Two weeks ago I went to college with my friends for the day. Why? Because I dropped out of college October 2016 at the start of the yea. Now the said school year is coming to an end and come August the next academic year will resume and I will be returning for a fresh start. Since January when I signed up for CAO ( the Irish equivalent of the sorting hat from Harry Potter ) I've been thinking about what course I'd like to do come August. In this time I've grown more grateful for the time I've spent out of university, the skills and experiences I've had in that time. The last few months I've taken out have been so worthwhile in so many different ways that I cannot help but find myself advocating for the gap year option.
The decision to take a gap year was never one that crossed my mind before starting University. The plan was always to go through the different levels of education, come out with the necessary papers to aid in finding a job that I would be stuck with for the rest of my life to provide a living. It's the somewhat generic plan for most people so I know I was not alone in that. However, having dropped out of college last October and spending the time since then working and undertaking creative projects I can't stand by without at least speaking of the alternate plans out there ( and there are many) but specifically the plan I have come to see.
And that plan is very simple, you do what you want. The generic plan I talk about above is the practical plan, but since the millennial generation I think it's safe to say there is more acceptance of a idealised plan. Whereas previous generations saw one route to success, education, education, education, ( which is still important ), we're becoming more accepting of other paths that lead to the same destination. You may ask a group of four year old what they want to be when the grow up and receive answers you would have expected years ago like doctors, bankers, pilots all the way to hairdressers, make-up artist, farmer. The spectrum is widening or perhaps perceptions ad opinions are becoming more accepting.
The thing dropping out has taught me is that time is invaluable but so are the skills you learn. My main reason for leaving my course was because the workload did not push or inspire me. I didn't feel as though I was working to achieve anything because I wasn't working at all. College quickly became a waste of time and I don't have time to waste so I left. I left with not much of a plan in mind and that's what I did wrong. That's the first lesson you need to learn if you want to be a successful college dropout. You need to have something to move onto.
1) Have Something To Move On To.
The stigmatisation of the college drop out comes from the idea that the college dropout leaves behind a perfectly good opportunity to establish a solid foundation built on invaluable education to do...well nothing. What is the point in that? You may not know what you want to do in college. With so many courses and universities, the choices are incredibly varied.
You don't need to have your life figured out. Leaving my business course I wasn't entirely sure what was next. I'd stayed behind in Ireland while my family moved away so I could attend college here and now I'm not even going to college anymore. Do I stay in Ireland? Do I got to England? For a very long time I didn't think too much into it. I dove into work. I had been working part-time as a retail assistant so I found a second part-time job. For one week I had three jobs! I looked into internships for marketing and was offered a position for one but I pulled out. A part of me just couldn't do it, I was putting all my energy into work and refusing to think about anything, college family, life. I felt like a complete and utter failure. Why couldn't I have just stayed in college?
I'd have been miserable that's why and for me that was reason enough but I didn't know what I was doing next and that was scary. On the outside I dealt with it well enough to not look broken but on the inside was a can of worms waiting to pop open and when it did, it wasn't good. Weeks and months of holding in insecurities and feeling at a loss boiled over and began to infect me in ways that were toxic, its forever stained some relationships and I don't know if I'll ever be able to remove. I can't help thinking that if I had put more thought into what I would do before quitting, perhaps things would've unravelled differently and maybe not, there were many different factors involved but the feeling of being a failure did not help.
Is there anything you'd really like to do? Travel? Work? Start A Business? Just do it. Neither of these are easy but once you're putting energy into making things happen, you'll soon realize what you are capable off.
2) Talk To Your Parents.
For some people making the decision to drop out is a lot harder when they see it as a failure in the eyes of their parents, also especially when there's fees and money involved. If you're an Irish third level student, it's too late right now to drop out and get the money back, however if you drop out before October 31st in any year you get your money back, drop out before the end of January ad you get half of it back, after that, nada, you walk away from it all.
And for some the idea of losing all that money, loans that your parents might've taken out to pay fees may seem incredibly daunting and selfish to say it's not what you want. If you've given the course your best shot, tried to transfer and still aren't getting anywhere, then there's no point being miserable. Your parents may find it hard to understand but they can't kill you, unless they like how prison orange looks on them.
When I told my mother I wanted to drop out of college she actually said 'I told you so'. She had urged me to go for a more academic driven course in a different college and I had ignored her. She wasn't wrong but she wasn't entirely right. I didn't leave because the course wasn't academic, it was. I left because the course was not challenging, something a more academic driven institution would have been able to give me. But even then, there is still a chance that I may not have enjoyed the course, I know now that I want to do something creative and not just academic. I need to be able to bring ideas to life and not just read texts from books and regurgitate them in exams.
It's taken me almost a year to try and figure out what I might enjoy doing and I still don't know if the reality will live up to my expectations in any way or if I'll even get the course I want. But here's the thing, If I don't get in, I know there is more than one way to get to my end goal. And your parents will support you even if they don't agree with you but if you happen to have hardcore parents who don't understand, you do what's best for you and make sure to prove them wrong with your happiness.
3) Get A Job
When most people leave college they get a job. Most of those people don't go back. Some stay in the same job for years, others move up the ranks, into other branches other companies and become big managers and supervisors. I worked with a girl who took a year out, worked as a sales assistant and is now the Store Manager of a leading women's retail brand in Dubai. She turned 21 this year. She's the exception not the rule. She worked incredibly hard and the job is something she loves doing.
Now if you're like me and know that college is definitely something you'd like to go back to, getting a job is a great way to fill time and build character until you return to college. You can save up more and go on a big trip, take your driving lessons, buy a car, travel more, see friends ( which can be hard with their school timetables and your work timetable but not impossible.)
With all that said, don't get comfortable. Remember what your end goal is and make sure you keep it at the forefront of your mind by taking on fun projects for yourself!
Do things! Anything. Have fun. Is there something you've always wanted to do but never thought you'd have time for? Write a novel? Learn an instrument? Shoot a short movie? Well do it now. One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2017 was to be more creative. I wanted to work on my writing skills, up my blogging game, start a photography site, and go after ever realistic creative idea I get, even if it's just a little realistic because what have I to lose? I have the time and I sometimes have the money.
What you learn from experimenting is the kind of person you are and the things that excite and inspire you and from there you can begin to see what the future may hold for you, even if it is short-term. I started listening to podcasts and now I am starting a radio/podcast show with a local radio station, something I would never have done if I were still in my Business course! You can read more about that here. Use this year out to learn about the one person who could use the help...you. I know now more than ever that the kind of course that'll excite me most is one where I have the opportunity to bring the ideas in my head to life, a visual portrayal from mind to screen. As my house mates say, it'll be easier fro me to go from media to business than vice versa. Who knows what epiphanies, big or small you will learn from yourself?
If possible, travel as much as you are able to, even if it is just around Ireland or whatever country you live in. Try to meet new people from different backgrounds. I'm not saying become everyone's best friend but where there is an opportunity to learn from another person do it, good or bad, you will learn and knowledge is power.
5) Pretend To Be A Student
So I went to college for a day but you don't have to go in just for a day. Go to as many lectures as you can possibly sneak into. You have friends who probably go to a handful of different colleges, go in with them for a day or a week and see how it goes. If possible get the timetable of a course that interests you and show up to the lectures.
If it's more information you need reach out to the college or students. If your friends aren't as connected as you'd like them to be, most courses have Facebook pages, find one and message them, arrange a tour with the school's faculty. There are so many ways to put out the fires of doubt and get the information you really want. Does the course involve a lot of written work? Is there huge pressure placed on students? Ho many are in each seminar class? Do you need a portfolio? Is the course fun? Any question big or small, you can find an answer to.
I attended no open days the first time and this time round I've been to a few, I didn't find them as useful as actually going into the college and seeing it for myself on an ordinary day when there aren't throngs of prospective students swimming around the place. At the end of the day dropping out of college shouldn't be that big a deal, it should be a chance to take a step back, perhaps breathe after the stress of your final exams and give yourself time to explore your many, many options.
6) It's not that big a deal so have fun.
Honestly dropping out of college I was scared that I would face the stigma that dropouts are supposedly faced with. 'A good for nothing stereotype' heading down the road to nowhere. So yes, the idea of dropping out was one I took a lot more seriously than I would've had I known that so many people JUST DON'T CARE.
And I mean why should they? It's none of their business. Most times when I tell people I dropped out they affirm my decision saying it was best to get out while I could instead of staying in a course I would not enjoy.
So if dropping out of a course is something you think about, it's coming to the end of the academic year, that doesn't mean you can transfer to another course or even defer for the year, take out the year and who knows try your hand at something else when you get back. In the mean time, get a job, join the gym, travel, meet new people, experiment, write a book, and just have fun!
So that's my two pence on being a successful college dropout, do everything and anything except nothing.
Is there anything I have missed? Let me know.
Till next time my pretties xxx
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