I switched to liberal arts to help find a girl; should I go back to engineering for my career?

Hi Mr. Harvard MBA, love your blog.  Sorry for a slightly longer question, but this is about my college/life and is both important to me and also utterly confused me as to what to do.  Basically, I go to a pretty good University.  Actually, one of the best in my country.  I’m doing Computer Science because I’ve been programming since I was in grade 8, and always thought I had a natural affinity for it.  However, about a year and a half into the program, I realized I just couldn’t focus enough to accomplish the grade requirements needed for the math and logic courses.

It wasn’t because it was too hard.  Rather, it was just because I found my attention straying to other things.  You see, I’ve been single for about 4 years now, and while that can be attributed to various factors in my life, a huge portion of my passion and interest lies in being more social, going out, working out, making friends etc…in general, helping my case in finding a girl.

I thought I’d accommodate this quest temporarily and enrolled into a joint English/Philosophy/History major for a year.  As it turned out, it was a lot more interesting then I imagined, and I’m achieving constant B’s and A’s (as oppose to my C- in Com Sci).  Secondly, it gives me loads more time to do the things I never did in high school, such as joining sports teams and traveling.  I guess to sum up, I’m faced with the dilemma of career vs. relationship.  I don’t think I want to sacrifice either, and I honestly don’t know which is more important or how things will even pan out in the long run.  So what’s your take on the situation, and should I go back to Com Sci for a better career, or stick with what I’m doing now and hope for the best after graduation?
–Mike

The Harvard MBA says:

Mike, your situation is not unique.  It is absolutely true that doing a challenging Science/Engineering degree at a top-flight school will dramatically improve your prospects of landing a high-paying job at a prestigious company when you graduate.

It is also absolutely true that doing a challenging Science/Engineering degree takes a lot more time than something in the Humanities, and leaves far less time for sports, travel, and getting girls.  No one ever says, “Damn, those CS students get all the girls.”

Unfortunately, there is no way to have your cake and eat it too.  If it were easy to get a Science/Engineering degree, it would no longer serve as an effective screening factor for high-paying jobs at prestigious companies.  However, there is one approach that may allow you to do both.

While prestigious companies care a lot about your degree, you don’t need a CS degree from a top school to succeed as an entrepreneur.  In fact, any degree from a top school will pretty much signal that you have the raw mental horsepower to succeed.  But if you want to use your programming skills to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to make sure that you hone those skills.  This honing can take place outside the classroom, and might take less time than doing a complete CS degree (which, by the way, doesn’t necessarily help you be a great programmer).

If I were you, I might try coding some interesting apps, if not starting a company.  (The problem with starting a company is that it will consume even more time than your CS classes!).  If it seems like you can build your programming muscles without the tedium of your CS classes, go ahead and complete your humanities degree, play your sports, see the world, and enjoy the company of the ladies.  When you graduate (and you are no longer surrounded by so many attractive and eligible women) you can turn your attention to entrepreneurship full-time, and your lack of an official degree will be less of a handicap.

3 Comments

  1. jOE
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Sound advice.

    “If I were you, I might try coding some interesting apps, if not starting a company. (The problem with starting a company is that it will consume even more time than your CS classes!).”

    Do what you love. Do what you want. Do it well. Have a good time in college. Never take a day for granted; never take a day off; never take a day to do something extraordinary. Everything else will fall in place. I was a CS major in college, dumped it because I decided I wanted more time to party/fraternity and play my sports; so I ended up majoring in a humanities. Dating exponentially more. Became supremely happy. Best decision ever. (Since I’d been programming since I was 12, the coding part always came easy…) I’ve never looked back — and it didn’t hurt me. I ended up being a Chief Information Officer anyway (and now doing corporate strategy stuff). Good luck.

  2. Jeremiah
    Posted May 29, 2010 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    As someone that has been in field for a few years, graduated in ’05 in Managment Information Systems. It seems that the Tech industry is more concerned with demostratable ability and certifications is more desired than various degrees – ESPECIALLY for that first job.

    Since programming comes naturally to you, it shouldn’t be hard to keep it up and develop on your own.

  3. Grant
    Posted August 11, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Mike and others,

    The best advice I received is to find what you love to do then find somebody to pay you to do it.

    I want to be very clear about the dating atmosphere once you leave college and start a job: it ain’t the same. The best time in your life to date is during college when the dating pool is large and your time is free. The moment you begin work you are constantly busy and tired at the end of the day. I find the only way to meet girls is through activities outside of work: basically joining sports clubs and getting involved in the community.

    On the topic of engineering. The ratio of girls to guys is pitiful. I can not stress enough how difficult it is to go two or three days in a row and not even see a girl. It took 2 full years to be put on a program with girls my age. If I could go back and tell my student self how awful the scene is at work, would I switch to humanities? Absolutely not. I am a firm believer of ‘work hard now, enjoy it later’. It is more important to fall into a career you desire than to skip it for a couple years of playing around with chicks on campus. Provided you get creative about being involved in the community through events, you should not have a problem meeting ladies.

    Good question. I hope you and others find my answer helpful.

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