Two years ago, I walked out of a lecture hall as a Junior and never looked back. At the time, leaving college early was “just an experiment”, but I knew in my heart that it would stick.
I'd spent months talking with my parents, advisors, professors and friends. With each conversation the right decision felt more clear.
Of course, I had many reasons why at the time but since I left, they've crystallized to the point where I'm ready to articulate precisely why I dropped out of college.
Doing the Same Gets the Same
I am obsessed with learning how to do things. My interest is easily captivated and that captivation turns into a strong pull to learn how to do something. Since I was a child, following this force has defined everything I love about myself.
After 15 years of schooling this never - not once - happened in the context of homework, lecture halls or papers that had to be a certain length for an arbitrary reason.
What was going to happen in 1 or 2 more years of school that would suddenly reverse this trend and make the previous 15 worth it?
With over a decade of evidence showing I would learn nothing of practical merit spending that time in school, reason lead me to believe that I could invest those 17,500 hours in something that would be much more meaningful outside of it.
When I put it in those terms, I feel a twinge of foolishness for playing that game so long and not standing up for myself earlier.
Breaking the Cycle of Expectations
If you’re like most of the people I meet, when you read the intro you thought to yourself: “You were a Junior?! Why didn't you just finish!?”
The reason is because I’d been following everyone else's plans for me my entire life. That set an extremely strong precedent and I knew I had to make a bold decision if I ever wanted to shatter the series of expectations lined up in front of me.
Imagine I had stayed around another year, gotten my degree and then decided to run off and start a company on my own. Those same people would be saying, “How could you throw away your education!? You may as well get a job and develop your own projects on the side!”
And if I didn’t stand-up to that...when would I ever? With each missed attempt to get out of that cycle, it only would have become more difficult to escape.
No, I couldn't have just stayed one more year. When it comes to making tough decisions that matter, now is always better than later.
Following My Own Path
When I was young, maybe 7 or 8, I started planning a schedule for when I'd be an adult. "From 10-11 I'll do woodworking, from 11-12 I'll invent things, after lunch, I'll build computers until..."
I have always had visions of who I want to be and what I want to be doing. But those visions were only relevant when I was outside of school.
You could have argued that I wasn't capable of choosing my own path that young (though I'm not so sure...), but by the time I was in college, I was more than ready.
I watched older friends move onto the engineering world, and just didn't feel it was right for me. College wasn't moving me towards the vision I had for myself and didn't deserve to be on my path.
Living in the Real World
I want to be making important things, connecting with interesting people from all walks of life and living in the real world.
College does have some interesting elements, but it is not the real world - it's like living in a bubble insulated from reality - full of its own pretend responsibilities and manufactured stress.
I spent $15,000 a semester to go to classes and learn about imaginary poles stuck in the wall. In a cheap plastic chair I would sit, programming actual projects that real people would use. "How can I possibly justify doing this any longer?"
It still seems crazy to me, looking back.
I wanted to have blood in the game. I wanted to feel like decisions I made didn’t end once the due date had passed. I wanted to feel like I was truly developing myself, my reputation, my worth and my body of work.
I don't encourage people to make the same decision I did but rather that they think about what they want for themselves and what it will actually take to get them there.
For some, College may be just what they need. For many others, it may just be a dramatic waste of time, money and creativity.
Don't just read, take action!
- Think about the vision you have for yourself - are you making decisions that move you in that direction or just doing what others expect of you?
- Share your thoughts and experiences about college below - all perspectives are welcome!
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