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Burnout From HS: College Freshman Lost About Future

helloella3helloella3 0 replies1 threads New Member
Hi everyone,

I'm posting this in the parents section so I can get the advice of some older CC users (and also because most students these days don't use CC). I'm currently a freshman at an incredibly selective college, and I have absolutely no clue what to do with my future. I spent my four years in HS aiming for straight As and excelling in a wide variety of activities, so I had very little time nor mental energy left for exploring my true passions or figuring out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I find myself disinterested in a lot of the departments my school has to offer. I'm aware of how spoiled and ungrateful this sounds. It's just that I'm so burnt out by high school that I have no clue where to start for exploring majors, careers, etc. and the prospect of doing more academic work honestly just stresses me out and demotivates me even more. Nothing academic really excites me or captures my interest too much. Again, I'm aware of how ungrateful this is of me to say.

My (Asian immigrant) parents really want me to do something STEM, but math and science are definitely my worst subjects in school (and my least favorite). Originally, they wanted me to (and I was considering) majoring in Economics and going into finance after graduation, as my school is a Wall Street recruiting "target" school. However, I dislike the idea of working 90 hours a week at an investment bank. I also had to drop the Intro to Economics course I was taking this semester because I was doing very poorly in it.

So then my parents and I were discussing the CS major at my school. I'm open to taking CS classes, but since I strongly dislike (to put it mildly) math and science, I'm not too sure if this is a good idea. My dad especially likes to push this because he was an EE major himself and regrets not majoring in CS. I was also thinking about going on the pre-med track, but taking bio and chem classes seems pretty miserable. I also have no motivation to go to med school except for money, which is a pretty awful reason to be a doctor.

I have course selection for the next semester due at the end of this month, and I have no clue what to sign up for. I think I'll sign up for the Intro to CS class at my school, but I don't have high expectations for it. I'm also considering signing up for a Creative Writing class since I'm taking one right now and enjoy it. However, my school doesn't offer a Creative Writing major. And even if it did, I don't really think majoring in that field would be good for my financial stability or my relationship with my parents.

I also think it's hard for me to imagine a future for myself because literally everyone from my hometown who attends a selective college is some sort of STEM major. I can't really imagine fitting into an adulthood similar to the ones I grew up seeing or the ones the people from my hometown expect from me. I think this is another reason contributing to my burnout.

I was considering taking a gap year for the 2020-2021 academic year, but I'm not sure that'll help me figure anything out. If I did take a gap year, I would probably just work for a year, but I just spent the past summer working a minimum wage service job. It didn't really leave me with too much direction or purpose as to what I want out of my 4 years in college or for the rest of my career. All I know is that I don't want to be making smoothies for the rest of my life (LOL)

If anyone has any advice for dealing with burnout from high school in college, choosing a major, and/ or trying out career fields different from the ones you grew up seeing, I'd really welcome your advice. Trying to sort out my future when all of my extremely motivated peers in college seem to know exactly what they're doing is really intimidating.

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Replies to: Burnout From HS: College Freshman Lost About Future

  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2354 replies44 threads Senior Member
    Well, you've narrowed it down some. If you don't like math at all, you probably aren't going to enjoy studying CS, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it as a career. Try it and see.

    You and your parents seem to be undervaluing English and writing. Communications experts are much needed and valued right now.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9386 replies502 threads Senior Member
    edited November 9
    Also, please make an appointment to see your academic advisor, who can help you find classes of interest. Your school probably has excellent resources to help students succeed, so use them. And I also see no point in your taking intro to CS if you already think you won’t like it. Take a poetry class, or beginning Japanese, or Medieval literature, or Ancient Chinese Emperors 101, or Intro to geology, or something that interests you.

    I recommend you read this, from the NY Times. What college students wish they had known as freshman: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/10/education/learning/advice-to-college-students.html
    Many of the points directly address your concerns.
    edited November 9
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  • websensationwebsensation 2117 replies39 threads Senior Member
    Exercise, work on a cruise ship for a year. Then you will appreciate your opportunities. And don’t major in what you don’t like. I changed my major 5 times in college because I hated STEM fields and got a degree in English Lit. It’s ok to be not motivated by academic setting. That does not mean you will not be motivated outside academic settings. I was very unmotivated at school, but super motivated in setting up and making my biz a success. I actually find it weird some kids like to study because for me I need to see practical need and opportunity first before I start to get motivated to try to find solutions.
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 1954 replies6 threads Senior Member
    Agree with all the above - counseling and what interests you. You’ll almost certainly do better grades wise studying what interests you as well as getting more personal satisfaction out of college.
    If your college is that well known, trust me, you are going to have a job at the end of it.
    I 100% agree with @Lindagaf here. Let me give you a concrete example of a close relative - who went to a selective school but probably not as selective as the one you are at. Started as pre-med, did the required courses but decided did not want to be a doctor, ended up as a language and humanities double major. Now has a job at a well known company (not investment bank, also not interested in 90 hour weeks) as a financial analyst despite doing nothing related in degree. Company recruiter basically said “high gpa, good college, we can teach you what we need to know”. You may not want to go into finance, but that’s an attitude you can expect to find among many companies. Employers look for bright people who can learn, not necessarily course A, B or C which will often be outdated in a few years anyway (my economics courses from back in my undergrad day look kinda quaint now).

    The one potential problem: would your parents pull funding if you don’t major in something “acceptable”? If so some kind of counselor mediatIon might be in order.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3062 replies39 threads Senior Member
    Your college publishes a report on first outcomes, 6 months after graduation. You may wish to review that report for the last few years and determine if you are comfortable. Some colleges further provide the data broken out by undergrad major.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2354 replies44 threads Senior Member
    Is the problem really that you don't know what to major in, or is your problem breaking it to your tiger parents that you won't be majoring in STEM? It seems you won't be able to move on until you tackle the second problem.
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  • yucca10yucca10 1281 replies38 threads Senior Member
    Since you seem to be drawn to humanities rather than STEM, does law school sound attractive?
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  • txstellatxstella 1109 replies6 threads Senior Member
    I wish your parents would let up a bit. I’m sure they are just concerned about your find a job after you graduate, but there are no certain paths in this world.

    Look at interdisciplinary opportunities at your school. Majors like poli sci, environmental science, and public policy might be of interest to you. Spend next semester exploring different types of classes while meeting distribution requirements. Freshman year should be a time to explore, but often it is not. As others have said, go talk to a counselor about the stress you are feeling. You don’t have to have your life mapped out at 18.
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  • TS0104TS0104 922 replies26 threads Member
    Just wanted to add that at a parent education session, an HR recruiter from a huge local company said the same thing that @SJ2727 said...it was a different angle (the reason being that things change so fast these days with technology), but the point is that they are looking for soft skills (critical thinking, communication, independence, ability to work in a team), NOT technical or subject based knowledge in their new hires.

    Also, a very well known child/teen psychologist expert whose name is unfortunatley escaping me does this at her parent panels across the country: She asks the parents to raise their hand if they ended up doing for their career what they thought they would be doing when they started college. In a huge auditorium it's like 1% of attendees. The process and path of college admissions tends to build this ideal that everyone chooses their path right away, follows it and is on a straight line to their career, but that's not the reality, at all, even for people your parents' age and especially for your age.
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  • tgl2023tgl2023 165 replies4 threads Junior Member
    If you would like to stay away from the STEM field and explore the humanities, then try taking courses linguistics and philosophy, and explore their applications in the field of artificial intelligence. One does not need to emphasize in the technical side of AI, such as computational linguistics, but can contribute from the language side. I do not expect a dearth of employment in the AI field in four years. Please see the article in this link:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/artificial-intelligence
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5870 replies10 threads Senior Member
    I recommend that you do a number of things:

    1. Make an appointment with the counseling center. Feeling adrift has a way of coloring everything, and just getting to talk to someone about your emergence from "all I care about are good grades" to registering your happiness level with your path as well as dealing with your parents' pressure could be helpful.

    2. Make an appointment with the career center. They often have some very helpful tools to assess both aptitude and interest. My guess is that some carefully selected internships will help you hone your post-graduation goals. (My kid, like @Lindagaf 's, tried on several different industries, work environments, etc. over the summer and also had great post-grad plans set up early senior year.)

    3. Make an appointment to talk to your advisor. Use your course selections to see what you like. Really, it's better to figure out what excites you first and then figure out how to make a living than try to work the process the other way. If you have distribution requirements to fulfill, see if that can be part of the process. Read prof and course reviews so everything that appeals to you will be seen in the best light. But treat this as an exercise in figuring out what you like, not what you'll do or be. The goal is self-discovery. Often, you can bolt on courses that could make your passion more marketable without having to go down that path as a major. (CS, stats, accounting, etc.)

    4. Think about bullet journaling, making a note daily or weekly of what you loved, what you hated, thoughts you might want to devote time to working through. A pattern may emerge. You have your life in front of you, but you can only experience the present now! Try to be mindful of it.

    Wishing you the best of luck!

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  • lcb56787lcb56787 39 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Even if you don't do CS as major, employers will like to hire people who have CS or coding skills alongside their major, so taking some CS courses will be useful no matter what you decide on.

    Definitely talk to someone at the careers center and possibly a counsellor.
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  • NCKrisNCKris 259 replies1 threads Junior Member
    You received lot of good advice,
    I think you sound mildly depressed so do make an appointment with counseling service at your college. You don’t need to tell your parents this if you think they won’t relate.

    Even if you are not a STEM type, you may want to take the Intro to CS class, as I think CS will be used everywhere.

    You are a freshman, so you are allowed to change/explore your options without knowing what kind of job you will end up with.

    You are fortunate to be at a selective college, and you will have great options and outcome, , and things will fall in place once you start studying whatever interests you.
    Good luck !
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  • ultimomultimom 152 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Go talk to your creative writing professor and ask them for suggestions for classes or majors you might like. Rhetoric in the English department might be an option.

    Good luck. As a parent, my guess is that your parents want to ensure your safety and prosperity by encouraging you to enter a field where you can make a comfortable salary. But, I bet your parent’s first priority is your health and well being.
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  • mathmommathmom 32461 replies159 threads Senior Member
    I didn't like most of the courses I took freshman year either. I took a freshman seminar called "Prints and Printmaking" - it was taught by someone in the Art History department, and combined both making art and learning the history of prints. I ended up in a major that allowed me to take design courses and architectural history. I enjoyed the rest of my time college. I've been happily employed as an architect which I like because it requires so many different skills.
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  • makemesmartmakemesmart 1605 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Are you sleeping well?
    Are you eating well?
    Your college life has barely begun, let yourself relax a bit. In hs and most if not all your life before college, (it looks like and it is pretty common that) you have been told what to do and you had a very clear goal (getting into a great college) in mind, once that goal has been achieved, you don’t have a clear goal and your future is suddenly wide open to you, so your feeling of lost I am sure is quite common and very understandable. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Use the college years to find things that you enjoy doing and good at. You have the abilities, now you just need to find some motivation.
    Which comes back to my first two questions, if you are not sleeping/eating well, you might be on the verge of depression, which could explain your lack of interests in many things now.
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