1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

A fine mess I got myself into

  1. Oct 6, 2009 #1
    Hello all. This is my first post. I am seeking advice, criticism or generally, any helpful information you can provide.

    Similar to more recent posts, I am in my 30's considering taking up the study of physics. I have spent a good 2 or 3 months lurking here and researching career options and opportunities. It's a pursuit about a year in the making. The problem lies in the school I have attended to transitioning to a school I'd like to attend.

    I have acquired an Associate's degree in Information Technology with a concentration in web design from a for-profit, private institution, aka diploma mill. Thankfully, the school is regionally accredited. I opted to continue on to their newly introduced bachelors degree program. A year later, I have started to slip in studies. I just couldn't seem to let go that I really would like to switch gears and move towards tackling the math to get me up to speed to pursue a degree in physics. I am a semster away from completing my bachelors degree but have already been accepted as a transfer to a four year instituition. Despite nearly all of my credits transfering they are only electives; I will pretty much have to start all over again. The for-profit school has set me back a dear penny but I am convinced that because I would like to pursue a STEM field, I will find many more scholarship opportunities to help fund the education. Alas, my dilemma, finish school and just opt for the second degree? It eats me up knowing once I get the degree, I will not qualify for federal aid unless I take on more loans. On the one hand it makes sense to finish what I started. In this regard, the time and money spent will not be wasted and I will have a degree to show for it.

    On the other, I am leaning towards, well, eff it! I made a bad investment that cost me a lot. And even though I can't undo the horrid decision to go that school in the first place, I have an opportunity for one last do-over. A confidante commented despite their position for me to finish, "It seems like you are following your heart as best as you know how, and that's pretty darn amazing and inspiring. Actors and actresses get practice time and dress rehearsals and we normal humans get pushed out into our lives without even a script, let alone practice. So what can we do but try to dance?" This makes me smile and strive to push forward but I can't help but think, am I kidding myself? What would you do? This is really gut-wrenching but I have to do something soon...sorry if this is long and confusing, again I appreciate any comments.

    If it helps, I am not married, no kids and I have a stable job with a salary that will suffice for now.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2009 #2
    I'm in my 50s and am a sophomore at a 4-year state university. About 25 years ago, I got an associates in electronics engineering, but none of the classes would transfer so I had to start from scratch.

    I can honestly say that starting at the bottom helped tremendously. The difference between university and community college is like night and day. My biggest regret is that I didn't start this process long ago.

    For what it's worth, my recommendation is that you go for the physics degree. If you don't learn what you want to, you'll regret it at some point in the future.
  4. Oct 6, 2009 #3
    Agreed. I wish I could go back and tell my 18 year old self to take my first time through university more seriously.

    My wife graduated Dental school with a man in his late 50's.
    I'd guess that the guy next to me each day in Vector calc is at least 50 years old.
    I foten spoke with a guy in my calc III class last year about his wife and kids (I have a wife and kids also). He was in his late 40's.
    I'm not quite to that age....but I'm 30 and in my second year of a Physics degree.
  5. Oct 7, 2009 #4
    Thank you for the replies--your responses are very encouraging.

    Sometimes I wonder when we ask for advice, are we really asking to have our position on matters validated...I suppose I needed to know that my situation is not as unique as I thought.

    Most people I mention this to think its absolutely insane to jump ship only "hours" from graduating, especially considering the price tag and not get the degree. And frankly, it is. But I have spent enough years living in dark regret!

    Mvantuyl, I'm inclined to agree. I would like to learn what I want while the resources(financial aid) are still available. So maybe the 45000 I soon have to repay won't buy me a web design degree, but in the end I would have worked very hard for, and earned paper, I am proud of...

    Troponin, it really is comforting knowing you are not alone..thanks again!

    I hope you don't mind the additional questions, but what drove your decision to go back to school? Did financial aid pose any special obstacles? I am curious because I don't really want borrow more money and neither do I want to forfeit any aid I might qualify for if I finish my current program now. I plan on making an appointment later next week to explore options I might not have considered. I am hoping to weigh similar situations...
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2009
  6. Oct 7, 2009 #5
    What drove me back to school was that I've been a software developer for more than 35 years and it's absolute drudgery. I have always been fascinated by science in general and physics in particular, so once the decision was made to take a look at going back to school, the field of study was pre-selected. I only regret not having taken this path sooner.

    My employer allows me to work a few hours in the morning, take a few hours off for classes, and then work the remainder of my shift in the afternoon and evening. Since I'm going to a state university, the tuition is fairly low and I'm able to pay as I go. Additionally, my wife (who is a former nurse) is pursuing a degree in Anthropology at the same time. We're only able to take two classes each per semester, so it's not prohibitively expensive.
  7. Oct 9, 2009 #6
    Thanks again for responding - I find stories such as yours inspiring. I hope to come to a final decision before the end of next week.

    Best of luck to your and your wife with your studies!
  8. Oct 9, 2009 #7
    I have to ask: just what exactly do you want with a physics degree? Would you like to go to grad school and ultimately pursue research, or would you like to teach, or would you like to find some sort of industry job?

    It's difficult to provide advice when I'm not sure what you want out of this thing. Physics is a hell of a commitment, and easily twice the commitment if you go to grad school, so I would hope you understand just what it is that you want.

    Either way, if you want to spend more money on education, you would do well to transfer to a state university or something with a bit more prestige, if possible. If physics is what you want, a for-profit college sounds like a bad deal to me.
  9. Oct 10, 2009 #8
    Thanks for chiming in--looking back over my OP, I realized I may have come across as someone who might be making a hasty decision based on what I think being a physicist might be like. I assure you, I have looked beyond the surface and considered the requirements and commitments.

    I joined AAAS some time ago and subscribed to their journal, Science. AAAS has been a tremendous source of information, especially concerning careers. Joining PF brings as much if not more to the table in that I can compare articles on industry or academia to reading about real-life experiences here.

    I have some definite areas of interests, mainly quantum computing but I also know the dangers of wanting to specialize too soon-and in my case, before I even take a single intro class as interests are bound to change. I do know, seeking tenure is not for me. I would love to engage in research but I feel seeking industry may be a more realistic goal. Graduate school will have to be a part of the larger picture. The school I have been recently accepted to has a double Physics/EE degree. I am prepared to be disappointed at times and wanting to quit at others, but in the end I hope to feel it was well worth it. I am well aware that this may easily be a 10 year journey...

    I feel these realizations, or the guts to do something may have come too late. I am nearly finished my degree from the for-profit school. I withdrew from the program to look into these options and weigh if they are worth pursuing at this point in time or this late in the game.

    I guess I am looking for justification for dropping the current degree to pursue this, but this isn't really fair to anyone that comes across this post. I do know that no matter the advice given, I can count on PF to tell it to me straight.
  10. Oct 10, 2009 #9
    I may have misunderstood; it sounds like you know what you're doing.

    In my opinion if you're confident in your ability to succeed at it and you're certain it's what you want, then it's definitely worth it. The only thing is, it would be ideal to be able to take some intro classes before making the commitment. That way, you'd only be set back by a year or two if it doesn't work out and having the math background is impressive no matter where you apply, so you couldn't really lose in that situation; it would just cost a little time and some money.

    In the end, though, I really don't think anyone but yourself can tell you whether or not straying from your previous path to do physics was worth it.
  11. Oct 12, 2009 #10
    Mathemaniac, thanks again for the input. Not your fault if you felt you misunderstood, I know these types of posts have been repeated ad nauseum and will probably continue. Doesn't help my case much if I sound like a fangirl. I definitely need no illusions...

    Pursuing this will no doubt be worthwhile in the long run, it's just so darn scary taking that first step! Even when it does not make sense to anyone around me.
    I submitted my FAFSA on Friday-it will take about a week to be processed and most likely another week or two for the school to receive the information. I'll proceed with caution in the meantime keeping all options open.

    Thanks again guys!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook