Stop Pretending That Dropping Out Of College Makes You Special
I am sorry, but you are not unique. Taking time off, withdrawing, stopping out or dropping out, whatever you call it -- it does not make you special.
It does not matter that you are starting the next great subscription beauty company, an app that lets you make memes on the go, or you just raised a million dollars. None of that makes you special.
Believe me, I wish that it did. I really do, because if it did, it would make me special. I dropped out of college in August 2013 after four semesters at two different colleges and a spattering of summer courses. It was a long time coming.
I had taken a gap year between high school and college, spent one year at Lewis & Clark, transferred to Barnard College, and then, after a lot of self-reflection, decided to leave.
When I left school, I discovered a community that I had never had while in college. All of a sudden, amazing and intelligent young people who, like me, had decided to do something different with their time surrounded me.
Rather than chilling in the college fish tank for four years, these 20-something and below had, we are told and believed, made a bold decision to take their education into their own hands.
The problem is, we are not that special. People have been dropping out of college for years. I was out in the Hamptons visiting my grandmother a few weeks ago and had an amazing conversation with her caregiver Katherine.
Turns out, Katherine dropped out of college, too. She went to more than four colleges in two years and, like me, realized that she was paying for a degree, not paying for an education. So she left.
She moved to Vermont and worked on an organic farm, which isn’t that different from working in tech actually. Both take perseverance, a strong work ethic and a willingness to break the mold.
Fifteen years later, she earned her college degree. Like me, she did not believe that college is a useless institution. When she was ready to focus on the form of education that is provided by colleges and universities, she went back.
My uncle Peter also left college. He never went back. He has had a wonderful career that is a huge inspiration, but when I told him that I was planning on dropping out, he did not congratulate me.
He asked me why, and then he listened. He has never really told me whether he approves or not, but he has reminded me that I am not special.
Millions of young people have dropped out of college over the years for just as many reasons.
They have gone on to start companies, promote sustainable agriculture, build families, travel around the world and a thousand other inspiring things. Things that, believe it or not, young people who graduated from college have also done.
In a culture that gives out trophies for participation and calls every child a miracle, it is easy to think that you are one, but if you are, dropping out is not what made you that way.
So go ahead, drop out. For me it has been a wonderful experience. But do not think that you are special because of it, what makes you special is far more interesting than your education or lack thereof.
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