7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Dropping out of College

For a lot of young adults, higher education is losing its appeal. People are starting to realize that a degree doesn’t guarantee success or happiness. Graduates struggle to find meaningful and interesting work, or end up overqualified. Is dropping out of college a better option?

Dropping out of college isn’t for everyone. This article is not for those too lazy to go through school and looking for an easy way out. But if you feel an inner calling for something more, keep reading.

Quitting school can skyrocket your personal growth by allowing you to invest more time and energy into meaningful projects and activities. However, if you’re unmotivated or without a sense of direction, it can also lead to stagnation, feeling empty and boredom.

Everyone would love life to revolve around their passions, interests and growth. Yet, most feel they have no choice but to prioritize obligations. You have the choice. The only reason people take the “safe route” is because they’re afraid. They fear instability – lack of money.

Ask yourself “How would I live if I wasn’t afraid of lacking money?“.

Would you drop out of college? Would you quit your job? I believe most people would adopt a radically different life.

Dropping out of college isn’t as risky as you might think. There are multiple ways to drop out of college and be financially successful – even without working for someone else. Honestly, if you’re thinking about dropping out of college because you crave freedom, independence and a passionate life, selling your time to someone else just won’t cut it. You need to create your own job.

Do you think you have what it takes to succeed outside the beaten path? Here are seven questions to ask yourself before dropping out of college to pursue your dreams:

1. Are you smart?

Are you thinking about dropping out of college because you find it too hard? Think again. Succeeding in the “real world” also requires skills and intelligence. It is not the easy way out. In school, you memorize concepts and perform algorithmic tasks. You learn to solve simple problems in a controlled environment. That’s cute, but mostly worthless. Outside of
school, these tasks are left to machines.Dropping out of school

To succeed on your own, you need to find and solve unique problems by yourself. That requires more versatility and intelligence than blindly memorizing concepts. School doesn’t teach that: it gives you
problems that have already been solved, and tells you to apply the same uncreative solutions, over and over again.

I believe that being highly intelligent is an argument against going to college. If you’re smart, stop wasting your time. Get out there, find out a real-world problem and solve it.

2. Can you learn by yourself?

Knowledge and information have never been so accessible. Today, you can freely access courses that are as good – and often better – than college ones. However, independent learning can be challenging.

Some people can’t learn without exams or teachers. They feel more comfortable and motivated in an environment where their learning path is pre-determined. Outside this environment, they get distracted and their progress stops. Their growth is therefore determined by external circumstances. They don’t really want to learn anything, they’d rather chill. If that’s your case, by all means stay in school.

But if you’re naturally curious and love learning, why would you need school? You’re smart enough to read books on your own, aren’t you?

How fast would you progress if you really invested in yourself, as opposed to spending so much time in school? If instead memorizing concepts, you developed skills, expanded your horizons, and grew as a person? You could be meeting passionate mentors who actually know what they’re doing rather than Facebooking your life away in monotonous lectures!

A year of dedicated and productive learning is plenty to become knowledgeable in most fields. It takes a lot longer in school because it’s an inefficient learning environment. We’re forced to learn stuff we don’t care about and the teaching is not personalized, therefore our progress is slow:

We take one full year to teach kids to add numbers.
We then take another full year teaching them how to subtract.
Followed by another year of multiplying.
So they can spend a fourth year learning to divide.

Faster progress is possible if you figure out what you need to know and commit to learning it on your own. You have to take responsibility for yourself.  In the real world, nobody will watch over your shoulder and blame you for procrastinating. It’s impossible to live the life you want if you limit your growth to other people’s expectations.

It’s ironic that the school system doesn’t value autodidacts; most of what’s being taught in school was discovered by them. Discovery happens outside of boundaries. Even after dropping out of college, keep bombarding yourself with new ideas. Expand your horizons! You don’t need the system to babysit you!

3. Are you creative?

Intelligence is like raw processing power. It makes problem solving easier, but that alone is not enough. If intelligence is not coupled with creativity, you’ll simply get where everyone else is going… faster.

Without creativity, your options after dropping out of college will be limited. You’ll passively overthink your situation until you run out of money, and then have no choice but to find a “real” job. That’s what everybody does: make money, then live, then make money, then live. Rinse and repeat until you die. I wouldn’t call that a life.

Creativity is typically associated with art, but there are many other areas where creativity is useful. For example, if you’re thinking about dropping out of college, your main worry is money. There are many ways to solve the “money” problem, but most people get a degree, a job and a salary. That’s a very uncreative way of generating income. It also has huge disadvantages, like taking an insanely large amount of time – about half of your awake time.

With a little creativity, you can come up with better ways to generate money. You can align your passions and personality with income generation. Money doesn’t have to be a predominant aspect of your life, or something that bothers you. But for that, intelligence is not enough, you need to think outside the box.

The world doesn’t need more docile employees; it needs creative problem solvers. And school certainly doesn’t produce that. If you’re creative, do humanity a favor and drop out of college.

4. Do you have an entrepreneurial mindset?

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t imply being a greedy and profit-driven capitalist. Do you enjoy starting and leading projects? Can you make other people enthusiastic about your ideas? Are you able to spot opportunities once in a while? If so, you can be an entrepreneur. If not, better stay in college and get paid to take part in someone else’s project.

An entrepreneurial mindset is essential if you want to drop out of college to lead an independent and passion-driven life. Without it, your projects won’t take off, your motivation will run out and you’ll fail to sustain yourself financially.

Entrepreneurs invest time and energy building projects that yield long-term benefits. For example, writing a book is a form of entrepreneurship. It requires a big initial investment, and you start generating benefits the day it gets published. You then regularly earn money from the royalties, receive social value from your readers and your influence as an author grows over time.

Entrepreneurship can be applied to any lifestyle. For example, some of my friends love to travel. Most save money and catch a plane when they’ve saved enough. They enjoy life and have fun until money runs out. Then, back to square zero.

However, a few others also travel permanently. And no, they’re not millionaires. They’re simply good at aligning earning money with doing what they love. They’re entrepreneurs:

  • One woman makes money selling her travel pictures, both online and offline. She earns enough to keep herself going.
  • Another guy is a freelancer that gets paid by travel companies to visit and review new and exciting places. He loves it.
  • A third girl carries her violin and makes enough money busking to pay for all her expenses.
  • And there’s this guy doing stick and poke tattoos for lodging, food and other necessities. Once in Laos, he even traded a motorcycle for a large tattoo!

They’re not the best at what they do, but they’re able to sustain themselves financially. If you met them traveling, you wouldn’t notice them “working” at all. They don’t “work”, and then have fun. Their work is play, and their play is work. In fact, they’re enjoying themselves even more than people who “just travel”, since they love their ongoing projects and are actively developing meaningful skills. And they can do it for as long as they want.

Like them, you need at least one viable project before dropping out of college. Here’s an easy way of determining if a project is viable:

  1. You’re skilled at it
  2. You’re passionate about it
  3. There’s a need or a demand for it

Found something that meets these three criteria? Don’t hesitate to drop out of college and jump in; the world needs you! And although these three points are important, don’t put the bar too high. You don’t have to be incredibly skilled to make a living out of your passion.

You may feel uncomfortable with the idea of directly making money with the value you offer. After all, if you love doing something, why not offer it for free? Get this guilt out of your head. There’s nothing wrong with achieving financial abundance doing something you love.

The reason most people aren’t living passionately is that when they do what they love, they don’t look for income-generating opportunities. They end up broke, get a job and complain that life is hard. They rationalize that “this is how things are”. They settle for a 7/10.

What if I told you that life could actually be easy? There’s only one thing making your life tedious. A single element preventing you from doing what you love full-time. It’s you. Not 50% you. Not 95% you. Not even 99.9%. You’re 100% responsible for not living the life of your dreams. Society tells you other factors are to blame; it benefits from you being dependent and disempowered. It convinced you that a degree was required, so you’re scared of dropping out of college.

Take responsibility for your life and stop thinking like a powerless employee. Find out how to align what you’re good at, what you love doing and what the world needs, and drop out of college like a champion.

5. Can you think for yourself?

Dropping out of college is an unconventional decision. Be aware that walking outside the beaten path attracts a lot of criticism. Strangely, people are excited about the idea of others ”following their dreams”, but not about you following yours.

Your parents may pretend they want what’s “good” for you, but they don’t. Most likely, they’re scared and want you safe. That’s why they hope you’ll get a degree and a stable job. They want you to chase your dreams with their conditions. “Follow your dreams and be happy, as long as you don’t challenge my narrow view of reality.”

If you can’t think for yourself, they’ll convince you that dropping out of college is a terrible idea, and that the conventional path is best for you. My advice: don’t listen to anyone telling you to put your passions on hold.

They’re biased. They’re scared as hell. They don’t want you to make a move; if you’re successful, they will feel bad about themselves. After all, they’re only enduring this routine because they believe it’s the only viable option. What if you proved them wrong? Oh, that’d feel uncomfortable in their tummies. They’ve been going through all this for … nothing?

Not everyone will discourage you though. There are supportive people out there. Obviously, college is not where they typically hang out, so you have to get out there and meet these passionate and free individuals. They likely won’t come for you: most are happy with you staying in the rat-race. It’s making success easier for them.

Surround yourself with a least a few people who live the way you aspire to. Otherwise, you’ll be swimming upstream, struggling to find inspiration and courage in an unsupportive environment.

When someone gives you an advice, they’re basically telling you “here’s how to be me“, so choose wisely who you listen to.

6. Can you learn the skills you need faster somewhere else?

Perhaps you’re in college to acquire expertise, not a degree. In a lot of fields, such as computer programming, having specific skills and experience is more important than a diploma. If you’re motivated and self-disciplined, you could learn these skills faster outside of college – without getting in so much debt.

College programs require you to go through mandatory classes, many of which may be useless to you. These classes slow down your progress, as this time could be used to learn and develop valuable skills. Dropping out of college might help you achieve your goals faster.

If your goals are clear, why bother studying for irrelevant tests?

7. Is college getting in your way?

If your life revolves around college, you’re likely not growing to your full extent. There’s more to reality than getting good grades in a broken school system. You have to expand your horizons.

Are you in college right now? Chances are you’ve never been more puzzled about your future. Blindly running after a degree is not helping you know yourself. It leaves you clueless about who you are, while getting you in debt. Once you get a degree, things will not change. You’ll have to pay back loans and have no choice but to get a job, even if you’d rather take time to discover yourself. Look at you. Day by day, you’re getting kicked into a person you don’t want to become.Dropping out of college

If you find college to be an obstacle for growth, you should seriously consider dropping out. However, there are people who are in a fortunate situation where college isn’t getting in their way.

I thought about dropping out of college several times, since I knew that a degree wouldn’t help me live the life I wanted. On the other hand, I found college enjoyable socially and incredibly easy. I therefore resolved to drop out of college if it ever got in the way of what was important for me. As a result, I pushed college to the side and didn’t attend my courses, but still went to the exams and passed them. My tuition fees were paid for and college gave me the opportunity to travel for free (student exchange program), so I saw little reason to drop out. School simply became a sideline in which I invested at most a few hours a week. I took a higher course load to get my degree faster, while still prioritizing personal projects.

I didn’t slack off in other areas of my life. It was a period of growth, challenges and discoveries. By the time I graduated, I had multiple sources of income, none of them related to do my degree in actuarial sciences. Since then, I’ve enjoyed a life free from conventional worries. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Is dropping out of college for you?

Going to college is an option, not a necessity. College will not help you find what your passions and ambitions are. It will only postpone the question by giving you a superficial sense that you’re doing something useful.

If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, go figure it out first. Expand your horizons, meet new people and explore the world. Passion and projects will not magically arise by sitting on your butt and thinking about it.

We don’t need more employees. We need people who create, innovate, and find out new and better ways to do things. That’s exactly the opposite of what college will teach you, and that’s why college graduates are doing so poorly.

Nobody grows up aiming for a monotonous life but most people end up living one because they follow the path laid out for them, assuming it leads somewhere worthwhile. Everyone thinks they can get the best of both worlds, where they get a normal “job” and also lead a passionate life on the side. This rarely works, as their work leaves them no energy to pursue personal projects. Their passionate projects turn into sidelines, which then become hobbies.

If a diploma is what you deeply desire, go for it. But getting a degree “before you do what you really want” is just a way of rationalizing fear of failure. When you postpone your passions, they lose their strength, and eventually disappear.

Don’t live a life of compromises, filled with excuses. It’s never been easier to create a fulfilling and passionate life for yourself. Don’t overestimate the negative effects of dropping out of college, it’s not as dangerous as you think. With technology, high levels of success are accessible to anyone who’s motivated.

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3 thoughts on “7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Dropping out of College

  1. Katherine

    I am really glad I went to college. I was however EXTREMELY LUCKY to get 3-4 professors who mentored my sniveling sadsack of a self to the finish line. My mentors and the readings I did / papers I wrote meant a lot to me.

    My brother dropped out of college this year and seems much happier.

    If I had to choose whether or not I’d go back to uni in a second life, I would say yes, but *only* because of one particular mentor who really changed my life for the better. If not for that person, I probably wouldn’t be reading UP Development or — well — developing much at all. I was *morally lucky* and not all people will be the same.

    I think this is a great article Gabriel, especially during a time when people go to college just because they are told it is necessary to survive. We can live in a world where it is not necessary to survive. Doctors, lawyers, scientists, philosophers, etc — must go to college. If you don’t see yourself doing something explicitly academic, then I do not believe you really need to go to college.

    Going to college over a romantic “intrinsic value” notion could be a hit or a miss. It was a hit for me. Good luck 🙂


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