You’ve been attending college and feeling overwhelmed. You’re not that interested in the courses, you’re not mingling with your classmates and peers the way you expected, and you’re not even sure you want to continue majoring in whatever you chose. Right now, in this moment, you feel done.
In my experience working with college students, this feeling is common. Sometimes there’s uncertainty about choosing the right major. Other times it’s about completing the program entirely. Boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends and others influences can change how you feel, and if you’re not careful, you could make an impulsive decision like, quit college.
Today’s trend is, “to hell with college” and, “I don’t need a degree” to be successful.
I don’t doubt someone can become successful without college. College didn’t always exist and people were successful. So colleges don’t have a monopoly on the definition of success. Despite this, there are still benefits of university life you normally wouldn’t obtain if you skipped or quit it. Unless you can mimic these in your personal development plan (if you thought to create one to replace college), you might bear positive fruit from finishing up:
Liberal Arts. Sounds corny and you’ll see plenty of pieces written about the value (lack of) liberal arts programs. Why should you spend semesters learning about art history or creative writing or philosophy if you’re never going to use them? If you’re asking this question, you’ve missed the point of liberal arts. And you’re fooling yourself if you think you’ll never need to use philosophy or creative writing or even art history.
Ever had to write an E-mail on the job? How about solve a problem for a customer then have to send out a letter? Or a cover letter that’s required to apply for your new job? Was there a time you had to give a presentation for your team at work? Or…did you have to do any kind of writing for any purpose? That requires the skill of thinking creatively and writing to get your message across. At the same time, you had to critically analyze your situation and come up with reasons for doing what you’re doing or…defend your point persuasively. People needed to listen to you. This is a component of philosophy. As for art history…what’s so wrong about expanding your knowledge outside your narrow focus? If you’re planning to become an accountant and can only focus on accounting, how does that make you more worldly, more interesting, more able to communicate with your clients, more developed as a human being? The liberal arts are there so you can grow as a human, a well-rounded person.
Social Connections. This doesn’t just mean friends to hang out with. This means professors who could possibly reach out to resources for you. It means attending events you likely wouldn’t have access to if you quit. It means becoming exposed to different cultures, races and ways of living so you can live more holistically and mature.
Posture. Unless you have a solid backup plan and don’t intend to just be a vagabond who stays home to rebel against college, the weight of your degree will be felt when you’re applying for jobs to gain experience. There are valuable positions out there that can be restricted because you lack the essential academic qualifications. Can you get around it? Sure, if your skills are up to par, but if a college degree is a requirement for the entry-level position and you don’t even have an associate’s, you’ve already failed. At some point you may move on from the work-for-others cycle and build your own, but if you’re seeking employment without any networks to help you, having the qualifications will be important.
So before you decide to quit your college path, these are a few questions to think about:
Why do you really want to leave?
Is it the cost?
Are you wasting time? That is, do you know what you could be doing to replace your time at college?
What is your career choice? Can you reach the level you need without a college degree?
How many semesters do you have left? Are you just a few away from graduating? If so, is it in your best (financial, time) interest to leave before receiving your diploma?
Are you considering another college to attend? Will your current credits transfer?
What are you really passionate about?
These are just a few questions to consider if you feel you’ve reached a point at campus where you start to see little reason for being there. Then compare your responses to the benefits you can gain by continuing.
You will hear from the growing number of former college students that you don’t need to have a degree to be successful in life or establish a career. To me this isn’t a black and white issue. If you plan to become a doctor or lawyer or engineer, for example, there are specific qualifications you’ll need to acquire before you can practice your craft legally [a license, pass the bar, medical residencies, etc.]. These highly specialized paths take you on a targeted journey and experience so you can engage your clients and patients with proficiency. In both the medical and legal professions, you have others’ lives in your hands [literally].
Depending on what you choose to do, your vocation will determine the kinds of experiences necessary for you to become your best.