I Chose my Degree Because I got a 99 ATAR and Wanted to Feed my Ego

Law and Advanced Neuroscience. Those were the two degrees I decided to commit 5-6 years of my life to at the age of 17.

It’s funny to look back and genuinely consider my reasoning, or should I say, lackthereof.

Law, because people said I had a knack for writing and public speaking.

Science, because my brother hated commerce and it seemed like a natural choice since I went well in Physics and Chem in High School. I was into Science … I think?

They’re not really the substantive reasons. If I’m completely honest with you guys about why I picked the two, the reasons are real shitty.

The funny thing is, so many people I’ve talked to fell into the same trap as me. I got the ATAR to do it. So I did it.

And when I was offered a scholarship to go to UNSW, it was set in stone. At the end of the day, I was going to pick the most impressive and the most ambitious degree combination I could imagine myself doing, at the best Uni I could get into.

And if I’m real talking here, about 75% of that decision was an ego filler; partly to be able to boast about my degree but more importantly, because I had grinded year 12 for a reason. I was destined for this prestigious path. I was the best.

I was the worst – I was an idiot.

If current me, with his thought processes, life experience and outlook was the same as 17-year-old me, I don’t know if I’d have picked the same degree. At the very least, I would have taken the time to genuinely scope out what I thought I liked and what my options really were.

You know, instead of instantly locking into a Uni path (and what I thought would be my career path too).  A path that my teachers, family and above all, the guy in the mirror, had conditioned in me as my true calling (albeit, mostly unintentionally).

Four years on, believe it or not, I don’t regret my choice. 17 year-old me didn’t know a thing – he didn’t know what he liked or what he could really picture himself doing after graduating.

And even though he was trigger-happy with his UAC applications, he did set me up with arguably one of the most rewarding (and fucking stupidly hard) combinations.

No doubt I’ve absolutely hated my degrees at times. Unlike my High School experience, my laziness and tendency to lose all motivation in things I don’t understand or enjoy was not counteracted effectively by last minute memorisation.

I struggled in some subjects, and sometimes struggled to balance the intense work load of the courses with my new found love for going out, working and travelling – aspects of my life that quickly climbed my priority list as a millennial.

And on the other end, I absolutely flourished in some courses and activities. Some things I could never have imagined. In negotiating competitions at uni (apparently being an annoying, argumentative son has paid off). In scientific posters and seminar presentations. Hell, even in some essays.

It took until the cusp of third and fourth year for me to realise that my path wasn’t necessarily set towards being either a ‘lawyer’ or ‘scientist.’

Actually, that’s a lie. I knew it a lot earlier, but it took me to this point to accept it. And my life has taken a complete 180 since that liberating point.

I hit breaking point in third year.

For my open book law exams, my only study was printing off a friend’s set of notes and learning the contents page so I could find the relevant topics and learn them in the exam.

Study for neuroscience saw tears pouring down my face, drenching the pile of printed off lecture notes.

Lectures I had a 0% attendance record for.

Lectures I had 14 hours to memorise before the exam. That is, if I didn’t sleep.

I scraped a pass in those courses, by the grace of the multiple choice gods.

And that was when it dawned on me – I don’t have to do this. This isn’t my set path or my set career. This isn’t my future at all.

I started talking to more people, making new friends, reading more – expanding my horizons to new interests. Expanding my ideas beyond what was, to be honest, my pretty sheltered and structured mentality.

Soon enough, I found two things I loved, and better yet, was actually pretty good at.

Entrepreneurship, especially management and conceptualising ideas.

And writing.

So I did something about it. Over 6 months, I co-founded and created an app and currently run it as CEO.

I also made my blog, and wrote a tonne.

I loved it. I felt rewarded. I felt good – I liked sitting at my desk, grinding to the early hours of the morning working on these things. I had always been envious of the people that felt this way towards their uni studies.

I genuinely considered dropping out. Giving this other stuff a crack 24/7. To go full steam ahead towards, what I truly felt, was my vocation.

I didn’t drop out.

Because I realised just how much my degrees had helped me up to this point. My skills, way of thinking and problem-solving ability can be heavily attributed to them, even if I wasn’t always really engaged in the topics.

And now, long after my third year breakdown, I think I’m going to finish both degrees.

Not because I need the piece of paper for a job, not because I’m passionate about it, but because, for me personally – I truly see the last two years of my degree as holding huge skill and character building potential.

To summarise:

A lot of us pick our degree on a whim or with our ego. And that’s fine, because your degree has not imprinted you with a set path or set career.

More importantly, remember that your degree is only as good as the value you draw from it.

If you’re passionate about what you study, embrace it – because it truly isn’t that common.

If you’re not sure, or you don’t like what you study – are you gaining something from it? Are you growing personally and analytically?

As my friend Chris puts it – ‘It’s not about what you study, it’s about why you study.’

Truly consider if you’re helping yourself achieve your true vocation.

Because the last thing you want is regret and an expensive bit of paper.

Love,

Dan

The app I co-founded is Hangs – The Social App for Uni Students. It’s a platform for students to meet up, see the best nightlife events and score great campus deals. It’s available for iOS here (Android coming soon):

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/hangs-the-social-app-for-uni-students/id1202746197?mt=8

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