Have I wasted my time?

I feel like I have wasted the last three years studying a degree that I didn’t enjoy. At the same time, I have no idea what I would want to do instead, and find myself confused and anxious about my whole life. I have been accepted into a Masters program so I’m obviously competent, but the thought of continuing study in the same field depresses me. What’s your advice?

Good question! It’s great that you’re taking some time to ask for help, as it sounds like you’re experiencing doubts about your course and where your life is going. This can be a very common worry for students. What to do depends in part on why you didn’t enjoy the degree. Is it because you are not interested in the topic or have realised you don’t want to work in that field? Or is it due to the way the course was run? No matter how interesting the area, sometimes study can be onerous. Finding out a bit more about what a typical job in your field would actually be like can be helpful, as it may be a lot more enjoyable than the experience of studying it.

If it’s because you don’t want to continue in this area at all, don’t panic. People often feel pressure to know exactly what they want to do with their career, or that they must find their ‘calling’ early on. It often takes a period of trial and error to find the area or role that suits you best, and even then it may not be perfect. It’s worthwhile taking some time to figure out what your values are, what is meaningful for you in general, and what makes you happy.

I imagine you’ve gained a lot of useful experience and knowledge in the past three years, so try not to discount it all as wasted time. If you do want to continue with your degree, it’s important to find ways to manage the effect study can have on your mood. It’s easy to forget that study and work is not your whole life, so if you’re feeling this way, try to focus more on other areas that bring you joy. When you have free time, doing something new and fun, and spending time with people you love will remind you that your life is about much more than a degree!

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