Hi I'm Matteo from Italy, i'm in the second year of math college and doing well in it. I have great programming skills and I work in my free time ( few ) as a freelance fullstack web developer, but I know also many non-web programming languages. I'm passionate about technology and in particular artificial intelligence and machine learning. The problem right now is that I don't see the value of studying maths no more. I'm asking myself why I'm using the great part of my time and energies in college, while I see a great potential and a great amount of things I would like to learn and things I would like to try around me. And I simply doesn't have time for them. Websites like Udacity or Coursera are full of great courses also specific ones about AI. If I drop out I'll also be able to work both as a freelancer and on my ideas and get a lot more practical experience.

This is a really hard choice, I hope that some of you can help me decide, Thank You :)

  • 1
    I don't get how this is a freelancer problem... It seems like a life choice problem
    – Canadian Luke
    Oct 9, 2015 at 15:04
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is more about career choices than working as a freelancer.
    – Xavier J
    Oct 9, 2015 at 16:01
  • @Rosh, It depends... Where do you get your freelance work from and is it a "stable" choice?
    – Pacerier
    Oct 10, 2015 at 2:04
  • If you "lose" 2-3 next years learning colleague and earn a degree, nothing major will happen in the IT industry. And you will have your diploma just in case things don't go as smooth as you planned. Even thou, earning 20hrs a week aside of learning, you will still be able to earn a lot to finance colleague, living costs and live a good life. Many people (including me) had the same thoughts and I say it's smarter to finish colleague "just in case".
    – Peter MV
    Oct 10, 2015 at 13:13

3 Answers 3


Why don't you simply go from math to coding or engineering/robotic in school? Frankly, these domains are very related.

You learn very important things in school that you won't learn on your own: the most important one is methodology. There's a huge difference between the "self-made" freelancers and the ones who got some training.

You may be a quick learner but don't forget the benefit of learning from mentors, which will probably be your teachers first. Online courses don't offer this, you won't learn the little tricks colleagues or teachers can teach you. That's why it's not a bad idea to at least get some introduction course on the new domain you want to work in or try to get a job in that domain; then try freelance, read tutorials and keep learning! Maybe the job you have at the moment is already teaching great things and maybe you got some great mentoring there already.

I agree that you might not need to study a long time in your domain but it's not a bad idea to think for the future; in AI for example, you might need a laboratory, access to resources and test equipment that are expensive and that you won't be able to afford on your own. And you might realize that you need to work for a company or with a team. That company will probably compare you with other good candidates who completed their courses. By not having any diploma at all in your domain, you might lock yourself for a long time in the low end of freelancing; you will need money to experiment and develop your own ideas since you won't gain any during the time you work on these. I also think a lot of successful freelancers first worked for a company where they did their experimentation and learning, and then got into freelance. At least, I'm tempted to think it's way easier and that's also the road I took. One great thing about school is having access to equipment and technology, that has a huge value especially since you seem to be someone who wants to create.

I don't discourage you to not go into freelance, but I really suggest you to try to get some introduction course or good mentors. But quitting school to go straight into freelance is a bit risky and it's actually wise to have some hesitation about it. One thing for sure, freelance is awesome when you know what you're doing and when you'll be ready, go and enjoy that new life! If you don't enjoy the course you're studying in, change for one you like. It's totally normal to discover new passion after seeing the whole picture of what you're into right now, and if you love working on other stuff than pure mathematics, that's where you need to put your energy indeed. There's almost no chance of failure if you love what you're doing. What you've learn so far will be useful anyway for what you want to do.

  • @go-meek, Whaht do you mean when you say "training"? Which schools actually teach freelancing?
    – Pacerier
    Oct 10, 2015 at 2:05
  • @Pacerier Freelancing is just a cheap word for entrepreneurship. To become an entrepreneur you simply need to get some experience, mentoring, do some project managements, and learn a career in school and/or by working. Good training can come from the companies who hired the freelancer as an employee and sometimes by internship. There's also a lot of complementary courses that can be taken to learn some administrative skills.
    – go-junta
    Oct 10, 2015 at 4:18

One other point.

I've worked at a few very large companies, where a degree was essentially required for entry. That's not a reflection of your skill set and capabilities, only that its a big company, with a huge variety of talent and a Human Relations department who thinks every skill set is exactly alike (and requires a college degree...) Having a degree opens to front door to these places. And some of them pay quite well, etc...

  • Which country are you from?
    – Pacerier
    Oct 10, 2015 at 2:06
  • @Pacerier Lot of american and european countries are this way. And there are places where you cannot work if you're not part of a professional association that you can only join by having a degree; for example education, medical domain, engineering, accounting, building, law, etc. It's true what zipzit mentions, diploma doesn't always reflects the skill set but it's still required in some domains because companies have a lot of choice for candidates and also need to comply to insurance policies or other administrative factors. It's like a passport for work.
    – go-junta
    Oct 10, 2015 at 4:30

I was in the situation like you few years ago. I dropped out, chosen the work (interesting, practice, money) instead of studies (not so interesting, theory, debt?).

Some years have passed. Now I see I became interested in so many deeper things of IT that I have to remember the math from the university anyway... And physics too... And more... Because practical tasks started to caught theory in few years.

Few things to mention:

  • IEEE Standard 754 for Binary Floating-Point Arithmetic
  • Partial response maximum likelihood (PRML)
  • ...and much much more topics where you have to know the math to understand the whole working system.

...this would say you have to study.

However, most of IT certification programs available today (Microsoft, CompTia, others) will not issue the certificate for life time. The certificate you earned will be valid for about 2 years. There are many reasons for that... And some of certificates will not be issued for you if you do not have the required hands-on experience (for example, PMI). The hands-on requirement to entrance and expiration to quite ensures you are moving forward all the time.

University studies usually takes about 3-4 years to complete. Call me the way you like, but I would say that universities are sort of kingdoms nowadays. We have some countries with Kings and Queens living in, but does the system of that kingdom works the way it worked centuries ago? Not really. The first book was printed at about 400 years ago. The internet was invented at about 40 years ago. The smartphone was invented at about 20 years ago. Then the cloud connecting all...

Universities were established for the purpose of better education. So the strongest part of that were:

  • Better connections within circle of old/new smart people (hold that: google is invented at 1996, facebook - at 2003, github - at 2007, - does that changed the quality/speed of connecting?)
  • Better availability of materials as there was only few books to learn from (hold that: PDF, DOCX, XML, Khan Academy, Lynda, Coursera, notebooks, mobile phones and even decent printers printing 20 pages per minute, - does that changed the availability of materials?)
  • Sharing resources (hold that: cloud computing, crowd funding platforms like gofundme or kickstarter, the whole model of sharing/access economy, - does that change the situation?)
  • And much more good progress has been made.. I would even say that majority of universities teaching IT cannot adapt to that progress so fast as needed...

To conclude everything, I would say that there is balancing between theory and practice always. And do not mix practice with working to the company (as you can freelance, volunteer, do your own open projects or join already existing open projects). And do not mix theory with institution (as you can buy any book the student or even lecturer use in university, you can be at the class by browsing youtube or participating in webinars)...

And of course, the human thing (talking, meeting face to face, etc.) is always available as the ticket to and back does not cost millions... You could find tickets to cross the ocean and back for much less than you earn per month if you work for both continents.

But. If you would like to work in a kingdom (in a kingdom literally, or in a local government institution, or in a university) then you need to have that paper saying you are good (diploma), because kingdom do not understand you can learn from on-line societies (github, stackexchange, webinars, etc.), fly to there and there weekly and so on.

p.s. Sorry for my grammar.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.