Over the years, a college degree has become a symbol of success. The more commonplace college degrees became, the more dropping out became a mark of disgrace.
But, more and more people are catching on to a new idea.
They are beginning to look objectively at what universities provide their students. And the cost is creeping so much it’s way above the benefit it provides. Beyond that, college is competing with technologies that it doesn’t understand.
It used to be the place where experts and thinkers gathered to centralize knowledge and distribute it. Now, the internet does a better job, at a lower price.
You can make an argument, in fact, I am making the argument, that you can get the results that college promises outside of the classroom. While spending much less time and money to get there.
Ready to learn how to drop out of college and still be successful?
First, students drop out of college for several reasons. You may be struggling financially, you may have personal issues that you need to attend to, you may feel that college simply isn’t for you.
The reason doesn’t matter. What matters is the future.
Is It Bad to Drop Out of College?
Becoming a college dropout has a vague negative connotation around it. Until you make something of yourself, of course. Then you’re a genius. Who succeeded against all odds. Quickly, let’s dig into why it is you dropped out, or are thinking of dropping out.
I know I just said that doesn’t matter, only the future does. There’s a method to my disorganized madness.
There is a bigger broader issue. That college dropouts and college graduates alike suffer from.
Part of the glorious message of college is that it will help you discover yourself. An appealing pitch. Especially to someone young, trying to get their footing in the world. Yet, most people come out of college to find themselves in a career that is irrelevant to their majors and minors. Discovering yourself is not something you need to pay for. Not with money at least.
College then becomes a place where they can put off making the hard decisions and sacrifices while they are still advancing in their own eyes and the eyes of others.
This is bad. College is too expensive to be a place of encouraged aimlessness.
On the other hand. If you do know your aim. Your goals for your own life. Then you can objectively look at what college has to offer and decide for yourself how useful it will be.
The aim, the goal, the direction, the purpose, must come first. Otherwise, it’s impossible to gauge whether attending or dropping out was a wise decision.
Many dropouts still find success in their respective fields. A majority of small business owners in the US (56%) don’t have bachelor’s degrees. Filipino Boxing Champ Manny Pacquiao dropped out of high school and had his first professional boxing debut at the age of 16. He was focused. He knew what he wanted.
Then, after his success. He decided to revisit his education. So, he took and passed a high school equivalency exam in the Philippines and earned a degree in political science at the age of 40.
You might be dropping out of college for reasons out of your control. That doesn’t make dropping out of college bad. You can always go back.
For people contemplating dropping out of college, understand that you have to work hard to become successful in anything. Part of the myth around college is that once completed the rest becomes easier. Today’s college graduates don’t see it that way. Success does not come served on a golden spoon.
Going to college or not going is a decision that ultimately doesn’t matter if you don’t know your aim. Don’t listen to people who say, “you’ll never regret getting a degree” or “It will open more doors for you.”
It’s too simple and generic of a thing to say. And it’s false. Millions of people regret taking on student loans because they believed unsophisticated arguments like those above.
How to Drop Out of College Properly
Once you’ve aimed your sights, you can deal with the question of whether or not dropping out of college is the appropriate move for your strategy. Don’t worry about your aim being set in stone. It’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be loose at the beginning and tighten up as you start to move down the path you’re carving out for yourself.
Dropping out of college isn’t easy. You cannot just decide to drop out today and stop attending your classes tomorrow. Instead, there’s an approach you need to follow to keep your school records clean. It is also important to inform the people close to you of your decision to drop out of college. To drop out of college sensibly, follow these steps:
Think Deeply About Your Decision
Dropping out requires careful consideration. It won’t make or break your future. But it will determine what paths are ultimately available to you.
For this, there is no better tool than an empty page. Write your thoughts down. Map out the different scenarios this might create. The pros and cons. Become the leading expert in your unique situation. Nobody can answer this question for you. You’re alone in this tough decision.
Let Your Family and Support System Know
Dropping out of college not only affects you, but it also affects the people around you. Your family and support system needs to know what you have decided. That way, they can provide the support you need. Sometimes, people around you can give you sound advice about your decisions. But remember, they are not the experts of you. Take in their advice carefully. They will likely give you advice that aligns with their own vision and agenda and not yours.
Still, there is something valuable about hearing out the opinions of others. Getting their arguments in either direction will provide more useful information for you to base your decision on.
Inform Your School
Once you have decided to drop out, you need to formally inform the college and your professors. Each school has a system that a college student needs to follow when leaving. You need to know what your school’s process is. This way, you will comply with the requirements needed and will not get into any trouble or come across any obstacles later if you decide to go back to school again.
Finish Your Requirements
If you are planning to drop out of college in the middle of the semester, it is best not to. Dropping out of college the right way requires thorough planning. It’s a strategic advantage to finish out your semester. Unless you’re avoiding an F to take a W.
Moreover, you have already paid your tuition fee for the entire semester. So, it is to your advantage to finish it instead of dropping your subjects midway through. It will also help boost your transcript, considering that you will have final grades for the full semester instead of a dropout sign.
How to Drop Out of College and Still Be Successful
Can you be successful if you drop out of college? The short answer is yes. But I think the real question is, what’s harder? Not going to college or going to college? Don’t believe people who claim to know this answer with certainty. There are too many variables. Getting a degree is such a commonplace answer to young adults that’s it’s hard to see any other path. Certainly not a concrete one. For that reason, it’s not an easy decision.
A fellow college dropout, Ryan Holiday, dealt with his own confusion on the decision. Today he’s a best-selling author, business owner, business investor, real estate investor, and marketing consultant. Fortunately for us, he’s written about the confusion, or mystery, that comes with dropping out.
“But I have to tell people something—so I give them an answer. Dropping out of college was the same thing. It was something I’d been considering, sure. Then I got an offer. Then I decided not to take it. Then I decided it was worth the risk. Almost immediately after, I felt it had been a mistake. But by then, I’d got into a rhythm. But a year later, I seriously considered going back. Yet my bio—my narrative—makes it seems like I knew at 19. (In fact, I turned 20 during the months this all transpired.) It’s not true, but that doesn’t help some other 19-year-old struggling with whether to leave college.
So if you’re staring some life-changing decision in the face right now, you need to understand this. It is always going to be inscrutable. There will not be clarity. Not before, not during, not until well, well after.” – Full article
Ryan dropped out of college because the opportunity he wanted after college was already in front of him. The question then became, should he let this opportunity slip through his fingers so he could get the sacred degree? Hoping for a similar chance when it’s all done? Or should he take the opportunity, knowing that he could always go back to college if it didn’t work out?
Note that Ryan knew what he wanted to do. That helped make the options clearer for him. Because he knew where he was going, he was able to decide which choice brought him closer to his goal.
As long as you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve after dropping out (or getting a degree), you can make a strategic decision and not an emotional one. Here are some of the tips you can use to make the process more successful.
Before dropping out of college, you need to have a plan in place. You should also have backup plans. Don’t bank on a rare occurrence happening in your favor. For example, don’t assume that if you’re dropping out to start a business, that the business will be successful. Instead ask yourself, “if this idea fails, what will I try next?”
The odds of your original plan working are low. Instead of putting all your hopes in one basket, see it all as an experiment. You’re still learning what you like, what you’re good at, what pays well, etc. Figuring all that out takes time and experience.
You will never truly know how great an idea is if you haven’t tried it. Planning ahead and having different plans in place makes it easier for you to traverse an otherwise complicated path after dropping out of school.
Take Time Off
Some students drop out because they feel like college isn’t for them. I dropped out because I didn’t feel like the education I was getting was relevant to my life. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and a marketer. Although, I didn’t know what getting started looked like. If this is you, the best way to deal with this confusion is to take some time off.
Sounds lazy, I know. But until you know where you’re going, the path you take doesn’t matter. Giving yourself some time to think about your future and your next steps helps clear your mind and help you focus on what needs to be done.
A moment to yourself, in a different and new environment, helps you reflect on what you truly want to do. For most people, their life up until now has been structured by someone else. Your schedule has not been your own.
One thing that helps is to change the question from, “what do I want to do with my life?” to “what do I want to do with the next six months?” This way it is much more digestible, and an answer will come much easier.
4 Things a College Dropout Should Do to Prepare for Success
Now let’s take a look at four things you can do as a college dropout to help ensure success as you navigate the unbeaten path.
1. Get a Job
One of my dirty little secrets: On-the-job learning is the most effective education.
Think about that as a strategy for a second. Instead of paying thousands of dollars to learn in a classroom, why not get paid thousands of dollars to learn the things you want to learn? This way you learn on the field from an actual master.
My dropout friends and I all started working early. We went for the jobs we wanted when we were 19 or 20. Our labor was much cheaper than it would have cost to hire a college graduate. Although most people consider that a disadvantage, it was actually our best leverage. It made it way easier to get our foot in the door. Once we were given the chance, we made good use of it and moved up.
Then our collegiate peers graduated, and all of a sudden we were ahead of them. Most of them didn’t get a job out of college. Most of the time it was because they still weren’t sure what they wanted to do. So they take an extra year just to chill and do some self-discovery. Probably a good idea for them. But still, we continued to get ahead.
Put yourself through the school of experience, and make money while you’re doing it. It’s a better strategy.
2. Learn, Learn, Learn
Dropping out of college doesn’t mean you forego learning. In fact, when you drop out of college, you’re deciding you’re going to learn a different way. Education is power. You don’t need a classroom, but you still need to learn.
You can take up a new hobby or develop a new skill. As you upgrade your life skills and knowledge, more doors will open, bringing more opportunities.
You can also take advantage of the free online courses available online right now. Coursera, for example, offers courses produced by universities. And most of them are free if you don’t care about the accreditation.
Beyond that, become a reader. There is so much knowledge ready to be discovered in books. It sounds boring but it’s extremely useful.
3. Build a Great Network
Building a super network is not as hard as it sounds. With the social media platforms available today you can get in touch with pretty much anybody.
If it’s so easy, why doesn’t everybody have the network they need to succeed? Well they arguably do. The important part is taking advantage of the people available to you. Tim Ferris says, “A person’s success in life can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
From my limited experience, I would say that’s exactly right. If you want to be successful you’re going to have all kinds of uncomfortable conversations. You have to sell yourself to people who are judging you against your competition. You have to chase clients and customers down for money they owe you. You might even have to fire people. None of those are fun, but the more successful you are the more often you find yourself having those kinds of conversations.
Not to sound like a broken record, but building a great network again starts with a goal. When you know where you’re going, figuring out who to talk to is much easier.
4. Set Short-Term Goals
The common advice is to set long-term goals for yourself. A five to ten-year plan. A little hack I’ve discovered (by reading from people who had already discovered it) is to do the exact opposite.
A better way to improve your life is to set short-term goals. Long-term goals are hard to accomplish because the end to so far out. Ten years gives you a lot of time to make mistakes, get distracted, and abandon your goals completely. Which is what probably happens for most people.
But what if you’re goals were achievable in a month? It becomes achievable, and well… easier. And even though we’ve convinced ourselves that doing the hard things are what matters, making the hard things easy is a better approach.
The best thing to do might just be to set a goal for today. Something super achievable that will make you go to sleep accomplished and happy. Of course, if you set a goal for each day that you can achieve you climb a mountain by the end of a year.
Many people condemn students who drop out of college. However, you should not let their negative judgment cloud your decision. You can drop out of college and still achieve success in life. Remember, success isn’t limited to a printed piece of paper stating your college degree. So, plan your life carefully and choose the path you want to follow.
If that path does not lead to higher education, so be it. You can still become a successful entrepreneur and successful college dropout regardless of the status of your formal education.