decide to stick it out, there are all the resources in the world for chem, calc, and physics. Tutoring, online lessons and examples, your textbook...several people who have responded to this thread so far have been through those classes and might be able to point you in the direction of something that clicks with you more than your professor does.
  • a20171a20171 Registered User Posts: 1,085 Senior Member
    Can you audit the classes you want to retake?
  • MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    @DadTwoGirls Appreciate the response. As for a Bachelor's in Physics...it often leads to work that does NOT directly involve Physics itself. To work in Astronomy/Space, going on for a Masters or PhD is pretty much necessary. Which I would totally do, assuming it is all paid for (which my astro adviser told me it is).

    But that's further down the road. I can't see myself doing anything else as a permanent career. Trust me, I've researched everything. My passions are astronomy/space as well as politics and government. So maybe one day I can go into space policy, which is another thing my adviser told me about.

    But my problem right now is that I'm getting into the "thick" of the major and I feel totally lost. I don't have a good enough grasp of the material that I've learned up to now. That is a result of taking classes in an irregular order with large time gaps in between, as well as working so much at times that I didn't have enough time to master the material.

    @bodangles Yeah, I know. But it's too late right now. There simply isn't enough time. I'm taking Chemistry 2 right now but I don't even remember most stuff from Chemistry 1 (since it was a full year ago and I got a C in it).

    I would take advantage of those resources if I needed help learning current material. But my problem is I don't even feel comfortable with past material that I learned...it's way too severe of an issue to fix in a week or two. There just isn't enough time.

    I feel like I want to start all over again from the beginning. Which maybe could be possible if I quit this semester, work for a while, and then start taking the basic courses at my community college.
  • MrElculver2424MrElculver2424 Registered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    @a20171 Yeah, I think most, if not all, classes can be repeated...most for credit, actually. That's an option.

    But I need an immediate break right now to sort this out. And it may be cheaper to take certain courses at community college once I decide to start again.
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