The UnCollege Blog

How to Tell Your Parents You Are Dropping Out of College

There are so many reasons why our parents want us to go to college (or stay in college). When we decide to do something completely different, it can drive them crazy, Especially when they have spent the last 18 years saving up for your college experience.

What would YOUR parents think if you dropped out of college?

They probably wouldn’t be thrilled. I know mine weren’t, but there are ways to make them understand that college just isn’t the right decision for you. At the end of the day, if they can’t understand that, you may just have to move forward without their permission.

But hey, I’m not one to burn bridges, so let’s do everything we can to avoid that.

Here are some thoughts on how to tell your parents you are dropping out of college.

1) What worked for them won’t work for you.
When researching to write this post, I asked a fellow dropout, Zak Slayback, what advice he would offer to someone with parental troubles. Here’s what Zak had to say,

“I would emphasize that what works for one generation doesn't necessarily work for every other generation. Peter Thiel makes this point in Zero to One. Boomers think what worked for them will work for Gen Y and Gen Z. They're wrong.”

He makes a great point, and I completely agree.

My parents are in their late 50s. When they were my age, going to college was a much different decision. There were opportunities on college campuses that didn’t exist anywhere else. You could learn stuff you couldn’t learn anywhere else. You could meet people you couldn’t meet anywhere else. You had opportunities to travel. It was affordable.

None of that is true anymore.

Unfortunately, most parents don’t realize this.

It’s not their fault. They are doing the best they can with the information they have.

Give them new information.

Explain to them that we live in a different world now and that to truly succeed, we must adapt.


Apply to Gap Year!

2) Let them know you have a plan.
A plan will help your parents understand you are not lazy or unmotivated. It will help show them that you want to learn and succeed, but that you don’t think school is the best place for you to do so.

What’s that? You don’t have a plan?

Oh. Well then make one now! It doesn’t have to be a 4-year plan. It just has to keep you busy and learning for the next six months or so. For example, my current plan is to work part time, teach myself copywriting and content marketing, and take a night class at General Assembly. And that is not what I started with, so it can totally evolve and change over time.

I’ve learned more in the last four months of following my own plan than I did in three years of college.

Your plan could include anything! Take a coding class or boot camp online, travel, start a business (even if it fails, you will learn a ton), volunteer, apply to Enstitute, Praxis, or Uncollege. If you need more ideas, email me at

3) Know that your happiness is more important to them than your success.
At the end of the day your parents want you to be happy more than anything else. Sure, they want you to have a great career and be safe and financially secure, but at the root of it, they just want you to be happy.

When I talked to my parents about dropping out, nothing “hit home” more than the fact that I was just depressed at college. It was not the right environment for me to learn or work. I needed to be in the real world. They could see that.

Personally, this was key.

4) Be prepared to make a decision regardless of what they say.

You can’t outsource your life decisions to your parents.

Believe me, I know it can be difficult to make such a big decision without their “blessing”. If you aren’t willing to go against your parents on this one, you might want to reconsider dropping out altogether.

Personally, dropping out of college was the first truly independent decision I ever made.

I haven’t looked back once, even though my parents still want me to go back for the degree.

You won’t either, trust me.

If you have any questions about dropping out or getting a job without a college degree, feel free to sign up for my mailing list. I respond to all emails personally. 

For more tips on how to communicate effectively with your parents regarding big decisions, check out this post.

Free Dropping Out of College Guide



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