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The UnCollege Blog

What are the biggest challenges of dropping out?

 This post is a part of our ask a dropout series. Find more in our college resources section!

It’s important to remember that going to college can be difficult and strenuous, but so can dropping out. The difference is, however, that when things get tough in school people will encourage you to push through it. When things get tough as a dropout people will say: “see, you should have stayed in college!”

I can personally say that it gets easier with time. The more work experience you gain, the more time you spend developing your skills, the more projects you initiate and the more impressive work you add to your portfolio...the less you’ll have to deal with the below stated challenges of dropping out.


Somehow it’s okay to have negative money in your bank account and eat ramen noodles for 4-6 years while in college, but not if you drop out. 

People oddly think that if you dropout and it takes more than a couple months to get financially stable, that automatically means you should have stayed in school.

Working on your portfolio, learning new skills and creating a network are all things that are going to take some time.

Until you have collected enough experience and have some real results to prove that you are capable of delivering on your promises, you won’t be paid more than minimum wage.

The more valuable your expertise or skills are to the marketplace and the better you are able to market yourself to employers, the more you will be paid.

The good news is this is easier to do than it sounds, and can definitely take less than a year if you apply yourself. I know many people who taught themselves graphic design, SEO, marketing, or web design skills in a year and then landed awesome, well paying jobs.

Being an independent self starter

After years of being told what to do and when to do it in school, it can be quite an adjustment to suddenly initiate your own projects.

As a dropout you can’t afford the habit of procrastination and this usually comes in two forms: waiting until the last minute to get things done and researching endlessly instead of acting on your ideas.

Since you won’t be able to rely on the name of your college or major to represent yourself anymore, it is important to be dedicated and take action on all of your awesome ideas.

Dealing with uncertainty

When you are accepted to college, you have a pretty clear blueprint of the next 4 or 5 years ahead of you.

When you drop out of college, you are lucky to have the next 3-6 months planned out. At least in the beginning.

There is no curriculum or strict guide and the journey is completely yours to design as you go along.

It can be scary at times, not knowing exactly what you will be doing or where you will be even only a year from now. 

Tony Robbins says: “The quality of your life is directly proportionate to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably deal with.” 

You’ll have to learn to get comfortable with taking risks and not always knowing the outcome of all your decisions.

In school, you can make a sound prediction that if you study hard, you will get good grades.

Outside of school, you can’t predict the results of all your efforts. 

The judgment of others 

In a society where college seems to be the unquestioned next step after high school, you may deal with mixed reactions from friends and family who don’t understand your decision to drop out.

Dropping out is scary enough, without all of the doubt and worry coming from your peers.

In our recent article “Does Society Look Down on Dropouts?” We discussed how you shouldn’t make your decisions based on the opinions of others, since it’s impossible to please everyone.

If you know college isn’t the path for you just focus on finding what is right for you. People will catch on later.

Be stubborn in your pursuit to live a life true to your personal aspirations. 



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