College is stressful. But it's so much worse when it just isn't for you, or you're going for the wrong reasons.
The decision to go to university only felt like mine. But, looking back, I see that I felt huge amounts of pressure from my family and friends to go. Once I started, I didn't want to be a college dropout. Why? Society's norms.
I enjoyed learning and research, but after I graduated, I found that I was completely unprepared actually to work., I did a Masters's course and avoided the issue like a coward.
Then I realized that you can live without stress if you pursue your passions.
Here's how to pay attention to the huge opportunities around you to get out of the mentality that education is the only way forward.
If you see lots of red flags with a limiting course in your future - or if your parents have it all mapped out for you... Stop.
Make your own choices. Perhaps you will realize you want to go the University, or you want to drop out. But, the decision should be yours, and yours only.
Perhaps college is not for you
This is a normal feeling, not just a phase. We know that the most successful billionaires in the world either dropped out of college or didn't go to start with. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg - the list goes on. So what's all the fuss about?
If you can't list three good reasons why you personally want to go, then don't! This isn't the time to listen to your friends or family. They don't have to live with the results. If you don't like student culture or constantly stressing about grades, acknowledge that.
The biggest and most important thing that this ultimate guide can tell you is to be true to yourself. You will know that you have made the right decision when you finally do it. It's a gut feeling.
The suggestion that everyone needs a college education is a huge myth.
This is by no means unusual. Think about it – you are a teenager. No one knows what they want to be when they're that young. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, to you, or themselves.
My sister went off to college last year, and the first thing she said when we picked her up for break was 'I hate college.' A sparkling review, right?
The main issue was that she felt like she did not belong anywhere.
Loneliness in first-year students is a huge problem. If you are not good at operating by yourself, it will be hard. Making friends can feel forced in the cramped environment of university dorms. If you don't see yourself being able to overcome that, then don't bother.
It can soon become claustrophobic
We are sophisticated creatures and cannot thrive in conditions when we feel trapped by debt. The hugely competitive lifestyle is also dangerous. Don't risk your mental health just doing what everyone tells you to do.
If you don't want to be there, it will show.
You owe it to yourself to accept that the education system is unfulfilling, even corrupt. It may seem like the default option. It isn't. If you don't see the point of this factory-style learning, then pursue other experiences.
What next, then?
So many employers appreciate the first-hand experience over textbook knowledge anyway. Why? Because it proves, you can think on your feet and not just memorize things people have already said.
Even in practical college courses like Economics, it is 90% theoretical. That abstract knowledge is great and all, but it's not very helpful in the real world.
In fact, in 2019, a study concluded that 75% of employers considered a skill shortage within the workforce. Indeed, a further 51% claimed that the education system had done nothing to fix it.
So, yes, it's important to think about the future, but if you aren't invested in education, you are just committing to numerous interest payments. The cost of attending college has doubled since 1980, and US students are a startling 1.6billion dollars in debt.
That's around $33,000 per person. Let that sink in.
It is an expensive mistake to make
Think about it this way, practical occupations like plumbers and electricians can make huge figure salaries because they are essential to society's smooth running. You gain specific qualifications to qualify for the profession rather than an irrelevant degree in college for something that won't serve you in the future.
These are noble professions, nothing to be ashamed of - despite the suggestion that practical work is 'less than.' How can it be when these services are so valuable to society and so lucrative?
Try to imagine a team of Ph.D. students fixing your drains. They would be just as out of their depth as people in academia. Being different from one another is nothing to be ashamed of. We have to embrace it.
It's time and money down the drain, if not. Furthermore, it's your mental health at stake.
It's hard to be part of a system that doesn't seem to care about individuals. Colleges need performance metrics, and students deserve to be treated as more than that.
Find your passion - even if it's something unusual
Identify your passions and pursue them! Have a frank conversation with the people around you and look for internship opportunities. I know it's low pay, but it's still far better than needlessly taking on debt.
Furthermore, you will have one foot in the company's door, plus a head above your friends that will graduate in four years with zero experience.
Do something weird with your time, too. Something unexpected that academia wouldn't allow. You can bring something new to the world, something valuable and risky.
Alternatively, do as I did, and use your time to travel and spend time on yourself. Use that space to read up on what you, and the world, need.
After that, when you are refreshed, get some friends together and commit to a project. Try a start-up in your garage - be the new Bill Gates. Even if you crash and burn, you do it on your terms, and you will learn from it. Make that rollercoaster out of gummy bears that you've dreamt of. Even if it melts in the sun, you will learn so much!
Or, if an invention isn't for you, write something! Read more – take up hiking. Find friends in high places and get a part-time job while deciding what to do with your life.
That way, your life isn't on hold, and you're still getting more prepared for your future career than anyone in further education likely is.
Money issues and gap year
Don't be! You can make money without being anchored down by the chain of academia. First of all, find your niche, and find it early. You can't just sit at home waiting for inspiration.
If it's not a business venture or traveling the world, how about being a content creator? Anyone can go viral on TikTok these days. Our generation has redefined the word 'professional' - it can mean anything.
And remember that you can't be too old to go to college if you change your mind. It's not a final decision, and with some life experience, you will know more about what you want for yourself.
If you have major doubts, pro and con lists both for and against going to college, it's okay to take a gap year. You could work or travel, depending on your needs. But certainly, a year is enough to give you clarity in what's the next chapter in your life.
Work on your online skills
Take these opportunities. Create your value in the marketplace. Find your direction by making it as a Youtuber or just doing it for its fun. Having basic coding skills and website editing experience is super easy to learn but will give you a huge leg up on the job market.
Take some online courses to polish up your Excel spreadsheets and your interview skills.
Stop thinking like everyone else. The world doesn't need another robot created out of an (often) corrupt education system. It needs individuality.
Know your worth
If a school has always left you drained and uninspired, leave that behind. The simple conclusion: things are easier when you care about them.
You will thrive because you can think outside the box rather than memorize it. The world needs both academics and practical people to progress. Be part of that.
If your life feels fraught and difficult, think about why that is. Take steps to redefine your future in the workplace and the world.
The biggest step is to decide that college is not for you. Things will fall into place after that. Trust me.
When you know when to step back, the times in life are just as important as those when you take a leap. Yes, feeling that college isn't right for you now seems final. But, your life's only starting, and this is your first big decision. Follow your gut, your passions, and see where it gets you.
Take responsibility and claim the right to have the life you chose.