Right now people are either considering which colleges they want to apply to, are about to start their first year, or are regretting their first year of college and want a way out.
Hi friends! I have been in each one of those situations. This is the first Fall semester where I will not be attending college in eleven years. I equally love learning, but I’ll be honest and admit that around the 5th year mark I didn’t feel like college was for me. It was also at that point where I had been continuously screwed over by broken promises, greedy college administrations, or lack of communication via the financial aid departments; i.e. I’m about $80K in the red in student loans.
If you’re just about to start applying to school, but are unsure of where to go, or have some feeling of apprehension towards college try going to a community college for a year first, then applying to a four-year institution. There’s no point in you starting off at 18 with $20,000+ in debt for something you weren’t 100% sure on. You can pay cash, or even get a full scholarship through government programs to cover your entire tuition at a community college, which will only help you figure out what you really want to do. Community college also lets you try out a vast array of classes and subjects if you’re unsure what you want to study. In the end, you’re either going to find the perfect subject for you, or gain a year of electives, both of which will only help you if you decide to continue on to a four year university.
When I was applying to college, there was a massive pressure to go to a reputable school. My high school was one of the top public schools in the country. Every college representative I spoke to instantly knew about my high school and that only added more pressure for me to attend a fancy, private institute. I think I enjoyed the idea of college, more than actually going to college. I loved reading the texts, but I was so burnt out from working so hard in high school that college seemed like a vacation to me. Probably should have known then it wasn’t really my thing, but I kept applying to new schools - mostly to live in different parts of the world - and met loads of wonderful friends. I wouldn’t say I regretted it, but I wish I had had more help figure this out. I wish I had someone to tell me that it’s okay not go to college if I knew it wasn’t for me. Instead I had people guilt tripping me, and a huge amount of student loan debt hanging over me. Not to mention that my mental and physical health were deteriorating so quickly that most universities didn’t know what to do with me. I ended up being penalized the majority of the time, thus why I attended more colleges than I should have.
If you’re in college, no matter the year - except if it’s your last year, just finish that shit - and you’re not feeling it, look for other options. Look into taking a leave of absence for a term or a year. You’ve probably been in school for the majority of your life, and if you’re probably feeling a little over it. Give yourself some time to figure out who you are outside of school. See if there’s something you can get excited about to look forward to after graduating. Let’s be honest, the job market is absolute shit, so don’t plan on getting a job right out of college. That’s not a guarantee anymore, sadly. You could plan a trip, move to a new city, take part in a community project, whatever you want it to be, find something that brings you joy outside of college.
If taking a leave of absence is not possible for you because of funds, scholarship rules, or your parents aren’t being understanding, see if your school has a study abroad program. Typically students do this their junior year, but I think you should do it whenever you want. Honestly, unless you’re going to a country because they’re historically famous for whatever your major is, do your boring classes abroad. You don’t want to be focusing on classes that you’ll actually want to pay attention to while abroad. It’s too exciting, and once you find out what RyanAir is and how cheap flying can be, school will be the last thing on your mind. You’ll probably meet some pretty interesting people, people that will be your friend for years to come. Studying abroad does that to people. If your school doesn’t offer a study abroad program, look into a school you’d like to attend and petition it to your academic advisor. Schools will generally allow you to attend an outside institution if they approve the syllabi for your desired destination. Granted, that takes a bit of extra work, but will be worth it in the end if it’s what you really want. All in all, studying abroad is a great way to get a change of scenery if you’re feeling stuck in a rut about finishing your degree.
Now, for those of you that are completely sure that college is not your thing, and never will be - that’s perfectly fine. This whole myth surrounded by the idea that you’ll end up in the gutter and homeless because you didn’t get a degree is pure hogwash. Most college graduates these days end up working on a menial job that has nothing to do with what they studied, and you’re trying to pay off a mountain of debt. In fact, it’s so much debt that you have no idea what to do about it. I’ve written about it before, but how awful and cruel is it for people to lead young adults into this lie that you’ll be able to pay off more money than you’ve ever had in your life because there’s a magical land of jobs just waiting for you once you’re handed a piece of paper. When the reality is youre probably about 21 years old with an average of $25,000 in debt and you’re trying to pay for rent, food, and some bills you already acquired because your grants didn’t cover the cost of textbooks. You’ll probably work two part time jobs, unless you’re lucky and find a full-time position somewhere slinging coffee or folding clothes for about a year before you start to feel ready to pursue what you actually want to do with your life.
I don’t mean to be a downer, but for most of us, that’s the reality. If you you know college isn’t for you, get out now before you have a massive amount of debt sitting on your back. However ,even if you feel 100% sure that you don’t want to be in school, take a leave of absence for a year to two years instead of withdrawing. You might change your mind in a few months and be stuck without an option to go back. Make sure you have opened as many windows for yourself before leaving because, let’s face it, you’re still young and trying to figure out who you are. There probably hasn’t been much guidance in this respect, so it’s up to you to make sure you take care of your options. You should also prepare yourself for a lot of outside guilt, pressure, and judgement. You don’t fit into the mold that people laid out for you, and they’ll most likely be upset, but don’t focus on that. You’ve made a choice, now it’s time to find a job, and map out what does work for you. What are your interests, if not getting a degree? What was distracting you from your studies? If at all possible, try to work this out before you leave college. Try to give yourself as much information about what you want to do for the next year just in case this is just an emotional response, and not a realistic rejection of conformity.
With saying all that, we’re all going to be okay no matter what choice you make. Just know that there’s no set plan anymore for us. Jobs are what they used to be, and college tuitions are becoming higher and higher each year. It’s not wrong to look at what other options are out there for you before following the expected path of so many before you. Don’t take this post as words of discouragement. Take it as an educated offer of acceptance from someone who has been in every single situation when it comes to higher education. Eleven years of study has shown me the good, bad, and super ugly side of attending college, and it’s not a straightforward answer anymore. Allow yourself to be an individual and know what’s best for you before someone else makes a choice for your sake. Your parents have never lived through this kind of world they’ve helped create. If they’re judgemental, it’s most likely because they’re worried for you, but they’re probably blind to what little options are really out there for new graduates. It’s better to know your passions and interests now, otherwise when you’re in a rut you won’t know where to turn.