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On Balancing Career & College... 433

Posted by Cliff
from the seeking-suggestions-from-those-who've-been-there dept.
An anonymous reader asks: "Hi folks. Some advice please - I've been in university twice already and quit both times - the first due to lack of interest in the course and the second a combination of lack of interest and work pressures. The second time round, I started a tech company and it's now three years old and doing OK. I am now seriously thinking about going back to Uni to get a degree (for real this time ;-). Is anyone out there successfully juggling running a company and studying at the same time? How do you juggle the two without hampering either due to lack of the right amount of attention?"
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On Balancing Career & College...

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  • by Gabrill (556503) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @03:50AM (#4243199)
    No one I've talked to that's gotten their degree after they've gotten their career started has regretted it.
    • by jaydon (51507)
      I agree with this, I haven't regreted it so far either, but I am not done though. I am currently going to school at the University of Phoenix. They cater to the working student, requirements: fulltime job, 23 years old, have deep pockets...like most educational institutions.
      Great if you already have your skills and just looking for the degree. (I say that like I have learned anything.) I have learned a lot, mostly from other classmates in the same field. I don't regret it though. 4 hours on Tuesday night for class and 5 hours more for study groups. Study group never lasts that long though. It's worked great for me so far. Just be prepared to do a lot of research and speaking. By the time you finish you will not have any fear of public speaking!!
      They also have all online courses but I didn't like the atmospere there. They're accredited...so they say! Boeing and Microsoft send many employees there. Great place for networking. check it out.
    • FWIW, this table [census.gov] may provide some incentive to complete your degree. Note the median $13k per year premium for a bachelor's degree v. high school and additional $8k per year premium for a master's degree. Doing a little arithmetic, the average median income for people in the IT industry according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [bls.gov] is around $55,505; quite how the premiums for higher education are affected by this is hard to tell, I can't seem to find statistics for middle 50% salaray by industry and education. But hopefully this will give you some incentive...
      • this can also work to your disadvantage, especially in slack economies like the current one. expensive credentialed employees are the first ones axed in favor of cheaper labor.
    • by dwarfking (95773)
      For those stating that it only takes skills, be careful. You are correct that it only takes skills, to reach a certain level. But if you have any desire to move into higher levels of a corporation (you may not want to be a PHB while your young, but that may change later), then you hit a glass ceiling where not having the degree is a problem.

      In my case, I'm well paid where I work at the level I have. Unfortunately, I can't move up here without a degree and I'm paid more than folks with my job description outside of my company. My next logical move is into a junior management position (Director or equivalent). However, the executive recruiters I have spoken with all same the same thing:

      I could place you with half dozen companies today, if you only had a degree.

      Like it or not, the lack of degree is a limiting factor in advancement opportunity, unless you work for yourself. People outside IS (i.e. the financiers and backers of the company you work for), don't know anything about your skill set, they only know the suffixes attached to your name.

    • No one I've talked to that's gotten their degree after they've gotten their career started has regretted it.

      And that includes Steven Spielberg [bbc.co.uk]
    • No one I've talked to that's gotten their degree after they've gotten their career started has regretted it.
      and no one I've talked to that's not gotten their degree after they've gotten their career started has regretted it.

      Seriously, if you jump the college ship for a career in which you are qualified, the lack of a degree will only have one effect in your early years: lower salary. As you get more experience (read: seniority), the gap between your salary with and without a degree will close. I'm not talking about dropping out and taking a job for which you are not qualified. All bets are off if you do that.

      Interestingly, if you do a calculation comparing your lost salary (due to a lower wage) to what it would have cost to finish college (don't forget the lost wages while you did it). Often the drop out side is more profitable. It most definitely was for me.

    • It's interesting that none of the (highly rated) posts actually answer his question, which is

      "Is anyone out there successfully juggling running a company and studying at the same time? How do you juggle the two without hampering either due to lack of the right amount of attention?" "

      Moderators, pls read the question and moderate accordingly.
    • What I don't understand is why you would want to waste time on college if you already have a career? That's the whole point, isn't it? I went to college for a nice career. Since graduating, I've gotten turned down for close to a hundred interviews and jobs, including IT jobs (my primary focus), retial jobs, secretary positions, police, customer service, you name it, I've been turned down for it. I was NEVER turned down for a job prior to getting my degree.

      Before you rip into me for my MIS degree being the root of all my problems, know this:

      1. I was TOLD in college by numerous staff and faculty that an MIS degree would allow me to make $43,000-$50,000 upon graduation. Unfortunately, I bought into the hype and now I struggle to get jobs that pay $7/hour.
      2. Most of the people here raving about a degree have not specified the ideal degree or area of study.
  • Hmmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by Vermithrax (524934)
    It all depends on how much time your business needs. However if you can't fit in a large ammount of time for the course then there's always distance learning for example Open University [open.ac.uk] it all depends what you wish to study. Or if you're only in it for the social life.
  • Similar Boat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jchawk (127686) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @03:56AM (#4243211) Homepage Journal
    I am in a similar boat. I work 40 hours a week at night, and go to school during the day. I also like to go out once in a while, and I have a full time girlfriend.

    First if you are with someone, they are going to need to understand that school and work are going to have to come pretty close to first. What this means is, you might not be able to be there all the time. (If they love you, they'll understand).

    Find a mix of classes that work for you. Obviously if you are going for computer science you don't want to take 5 upper level computer science classes in the same semester. Take 1 and take a few ( 2 - 4 ) other general elective classes that you need. This should get you through the fall and spring, while knocking out your gen-ed requirements.

    Then continue on with school throw the summer. This time take 2 computer science classes.

    A schedule like this should get your through, while still allowing you a wee little bit of free time.

    Keep in mind that you are going to live a very very structured life for the next few years as you work towards your degree. Sleep will become something you value, because you won't be able to do it as much as you'd like. Make sure you get 1 day off a week, or every 2 weeks. This is important, because it keeps you sane and the g/f happy.

    Just my thoughts, and what works for me.
    • by The Screaming Koala (471020) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:16AM (#4243267)
      I also like to go out once in a while, and I have a full time girlfriend. See, there is your problem right there. You need a part time girlfriend. Possibly some sort of time share arangement could be arranged
      • by Flounder (42112) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:29AM (#4243301)
        Is this option also available for spouses and children? I'm only really looking for a vacation family out in the country.
      • The next generation of person will support Familial Multithreading (TM). Important family and GF matters will be automatically time-managed to prevent conflicts. Advanced memory management will also prevent those awkward moments when she comes up and says "Do you know what today is?..."
    • Re:Similar Boat (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lpontiac (173839) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @06:39AM (#4243565)
      you might not be able to be there all the time. (If they love you, they'll understand)

      But maybe they'll need you to be there more than you are. If you love them, you'll understand.

      Please don't get me wrong, I'm not attacking you and if things are working for you and your partner, that's great :P But I think there are some people who couldn't cope with that. That wouldn't mean that they're at fault, or that they don't love you.

    • A teacher in highschool once told me a student has a choice. They can choose 2 of 3 things: social life, good grades, a job. If all three are chosen, then one or more will untimately suffer.

      At the time, no one believed him (remember, we were highschool students who knew everything). To the day, I still use the same idea on many of the things I deal with. Lately its been more like: Quick, cheap, good. Pick 2.

    • Re:Similar Boat (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Guylhem (161858) <slashdot AT guylhem DOT net> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @09:40AM (#4244147) Homepage
      Mixing classes is not the best idea.

      I'm studying medicine in France (entering my 6th and final year - studies are a bit longer here), running my company (running various website like thera.info and free software consulting), managing several opensource projects (the LDP on tldp.org) and keeping time for my girlfriend (khady.net) and my passion (movies)

      How can I do that? Quite simple: I closely manage my time. A palm or other PDA is obviously needed. Give a time slot for everything that needs one. Don't be afraid to spend 15 to 30 minutes per day on scheduling if you have many things to do that day. Get the work done - that's your goal. Scheduling is a way. Cutting in the unneeded is a good complement (do you really need to watch TV? Do you really need to attend that stupid class? Do you really need to do this 1'000 contract?)

      Every morning, I go to the hospital (7-12). Every afternoon, I either study or work. (1-8)

      Every night (9-11), I go and see a movie or stay with my significant other.

      Sounds simple? It's not. The hardest part is mixing studies and work. You *have* to be selective. I can not offer to spend time going to classes. I study in my books, and I pratice what I've been studying in the morning. A good book is worth hours of classes. If they are not mandatory and you can do your exams without going to some classes, skip them. Your goal is to *learn*, not spend time at lectures. You know the subject? Go and do something else. Work, studies, or private. But be honest - don't just skip classes. Go to the ones you need to increase your knowledge.

      You also have to be very selective for your work. I don't take a contract if I'm not sure I can efficiently do it and make a profit. That means I must know the topic (say, network administration) and have a backup solution (a friend I'll pay if some exam is suddently scheduled) so that the contract will be done. The client satisfaction is #1 priority. Financial profit is #2.

      Now your private life. The previous post is very right : you must sleep well. Don't cut on sleep. Take naps if it helps. If you are tired you are unefficient. While other people may afford that, you can't because you have too many things to manage. You can take one day off every week as suggested, or take every night depending on your work load. I just did 3 weeks in a row (no nights) so I'm now taking 2 days.

      Finally, be sure to love and understand your partner. Explain what you are doing and how. Explain when you are available. And surprise her! Finding free time when you thought you couldn't is good. Using that time to offer flowers or unexpected vacation is better ;-)

      Until now, it has been working fine. The first months where the hardest- and then I just had work, free software and studies. Gradually I managed to add stuff, little by little. And I even found time to do a MS in biological sciences!

      What works for me may not work for you, but email me privately (slashdot@externe.net) if you need some help.

    • "I also like to go out once in a while, and I have a full time girlfriend. "

      When you have a full time girlfriend, the law requires that you spend at least 40 waking hours with her, or else she is free to become a two-timing girlfriend. I think you might want to investigate this, and consider re-negotiating her benefits package :^}
    • I work full time and I'm completing my second degree part-time. (My first degree was as a full-time student.) Once that is done I intend to obtain a Masters part-time as well. Clearly, I like school.

      Last semester I was taking 2 courses part-time, planning my wedding, working 60+ hours a week F/T and house-hunting. It was a crazy schedule to begin with, and then when you add a psycho I had to work with and my parents driving me nuts over the wedding plans and 0 vacation time (saving it up for the honeymoon) and I nearly went insane.

      I still got through it, sanity intact, so here's what you need.

      Determination and Motivation.

      You've said before that you've tried out school and then quit. You have to really want to do this. When everything gets hectic and crazy, the thought of quitting may look appealing. After all, in University, you're paying to work really hard -- at work, it's the other way around. Plus, when your livelihood demands more time then usual, it can be hard to push that aside to do an assignment, or keep up with the reading.

      But I really love what I'm studying, and even the required non-major courses (some of which I never thought I'd enjoy) appeal to me, so the idea of quitting school never crossed my mind. (Quitting work, on the other hand...) And because I enjoy it, it's easier for me to make time for school.

      Discipline.

      So imagine you finish work-work for the day, and you're exhausted, and the last thing you want to do is read a textbook. Will you put it off until the next day? Procrastination is a slippery slope -- when you're tired, it's so easy to put things off, and then suddenly, you're pulling all-nighters. Now for me, all-nighters are usually very productive, but pulling too many of those is increasingly draining as you get older. It's only been 6 years since I was a F/T frosh, and already I can't sustain the same low-sleep schedule that I could then. Now I have to force myself to do things on a regular and sane schedule, get enough sleep, eat properly -- all these things help.

      You've been able to start and succeed at your own business, which says that you probably have all of these within you. But the big question for you to answer is -- are you willing to apply the same determination, motivation and discipline to school?

  • Yes you can do it! (Score:2, Informative)

    by ajd1474 (558490)
    I've been working full time and studying for the last three years. I was intially full-time study and work for two years. My relationship with my GF died as a result tho. I took a year off study the following year and now have a deal with my employer to work 4 days a week on full salary, allowing one day a week to study part-time. The flipside of this is that i owe them i year of work after i finish study next year.

    It is hard work but i enjoy it. I am studying multimedia and think its great!
    -----------------------
  • Sleep 7 hours. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Perdo (151843) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @03:58AM (#4243218) Homepage Journal
    Never give up sleep time for study time. During sleep your mind makes the transfer to long term memory. If you are not sleeping 7 hours, you might as well not study at all that day.

    And get a good outside accountant. Nothing will go wrong with your business that you cannot fix by delegating, except your in house accountant stealing from you.

    So, study, sleep, delegate and don't let the mice play while you are away.
    • by Hooya (518216) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @08:09AM (#4243749) Homepage
      During sleep your mind makes the transfer to long term memory

      Is that a cron job? with some beautiful screensavers (the dreams) running while the cpu goes off and makes this memory dump to tape backup?

    • Sleep requirements vary from individual to individual. You might need 9 hours, somebody else might need 4. The great majority of us need somewhere between 7 and 8.5 hours a night.

      The most brilliant person that I knew in college (and there were a lot of brilliant people there) was my freshman roommate. He would go to bed at 1 pm and wake up at 6 am everyday. In the meantime I was going to bed whenever I felt like it an waking up when I could/had to.

    • This sounds like sane advice -- much better than I thought he'd get.

      I mean, asking for time management advice from people blowing time reading Slashdot? :-)
  • My advice is to find somewhere that really caters for people who are working as well as studying. Anywhere thats overly tough on deadlines is not going to work out for you. No matter how dedicated you are emergencies are going to crop up from time to time , and your livelihood is always going to win out over your studies. I started a mathematics degree with the Open University (Correspondance course with a good rep) this year, but i missed to many deadlines when the company i worked for went into liquidation, so I've given up for this year and am going to start from scratch next year. it was tough going , but if it had'nt been for the liquidation it would have been manageable. Maybe theres a similar flexible correspondance course that covers your area (as far as i know the open university covers just about everywhere see www.open.ac.uk)

  • Part Time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NickB2 (246115) <nbenjami@@@umich...edu> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:01AM (#4243229)
    Do a few classes a term.
    The rule of thumb is 2 hours coursework for every hour in class. So figure out how much time you want to spend a week, and do those many hours/3 until you graduate.

    Focus on courses you really care about -- I'm much happier now that I've left CE for political Sciene and History. I'd do this stuff anyway, now I get credit for it.
    You should realize that one Liberal Arts degree is as good as another, if your passion is something that is technically useless (Philosophy, Art history) you should major in that. You'll do well, and nobody really cares what the words on the degree are.

    You may be able to save time by taking courses you already know -- if your business ws web design you might want to take a course on PERL. If you already know it you'll do well without effort; and if you don't you'll be doing training you should do anyway.

    In short, you should focus on the shit you'd do even if you weren't in school. I read about politics for fun, so I do PoliSci. I don't do CompSci because I've never gotten around to reading any of my dozen or so programming books. You should also manage your time wisely -- but you have a business so tyou know about that.
    • Re:Part Time (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 3141 (468289) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @06:38AM (#4243560) Homepage
      Not to be objectionable or anything, but there is no way that Philosophy can be considered useless. It's mostly logic applied to real or theoretical situations, useful for anyone. Not to mention it can help to broaden your mind (also useful).

      You're right about one thing though, people really don't care about the words on the degree. Many market traders have degrees in Astrophysics. It doesn't matter whether you think about binary star systems or binary code, it's the thinking that matters.
    • See, my boss is in his 2nd return trip to college, while at the same time owning the small webhosting company I work for. He's taking 21 hours this semester, while somehow also working for the school on some research project involving satelites or something.

      His solution? Just don't work. Let the other 4 employees do it.

      ~Will

  • by NuttyBee (90438)
    It sounds like this guy found out its much more rewarding to work than to go to school. And doing both just plain sucks. There is no balance -- you pick one and do it seriously. Or you do your 40-50 hours a week at work and take a single class. Yeah, it takes forever, I went to school with a guy who spent about 10 yrs getting his BS doing just that.

    I tried to balance school and work for a couple years, it didn't work. It hurt me in school and I was over stressed at work from my school demands. I finished college and quit working to do it.

    Your mileage may vary.
  • by djupedal (584558) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:06AM (#4243241)
    ...and it is defined as being able to clearly remember your goal at all times. Paper chasing has it's merits...such as a higher salary than someone who didn't finish the chase.

    Without it, you are doomed to a life as a semi-pro.

    Pick something and stay with it. (haven't we been around this tree once already this year?)
    • I used the same word in my response, 'discipline'. It's not always going to be fun but a degree will be required in a decade or so. All you need to do is look at the other engineering professions and you'll see where our's is headed. Vanguard
  • Been There... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    1. Be very clear on why you are going (back) to university.

    2. Where do you think you are going to get the time to stay on top of your profession while also studying?

    3. Have you spoken with the professors who will be teaching the courses you would be taking? Do you already know more than they do about business and technology? If so, what do you expect to learn from them?

    4. Assuming you are currently on the bleeding edge of some technical specialties, expect to be obsolete when you graduate.

    5. Don't assume there will be a job waiting for you when you graduate.

    6. Don't assume your current customers will still be in business when you graduate.

    7. Don't assume your current business will be viable when you graduate.
  • by Phil John (576633) <philNO@SPAMwebstarsltd.com> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:15AM (#4243265)
    ...if you are in the u.k. then you'll probably not have that many hours...because over here we specialise in one subject. I did AI & CS and had about 20 or so hours most weeks (along with other work).

    Now here's the fun part...I ran my own company too! (As well as dj'ing both over here in the U.K. and in Brussels, Belgium) It IS possible, it just requires that you have a timetable and STICK to it.

    The worst thing you can do is mix up your social time (and remember university IS about meeting new people) and your work time. Have a set time for uni work, for work work and for play (all work and no play...etc.).

    It's possible...just make sure that you give university the same attention that you do your company and socialising and you should be fine.

    Good Luck! It's hard but rewarding.
  • by fruey (563914) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:18AM (#4243272) Homepage Journal
    Hey. You've dropped out twice on university already due to a self proclaimed lack of interest. You have your own successful company.

    I went to University in order to get a good job. Now I have one, I dream of running my own company. You have your own company which by your admission is doing OK. Ask yourself why it is you really want to go back to school for a third time. You are older and have a business to run now. What could a degree change in your situation? I could understand if you were in a job and a degree could help your career prospects, but here that does not appear to be the case.

    You need to do some soul searching. Don't get caught up in intellectual snobbery where you (or other people make you) think that getting a degree is somehow going to change you as a person or change the way people look at you. Don't be ashamed if people working for you have better qualifications that you do. The bottom line is that they are working for you, not you for them!

    I think the current western trend to work hard, always biting into your free time, is the wrong way to live. That's just my opinion. If you think you can run a company and go to school and still have a fulfilled life (family, home, and love is what it's really all about, not your salary) then you go ahead. I will be the first to congratulate you if you succeed. But perhaps now the thing to think about is why you feel you need a degree if you are already running your own company. Strengthen your character and your interpersonal relationships, and take some professional qualifications / courses related to your line of work if you want, but why torture yourself about going back to school?

    Also, bear in mind that a lot of responses here so far are probably from college students. They think (and they are right, from their perspective right now) that school is the best thing in the world. But school is not about getting a degree, it's about getting independance and working out a number of work ethic structures, logical thought processes, prioritisations, etc. The degree is just part of the process, and the better a degree you get is due to how well you organise, communicate, and learn (in an abstract sense) to use tools at your disposal.

    So if you really feel you need a degree for your own self esteem, then go for it. But don't do it to the detriment of everything else, because you may find that if you ever get the degree, that your life does not change significantly. Anyone who thinks they are better than you just because they have a degree and you don't is clearly wrong, but you may not be old enough (or they may not be) to realise it. Perhaps something else is really at the root of your problems, and you need to search your heart to find out what your life priorities really are.

    • by Vito (117562) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @06:05AM (#4243512) Homepage

      Wow. This post is one of the saddest, most disheartening things I've ever read. And the worst part is that you're pinning your own disillusionment and bitterness over your own life choices onto someone else, whose situation is entirely different. Don't deny someone the ability to, yes, indeed, change their life for the better, just because you took the road most travelled.

      Most young people attend college expecting one of two things:

      • That they will find some sort of miraculous passion to define them as a person, lead them into a fulfilling career, and thereby achieve happiness.
      • That they get a piece of paper that will get them a job that pays more than flipping burgers, but may not suck less.

      Snap judgements say you wanted the first, and ended up with the second.

      When I graduated high school, I didn't want to go to college. So what that it was what you were supposed to do? So what that most jobs require that piece of paper? I don't want a job anyway. And yes, I got tons of criticism from everyone I knew for my choice. Screw them, I said!

      It came down to the fact that I didn't have the foggiest clue what I wanted to do with myself. Do the same job in the same field for 40 years? Or even different jobs in the same field? Bor-ing. And what's that? You can't just take any arbitrary classes at college? You have to pick a "major," and that ties you into a certain giant batch of required courses, most of which are dull and perfunctory? No, thanks! No time for drama courses for CS majors? No ability to take advanced EE courses without actually being an EE major? Lame! I think I'll go the library intsead, thank you. I wanted to go to university to LEARN THINGS. Not to "prepare myself for the outside world." What bullshit. College is as close to the outside world as McDonalds chicken nuggets are to actual chickens.

      So after high school, I said, "To hell with school," and got myself a job as a consultant for a well-connected local firm, doing work for IBM and Lotus, as well as large local companies creating Notes/Domino "solutions." It helped that I enjoyed 60-80 hour work weeks, and was a stereotypical whiz kid, as I'm sure most of Slashdot was/is.

      A couple years in, I quit and started my own business, entirely self-funded (yay saving money), moved into a large, expensive apartment, and proceeded to drive the company into the ground in about two years. Notes to self: do not take on projects larger than you can handle, and always have good communication between your employees and your clients.

      After another ~two years, I'm now completely debt-free (I didn't declare bankruptcy, and helped out my ex-employees as much as was possible), and attending classes full-time at the University of Texas at Austin. I'm a liberal arts student with no declared major, looking for a classic liberal arts education, and taking sixteen hours of very different courses. I'm working on a documentary, auditioning for theatre productions, taking dance classes, and working 20+ hours a week part-time doing consulting. And I hang out with friends, go out on dates, attend parties, bar-hop, etc. And getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night. Nothing is suffering thanks to careful time management and a serious desire to actually be able to do all of these things at the expense of none. It's a lot of work to make it all fit, and spur-of-the-moment plans often require much mental jockeying, but I do it, and I'm damn happy about it.

      Note: Replies intent on making jokes with punchlines similar to "Liberal arts students ask, 'Would you like fries with that?'" should Google for the definition of a classic liberal arts education beforehand.

      So, yes, I'm a college student. I think attending school now was the best decision I've made, because now I want to be here, and I know what I want to study (even if it is just "anything and everything"), and I'm savvy enough to be able to make everything fit. I'm not doing it to please my parents, or because it's what you're "supposed" to do, but because I want to learn new things, broaden my horizons, give myself a strong cultural and historical base upon which to better understand the world around me. I want to learn new languages and religions in an environment that will help me foster that desire, surrounded by people who want to do the same. I want to study art and architecture so I can go to a museum and be able to know why other people think painting X is so important, even if I think it still looks like crap. I want to learn to write better than using huge run-on sentences, so people will mod me up just because I'm grammatically correct. I want to do all of these things because I think they'll make me a better person, better able to appreciate and understand the world, people and events around me.

      A lot of my friends graduated college over the past few years. All of them took the "career" path, but only a single one is happy with it. The rest all have the same vague, lost, unsure, slightly disillusioned look in their eyes that they had when they graduated high school, and that saddens me. People here tell me it's amazing how much I enjoy all of this, even though I have no idea what I want to do. I tell them, that's the best part.

      The poster wants to go back to school. Perhaps it's for the same reasons that I have. Perhaps it's because he feels like less of a man without that piece of paper. The point is that when you're in our shoes, it's not a decision you come to lightly. Don't tear someone down because you weren't able to say "No, thanks" after high school. Just like it's never too late to save some money and start your company if you really want to, it's never too late to go back to school and make it work.

      To the poster, I say, go back, and take something else. Don't take courses directly related to what your company does, because you already know most of it through practical application. Dollars to donuts says this is why you're getting bored. Instead, take things that will broaden your horizons and give you new insights into your personal universe. Don't take self-paced or online courses; get into the classroom, sit at the front, and interact with the professor and other students. Learn something new.

      • by zerocool^ (112121) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @10:25AM (#4244445) Homepage Journal
        I think attending school now was the best decision I've made, because now I want to be here, and I know what I want to study.

        I agree completely. This is one of the best posts I've ever read on slashdot.

        I started to become dissalusioned with High School (public school) my senior year. A.P. Computer Science was a joke, so I stopped caring. I made a 4 on the AP test with out ever looking at the case study. My grades in the class: AAB B(exam), then CDD F(exam). I didn't care. I was ready to be out of school. I was one of the smartest kids in school. I wanted to get to college, to get on with life.

        So I go to college, start working on an electrical engineering degree. Freshman year. All of a sudden, I'm not the smart kid anymore. I realize, hey, I've got to study. Then, I started studying. I realized what I'm doing sucks. I hate it. I don't want to be an enginner for the rest of my life! Where's the creativity? Where's the fun? Is it all deadlines and straight lines? Do I really have to write my letters 3/4 of one square high, in "small caps" on engineering graph paper? So I stopped going to class. I failed most things, or didn't do very well.

        After my first year, I was on Academic Suspension, with my 1.67 GPA. No school for a year for me. So I went home. I became fiercely independant, swearing up and down that college was useless, and I was going to do for myself. I got an apartment that was costing me $365 a month in rent (my part), sharing it with a guy who I barely knew, and paying for everything myself. I went back to my old job full time, working at Best Buy. I was making $10.50/hr. This is good money for someone in central Virginia who is 19. Then the bottom fell out. My girlfriend dumped me cause I had no ambition. My roommate started growing Marijuana. I moved out cause I didn't want any part of it, but I was still responsible for my part of the rent. I moved back in with my parents. I began to hate my job. I hated working nights, working ALL weekends, closing friday night until 1:30 AM, and then being back at 7AM sat. I HATED retail. I hated lying to people to make them buy useless shit.

        So I went back to college, with no plan of study in mind. I was lost, but I wanted something. I needed a degree. Then I really found something that I loved. I just figured, I watch enough of the History channel, why not major in History? So that's what I'm doing, and I plan to be a high school history teacher. I'm having so much fun, I have new friends and a new girlfriend, life is great. I'm tracking to go to education gradschool after I get my history undergrad. I'm facinated by everything I'm doing.

        Now, my job here is Unix network administration. I like the job. But I certainly don't want to do it all my life. This is something that I think slashdot kids need to think about. Just cause you're the computer whiz doesn't mean you're going to have to do computer stuff when you "grow up". I've been thinking of ways I can use computers to help me teaching. But ... find something that makes you happy. Don't do computers "because". Because is the worst reason to spend thousands of dollars and 4-5 years of your life.

        ~Will

  • by Anonymous Coward
    you've quit twice allready, now your looking for a per talk about going back. I'd be willing to take a bed that you won't finish. Why are you going back? What is it going to get you?
    I'm in the same boat you are, EXCEPT I'm getting my graduate degree I LIKE school. I suspect you don't and staying will be a pain for you, and unless the rewards are VERY great your going to leave again.
  • it's strange that I do a academic counseling here. :)

    First of all in view of your achievement you don't need a bachelor degree. All you need is an MBA(or EMBA depends on how good your business is). Some colleges require you to get a bachelor degree first, but some don't. Even if you aren't interested in this subject you might need it later - you need some sort of qualification when you are dealing with venture captalists, a bachelor degree might not be enough.

    If you wanna learn things in a particular area you can go for some professional qualifcaitons in Laws, Finance and Account, etc.. If you've no preference at the moment you can consider Actuaries [soa.org], which covers wide range of subjects and lead to profession qualifications(assoicate, fellowship, etc.). Even if you drop out of it in the middle, you can switch to CFA. :)

    In order to avoid being mod off-topic, I covers some professional qualifications you can consider in IT: Java programmer/developer/architect, CISSP, CCIE, RHCE, etc. Avoid MCS* - no reason at all, just my personal preference. :)

  • I did the first year courses of math+C.S. degree at the open university, while serving in the army at the time.

    the nature of my army-service (artillery, which is like a semi-combat position) did not allow for regular schedule, so I needed to study with a flexible schedule, and study mostly by myself (which I like).

    I found the courses in the OU clear, instructory and very well-intented (much more so than most of the profs I had to deal with later).

    I propose to anyone which works, doesn't have a degree and considers it:

    1) do it. you will benefit, period.
    2) for the working person, or the young mother (very much a working person...) for which a flexible schedule is the best, the OU is the best option. it is actually designed for people with other constraints.

    BTW, I am currently not affiliated with the O.U. in any way.
  • by maroberts (15852) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @04:50AM (#4243362) Homepage Journal
    Question why you need to go to University if you're already becoming successful. Taking your eye of the ball can be fatal to the operation of your company.

    Secondly in the UK there are Open University courses which allow you to get a degree at home - You do about 90% of the work at home and attend the actual university for some workshop type courses - I'll be very surprised if there isn't an equivalent in the US (or wherever you live)

    • Secondly in the UK there are Open University courses which allow you to get a degree at home - You do about 90% of the work at home and attend the actual university for some workshop type courses - I'll be very surprised if there isn't an equivalent in the US (or wherever you live)

      There's programs like that here in the US, too. Degrees via the internet are becoming quite popular.

      I honestly question the value of an "at home" degree. Sure, you get all of the knowledge, but you miss out on most of the other benefits of a traditional program. Like getting to know your professors personally. I'm in an evening MBA program right now, and there are some professors that I have broken through and established a relationship that will outlast my time at the school.

      You miss out on the classroom discussion. If the bulk of your degree is in a canned format, then you don't hear the life experiences of your fellow students in regards to various problems. This is particularly true on the graduate level.

      You miss out on networking with people. An old proverb says, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." This is very, very true. You might have degrees and referrals out the yin-yang, but that big consulting contract is still going to go to the interviewer's dorm mate from college.

      Finally, you miss out on class lectures, some of which is of more value than the course material because it's coming from the professor's real-life experiences, sometimes things that he/she might not want to type down and leave a record of.

      Yeah, they'll tell you that all of those things exist in at-home degrees in some form or another... but there's no substitute for face-to-face contact with other people. You miss a lot with an at-home degree.
  • by Shoten (260439) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @05:14AM (#4243419)
    From what you said, lack of interest is what keeps coming up. I'm guessing that this is either lack of interest in the subject matter, or that the quality of education you're getting is insufficient to hold your attention. Either way, I think you're going to be a lot better off if you address either of those first. I'm in your position, and what I'm finding is that the classes I'm taking now (as opposed to then) have real-world applicability, and so I'm a lot more motivated and excited by the material. I can tell what is more likely to be useful to me and what isn't, and I can ask questions based on what I've seen and what I want to do in the future. If this isn't happening for you, perhaps that's the real problem to fix...
    • I'm in your position, and what I'm finding is that the classes I'm taking now (as opposed to then) have real-world applicability, and so I'm a lot more motivated and excited by the material.

      I agree with what the parent poster is saying, but I personally found that my preference is exactly the opposite: at University I liked the flighty theoretical stuff most of all; I found that the "real world" stuff was too earthbound. 7 years later, it's the theoretical stuff that continues to feed my real-world work, while most of what was then "practical" is now fairly irrelevant to the current marketplace. ... but it's down to personal preference. You need to examine yourself and decide what you want, before carefully selecting a course which meets your needs.
      • Following up on myslef, tut!

        I'm still hung up on the fact that you're a serial course-quitter. Another reason people give up on education is that the course doesn't match their particular "learning style". For example, some people like to learn things by exploring and finding things out for themselves (so a teacher will facilitate and guide this activity), while other people prefer to be spoon-fed what they need, so they can learn it by rote, practice, etc.

        I'm an exploratory learner, and when for a while I taught word processing to adults in evening classes, I tried to teach them all as if they were explorers too. It came as quite a revelation to find out that some of them thrived on a different way of learning.

        When selecting a course, you might want to think about your own preferred learning style, and talk to the institution about how they would accommodate you.

        Unfortunately, in my experience, a lot of University academics (although there are notable exceptions; hello Dr. Coxhead) are in it for the research; lecturing is the boring part of the job, they are not educationalists, and they are not particularly interested in moulding their teaching styles to match the learning styles of their students. Maybe you can find somewhere better than I did?
  • by Quila (201335) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @05:24AM (#4243437)
    I got my whole bachelor's working during the day and going to school at least four nights a week until 10 p.m. plus odd weekends (and sometimes having to drive 70 miles for the classes).

    It can be done, just set that diploma as your goal and sort of coast along in the work -- doing your work, but not the "I'm working for a promotion or to expand the business" kind of work.
  • by t0qer (230538) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @05:38AM (#4243457) Homepage Journal
    Seriously man,

    If you got the oppertunity to go back, take it. What is the nature of your business, do you have any staff you can trust to run things?

    See, right now, me and all my chums are out of work, and it's been that way for a while (and not looking much better) I was a sysadmin for 7 years and was making 86k at my last sysadmin job without a degree. It was dot com times man!

    The one universal thread between me and my other jobless cohorts is the lack of education. Your situation might have been different, but I chose the career path over school, as did many of my friends, but now we're beggin our families to help us out.. It's not industrious self reliance.

    And damn those people with degree's that got the burger flipping jobs over us here in silicon valley. I'd take ANY job right now, I applied to the orchard supplies and the Mc Donalds, my wife doubled up, filled out applications, and applied again and STILL NO response.

    It's hard as hell out there, i'm in a position where if I just had a burger flipping job, I could go back to school. Dammit.

    --toq
    • Seriously, AC is right. Do what you have to and get out of there, it's too expensive. Contact some headhunters and start doing a region-wide or even nation-wide job search. No, I don't think you'll pick up 86k again just being a sysadmin (unless you've got serious programming skills), but I don't think that 45-50k is unreasonable for 7 years' experience. Sure beats the 12-14k that McDonalds will pay you, and the cost of living will probably be much cheaper.

      The problem, as you stated, is that your area is flooded with overqualified candidates. It's not going to get any better anytime soon. Go someplace where the competition isn't so bad; every city in the US needs sysadmins. Like AC said, set up a 5-7 year plan and start working it. Get that degree so you can go back to Silicon Valley.
  • I have been - and still am - in the same position. According to my experience, the best way to complete your studies, is to arrange it so that your work for the company can be turned into study (credits). This naturally requires that someone in your university or whatever is ready to discuss about innovative ideas.

    Atleast here, the fact that universites for example get certain amount of government money per graduated student, helps the discussion. The situation in US might completely different - but still: convince a professor about the fact that you learn by doing. Ofcourse you need to (and you should, it's good for you!) complete some theoretical studies as well - but theoretical studies can be interesting as well, if you know it benefits your business. As result, you might see that you can complete your studies by 60% work and 40% extra, for example.

  • You should know that you are in good company. Steve Jobs is a college dropout. Bill Gates is a college dropout. I am presently a college dropout with a well paying job at, of all things, a museum.

    I had to drop out because a) I had no financial help from family and b) the University's accounting system was so fucked up is sent my loan checks back because I was not enrolled. Why was I not enrolled? I was in non-payment. Why was I in non-payment? Because the University kept sending my loan checks back. To get the bill collectors off my back I wound up getting a real job and taking a personal loan.

    So here I am, most of the way there, and only a mountain of debt to show for it.

    Do you REALLY want to run up extra bills? Do you REALLY want the equivilent of a mortgage on your brain? You had the god given sense to get out before it got too expensive.

    Lets face it, a degree is no more than a sheet of paper the gets you in the door. You are the guy on the other side of the door already. Aside from pride, what are you intending to achieve?

    Also note that colleges are bursting at the seams with echo boomers at the moment. Prices are sky high because there are literally boatloads of people chasing paper right now.

    As for me, my present employer has tuition reimbursement. I am taking them up on it because a) my original University is 10 blocks away from my apartment (and 11 blocks away from my Office), and b) in an education setting a lack of a degree is keeping me out if certain positions, like Director. I have definite measureable goals to be reached by obtaining a degree, the means to do it, and the support of my Wife and Boss.

  • Play the game (Score:3, Informative)

    by pvera (250260) <pedro.vera@gmail.com> on Thursday September 12, 2002 @06:00AM (#4243506) Homepage Journal
    The Right Thing (tm):

    We are all hired, appraised and rewarded based on personal ability and skill, not by a sheet of paper that says we got a degree.

    What Really Happens:

    Eventually, it does not matter how long it takes, a hard working, smart-as-hell, self-trained individual will get stepped over due to a lack of a proper degree.

    The Smart thing to do:

    Teach yourself what you really want to know well. Then do a double major. One half is going to be the stuff you really want to learn, the other half is something that you will find so easy that it will not be a burden.

    Why?

    You still get your degree, you are still an expert but you did not have to work like an animal to finish it. Since you taught yourself more than half of it, and since you had to spend the money anyway you are going to come out ahead of the game.

    The important thing is that you need that degree (no matter what the field) because eventually you will be discrimminated against because of the lack of it. Certain management types expect a bachelor's degree at a level and can't visualize a person that teaches himself stuff that for all he cares can only be learned in college (duh).

    The other alternative is the "basketweaving" degree. Get a BA in anything you think is cool, then use your experience to build on top of your education. I had to run interviews literally every week at my previous job and almost nobody was applying to a job for which their original degree would apply to. I work now in a very small shop and I was joking with my president that with my BS in Manufacturing Engineering I was the most poorly educated person in the company. His reply: " I got a BA in History and here I am..."

    This discrimmination against non-college educated people is a complete disgrace, but if you already have a job you should start making plans to finish your degree even if it is a bit at a time. When I was in the Army I knew lots of people that little by little finished their A.S. and B.S. degrees just by taking one and two courses at a time.
  • How do you juggle the two without hampering either due to lack of the right amount of attention?

    You don't, it's impossible. You just try to make your life a little easier by applying things you learn at work and work practices in school. Make the two sides of your life help eachother ;-)

    I'm on my second year and have been working full time for the last 3 years. It's hell but at least i feel proud of myself.

  • by Planetes (6649)
    Don't let anyone fool you. If you're rich and miserable you'll still be as unhappy as poor and miserable.

    In my case, I started with computers when I was in high school and it seemed like a natural choice for college. I finished an associates degree and started working. 7 years of professional programming have taught me one thing. I hate computers. Or at least programming them. I thought long and hard and finally realized my true love is aircraft and space craft. I'm going to school part time (7 credit hours this semester) for an aerospace engineering degree while at the same time working full time as a programmer. (Oh and I'm married.)

    First, decide what it is you want most to achieve happiness. Don't even start school until you decide that. Once you have, make achieving that goal your priority. Remember, we're talking about happiness here. If it means sacrificing some work here and there, it will probably be worth it in the long run.

    • First, decide what it is you want most to achieve happiness. Don't even start school until you decide that.

      I second that. I started college when I first got out of High School and hated it. Ironically, I was an aerospace eng major. I had a full ride scholarship in the Air Force and was going to be a pilot (that part I loved). Then Clinton cut the military in half and with it, my scholarship. So I had to quit school and re-evaluate my life. I got into computers and now have 7 years experience, a full-time job, wife and kids and I am just now getting back to school. This time, I have finally figured out whay I *want* to do. I love going to class and can't wait to finish so I can change careers.

      Bottom line is you need to love what you are studying or you may end up hating your degree in the end.

  • I suppose I'm in a similar situation. I'm at the tail end of my third university attempt in the past five years, and while this one has been a bit more successful than the others, I'm pretty certain I'll be leaving school at the end of this term.

    I'm impatient. While I've taken some classes that are absolutely thrilling, for the most part I'm unimpressed with life as a full time student. In the last five years, I've managed to start a few successful businesses, I've done a lot of traveling, and have had generally free reign to pursue my interests and make something of them. I've been able to support myself quite well in nearly all of my ventures.

    I enjoy working. I enjoy developing business plans. I enjoy making real money. I enjoy the risk of failure. I like the real world interaction, the respect, and the challenge of dealing with things that come up in "real life."

    Granted, for a lot of people, the academic world is real life. For me, it's just another interesting project ... but it's expensive, often boring, and too far removed from all the other pies I've got my fingers in. I don't want to abandon it all together, but I'm certain I don't want to make it my singular focus for the next few years.

    What do I think you should do? If you're enjoying your work, stick with it, and make the most of it. Don't pay attention to the naysayers and their "what if the economy fails, how will you find another job, blah blah blah." If things go wrong and you can't find another job, go to school. If you're looking for something else to do ... go to school. If you're enjoying your work, but you really want to go to school, do both, part time.

    If you're in a good situation now, there's no reason to leave it, unless you think you could do better in another situation. Only you can know what your true priorities are, and given the amount of success you say you've had, I say that you can successfully trust your instincts with this decision.

    You're most likely a younger guy like myself. Early twenties? Late teens? You've got plenty of years to "get your life together" before you start thinking about supporting a family and what-have-you. It's better to take the risks now, when you can afford to make a few bad decisions, than attempt to "do the right thing" out of some sense of obligation or guilt -- that's a sure fire way to end up burnt out and miserable.

    It sounds cheesy, but I say follow your heart: There are tons of successful people with and without degrees, and what seems to count most is your passion and commitment to whatever it is that you find the most fulfilling.

    Enough of my rambling. Best of luck to ya!
  • You go to college at nite to night classes. You get your degree much slower but it makes you available for your business during the day.

    The other drawback is that you now have ZERO life. and if you have a family you will almost never see them, and/or you will lose them. The nightly bar scene is no longer an option excepto for maybe (if you're lucky) once a month.

    Oh, and your burn rate just tripled.

    If you can take the piled on pressure then go for it... Me, I won't. I have a 10 year old daughter and spending time with her is more important than anything else on this planet, including work, school, whatever.. But that's how my priorities are arranged.... Look at your priorities and see if school can fit in there.
  • I worked in some way or another for most of my time at uni, but for the last two years I was also director of an IT consultancy. To be fair I was quite slack about the whole thing, but I found that balancing the two was extremely draining, I'd get home after a day of work/study and have to do more work/study to keep up to date. It got particularly bad as finals and projects approached.
    If you can avoid it, I would. University is just too much fun and too useful to waste time you could be spending studying or having fun with friends.
  • Correspondence (Score:3, Informative)

    by BMonger (68213) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @07:18AM (#4243628)
    I went to the university once, started working as a software developer and I quit school. Now I'm going back to school but doing it all through correspondence work. It's all on my own time, on my own schedule. I am enrolled at The American College of Computer and Information Sciences [accis.edu]. Also the University of Phoenix does online degrees too as far as I know. ACCIS is fairly easy but you have to keep on doing it. It's easy to stop when you don't have due dates for anything. Right now I'm in 3 classes and you only have to turn in 1 assignment from any of your classes every 2 months minimum. Obviously you'll want to turn in more than that.... else computers will be obsolete when you graduate. :)

    Anyhow... might want to browse the websites. Can't hurt to poke around. Feel free to e-mail me personally if you want to know more about it (or anybody can e-mail me if they want).
  • Unless you are an extreme workhorse, I suggest a good balance of hours. I find that if you spend more than 24 hours focused on your job then your marks will suffer. But maybe you just want to skim by.
  • And since you are your own boss, you should be cool to yourself.

    I am a graduate student in cultural geogaphy, which means that my advisors and classmates care two shits about my work. If I complain that school is interfering with my job, I get stony looks from the professors and told to quit. Luckily, since I work in IT at the University where I study, I can just pop out of the office for class and seminars. How can I do this? My boss is cool enough to allow it. If you can find a situation that will allow such an arrangement, then go for it. My boss is allowing me the whole summer off (w/o pay, of course) to do my fieldwork overseas. I do consider myself lucky? Yes. But then again, you make your luck. Being good at what I do helps.

    With regard to your situation, since you are your own boss, cut yourself some breaks. You have the unique luxury to do so.
  • Since you already have a successful career, may I suggest that you study something that you like to learn more about rather than just go for a degree is CS?

    Maybe take a bunch of liberal arts courses (music, theater, arts, theory, history, economics, political science, a foriegn language) and see if any of those agree with you.

    I'll point to myself as an example: I write software for a HMO in Boston, but my undergrad degree is in Japanese Poltitical Science (my url above does read polsci after all). Why? Because I wanted to learn other things besides computers, and this gave me a well rounded education which helps me out with the ultimate goal: problem solving.
    My master degree will be in CS when I bother to finish it.
  • I went through the school the "normal" way. I went to high school then to college and now I am working. I did work 20-30hrs/week while in college and as a consequence I had very little social life(outside class that is) while there, but to me that was ok. I wish I could have just kept going and got a masters in cs, but I needed the money and had to move onto making some ;) Now, I am trying to make and save enough money so that I can go back to school and work part time.

    Some questions I think you should ask yourself is why do you want to go back to school? If you are running your own business successfully will getting more schooling help? Perhaps you can concentrate on growing your business to the point where you can sell it or have enough free time to go back to school.

    Just remember that while in school you only get out what you put in. The more time that you can put into learning by reading, and conversing with other students/teachers the more enjoyable experience you will have.
  • I am with the don't do it crowd. The world is so caught up in the degree mind set. What they really should be concentrating on is Knowledge. Beleieve me I work with plenty of Morons who have degrees. In the Computer field there is practically nothing that degree oriented schools can teach you that a good O'reilly, Sams, Wrox, etc... book can't and usually the teach yourself method is much quicker and comprehensive since its almost all real world use as you learn it. If we could the world to assign less value to degrees we would probably have more competent people in many computer field job roles. The price of admission would be to display competence...really the technonly field should be more like plumbing, and electrical work. Apprenticeships and such....
  • Not sure where you live, but if you are in western Europe, you can always sign up with the Open University [open.ac.uk].

    I am getting a bachelors degree in computer and mathematical science myself right now, while working for a tech company as a software engineer. This is working out pretty well, although I am only studying half time.

    I think it would have been very difficult for me to do it any other way. I mean, I don't think I could have handled full time uni and work at the same time. One of my co-workers tried to do it, and after 1,5 years he quit. Basically, he just couldn't keep it up and in the end he choose uni over work.

    My advice to you, try to study on distance, and don't throw yourself at it too hard. I mean, start by studying half time. If it goes well, then try full time. Good luck :)
  • Forget the University of Phoenix... however, there are some good colleges offering distance education via the internet. A good one is Southern New Hampshire University ... www.snhu.edu.

    There are many advantages to internet based distance education... the big one being that you can attend your classes when your schedule allows. Being an entrepreneur, I don't think you'll have a problem with the self dicipline required for such a task.

    Take 2, maybe 3 courses per term and it makes a nice balance between career, living, and eventually getting your degree.

  • Personally, I work for a university, so I get to take classes, and they're rather flexible about my taking classes in the middle of the day, so long as it doesn't affect a production service.

    First off, remember that your schedule is going to have to follow a school schedule. I can't burn my comp/vacation time without having to consider how it affects my classwork. I can't take it over the summer, as that's when our crunch time for changing out systems is. As you're not working for a university, the summer issue shouldn't be as bad for you.

    Anyway, back to the point -- go and talk to people from the college(s) you're interested in. Some might let you test out of classes (for a fee), and some are more understanding than others when you have to miss a class. Some schools specifically cater to what they call 'adult education'. Look for the ones with a good variety of night classes, if nothing else.

    Talk to your professors at the beginning of the semester, and let them know what your situation is. Even just a little 'I might have to run in the middle of the class' is nice warning to give them. Some professors will be understanding, and well, others are complete pricks ... but hey, if you find out at the beginning, you can always drop the class, and not have to pay the full price, normally.
  • by bluGill (862)

    I worked ~20 hours a week and went to school full time. I discovered that I could not take more than 13 credits a quarter without failing classes. They kept pushing me to tkae that many hours, but I couldn't do it. My GPA suffered as a result. Do not let them push you.

    You already have a good job, so don't rush college. (I was working fast food, so I needed to push). Take one class at a time, and don't worry about the degree taking 15 years to complete. Spend your time in the one class you do take wisely. Study hard, get As. You can get by on a C, but people judge you based on your GPA once you have the degree, and mine was not where it should have been.

    How much do you need to work you buisness? It is really easy for someone in school to neglect their work when they one the company. Don't fall for that trap, you could find yourself without a degree and money when your buiseness failed. Sure you can bring it back, but that means leaving school. On the other hand, don't be afraid to cut your buisness back a little to give school more time.

  • I'm currently working on my MBA. I have a full-time job, though I try to keep it at a straight 40 hours a week; I'm sure that running a 3 year old business probably requires more than that, though.

    On the other hand, I have a wife and two small children. Any time outside of work that I'm spending on school I'm spending away from the kids, which is very hard.

    I'm in an evening degree program, and I take two classes a semester (sometimes one, depending on the difficulty level). There are a lot of evening programs out there, even for the undergrad level. Some universities also offer accelerated executive programs, where you go to all-day Saturday classes instead of evenings; I imagine that that's more popular at the graduate level, though, as most executives would have undergrad degrees.

    I'll be wrapping up in another couple of semesters. How is the business degree going to merge with my tech background? That's a question left to be answered (I aspire to be a tech entrepreneur). However, the experience of the program has been tremendous, and it's been worth the effort and expense for the knowledge I've gleaned. Has it been tough? Very. Has it been long? Yes. But, you just have to make yourself into the kind of person who sets long-term goals and keeps focused on those. Running your own business, it's very easy to start thinking only short-term. But if you can't answer the question of who that degree is going to help you become, and in a way that's meaningful to you, then you have no motivating factor to focus on.

    What is your motivation for doing this? Make more money? Glean more knowledge? Keeping up with the former high school chums? Feeling a sense of inadequacy when you hire somebody who has more degrees than a protractor? Expanding your business? Changing careers? I'm not saying that I know what your motivation is, but if it's something shallow and reactionary, then yeah, there's no way that that will carry you through. You need to look at how this is going to mold you into the person you want to become and how it will benefit you long term.

    And you need to make it clear to everyone who places demands on your time that you are committed to this, so if you can't go grab a brew or stay an extra hour at work, that's why.
  • But you have to get it done. Believe me, Even if you've run your own business or are a consultant. If you interview (as an employee not a contractor) gets to the point where they ask about your education and they found you havent completed 'any' higher education it will make all you experience appear less signifigant (they'll think you're lying and exaggerating). I'm finishing a BS in computer engineering, taking 3 classes during the day and working 20-25 hours a week as a programmer (pays well and low stress). There are no night schools for this curriculum in this part of the state so I'm stuck going to school with kiddies 6 years younger than me (annoying!).

    First and foremost you must be disciplined. No fucking off and playing quake for an hour when you come home from work or even watching your favorite TV shows (tape em). School 'is' work, treat it as such and consider your HW and studying as an investment that will make you $$$. If you're running your own business then you should be bright enough to learn on your own. Take a few hours on the weekend to get ahead in the textbooks. If you can learn the books way of doing things and figure out what the author implies you may not even need to go to class. I did Calc 3 and Diff Eq this way. I was cool with the professors so he let me sign up for the courses, take the tests, and I got an A :-). I never attended class but the professors where available to answer questions.

    #2) You shouldn't be working more than 20 hours in a during a school week. If you can't make enough money to support yourself and go to school, move back home to your parents (if possible) or move into the dorms. If you're worried aboutr having to roomate with someone jsut tell em (if you're over 21) that you plan to have beer in your room and because of that, no minors can live with you :-). Sure it's a comprimise but the consequences of not getting a degree while you're still young (and still have the motivation to learn) are worse.

    #3) Get some SLEEP, Atleast 7 hours. Also learn to eat well and if you lack the time to prepare food that has proper nutrition then use a supplement (like ensure).

    #4) Know your professors. They respect working students, especially working adults. The better they know you the more willing they may be to make a comprimise for you or even a favor.

    #5) free time and women (or signfigant other). Both are comprimised and secondary to everything mentioned above. Don't have time for a GF?, then learn how to "hook up". College is a meat market for casual sex, It's the only plus I have being an older man but not too old :-). Friends, We'll they probably work too though try and get out of the house atleast once or twice a month.

    Finally, I've seen some posts pointing out that you mentioned a "lack of interest" and went on to say because of that you you dont need a degree etc etc. Let me tell you something. I nor any manager who knows what he's doing will not hire someone "who doesnt finish what he started". You can always find people to start a project. Finding someone that can stick with it and finish is a whole lot more valuable. That's what it means to have a 4 year degree.

    Peter
  • There isn't much advice I can give you other then budget your time, make time for school, make sure your employeer knows and is willing to give you that extra time. And just work your butt off, there is no "easy" way to juggle school and work. You are either going to be workng late, or working early (going to school before or after work) or working or going to school all weekend. Depending on how many courses your are taking and your work scheduale you probably won't have any free time. Just work/school/work/school. I doubt this helps, but it is what got me through.
  • I got my degree this way. I started in day school (like you) but after two years I decided to work during the day and get my degree at night (Drexel U).

    For the next five years I went to night school all year round before I ended up with two BS degrees. It can be done but it's a lot of work. Now I'm working on a comp sci master's degree at NC State and holding down a full time job. Sometimes the courses are interesting and occasionaly even fun. However, most of the time it's just a test of your discipline.

    I don't regret it for one minute. You'll be busy all the time. You'll spend years knowing that you have assignments due soon. It's a drag. However, getting your degree is critical in this profession. In a decade, it will be odd to find somebody without a degree. Also, with in influx of H1B employees who started with a student visa, you'll find more and more people with advanced degrees.

    I was talking to a guy who's father is an Electrical Engineer. When he got into the profession decades ago when a degree was optional. As times passed he knew that he did not qualify for his current job. He knew that if he was laid off he'd be out of luck. Also, his co-workers looked at him a little differently because he didn't have a formal education.

    Comp Sci is in the same position now. You can get by without a degree. However, it won't stay that way.

    Do it, you need to.

    Vanguard
  • That's what I'm doing right now... Talk about balancing work and school!

  • I'm in an online degree program, and that may fit the bill. The hardest problem with juggling college & a career maybe isn't so the the amount of time as the lack of schedule flexibility traditional college requires. A traditional college education expects that you are able to take M-W-F classes in the middle of the afternoon, and are just hanging around campus all the time so you can meet professors and TAs at their convenience.

    If you go for an on-line program, make sure it is from a bona-fide accredited university - no degree mills. Also keep in mind that your instructors are used to teaching "regular" courses and dealing with full time students much younger (and more naive than you). They will make unreasonable demands of your time, and many will treat you in the condescending fashion notorious at universities (and distasteful to anyone with actual professional accomplishments)

    Real world experience makes understanding the concepts much easier - you may be given some abstract topic and think, "oh yeah, I worked on something like that on project XYZ" while the topic will be entirely unfamiliar to your typical 19 year old with no real work experience.

    Last point - if you are running your own company, you will have some time flexibility. If you are an employee, make sure your company buys off on the time commitment. There's nothing like having to drop a class because you employer sends you to Timbuktu a week before final exams.

  • I have started and stopped going to school many times now. When I started, I dropped out because I was lazy. I lost a bunch of scholarships because I basically hadn't grown up yet. Since I've started working full time (Network Engineer), I've gone back and found that it's easier to get through the classes (even the stupid ones) and I'm more focused when I do my homework (meaning I actually do it now). The problem now becomes time. Trying to take 17-19 hours (majoring in Physics) while working 25-30 (to make house payments, etc.) and spending time with the wife, is really hard for me. It takes A LOT of will power to be able to sit down and do homework after spending 5 hours at school and 5 hours at work--especially if you have a wife that likes to spend time together frequently.

    That said, I would recommend going back and getting a degree to anyone. Of course, I would be a professional student if I could afford it. If there is any way to horde your money so you don't have to work while going to school, do it. Live on ramen noodles for a year, go to the library and read for entertainment, find a good employee to run your business while you go to school (of course you'll have to watch that carefully), and then just move into a dorm, apply for financial aid/scholarships, and live a real college student life (my wife vetoed that for me... no dorm). Anyway, I wish you the best of luck.

  • Most Universities have no way to support someone who is a full-time employee and a full-time student. They will schedule all the classes during the day when you can't make it.

    My wife is currently getting her second BS in Computer and Information Science [umuc.edu] while she works full-time through the University of Maryland University College [umuc.edu]. They are a leader in online education, and you can take all your classes for this degree online.

    Next semester she's taking Unix Systems Administration, and after that I'm going to give her root and let her admin our servers ;)
  • Why would you want a degree if you already have a tech career? I went to college and got a degree in the hopes of getting a career, and that has not happened. It seems companies only want experience, which I cannot get. Additionally, if you look at Monster.com or any other job search engine, there are largely senior level jobs available. Why? Why don't people from within the company move up into those senior positions, and if they do, what happens to their entry level position? Is it eliminated, or do they recruit using other means?

    I suppose it depends on the area you study, but I would focus on certifications. I've done countless interviews lately and none of them are impressed with my Bachelors degree, but all ask what certifications I have (which is none, as I spent that last 4 years studying liberal arts and other worthless shit to get an MIS degree, and now I don't have any money to take the exams because no one will hire me).

    I would imagine a CS or Engineering degree might come in handy. Perhaps accounting, as there always seems to be jobs in accounting. I got a degree in MIS and couldn't get a job to save my soul. Sometimes I think it actually hurts me to have a degree (ie, I'm either underqualified or "overqualified", whatever that means, but never qualified.)

    Something to think about: Before I got my Bachelor's degree, I was NEVER turned down for a job. Since I have gotten my degree, I've been turned down for close to a hundred interviews and jobs.

    In summary, a Bachelors degree was a lot of work, costed a lot of money and has gotten me NOWHERE. If you must get a degree, don't waste your time on anything less than a CS degree.
  • what if you make enough money, don't care to make more, and are appalled at the thought of ever setting foot in another place where you pay people to take up your free time with useless shite?

    I've always thought of my tech career as just a day job anyway. It's a good-paying day job, and I have no interest in furthering my formal education. One of these days I'll be in business outside of the tech sector and much happier anyway, it's just a matter of straightening out my finances first.
  • Hire me and you can have one of my degrees:

    English
    History
    Music
    Communications

    And if you act now you can have one of my certifications:

    CNA
    CNE
    CLP
    SUN
  • by plcurechax (247883) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @12:47PM (#4245456) Homepage
    I am surprized that I haven't seen others mention this, but make sure you are getting the right education for you. People learn different, and you may of had a problem with the learning / study methods used at university.

    There is a difference between difference schools, state vs. private universities, two and four colleges, polytechs, and distance education vs. correspondence. Research the options, and pick the right one for you.

    In this day and age you do not need to attend classes in person to earn a meaniful degree, in UK, the Open University [open.ac.uk] leads the way, and in Canada there is Athabasca University [athabascau.ca], I am not as familiar with US schools, but there is the University of Phoenix [phoenix.edu] as well as many others.

    Define your goal(s) of attending a post-secondary school. Also an idea for your career goals might be useful, but you need specific education goals. Write them down. I said, write them down. This is how you will evaluate schools, programme and course choices.

    Is it just to have a degree? Do you want more a fundamential understanding (i.e. theoric) of computing? Do you want business skills? To become a better rounded software engineer? Understand business, so you can grow your own business? Get a MBA? Meet women? For technical training? To earn more money? Continue doing what you already do, or so you can do something new? Certification?

    An university degree is suppose to be based upon a theorical understanding, which while being less specific (i.e. more abstract), is more lasting and will not be outdated every 3 years. That is the #1 source of frustration and confusion I see from young computer science students. An university degree is not a career training programme. You get to do the career training in your own time.

    Make use of your electives, do not choose courses because you think they will be easy like "Rocks for Jocks" and "Clap for Credit", find introductary courses you will be interested in, and will benefit you either personally or professionally.

    Most schools have some means of providing tours of their facilities, especially in the summer. Since this is an investment that will cost approx. $40,000, you should research this investment as being right for you. If possible, arrange a talk with someone from the department that you are looking at majoring in.

    Bone up on time management and planning skills, and study skills if you find studying difficult. University is about learning, but unfortunately very little is taught about how best to learn (for you). Read Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People [franklincovey.com] it will help in setting your priorities, and planning. To help learn about learning, John L. Adams [stanford.edu] book Conceptual Blockbusting: Care and Feeding of Ideas, and George Polya's How to Solve It.

    Practice reading, seriously if you do not do a lot of non-fiction book reading, start doing some more. A list of books any /.er should enjoy is Steven C. McConnell's Top 10 Reading List [construx.com].
  • by JohnsonWax (195390) on Thursday September 12, 2002 @01:33PM (#4245807)

    Is anyone out there successfully juggling running a company and studying at the same time? How do you juggle the two without hampering either due to lack of the right amount of attention?

    Well, I've done it, and I work with a lot of engineering students that are doing it now. It's not easy. In my case, it nearly cost me my education, my company, and my state of mind. Now I help others avoid running into the same situation.

    The problem isn't the hours or the motivation - it's not really a problem of juggling. It's the fact that you've made a commitment to your business, and now you're making a new commitment to your education. When the day comes - and it will come - when you need to pick one or the other, figure out now how you'll choose. A day will come when the business needs you and an exam is coming up. Will you let your staff solve the crisis without your intervention, or will you blow off the exam. Regardless of what you choose, you need to be okay with your choice the next day. These are things to figure out now. If you do this, and stick to it, you'll probably be okay. Juggling implies that you can run and do one, then run and do the other. You *will* hit a day that you can only do one and not the other. Be ready for that day.

    If your business doesn't require you to have the degree (that is, you're getting the degree for you) then make the business your first priority. That'll mean that you fail an exam or a class here and there. Be prepared for that, and be okay with that. If you aren't, you'll find yourself overtaxing yourself and the result often is that you fail to meet any of your commitments.

    This advise is pretty flexible. Got a family? Care about them? That's your commitment. They win over school as well.

    It works in reverse. Got a commitment to Everquest? You have to choose between being a kick-ass Everquester or a person with a degree. At top universities about 15% of students stick to their gaming commitment and get kicked out. Trust me, I do it all the time. We work with students with jobs and families and medical conditions to help them through. The students that refuse to treat their addictions, we cut them loose. Sorry to say, but we don't want to be a $30k/yr gaming club.

    Last bit of advice. Don't focus on Princeton or Stanford or MIT. They're not geared towards flexibility. That't not to say it can't be done, but it's much harder. Look for a large, state university that's got a strong continuing education program. You won't get the top school cache (which really doesn't matter anyway) but you'll get a good solid education. They'll be more understanding of your competing commitments, they'll have better course schedules (evening classes, etc.) and they'll have more frequent offerings of courses so you can stay on track.

    Good luck.

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