|As a reader and lurker of HN, I've come to respect this community as a group of intelligent, high-achieving, commonsensical people|
I decided to post this today as a last-ditch effort to receive some kind of useful counsel, fully realising that this is a highly impersonal, ridiculous, and most likely ineffective way to ask for advice. But what the heck.
My first experience with computing and programming came at a fairly young age, messing around with Q BASIC and GW-BASIC on my mother's 386 computer. I would devour library books on BASIC programming, and I would spend hours tinkering around writing little text-based adventure games, and drawing circles and squares on the screen.
My interest in computing continued into my early teenage years. I developed the habit of taking apart whatever our family computer happened to be at the time and figuring out how everything fit together. I learned some assembly language, some simple C programming, and wrote a few little games using whatever technologies I could get my hands on. I had dreams of growing up and writing software that everyone would use one day.
My dreams were never really reality-based, however, and I didn't ever do the hard work it takes to translate them into actuality. I just assumed that I would be brilliant and rich one day, and everything would be fine. I grew up in small towns where people didn't talk about college very much. I always felt pretty smart compared to my peers. I guess I wasn't as smart as I thought I was though, as I had no presumption that I should try hard in school, try to get into a good college, and surround myself with intelligent people.
So, I ended up goofing off in high school. I got caught up in the social drama, partied, and I don't recall cracking a book outside of class. I graduated with a 3.2 GPA and a 1500/1600 SAT. Until my senior year, I didn't sweat my GPA too much, I wasn't even sure I wanted to go to college. When I did realise I wanted to go, I didn't see any utility in applying to anywhere out of state since I didn't think I could afford it. I could only get into mediocre schools anyway with my miserable GPA, no AP courses, and no soft factors.
I ended up spending my first two years at Podunk Community College, surrounded by the same friends I'd had since elementary school. I was miserable. I finished my liberal arts requirements, with a reasonable gpa, but no desire to finish my bachelors. I started my spring semester, got depressed with my prospects, withdrew from all of my classes, and moved away to the mountains. I now work at a grocery store making $8/hour. The good news is, I'm only 20, and hopefully still have time to turn it all around.
I've recently rediscovered my love for computers and programming, and decided that if I ended up going back to school, I want to major in Mathematics, Electrical Engineering, or Computer Science. My only problem is that I don't even have the prerequisites done to start Calc 1 which is a prerequisite for just about everything else in those majors. I sort of want to go back to school, but at the same time, I think it will take a while to graduate when I'll have to fill up an entire semester with just a Trig class, so I can fill up another semester with just Calc 1 so I can get to Calc 2, just so I can get to the basic engineering/mathematics curriculum! I would be glad to take 20+ credit hours a semester to get myself back on track, but 20 credit hours of what? Besides that, will it even do me that much good to have a degree from an unknown state university? Is that really the best use of the next 2+ years of my life?
I have high aspirations. I want to found a start up. I'm sick of suburbia. I want to move to a city full of intelligence and ambition. I'm still young and idealistic - I want to change the world. I'm willing to work as hard as it takes, but as of right now I seem to be at a stand-still with my education. I've been working my way through SICP and I've recently learned the basics of Python, but I don't know if I can learn everything I need to know through self-study. Credentialism, like it or not, is still a huge factor when you have no work experience.
I wish I'd read Paul Graham's essay "What You'll Wish You'd Known" back in high school. I'm lacking sources of good advice here in Cherokee County, Georgia, so, as stupid as it sounds, I find my self asking, "What would PG[insert name of any other intelligent person] do in my situation?" On a whim, I decided to ask HN -- seems like the closest thing I'll ever get to an answer.