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Does Society Look Down on College Dropouts?

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The following post is written by Amber Grubenmann, a former dropout turned success story, and contributor to UnCollege's Ask A Dropout Series. Ask your questions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #DropoutQs.

Most of society doesn’t look down on being a dropout per se, but instead what they believe being a dropout implies.

These people look down on others who aren’t very skilled, who don’t provide value to the marketplace, and who never commit to one path for more than a couple months (dabblers).

For these people, college is a signal that you have taken the time necessary to develop a certain set of skills, are mature enough to commit to something even when times get tough, and are thus able to add more value to the marketplace.

However, since dropping out, I have met many people who look down on those who do go to college, because of what they think it implies.

They think going to college means you would rather avoid the real world for four more years than create value for others right now, you’re unable to think independently and need authority figures to tell you how to spend your time productively, and you live your life as a sheep always following the crowd.

It’s honestly impossible to please everyone so I would recommend not making such a huge decision, based on the opinions of others.

When people ask me “should I drop out?” My answer is always “Maybe, but you need your own reasons for doing so.”

If you do decide to drop out, identify your top three reasons for doing so, and refer back to them when you doubt your decision, get scared, or feel insecure.

My personal reasons are:


  1. I dropped out of school after 12 years with hardly any skills or confidence in myself. I don’t believe four years of extra school is going to solve that issue.
  2. My parents played by society’s rules and it still didn’t bring them the security they worked so hard for.
  3. Dropping out of high school was a really tough experience for me and I want to make sure other dropouts don’t sell themselves short just because they didn’t thrive in school.

College is just one way to create a strong signal. It’s one way to show you are committed. It’s one way of developing skills. It’s one way of becoming more valuable to the marketplace. But only about 40% of students graduate in four years, while about 60% graduate in six years. In other words, it’s not right for everyone for many reasons.

If you dropout you will still have to do develop in-demand skills. You’ll just do them in less common ways. I personally see dropping out as a creative opportunity for me to differentiate myself from other people my age. I also avoid a lot of debt by following this path.

Trying to get all of society to approve of your decisions is an impossible task.

Write down your top five goals in life, and ask yourself  “will college help me achieve this?” And don’t worry about what others think, because whatever path you follow, no matter how absurd or unorthodox, you’ll find there are others by your side.

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