Jay-Z was once asked in an interview if he feels insecure about not having a degree when he goes into a boardroom with a bunch of lawyers and MBAs. His response? “Never. They’ve lived a bunch of words but I’ve lived a bunch of life.”
As a dropout myself, I can understand this feeling. How could I possibly feel insecure about not having a degree that I never wanted and when I have 5+ more years of professional experience than anybody my age? For me, dropping out and starting my life early was a way to avoid the insecurity I see today in so many of my peers when they realize that they have no marketable skills that employers want and no knowledge of what they really want out of life.
More and more young people are beginning to realize this too. They see college as a 4-6 year postponement from the real world that costs far more than it’s worth and figure out ways to sidestep it entirely.
Over the last few years, I’ve been collecting quotes from these people about their decision to drop out of college and what they did instead. It’s helped me and I hope helps you make the decision to drop out and get started on your life.
People said I should do the responsible thing and go back to college. But I didn’t. I decided to irresponsibly chase my curiosity. I went down the rabbit hole, and I knew some people thought I was crazy. I was a college dropout, I was living with my parents and I was spending all my time coding, something that many believe a woman or a dropout cannot pursue as a career. Yet I didn’t care. I let go of what path I was supposed to be on. Later, I realized I had discovered my biggest passion. I did an unpaid engineering internship and eventually got my first job as a software engineer.
– Madison Kanna
This opportunity that is front of you—is it what you were going to school for in the first place? For me, that was it. I wasn’t going to stay in school for another year, graduate, and then cross my fingers and hope to get offered a similar job again. Fuck the marshmallow test—sometimes you have to take what’s offered to you right now…because later might not happen.
– Ryan Holiday
I didn’t come to college to be forced into useless classes nor did I come to become well-rounded. I came to college to study a particular field and differentiate myself in the job market. Even when I finally took some good classes, they were delivered in horribly inefficient ways. Anyone could learn this material from books and free online resources.
After 3 years of disappointment and thousands of dollars of debt accumulation, I was fed up. I stopped being afraid of stupid things and decided to break the mold. It was the best decision I have ever made.
– Nate Baker
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.”
– Grace Slater
– Keshav Narula
When I dropped out of school, I was betting on myself. It was a good bet (one that surprised me, honestly). In less than 3 years, I’d worked as a Hollywood executive, researched for and promoted multiple NYT bestsellers, and was Director of Marketing for one of the most provocative companies on the planet. I had achieved more than I ever could have dreamed of — the scared, overwhelmed me of 19 could have never conceived of having done all that.
– Ryan Holiday
Looking back at my life, dropping out of college was the smartest decision I ever made. I left CU-Boulder as a sophomore against the better judgment of all my friends, family and classmates. At the time, they thought I was making a huge mistake. However, I was determined to prove them wrong, and this determination helped fuel my success.
– Logan Cheirotti
I’m not putting myself through five years of freaking college that’s expensive and to not have a guaranteed job at the end.
– Nathan Latka
In college I was learning things that didn’t help in anything I wanted to achieve. The classes were very boring, the people I was studying with didn’t seem incredible to me as to consider them colleagues or future members of my team. I was learning a lot of calculus, mechanics and electricity, but only theoretically because most universities don’t have the infrastructure to do practical classes on these subjects. And they don’t encourage you to think beyond passing the exams…I wanted to quit college.
– Carlos Sz
I was tired of losing money, time, and mental energy to college. I was more frustrated about the opportunities I was missing out on. I dropped out and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
– Casey McGoff
After I dropped out, I began running studio sessions and selling the beats I was making to pay for rent and food. I didn’t have anybody telling me to do it that way; one day I just realized that people sell beats, and I had tons of beats. I made a post on Facebook seeing who wanted to buy my beats, and I’ve been selling them ever since. I’ve basically spent every day since in my studio working as hard as I can to be comfortable. I still haven’t gotten around to paying back any student loans, but I can eat now, I can pay my rent, I have some great friends, and I’ve had the privilege of playing and working with some of my inspirations in the last few months.
– Riley Smithson
College, for me, was a lot like a bubble. I had a level of independence and responsibility, but I wasn’t yet part of the reality outside of school. Don’t get me wrong—college makes sense for those who feel happy there and want to be there. But for me, this bubble was suffocating. The longer I stayed, the more trapped I felt…This was a scary decision, but I finally made it, and once I did I felt I could breathe again.
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…
…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.
– Fabi Pina