I Asked 6 “Dropouts” If They Regret Not Finishing School

Oprah, Steve Jobs, Anna Wintour, Mark Zuckerberg, Maya Angelou and Bill Gates have something in common besides superstardom: None of them have college degrees.

There is plenty of evidence that a degree is not necessarily proof of success in this day and age, just as the lack of one doesn’t indicate failure. But the idea that higher education is a vital step in the path to gainful employment still persists.

In a national survey conducted in 2015, only 38 percent of students who graduated college in the past decade strongly agree that their higher education was worth the cost. Americans have accumulated about $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, more than what’s owed on credit cards or car loans. Conditions are similarly dire in other countries around the world.

Given these statistics, it’s not surprising that more and more teens are choosing to forgo the “ideal” of a college experience. I talked to six people who did, both in the U.S. and outside of it, and asked how the decision shaped their lives and careers. Read their stories below.

Fabi Pina

Fabi is a 29-year-old marketing and communications manager for a stealth-mode startup based in Taiwan.

Why did you choose not to finish pursuing your college degree?

I wanted to study fashion merchandising and applied to my dream school, Parsons School of Design. I was accepted with a partial scholarship, but it was still not nearly enough for me to be able to afford it. Instead, I enrolled at my local college’s business administration program. Despite the curriculum not aligning with exactly what I wanted in life, I took school very seriously and it frustrated me that nobody else around me seemed to.

I remember one moment very vividly: I was in the bathroom when I heard a few of my classmates complaining about having to go to class and discussing how many more points they needed to pass the course. These were the same girls I had to shush as I gave my painstakingly prepared presentation on historical revisionism earlier that day. It hit me right then that in three years’ time, we would all have the same exact diploma, we would probably compete for the same jobs and no employer would care about how many all-nighters I had pulled to deliver quality term papers.

How has that decision shaped your life and career?

Not having a college degree has presented some roadblocks. I once missed out on an opportunity to work in a different country because a degree was one of the requirements for the work permit application. It has also been the cause of many awkward moments in social situations. To avoid being judged, I used to jump at the opportunity to bring up my 4.0 average “during the one year I did attend college.” However, the impact has been way more positive than negative. The random skills I’ve acquired have allowed me to travel the world, learn a third language and work with amazing tech startups in Asia doing a range of things from digital marketing to product development. I am also no longer embarrassed — and am maybe even proud — to admit I am a college dropout.

If you could go back in time, would you make the same choice?

I would absolutely make the same choice all over again, except this time I’d fret much less. I’d also make myself watch Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech to remind myself that “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, only looking backwards.” I cried constantly when I first made the decision — it was scary! I had no idea that dropping out would lead me to take risks that I would never have taken if I had the security of a college degree, including all the strange jobs I took up and, perhaps most importantly, selling all my belongings to move across the world.

What advice would you give to those who are unsure about whether they want to attend or finish college?

I should make it clear that I am in no way against a traditional college education, and ultimately it depends on what you want in life. For some career paths, a degree is indispensable; for others, not so much anymore. Technology has drastically changed the world we live in and having a degree no longer gives you an automatic advantage or the same kind of security it used to.

The only advice I feel truly confident giving is: If you do decide not to pursue a college degree, you should never stop pursuing experiences, growth and self-education. I learned to work under pressure in a hospital’s emergency room, lost my fear of public speaking during my short stint as a television host and taught myself web development and graphic design thanks to blogging and [running] an online vintage shop. The internet strips us of excuses for not doing something or learning something because information is accessible without the price of a student loan.

Mois Medine

Mois is a 56-year-old jewelry designer and CEO based in New York City. He’s also Leandra’s dad!!!!

Why did you choose not to finish getting your college degree?

I went to college for four years and, in total, I had three years’ worth of credits. I just did not enjoy studying; I lost my patience, and subjects and textbooks did not interest me. I totally felt that I was wasting time and money by being in school.

How has that decision shaped your life and career?

I started working and I was making good money, so I was very happy and did not feel that I was missing out 0n anything. The only downside was not being able to brag about a college degree or a diploma. When the topic of university experiences came up among friends, I mostly remained quiet.

If you could go back in time, would you make the same choice?

If I knew I would become a private business operator, I would make the same choice to drop out of college. I believe that the best university is the university of life. However, if I wanted to follow other passions, such as becoming an architect, I would have to have finished college. The educational background necessary for becoming an architect would be crucial and not so easily attainable in the university of life.

What advice would you give to those who are unsure about whether they want to attend or finish college?

If you don’t enjoy learning or studying, if one does not believe that the path of college will help prepare himself or herself for a great future, don’t even waste a day in school. There’s no point to go to a college and waste tons of money and many valuable years of your youth. And if you do believe that education is fundamental for your future, then you should be prepared work very hard to get yourself into the best school possible [that you can afford].

Liz Negrete

Liz is a 22-year-old model/stylist based in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Why did you choose not to finish getting your college degree?

In Mexico, where I live, the normal thing to do is attend high school for three years from age 15 to 18. It can be very expensive though. After trying to get into a good high school, not being able to afford it in the end and having an abortion at 16, I decided to give up on “normal” schooling. I took an alternative route and waited until I was legal (18 years old) to take an exam to get my certificate. You prepare for the exam for about four months and hope you get a decent grade so you can apply for college after that. The truth is, I had no idea what I wanted to pursue for my career. My mind circled between everything from fashion to sociology to genetic engineering.

In the meantime, I set up a photography studio and started doing campaigns for small brands and a few collaborations with national magazines. I did everything: took photographs, styled shoots, modeled, etc. People would be amazed when I said I was only a teenager. Sometimes I lied about my age and level of education because I hated feeling judged.

How has that decision shaped your life and career?

By 19, when I finally took my certification exam, I realized I already had four years of experience doing something I love, so I decided not to apply to any colleges. I felt confident in my decision at first, but this past December, [due to complications with my studio and the agency I co-founded,] everything collapsed. I’m still a model and a stylist, but I’m at a difficult crossroads right now where I’m evaluating the direction I want my life to take. If I’d gone to college, I might have more traditional career options open to me, but then I wouldn’t have had the experience of building my little business from scratch. Not going to college has made things more challenging for me, but those challenges have taught me so much. I have a mixed bag of feelings about the whole thing.

If you could go back in time, would you make the same choice?

I’ve managed to make a name for myself in Mexico, so, studio or no studio, agency or no agency, people still hire me. That security gives me the confidence to say that I don’t regret my decision.

What advice would you give to those who are unsure about whether they want to attend or finish college?

Whatever you decide, don’t get too comfortable because life will throw you curveballs, whether you go to college or not. Also, go with your gut, pursue whatever thing you think about first at the beginning of every day, and if that doesn’t work out, pursue the second thing.

Mike Sposito

Mike is a 34-year-old barber based in Brooklyn, where he runs his own studio, Sposito.

Why did you choose not to finish getting your college degree?

First off, not only did I not obtain a college degree, but I’m also a high school flunky. I basically just stopped going to high school. I received my GED soon after. Then I spent a semester or two at a junior college in my hometown, but it was clear that my experience at the junior college level was going to be an extension of my high school “failures.”

So I wouldn’t say I CHOSE to quit school. I mean, I made a lot of choices that ultimately led to quitting, but I lacked the maturity to consciously face a decision like that with any degree of agency. I was lost and uninspired, so I simply dropped out.

How has that decision shaped your life and career?

Looking back now, I have very few regrets. I know my family was freaking out a bit — they probably assumed I was on the path from flunky to junky. I feel a little badly about that. My career trajectory went through a period of, shall we say, trial and error for a couple of years: a brief stint in construction, some years as a competitive horse trainer, etc. But then I started cutting hair.

I think almost everyone who knew me was like, “WTF?!” I was so attracted to the freedom of cutting hair as a career. You can work at a place like Supercuts, or you can be the next Paul Mitchell. The minute I picked up a set of shears, I never looked back — they were the vessel I needed to continue my education. I started managing barbershops and eventually helped open a chain of them, where I wrote and performed training demonstrations for large groups. I made enough money to buy myself a semester abroad in Italy, and as of a year ago, I made enough to open my own studio.

Life was my college experience. College or no college, nothing is guaranteed. I’ve watched a lot of friends go to school, come out with a ton of debt and fall into careers that are unfulfilling, careers where the only way to move up the ladder is taking some series of standardized corporate tests. No thank you. I think I got off lucky.

If you could go back in time, would you make the same choice?

It’s hard to see it playing out any differently. I mean, college sounds really fun, and yeah, I wish I’d had the opportunity to learn from some inspiring teachers, but I probably would have fucked it up.

What advice would you give to those who are unsure about whether they want to attend or finish college?

I would suggest people finish high school. It’s not that hard, and it’s often free. As for college, do whatever you want — just don’t expect there to be a fat check and a key to life waiting for you when you graduate.

Sara Manning

Sara is a 29-year-old former yacht chef and current traveling mom based in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Why did you choose not to finish getting your college degree?

In college, I had a pattern: Complete a yacht contract, attend a semester of school or travel somewhere new, repeat. The cycle of work/saving money/school made it so I didn’t have to take out student loans, and that was very important to me. I intended to finish my degree, but I kept getting exciting opportunities, so my decision to drop out was less of a specific revelation and more of a gradual shift in goals and priorities.

How has that decision shaped your life and career?

It doesn’t come up a lot. I guess maybe because I don’t believe there is a time limit on finishing your degree. I know that is a privileged outlook as it requires a certain amount of flexibility within your life (budget, time, etc.) but I think in general our culture is fixated on a timeline that doesn’t necessarily exist.

If you could go back in time, would you make the same choice?

Definitely. Staying debt-free has allowed me to take advantage of unique opportunities. With that freedom, I have been able to live an interesting and fulfilling life. For a while, I felt really insecure that I was the only one in my friend group who hadn’t finished her degree. I wish I realized sooner that education is not a race and the decisions I was making were the right decisions for me.

What advice would you give to those who are unsure about whether they want to attend or finish college?

Don’t be afraid to take your time and get really clear on your intentions, whether that means a semester off or a couple of years away to get to know yourself better. I think this is especially important if you plan to take out loans to complete your degree. Debt can remove a lot of options from your life.

Grace Slater

Grace is a 27-year-old business change consultant based in London. 

Why did you choose not to finish getting your college degree?

I always struggled with learning in a traditional classroom environment. I was always getting in trouble because the traditional education system caters to one type of person and one type of learning style. I have a very short attention span and am very practical, so it just wasn’t for me. When I was faced with the choice of going to university and being roped into another four years of education, I genuinely couldn’t think of anything worse. In retrospect, I probably didn’t give the decision enough thought.

At that age, you don’t realize the impact one decision is going to have on the rest of your life. However, it was probably better that I didn’t sit around for weeks debating my decision. If I had, the outcome probably would have been a very different one. I just knew I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer or in any profession where a degree is utterly essential. Other than that, I had no idea what it was I wanted to do, so I thought, Why not get out in the world and give something a shot?

How has that decision shaped your life and career?

Let me start by saying it has come up in every single job interview I have ever had. People don’t just…not notice. It is a big black hole on your resume. I faced some obstacles earlier on in my career because if you don’t have tons of experience to demonstrate your ability, then an employer will use your education to evaluate your qualifications by default. To compensate, I decided to take a couple of light courses like touch typing and business administration just to brush up on some basic skills and bulk up my CV.

At this point, I’ve gained enough experience to be evaluated on that alone. I am so proud to say I’ve been offered jobs at very reputable companies that “ONLY HIRE COLLEGE GRADUATES,” as they are fond of advertising. I’ve been the only non-graduate in a workplace more than once, and it is not something I hide — it is something I sing from the rooftops. I have had many employers/interviewers say things like, “We don’t normally hire people without degrees, but you are interesting. At the age of 18, you didn’t feel the pressure to conform to what everyone else was doing, and that is the kind of maverick we want in our business.”

If you are going to forgo college though, I think you really, really, really have to own it and have a clear reason why this decision is right for you, even if you just have a one-liner prepared for job interviewers. They will ask, and you need to have an answer. It is also worth noting that I have not always been this confident about my decision. There were times when my conviction wavered and I thought I made the wrong choice, but I’ve learned that self-doubt is not unique to people who don’t have a degree — it’s a standard for all twenty-somethings trying to secure their first job in the real world.

If you could go back in time, would you make the same choice?

It is the best decision I ever made. Education isn’t for everyone. Not being suited to it doesn’t mean you are less intelligent, ambitious or driven than your graduate counterparts. You just have to have the tenacity to find your own path! I had no idea how much I was going against the grain when I decided not to pursue a degree. I also had no idea how much it would shape me as a person or that I would ultimately wear it as a badge of pride.

What advice would you give to those who are unsure about whether they want to attend or finish college?

Think carefully about what doors it will close as well as open. You must be realistic about the fact that some professions will not be available to you. Do you want to work in an industry that absolutely requires an undergraduate degree or higher? Think it through.

I wish I had been more appreciative of the value of work experience/internships. When your education is lacking compared to other candidates, it’s crucial to get as much work experience and as many opportunities as you possibly can to bulk up your resume — not even necessarily at highbrow institutions. I worked for 18 months in a bar, I was a receptionist, I did administration work, etc. You are not going to fall straight into your dream job. Looking for the right one is a lot like dating: You need to kiss a few frogs before you land it.

Also, do not be afraid to get creative and be ballsy! I constantly apply for jobs that are advertised as “for college graduates only.” I often email hiring managers directly and highlight what I offer that graduates might not. You need to be bold until your experience speaks for itself.

Illustrations by Gabrielle Lamontagne.

Get more Pop Culture ?
  • Very aptly timed publication of this, Harling. Will be sharing this.

  • Neither of my parents went to college/university because they both came from very poor families and there was simply no money. Come to think of it, I don’t think they even finished high school! But they both got out, worked nonstop, and became nurses (now impossible in our time without a degree). They built up a life they could’ve never had for me, funding me to go to an expensive private school and through my bachelors and masters degrees in a top university. It goes to show – college doesn’t prove anything!

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • Devon

    I dropped out of college a few times and ultimately never finished. If I could go back in time, I would have quit sooner so not to acquire as much useless debt. I love learning but not in a classroom setting and I don’t feel like I’ve had less opportunities because I didn’t finish school.

  • Adrianna

    I graduated a fancy name brand university, so I have a specific bias. I ultimately majored in what I wanted to, because I already knew that I wouldn’t be hired or rejected based on my grade in Anthropology of Language. I loved attending class and learning, but I had a negative experience due to finances and feeling culturally out of place. It felt like my classmates entered college with information I didn’t know I had to have, like how to secure an internship. I was surrounded by smart, ambitious people that seemed to have way more going on than me. My confidence was at its lowest in college, and that kind of set me back.

    I had 56k internet in high school. Podcasts didn’t exist. I consider my college degree to be valuable because of the knowledge and exposure I acquired. I grew up in a blue collar home (my mother is a housekeeper) and I hadn’t even heard of the New Yorker or Harper’s Bazar before college. I really couldn’t name any professions beyond doctor or lawyer.

    I learned all of the skills I use at my current job on my own or through continuing education – but, the job description required a college degree, and both the HR screener and the person who hired me went to my alma mater.

    Every path you choose will also set you back. I ultimately devoted four years of my life and $30,000 to read and write papers instead of selecting and building a career. But is college only about getting a job?

    • That’s a very good point — college is also a big learning experience for so many individuals.

      • Kattigans

        I’m not one to judge others choice because my uncle didn’t go to college and my mom’s family is very smart, accomplished group so for him to not go was somewhat of the off man out but it was also the 70s so it was a different time. But I do think if you’re motivated to go to school that its one of the most rewarding expeirences beyond “training to get a job”. College experiences though really can vary for everyone but i went away for school and it was the best decision I could’ve made. I met people I’d never have met, lived in one of those beautiful areas of California, worked while I was in school, was in a sorority (can speak about pros and cons of that) and made lifelong friends. I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I studied something I liked. I have regrets about how I did college and would change some things if I could go back in time but agree that the major pressure of “study what will make you money” just isn’t true.

      • C Gutierrez

        I think college does bring you with some great people and exposes you to enlightening material that one may have not encountered otherwise. I also think that I cannot justify the cost of college if it’s only an experience. There are other, less financially debilitating ways to open doors.

    • Kiks

      It sounds like we come from very similar backgrounds. I was SO naive and sheltered when I went to university. My grades got me into an Ivy League school where I was surrounded by people who’d grown up in big cities, had wealthy families, had already travelled all over the world. I was from a blue-collar town, my father was a labourer who was unemployed for half my childhood. I had no idea the kind of stratosphere I was going into, and it definitely was difficult the first couple years until I grew more confident.

      I would not change anything, I’m so proud of my degree and everything I’ve achieved; all I ever wanted was to have a career that was stable and dependable. May not seem like the most exciting choice, but I did not have a safety net. I had no choice but to build my own.

      • H

        The only two people I’ve ever spoken to both talking! Have been thinking about you both. So glad you are both living enriching lives now. But Adrianna, I hope that when the time is right, you freelance. An INFJ can not fail when they follow their inner voice!

        • Adrianna

          Hi H, I just noticed this comment. Thanks for the support. It’s something I’ve been thinking about, and I am planning personal projects for 2018.

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    College is not for everyone. As a high school teacher, I see so many students being pushed in the direction of college even though they’re not college material. I know it makes a school look good to say a certain percentage of graduates are going to college, but we have no way to track how many actually graduated from college. I tell my students that college is not for everyone, and if you need it for your chosen career, great. Too many young people are graduating with massive debt and working at jobs that don’t require a college degree because they can’t find a job in their field or they majored in something that doesn’t lead to a job.

    • ^ this. I believe in having regrets but I do wish I had been told that college was optional. They almost brainwash you junior/ senior year of high school that you need it unless you want to be a mechanic, join the army, or work fast food forever.

  • Abby

    Would have been more interested if you had asked less successful people. A CEO, a model, a professional traveler? No shit these people don’t care about finishing school.

    • Daniel Szilagyi

      Also more older people, most of these people are barely hitting the late to mid 30’s and well being a “traveling mom” might seem cool now, i wonder how she’ll feel in another 10 years if she regretted it, or the “model and stylist” barely being 25.

    • Adrianna

      I agree. Only 40% of my 2007 graduating class went to any sort of college (4 year, 2 year, community), and I still see some of the 60% working as cashiers in own hometown…

    • Nancy

      I’d also love to see some interviews of women working in STEM fields, which pretty much universally require at least one degree. Or if you want people without traditional college/higher education degrees: there are plenty of successful people working in trades.
      Like, I don’t really need another model telling me how much she loves her life. It sounds like she had to overcome a lot to be able to sustain herself in that line of work, but she barely mentions it (possibly for length/clarity in the interview). This group of people just doesn’t strike me as that interesting to read about.

      • Emily

        I agree, I’d love to read profiles from women in highly trained professions – across the board! stem, literature, arts, and so on.

      • Ann P

        I work in STEM, and I dropped out of university because I truly hated my degree (I was studying music at the time). That was 25 years ago (I’m 45 now). I got a job as a secretary in an IT services firm and worked my way up through sheer hard work and determination, and learning everything on the job that I could. I’m now a Partner in a consulting firm. Still don’t have a degree, which does make me a bit of a unicorn in the STEM world. I used to regret it, and feel like I didn’t belong. Then I worked out that some of the people around me got their job just because of their degree, whereas I got mine because of my brain and ability.

        I am actually undertaking a Masters degree now though, because I’ve found something I like. My work experience counted as my undergrad degree to qualify for my Masters.

        My unsolicited two cents? You are not going to screw up your life if you don’t go to college, don’t finish college, hate your field. You are not a failure. It’s not the end of the world and you never know what opportunities might present themselves.

        • Aydan

          Agreed! One of my most successful friends never finished college! not many of his friends or even colleagues know this, but he is a computer engineer (def is making more than me!!!!) and is highly successful! He’s just passionate and practiced and practiced and practiced and that has made him invaluable to his company!

  • Suzie

    So encouraging to read these stories!! Personally needed this article without even knowing so.

  • Holland Kennedy

    College isn’t for everyone! I wish high schools would let you know it is optional and work to help students find the best fit for them. There’s trade school (which is hardly EVER mentioned), beauty school, bartending school, whatever!! In creative careers, pretty much anything you want to know can be taught online and through practice as well.

    Now, I’m a recent college grad (December 2017) and I am an illustrator/designer and I do some photography as well! (All things that can be pursued without a degree), but i don’t regret my time there. College helped me discover the path that I’m on. I went in initially majoring in Journalism, becasue I was always good at writing, I enjoyed it, and Carrie Bradshaw. A year after I was there the Journalism department introduced a new concentration (Creative Mass Media) focusing on design & protography, creative aspects of the field. I went into that major blindly, because it sounded cool. And what I found what that I was actually really great at it and excited about it!

    I would’ve never thought I’d be doing this professionally if I hadn’t found it in college. Now, after I graduated I did debate long on attending grad school, but ultimately decided that I’m in a creative field and what I need is to work on my craft and get more exposure.. not more classrooms. Grad school would have only served as a safety blanket.

  • While I could easily do my present job ( translator) without a university degree and my first degree was in teaching – which I hadn’t intended to do for the rest of my life but still chose (I was simply sure I needed a profession and I enjoyed teaching adult classes that paid for my studies), I am also sort of addicted to studying. Luckily, there is this non-expensive open university in Germany that allows me to pursue a Bachelor’s course in Law, a title I don’t really need either (having an MA) … It is a huge pleasure to study at my own pace and choose the subjects I want to do straight away. So yes, I could survive without (as a translator), but I actually couldn’t (as a learning addict)…

    • Anne

      Hey Alcessa, I am not sure if it’s the right place to do so, but I would really like to connect. I am a translator myself. I got a Bachelor’s degree and I am hesitating to go on with the Master’s degree in translation. Also, I am wondering why you are pursuing a Bachelor’s degree since you are a translator. And I would like to know more about how you get translation gigs.

      • I don’t know much about degrees in translating, I am afraid. Got my Magister Artium in linguistics, did a student job for a translation agency and discovered it was my dream job.
        I translate into Slovenian, there are 2 million Slovenes and not all of them can translate, so my mother tongue is a bit rare. But … it would seem machine translation is going to replace all of us in the time to come – or so they say 🙁
        I have always worked very hard to prove to my clients I can do quality (in all aspects of my work and business, which is especially necessary when your client cannot judge the quality of your translation for the lack of understanding the language) and many of them stick with me. That is actually all. I still fear the time they will start to consider software better ( because cheaper) than me, but I don’ t know whether such a future may not contain opportunities for professional hard- workers ..
        I am pursuing a BA because it is the simplest way to gain basic knowledge in this area. When I win the lottery, I am going to study for real, that is, not in my spare time 🙂

        • Anne

          Ok. Thank you for answering me 🙂

      • I am pursuing a BA in law, not translation. I got my MA (=Magister Artium) in linguistics, so I would not know much about translation degrees. As for the jobs, I search for potential clinets on the internet and then try to make them very happy with my texts and my way of conducting business, so that they are willing to stick with me. What I do not do is low rates 🙁
        (you know, sometimes I wonder how long before software replaces us all :-()

  • Elizabeth Gordon

    Thank you for this post! I finished college and a master’s degree but dropped out of a doctoral program. I am conflicted about the decision I made. On the one hand, not finishing allowed me to stay home and raise my children (which I wanted to do), become a published author and try out a lot of interesting and creative endeavors that I never could have done had I been constantly publishing research or on a tenure track. On the other hand, I realize now how much I loved learning and how satisfying it was to research and debate social policy. My mother is my role model on this topic– she returned to law school at 55 and had a full, legal career until she retired. So, I guess that the lesson is that whether you dropped out and regretted or relished the decision, it’s always possible go back and finish. Or not.

  • Julia

    I work in college admissions, and I know well that college is not the right choice for every student! I very truly deeply wish that high schools did more to help their students truly find the right path for them – whether it be college, trade school, the military, or something else entirely! Unfortunately, for most schools this is a matter of resources. The student-to-counselor ratio in the US right now is 482-1. Attending a private high school usually lowers this ratio, but then adds a competitive culture around “getting in” to the best colleges, leaving no room for students to consider another way.

    I’d also like to consider this article from the perspective of a first-generation Latinx student in the US. They represent a large and growing proportion of graduating high school seniors, and in many ways they view college as a family investment and the only path to future success.

    Overall though – super duper cool interviews, Harling! So much life wisdom!

  • I’m happy to read these, because my sweet cousin has dropped out of college and I’m desperately worried about her future. But I’m still a little concerned because I think many of these people knew what was right/wrong for them at the time. I’m not sure that’s the case with her. She seems lost, searching for answers in the wrong places (drugs, music festivals), and generally a bit “however the wind blows” personality-wise. Which hadn’t always been the case. We’ve all wanted her to make her own decisions about going back to school, so my family hasn’t put any pressures on her – though we’re all pretty disappointed/worried. I definitely don’t think college is for everyone, but I think if you’re not going to go (especially when you have a full scholarship that could have gone to someone else), you should have a good reason, or are pursuing something you care passionately about.

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  • Ciccollina

    I would have loved if this was geared less towards people in creative fields (hairdresser, model and jewellery designer) because you don’t need a university degree to do those jobs, and the “path” is there. If you want to be a writer, or a painter, or designer, you just do those things. I literally skipped the travelling mom. Who cares?!

    The tougher question is for people not in creative fields because they not only have to justify their decision to leave university, but they must find a job! A career! I know because I’m one of these people. The journey from high school into a career path is the tricky part, not the lack of a degree.

    Grace was fabulous though. Smart girl with excellent advice.

  • Millie Lammoreaux

    I’m 33 years old with a high school diploma – I dropped out of college after one semester. I’ve worked in retail my entire adult life, selling people things. I’m fucking tired of it. Whenever I’ve interviewed for more “professional” jobs (i.e. entry-level office work), I get “we’d love to hire you but you don’t have a degree!” I don’t have the option to become a “traveling mom” or a consultant.
    Last year I enrolled as a freshmen at my local community college, which happens to be one of the best in the country. I have a 4.0 and am THRIVING in every aspect – every day I think, “this is the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself.” Surely there are many arguments against formal education, but for me, going back to school has given me the opportunity to unlock parts of myself that I thought were long gone. And I look forward to the day I finally have “bachelor’s degree” on my resume.

    • Elinor Sansom

      Honestly, I thought this article was well written but it’s comments like this^ that are actually more interesting to read, and give you a more nuanced perspective on what is the likely situation for most people.

      • Millie Lammoreaux

        I think the privilege of being able to choose whether or not to go to college should be a huge part of the conversation. I didn’t return to college in my 20s simply because I couldn’t afford it — and tbh, the only way I CAN afford to go full-time now is because my husband makes enough money to support me while I pursue my education. Yes, college is not for everyone, but it’s also not an OPTION for everyone, which has nothing to do with choice, sadly.

    • Rosemary

      This is a great perspective and I am so proud of you for going back to get your degree and working so hard to succeed in college! You rock!

      • Millie Lammoreaux

        Thank you!! I really love being a student 🙂

    • Fayla Garcia

      I dropped out of university, that’s what I needed to do for me. But yes you thrive!! I love these stories as well, keep it up!!!

    • Adrianna

      Congrats on this new chapter in your life!

      community college: I could think of several relatives and acquaintances who took advantage of community college and have had interesting and full-filling careers. (nurse, media engineer.) My relatives from Poland completed their entire degree at CC, whereas others saved money on some coursework and transferred to another university.

  • Leena

    As a recent university grad, this still feels really encouraging and soul-warming. More like it please

  • C Gutierrez

    This is a great article which obvs sparked a very lively comment section. Thanks, Harling! I am a 24 year old female and I was the star student as a kid. I was transferred to the gifted program and it was expected that i’d be one of the top students in the school. After years of having my path laid out for me, I completely rebelled. I think it can be incredibly frustrating to have such a clear cut path in life. For example, almost all my peers from that program ended up going to colleges like UC Berkeley. It wasn’t for me. So, I moved out and I’ve been taking care of myself for all my twenties. I’ve been broke. I’ve had to crash with friends. I’ve experienced envy with other 24 year olds who have degrees and careers. But I’ve also landed in some interesting places with good opportunities. Also, the specialty coffee world has been a life saver for me as it’s a demanding industry that actually pays people without degrees well. I’ve since returned to community college and am nearly done with my two year degree. But I refuse to go onto a 4 year institution because I strongly believe the cost of college should not be accepted as normal.

  • modesta

    “Conditions are similarly dire in other countries around the world” that is not true, in Europe students do not have to take student loans since there is public education. But of course you don’t know since Americans only know about themselves. Research a bit more.

  • I think this is more depends on your college and what the reason for you to end it. If you go to college because your parents says that this is a bad attitude. You need to identify the reason and follow your own way.

  • Brigette

    I would much rather read an article about educated, professional women who worked hard and finished their degrees. These examples are very successful. They also represent less than one percent of those who drop of out school. Every once in a while, a model can make a great amount of money, though I don’t believe that’s the only indicator of success in life, but it lasts as long her looks do. It’s like sports. When the physical attribute is gone, so is the money. Dropping out is usually a recipe for disaster, and I think the recent onslaught of anti-college articles online are really disappointing, and sadly indicative of the right wing push against education and cosmopolitanism.