I’m a College Student for all the Wrong Reasons

by JT McGee

It’s bowling test day.

I’ve to hit the 1 pin at least four times out of ten to secure an A. Should be a piece of cake, right?

Not so much. Three tosses later, I haven’t managed to do it once. I start to wonder how the hell I ever managed to bowl a score higher than 220 a few weeks ago.

“Hey, JT, can you press the reset button on the other side of the lane,” my bowling teacher asks.

“Sure. Glad it could wait until after I finish this test,” I think to myself.

Time passes. I managed to hit two out of ten. I walk back defeated, pissed off, and wondering why the hell I even bothered to show up today.

“Fifty-six,” my professor says to me as I walk by.

Random obscenities fly through my mind. It’s a good thing I left my ball on the ball return, otherwise I’m fairly sure it’d have magically flown through the decaying red brick walls and land peacefully in a cornfield three counties over.

I couldn’t be happier when the clock strikes five after and it’s time to go. I get in my car, and think to myself how my ability to bowl will marginally affect my potential employment opportunities. Someone’s going to think I can’t do finance because I couldn’t roll a ball in a straight line. Good Lord.

I get to my office in about 5 minutes, mostly because I’m driving about 100 miles per hour not giving a you know what about anything. “Beep!” The green light on the office door lights up—at least I can still manage to pay the bills.

An hour or two passes while I’m at work and I’m ready to go off to Calculus. I get there to have my professor hand Tuesday’s test back to me. Ouch—not pretty.

My professor goes through each question, giving the answers and providing some explanation for the nonsensical process necessary to complete each problem. He gets to number 18, a story problem with a financial context—one of the few questions to which I was 100% confident I actually had the correct answer to. I did.

“I just gave everyone full credit on this problem because we didn’t go over future value and present value.”

A collective “yes!” spreads through the room. Bowling induced anger flares up once more. Here I am, amongst future finance majors who can’t grasp the concept of FV and PV, but can fully understand how to take the LN of some made up alphabet soup equation thrown on a piece of paper as if it even mattered.

I begin to open my mouth before realizing that I probably shouldn’t. I’ll keep this one to myself—it probably is too much to ask that he consider it “bonus” if he’s just going to throw points around for free. Besides, I’ll say something I don’t mean—er, something I mean but shouldn’t say.

“Let it go, dude. You’ve a temper the world shouldn’t see,” I remind myself.

Good call, brain. You’re on-point today.

It’s a Thursday, so the week gets better from here. I don’t have classes on Friday, so it’s a three-day weekend three-day shortened workweek from Friday to Sunday.

For the rest of the day I begin to realize that I’m making probably one of the worst decisions of my life. I’m in school for all the wrong reasons, and it’s becoming apparent once more that this really is the truth of the matter. It pains me to go to class. I hate every bit of it, and I’m not entirely sure if the several thousands of dollars I’ve invested in it are even minutely productive.

I’ve rejected the notion that I’m going to school to learn, because I’m not. I’m going to school because I have to. My mom, who always excelled in school but never had the family support or “push” to go to college, never went to college. It’s one of those things she’s always regretted. She’d kill me if I dropped out.

And I don’t really want to drop out. I have to stay in for this: the glorious CFA. That three letter credential is to me what sex and money is to 50 Cent. It’s beautiful; the result of proving you understand EVERYTHING related to the financial markets in a series of three tests over three years.

Passing it will be far easier than getting through college.

So here I am, somewhere between point A and CFA. In between prerequisites and things I actually understand. In between graduating and getting a credential I’d be proud enough to put on the wall.

I can honestly say that I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever get through it. My degree is, by itself, nearly worthless–I’ll probably lose it like I did my high school diploma. I don’t even really want it. I just want the CFA credential. But can’t have one without the other. FML.

I’m having a hamster moment, wheeling around like a champ but still not really getting anywhere. Next semester I have more science, more rudimentary accounting, and more goofy looks from my advisor who just can’t seem to grasp the concept that, as a finance major, I understand things best when they’re in the context of finance.

Just 18 months. A year and a half to freedom.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

20's Finances November 7, 2011 at 06:47

I know the feeling… but yes, the college degree will do many things for you. That’s what I tell myself anyway. 18 months is nothing. Keep on pushing – you can do it.

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cashflowmantra November 7, 2011 at 07:48

Wow. Good luck getting through. It is just one day at a time. The bowling class brings back memories. We had to bowl over 200 average for the entire semester of class to secure an A.

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JT McGee November 9, 2011 at 00:12

Yeah, I’d fail that class like a champ.

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PKamp3 November 7, 2011 at 10:16

I vote stick with it, and network hard in school. Not sure where you attend, but the networking part is probably the most important aspect of college.

18 more months!

Also, that’s a load of junk on question #18. I remember my Numerical Mathematics class (dominated by Graduate Economics, Physics and Mathematics students) well: I was the only Computer Engineering student, and I was an undergrad. I remember feeling like I wouldn’t be able to hang with that crowd. In most of my high level math classes I would get low-Bs or Bs because the Math students would push the curve out of sight – but I destroyed this class because of the programming aspect. It’s nice to find a class in your wheelhouse – and I’m sure a few of the classes you still have to take will fit that description.

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JT McGee November 9, 2011 at 00:14

Question #18 can burn. I’m pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down, though. It’s just a source of frustration at this point to have my high points be on things that don’t matter. I’m the king of trivial pursuits…though not Trivial Pursuit.

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K November 7, 2011 at 13:35

Good luck with everything. And like everyone else said, 18 months is nothing. I can’t believe I’m almost at the end of my program.. 2 years went by way too fast and I wonder where it all went. So enjoy it while you can.

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JT McGee November 9, 2011 at 00:15

Only thing scarier than not graduating is graduating into this job market, am I right?

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Kellen @ Accountant by Day November 7, 2011 at 15:49

I always found that I just made myself MORE miserable if I decided a class was useless – I tried to think of a way every class was useful or interesting. Think of a class like Calculus as exercise for your brain – you know, when you run 5 miles a day, then a 2 mile jog seems so much easier by comparison. But if you jog 2 miles every day, the 2 miles only gets marginally easier, and eventually doesn’t seem to get easier at all.

If you push yourself to wrap your head around calculus concepts that are so theoretical and out of your natural plane of thinking, then when you encounter theoretical stuff in Finance later on, it’ll be so much easier to grasp, since it’s used on something you do understand well.

(Although a bowling test sounds weird – is it a P.E.? At my university, the P.E. grades were just based on attendance and effort.)

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krantcents November 7, 2011 at 20:39

Many degrees require classes that you feel have no value. It is the depth of training that adds value to your education. You may not see the value for many years, but there is value.

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LaTisha @YoungAdultFinances November 7, 2011 at 21:33

It’s not so far away! It will pass by before you know it. I was fortunate not to come to the realization that I didn’t care about school until my last semester! lol
But on another note, I’m taking level 1 in December. Wish me luck!

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JT McGee November 9, 2011 at 00:16

Best of luck! You won’t need it though, I’m sure you’ll whoop it!

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Evan November 8, 2011 at 00:25

The thought that your college degree is worthless is simply bullshit. I am not in hiring, but do you honestly think you’d even get past an HR director’s secretary without your BA/BS?

That is the reason you are there, so just finish it out.

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JT McGee November 9, 2011 at 00:16

No. But if my degree were a car, it’d be a Geo Metro.

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