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The UnCollege Blog

Things to Do Before You Drop Out of College


You know you want to leave school. But you can’t do it yet. There are things you need to do first. But what are they? What exactly do you need to do before you leave university? Here’s a checklist of things to do before you make the move.Make sure this is the actually right move.

Aspects of college can be really frustrating, but your frustration alone isn’t a good enough reason to leave school. After all, life outside of school can be frustrating, too. Strategic hackademics leave school because in the long run, they will benefit from it -- not because in the short run they want to escape from it. So, should you drop out of college? No one knows but you. You need to weigh the pros and cons of your unique situation.

Be able to articulate why this is a good option for you.

In choosing to leave school, you are choosing an unconventional path. Your new situation will require you to be able to explain yourself -- to your parents, to your friends, to your employers, and to yourself. In moments of self-doubt, being able to hold onto the reasons why you made the ‘wrong’ decision will be incredibly useful.

Have a financial plan.

Are your parents going to support you? Are you going to support yourself? Do you have a job lined up? Do you have the ability and the confidence to get yourself a job? These are all critical questions to ask yourself before you drop out of school, in particular if your parents are willing to support you if you go the traditional route, but not if you go your own way. Too often I see people who want to take a gap year but haven’t thought through how they’ll support themselves as they do so, and end up having a bad time. Unfortunately, you can’t take out student loans for your gap year. Actually, maybe that’s a good thing.

Have a better learning opportunity lined up.

One of the reasons you’re leaving school is probably because you’re trouble learning there, or because you feel like you could learn faster on your own. If so, you should make concrete plans for what and how you’re going to learn. If you’re going to be working, will you be in a position where you can learn what you want on the job? If you can’t, how will you set up your schedule so that you have the time and energy to learn what you want outside of work? Is this a better option than making the time to learn on your own while you’re in school? If you’re going to be supported by your parents after you leave school, how will you keep yourself on track and motivated to learn, when you don’t have the social pressure from being in an intense learning environment? These are all things you need to consider as you concretely anticipate how your education will look like when you leave school. Because make no mistake -- leaving school doesn’t mean you’re done learning.

Have a plan for having a fulfilling social life.

Once you leave school, you’re no longer surrounded by an abundance of potential friends your age. For some people this is wonderful: they get to talk to people from all walks of life, and they know that they can put themselves out there. For others this is more challenging. If you don’t have the habit of approaching and talking to strangers, and you’re not leaving school for a community where you’ll be forced to interact with strangers, how will you make friends? This is a really important question.

Think through the scenarios where you do return to school.

Let’s say you drop out school and the job you were offered falls through. Do you (a) look for another job, or (b) go back to school? If you understand the conditions under which you are inclined to return to university, then you can take steps now to prevent those conditions being realized. So if in the scenario where your job falls through, your reaction is to want to go back to school, perhaps you should apply for more than one job, or least have a list of places you can apply if the first option doesn’t work.

Understand what your return options are.

It’s not shameful to keep open the option of returning to school, despite the “burn your bridges!” boat that many people get on. You don’t know what the future holds. You don’t know if a year from now, going back to school will seem like the right thing to do. So if you have the option, take a leave of absence instead of cutting ties entirely. See what your school offers. Future you might thank yourself, even if you don’t end up returning and it’s just helpful to your peace of mind.

Talk to your parents.

Depending on your relationship with your parents, and how invested they are in your life, it’s worth keeping your parents in loop as you make these decisions. They will have input into what is a good decision, and a lot of that input will be valuable. Although ultimately your life is in your hands, and the decision you make should not be deferred to the wishes of your parents, your decisions do have real consequences. Besides, you never know when your family will surprise you in how supportive they are.


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