For more and more young people, college is being thought of as more of an option, rather than a necessity, and for good reason. The university system looks more like a shell game than a place to be educated. Hell, the symbol for America’s university system, Harvard, is a hedge fund with a university tacked on as a side business. Fifty three percent of recent college grads are jobless or underemployed and forty five percent are still living with their parents. There are 115,000 graduates who are janitors. Student debt is at $1.1 trillion (more than credit card debt) and 10% of all borrowers are defaulting on their loans. Young entrepreneurs with the skills and hustle now have the ability to explore other paths, like starting a business or joining a startup.
My degrees have nothing to do with my current job as a marketer and most of the people I work with are drop outs.
So if you’re thinking about dropping out, you’re definitely not alone and you probably have a good reason. And feeling lost and confused is normal. Here are some reasons why you should (or shouldn’t) drop out:
A better alternative to blindly following everyone else through college is the apprenticeship model Robert Greene writes about his latest book, Mastery. The apprenticeship has been around since at least the Middle Ages and Enstitute has recognized this, offering two-year apprenticeships with entrepreneurs in lieu of college. Find someone who works in the industry you want to work in and develop an apprenticeship relationship with them.
Or even better, do free work. Read Charlie Hoehn’s Recession Proof Graduate. I fully endorse Charlie’s model of doing free work to get a job you love. I used it to help me leave a job I hated and find a job I love. Remember, even if you graduated with a degree, you’re basically unemployable in this economy. Do free work while you’re in school, so you develop real world skills and have a portfolio of work to show future employers.
A lot of people think college is hard and then think about quitting and doing something else because they don’t think they can cut it. This is NOT a good reason to drop out. In many ways college life is representative of reality and all you’ll learn from leaving is that you quit when things got tough. At some point in your life you’ll have to learn to become self-reliant and survive in an environment like that.
If you are struggling through college and it’s making you a stressful mess, you’re doing something wrong. Think of it as a challenge, a system to break down, figure out, and master. There are millions that came before you and were able to get that piece of paper, relax and understand how doable this is. Then when you get bored of it—or have a better opportunity—leave the first chance you get.
But, don’t jump off a cliff and into the abyss. Have a tangible thing to do instead of college. Is that internship you started turning into a real gig? Are you already making some side income doing what you really want to do? Lets be clear, wanting to travel or become a social media expert are not real things. They are fantasies.
Check out the free resources at Uncollege.org and their Gap Year program. They have lists of resources for coding schools, good books, and places to learn for free. And read Hacking Your Education by the founder of Uncollege, Dale Stephens.
Many of the jobs lost as a result of the Great Recession was removing wasteful middle management jobs from the system. According to Michael Ellsberg, the problem with that is, “College is training for managerial work, and the economy doesn’t need that many managers.” In this economy, businesses don’t have the time or capital to train you to become employable. To differentiate yourself you have to learn in demand skills–a credential isn’t going to get you very far anymore.
This article was typed on a computer designed by Apple, which was co-founded by college dropout Steve Jobs. I’ll save it in the cloud with Dropbox, which was co-founded by dropout Arash Ferdowsi. As soon as I publish it, I’ll share it with my friends via Twitter, which was co-founded by college dropouts Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams and Biz Stone, and Facebook, which was invented by college dropout Mark Zuckerberg. Basically, this article wouldn’t have been possible without dropouts.
And here a (very) short list of other college dropouts you may have heard of: Matt Mullenweg, John Mackey, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Ted Turner, David Geffen, and Ralph Lauren. Some of the greatest companies of this era were founded by dropouts, which isn’t bad company to be in.
So clearly, dropping out doesn’t have to be so scary and stressful. The founder of Brass Check and director of marketing for American Apparel, Ryan Holiday, is a perpetual dropout. There’s is a stigma attached to dropping out that can make you feel like you are a quitter or a failure. If you know you have a better alternative than sitting in a dorm room, trust yourself. And use the doubters as fuel to leave them in the dust.
If you’re in college and feel like you’re stuck and can’t find a way out, start looking for cool experiences to participate in, and I don’t mean studying abroad. These experiences will shape you into an interesting person and you’ll meet people that can give you an outlet for what you want to do.
Your parents want what’s good for you, not what’s best. Your parents want you to be safe. And the safest way to have a decent career is to go to college and get a job at a big company. The problem with this narrative is its not true anymore. You’re going to have multiple jobs working for many different people on hundreds of projects. This is why its important to have an escape route. If you can show you have an opportunity to do something better with your time than sitting in a lecture hall, they’ll be much more receptive to you dropping out.
For creative types or those looking to pick up skills that have real, tangible value in the marketplace, look to CreativeLive, which offers free live courses on everything from design to photography. They attract world renowned instructors like Tim Ferriss, Noah Kagan, and Ramit Sethi, and is a much better alternative to that expensive art school you were thinking about.
Or for those looking for the fastest route to a well paying job that doesn’t require a degree, learn to program. You can do it in three months or teach yourself for free.
If you are afraid of missing out on the great social aspects of college, you know you’re allowed to drink and party even if you’re not in school, right? And it’s actually even more fun when you’re paying for it yourself, in your own nice apartment with adult friends who are all doing cool stuff too.
Getting a degree is no longer a ticket to a job with a salary+benefits. You don’t have to drown yourself in debt for a failinginstitution if you don’t want to. Deciding to drop out is not life or death. If the time you’re spending in lecture halls is better spent working on your startup idea or apprenticing with a pro, its time to drop out. Remember, you can’t get the time back you spend doing something that’s not worth it. Taking smart risks is exactly you should be doing when you’re young. So if you’re not happy in school, find an escape route and take it–you won’t regret it.
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