So… you’re thinking of dropping out of college? The first thing I’ll say is this: it’s okay. I’m sure you know this in theory. You’ve probably heard the “college is not for everyone” adage that’s thrown around all over college campuses and beyond. I know this because I’ve heard it. I’ve heard it from my advisors when I’ve hit a rough patch academically and I’m doubting my ability to carry on. I’ve heard it from struggling students and supportive friends who insist that college is not for everyone.
“College is not for everyone” is often the consolation remark when someone resigns to just not cutting it, not having what it takes, or not being able to afford the wildly high price tag of a college education. But maybe it is not the student who is the wrong match for college, but that college is a bad match for many people.
Sure, there is a wide variety of schools, programs, and majors out there to choose from, but the vast majority of options presented to young people are pretty standard. Most schools in this country follow the same formula of a traditional college education: required courses, deadlines for declaring a major, crazy high tuition, formulaic assignments done a million times before, classes that demand all of your attention even if you have little interest in them, the expectation of long nights trying complete assignments just to get them done and to get a grade, checking off boxes on lists to make sure you have done all the things someone is telling you to do.
Too often this path results in individuals agonizing and compromising to fit the mold of a college student and at the end they leave the institution as a cog in a homogenized group: young people with near identical degrees, trained in how to fulfill requirements and unsure of their purpose in the world.
Maybe you are one of the many young people thinking of dropping out because you don’t want this to happen to you. Because what you thought college was going to be - a place that helped you figure out who you wanted to be in the world - is not what it turned out to be when you got there. So, those words “college is not for everyone” might be totally accurate, just not in the way the person saying them might mean it. Maybe higher education shouldn’t be a standardized process that is the same for everyone and the only path presented as a way to a successful and meaningful life.
So... if you’re thinking of dropping out of college, it is okay. And good for you - keep thinking! We are all unique individuals with distinct potential. Traditionally, college is not designed to engage with all the things that make learners and thinkers distinct from one another. Rather, it seeks to standardize our modes of thought and productivity as prerequisite for a career future. But there are innumerable alternative forms that higher education can take and there are about a million and one direction our lives can take.
Maybe you’ve tried a traditional college and maybe it wasn’t for you.
Maybe you were on the fence about it from the get-go and it just didn’t work out.
Maybe you didn’t find the community of peers or professors you wanted.
Maybe you just can’t stand your classes, your major, your professors, your classmates, your roommate.
Maybe you can no longer justify the student debt you’re accumulating or making your parents pay so much for something you’re not sure about.
Maybe you love learning but you’re not sure the college is the right environment for you to learn in.
Maybe you have another opportunity you think more worthwhile.
Maybe you’re bored and just want a new adventure.
If your college experience hasn’t worked for you, know that there are other options out there. There’s a whole world of new adventures, unconventional and very worthwhile ways to spend your time. There are alternative sources of higher education that are there for you, to work with you to get what you want out of an education or to figure out your next steps.
So, if you’re thinking of dropping out of college to talk to your friends, family, or advisors about where you are, how you’re feeling, and what you want from your life and your education. If you’re ready to seek out something different but don’t know where to start, here’s a list of some unconventional options for work, education, and adventure:
Try a new approach to higher education:
Many have felt unfulfilled, uninspired, and let down by the traditional college path. Wayfinding Academy in Portland, Oregon is a brand new kind of college that focuses on each student’s distinct potential. Their two-year program is designed to uncover your passion, cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself, strengthen your perspective on the world by locating it within broader social dimensions, and help you figure out your role in creating a better world.
Long-Term, Independent Travel:
If you want to see more of the world and learn more about yourself, there is perhaps no better way than to embark on a long-term solo journey abroad. Being on your own in new places can be daunting, but it’s a great way to expand your comfort zone and to hone in on your unique perspective on the world. Bootsnall is a website that will provide inspiration and resources to get you around the world.
Find a job with purpose:
Find a job or internship that will jumpstart your passion! Websites like Idealist and Indeed are great places to start looking for work in fields that interest you. Take on a new challenge and be impressed with what you can accomplish.
Take a gap year:
Maybe you just need a break from school. Take some time to get some clarity, purpose, and direction with a gap year. American Gap Association is an organization that advocates for “increased participation in Gap Year education”. They’ve got tons of resources about the benefits of gap years, financial aid, and ever growing lists of gap year programs and organizations to help you get what you want out of your gap year.
Go to trade school:
There are so many opportunities for skilled jobs, but first you’ve got to get trained! The Mike Rowe Works Foundation awards scholarships and financial assistance to individuals who want to pursue an education in a trade or skill in demand.
And there are so many other options! Go out and find what you’re looking for.
This post was written by Wayfinding Academy Outreach Intern, Grace McMickens.
Hello all! My name is Grace McMickens and I am a rising junior at Lewis & Clark college. I am studying Sociology and Anthropology with a minor in gender studies. I am originally from Brooklyn, New York but it smelled weird so I came to Portland for school. It smells far better. I love to write so I try to spend at least 30 minutes a day writing. I also enjoy listening to music and true crime podcasts.