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So here's the deal: Right now I am in college and due to a maelstrom of recent events including difficulty in non-cs and -math related courses, I'm really not sure that I want to continue studying at a university next year.

While I thoroughly enjoy my computer science and math courses, I find that I just can't keep up with the class. Take my calculus-based physics for example. I'm sure that, given enough time, I could make it through the course and learn everything I need to know; but because I am working and taking 4 other courses, I just don't have that time. I feel that I would benefit a lot more from teaching myself these courses one at a time, i.e. finishing Calculus before I take calculus-based physics. I probably should have registered for the algebra-based course, but it's too late to do that now.

What kind of repercussions (career-wise) would there be if I decided to drop out of school and learn on my own? I might consider coming back after a few years of working full-time, but I really don't know. Is it worth paying for school if I don't feel like I'm gaining as much as I can from it?

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closed as off topic by Mark Trapp Oct 2 '11 at 22:03

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I mentioned this in my answer, but have you talked to your advisers and professors yet? I know at the university I attended, I had an academic adviser in my department, in addition to being able to discuss problems/concerns with people in the department offering the course. –  Thomas Owens Oct 2 '11 at 21:32
I was in similar situation recently. I signed up for EE/CS program and couldn't pass math and physics. In the end I changed university and moved to one which focuses more on the CS part of EE/CS and things are going fine so far. Maybe you could consider something similar? Maybe some other university is willing to accept the exams you passed and let you continue there. Of course you'd need to to considerable research into the new university to make sure it fits you well. –  AndrejaKo Oct 2 '11 at 21:48
Hi James Brewer, Programmers is not a career advice site: we can't tell you what you should do with your career or how your decisions will affect your future. Please see the FAQ for more information about what's on-topic here. –  user8 Oct 2 '11 at 22:03

4 Answers 4

Don't do it, stay in school.

Life is hard, so get used to it. If you find you're having a difficult time with your courses now, you'll probably have a harder time staying motivated when doing these courses one at a time.

Almost everyone pays their dues and goes through post-secondary education. Those who drop out early usually go back to complete some sort of education.

The reality is, your closing doors for yourself if you decide in the future to do a career change without a post secondary education. If you can't keep up with the classes, get a tutor, and/or decide on your priorities (you might have to put off somethings for a bit). Just don't give up to do it on your own time. You won't get that chance in a job.

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A degree defiantly isn't essential for programming. You will have to work a lot harder at first to prove yourself if you don't have one though.

If your just asking which option is the easier to get into the job you want, the answer is knuckle down and work hard to stay at school. That isn't necessarily the right answer for you though, if your really not enjoying it then you wont do well and you should leave now.

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This is probably too localized, but in my country, if you don't have a degree, you can throw your career out the window. There are no vacancies in software without "Must have degree in CS" written on them. Even vacancies at companies like Microsoft, whom you would expect to screen candidates in a very comprehensive fashion, list it as an absolute requirement. There's no scope at all for the possibility that your lecturer is an idiot and your course worthless, or that you learned more than enough to competently engineer basic software on your own, because there's a solid monopoly by the universities- if they don't accredit you, then you're nothing. That's the only reason I'm still on my CS course.

As such, I'd have to say that it's absolutely worth paying for a proper CS course, regardless of whether or not it's actually necessary or beneficial, because the simple fact is that for various reasons, it's impossible to find meaningful employment without it.

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What country is this? –  James Brewer Oct 2 '11 at 20:41
@JamesBrewer: United Kingdom. –  DeadMG Oct 2 '11 at 20:42
Simply not true. I'm a software engineer with near 10 years experience in the UK, making a good salary in a good company. I don't have a degree (or even any GCSE's). I can count on one hand the numebr of times my lack of formal education has been detrimental - it's generally at the companies where HR robots screen CV's, not technical people... "There are no vacancies in software without "Must have degree in CS" written on them." - I could find you fifty such vacancies within 10 minutes.. –  MattDavey Oct 3 '11 at 8:23
Furthermore, over my career I've often been tasked with mentoring new graduate team members - I've usually found that young software engineers with a degree are no more capable than those who are self taught, and in fact are often less so. –  MattDavey Oct 3 '11 at 8:26
That is not true @DeadMG. I know dozens of people without a degree working in the software industry, as permanent and as contractors. –  NullOrEmpty Oct 15 '12 at 13:28

I would advise against dropping out. There are a lot of jobs that you simply aren't eligible for without a degree. For the jobs that you can get, you'll face difficulties if you go up against people who do have degrees. I don't know what kind of career path you want to go down, but it's going to be much more difficult, if not impossible with a degree.

I highly recommend that you talk to your advisers and professors, both in your home department and in the departments where you are having problems, before you make this decision. They'll work with you to figure out what you can do. From what you wrote, there are a few red flags, such as taking a calculus-based physics course before finishing calculus. Perhaps you can shuffle your classes around, take classes over the summer, or get extra help that you need in the courses that you are taking. Worst case scenario is that you wither withdraw or end up retaking the course at a more appropriate time.

Taking 5 courses and working sounds insane to me - I never worked when I had more than 3 courses, and I tried to avoid taking 5 at all costs, especially when the majority were technical. I tended to hit 5 classes when 2 or 3 were non-technical (liberal arts, business, economics) courses. In fact, I tried to only take 2 technical courses at a time, when I could (although it was more difficult in my freshman year, when everything required a computer science sequence, a calculus sequence, and a discrete mathematics sequence).

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