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The UnCollege Blog

Should You Drop Out of College? A Dropout's Perspective

When I tell people I quit school, I get one of two reactions:

“That’s stupid, risky, and reckless. Go back or you’ll regret it.”

or

“That’s awesome! Hands-on experience is more valuable than a degree.”

Most reactions are positive here in Silicon Valley, but are not so in other parts of the world. For good reason — not all students should leave school.

You might want to stay in school if...

You’re happy there.
At school, you find yourself happy more often than not. Far from discontent with the system, you thrive in it. Lecture-based learning may not work for other students, but it works for you. You consistently feel inspired and excited to go to class.

You’re developing skills you’ll need for your future career.
If you’re a humanities student who finds yourself making leaps in terms of critical thinking, stay in school until you can replicate that progress outside of classroom. If you’re a student who needs access to specific resources (e.g. you’re a science major with lab work), stay in school until you can find other ways to get the materials that you need.

You’re learning a lot, and while a degree would be nice, it’s not why you’re there.
You see college not as a means to an end, but as a legitimate way to learn new things. If you feel intellectually stimulated (and wouldn’t if you were a self-directed student), don’t drop out. This path is working for you.

You got a good price for it.
It’s not unreasonable to stay if you’re attending a good school on a scholarship. Just make the most of your college experience — Scott Young wrote a great article about this here.

You like the structure that college provides.
Having a school environment can be powerful. It’s easy to stay on track, make friends, and understand what you have to do to achieve your goals.The prospect of being on your own is scary; the pressure of knowing that your education lies in your own hands makes opting out of the system even more difficult. Stay in school if freedom sounds to you more paralyzing than it does empowering.

You want to be a doctor or a dentist.
If you’re pursuing a career in a highly regulated field, dropping out is not for you. There’s no way around it — for the safety of the public, these professions simply require a degree. Fun fact though: if you want to become the next President of the United States, then yes, you can leave.

You should consider dropping out of school if...

You’re miserable.
You feel increasingly frustrated and disillusioned by the homogeneity of your peers. You’ve read and fervently agree with William Deresiewicz’s “The Disadvantages of An Elite Education.”

You can use other resources to develop the skills that you need for the future.
There are cheaper ways to get the education that you want — whether it’s through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), alternative school-like programs, or your own initiatives. In this case, college isn’t cost-effective, and you should really check out the UnCollege resource page.

You’re not really learning, and you’re only there to get a degree.
If your plan is skip class, get straight Cs, and do the least amount of work possible to get a degree, you need to seriously reconsider how you’re spending your time. There are more effective ways to get credentials (e.g. by building an online portfolio of practical experience). You might even learn something along the way — something more tangible than the ability to cram for finals exams.

You’re piling on student loans that will limit your career choices to investment banking (or something equally soul-sucking).
This one is self-explanatory.

You crave the freedom of designing your own path.
You know you can learn faster and more effectively outside of the classroom. You feel limited by college if anything; even actively participating in out-of-school activities isn’t cutting it for you.

You can hack your way into the field you want to work in.
In fields like entrepreneurship, computer science and art (of all kinds), your ability to execute your ideas is infinitely more important your ability to brag about where you graduated from. Whether you drop out of college or not, you should be getting as much practical experience as possible.


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