Why I left college

I dropped out of college for the same reason an atheist stops attending church: I refused to suspend my disbelief any longer. Specifically, I stopped blindly accepting the narrative that says you need college to have a great career.

During high school, I attended a school named IDEA. Boasting a 100% college acceptance rate, the only purpose of an IDEA public school was to prepare and get kids into college. They are like Catholic schools but, instead of worshipping God, we worshipped higher education. 

During my time there, my teachers and counselors enforced the idea that if I didn’t go to college, my chances of having a great career would drastically diminish. To question that assumption, or to entertain the idea that maybe not all kids are best served by a 4 year university, was blasphemy. They expected your full cooperation in their goal to get that 100% acceptance rate. Because nothing screams education like not being allowed to think and make decisions for yourself.

Back then, I accepted the doctrine — I believed that college would teach me the skills that employers value. That is, until I reached the promised land. 

College was not too different from high school. The classes were just a bit more challenging and I had more freedom. While those things were great, a major question still bugged me: how much of what I'm doing in class is connected to launching a great career? The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was taking it on faith that my academic work would translate to the real world. 

I saw the same doubt in other students too. But they just "knew" they needed that degree, so they followed the ritual.

I spent three years in college, yet I didn't feel any more employable than before. It wasn’t until I changed my major for the third time that I started to be honest with myself about the fact that school was not a good option for me and my goals. I had a strong need to feel that my line of study had a tangible use for something that I cared about. I wanted something more realistic and less ritualistic.

Though it was painful, I stopped attending college. Instead I decided to try my hand at creating an online business. It was a site where I reviewed hunting gear. Through this endeavor I learned lots of useful things, like how to create a website and how to write for an audience. 

The biggest thing I learned, however, was that I always had the ability to directly make things happen for myself. I never needed to wait for permission from a higher power to start creating awesome things that other people value. I believe this “permissionless mindset" is the most valuable thing a person can learn: it will create many more opportunities than a generic degree ever could. 

If you’re a high school student, I urge you to examine what it is you want out of your life, and then think critically about how to get there. It’s likely you will find that most of what you learn (and soon forget) from college won’t be needed. 

I know there are lots of job listings that say you need a degree, but more often than not you can bypass that. Because in reality, employers don’t care about what you can do in a classroom, they care about what you can do for them. Find out how to prove your worth. With the time and money you would have spent for college, I bet you’re smart enough to figure out how to get your foot in many more doors than a degree ever could.

Oh and if you don’t yet know what it is you want, I recommend reading Don’t Do Stuff You Hate. It’s a book I wish a had read back when I was in high school (although it didn’t exist yet).

About

Hello, I'm Erick. I like to write about philosophy, self-development, running, unschooling, podcasts, software tools and digital marketing.