I just dropped out of college…again.
I can trace my decision to drop out back to a typical evening in college when I found myself procrastinating to avoid writing a social-psych essay while in my dorm room.
Procrastination is one of my favorite hobbies.
Something about waiting to start an assignment until it’s due in a half hour gives me an irresistible rush. I thought that this was mostly a personal problem, but problems often lead to insights.
While casually surfing the web and avoiding the essay, in between cat videos and learning about the political climate of Madagascar, I found out that up to 95% of college students procrastinate. It made me think. Well nobody likes to do homework. Right?
Then I started to realize two things:
- I should stop going to frat parties, and maybe my way of thinking won’t be as deranged.
- When I see the statistic that 95% of college students procrastinate, I think of hundreds of thousands of college students that are stuck in an old system, when new technology and modern schools of thought are right in front of their eyes.
When I think of education, I think of learning, self-growth, and improving career prospects. So naturally, when I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in the Fall at one of the nation’s best private universities, I was an eager undergraduate who couldn’t wait to see what college had in store for me.
Yet, oddly enough, I find myself now, in the Spring, sitting at home, all classes dropped.
Coming from an upper-middle-class Asian-American family, higher education isn’t suggested, it’s expected. My decision to take some time off from school came as a huge surprise to pretty much my whole extended family. But even my parents couldn’t wrap their head around why I would want to abandon a scholarship, what was essentially a clear path to a successful career, and what many people consider to be the “BEST FOUR YEARS OF YOUR LIFE!”. For a while, I couldn’t wrap my head around it either, but I knew for a fact that when sitting in a classroom, paying the exorbitant tuition that I was, I had to make sure I was getting my money’s worth. What I’ve learned is this:
Higher education needs a serious update.
You can disagree, your friends may disagree, your parents will almost definitely disagree, but the facts our right in front of our eyes.
College tuition prices have skyrocketed, student loan debt is at an all-time high, and the unemployment rate for college graduates with less than a master’s degree is steadily rising.
Couple that with the significant uptick of alcohol and drug-related deaths on college campuses over the past decade, it’s not hard to assume that college may do more harm than good these days.
A typical rebuttal would be, “But what about learning how to be responsible, organized and self-directed? ”
To that I would say, sure, college will teach you time management skills and how to be organized, but the tracks are laid out for you. Quite frankly, I would argue that college does the exact opposite regarding self-direction. To be self-directed is to be able to make your own decisions, based on your own beliefs, on your own schedule. When colleges and universities borrow the same antiquated system that high schoolers are used to, they fail to provide young adults with the challenges and experiential learning that they NEED to grow and develop.
As convenient as campus life is, the traditional 4-year college experience is a childish fantasy compared to living in the real world.
And what bothers me the most is the amount of money being poured into the system by blissfully ignorant parents who grew up in a very different educational landscape, i.e. without the internet. Sure, some may argue that a diploma is a guaranteed return on investment, but at a median price tag of 60k a year, is college really the only way to develop these skills?
I would argue, NO.
“Never let schooling interfere with your education” – Mark Twain
This is the start of an education revolution. You see it with entrepreneurship, coding bootcamps, online courses and MOOCs, and a slew of new, innovative alternative-education programs. Information has NEVER been more accessible or abundant in human history. The internet has not only changed the way we socialize but the way we learn and absorb intelligence.
Taking the “leap” and dropping out of college has been the best thing I have ever done for myself personally and financially. I’ve traveled to different countries on a budget, taken action on my interests in production and photography, and have made real connections within the alternative-education community who are poised to help me grow, develop, and succeed. After just 3 months of experiential, self-directed learning and working on individual projects, I can say that I’ve accomplished more than I ever would have sitting in a classroom at an accredited University.
The first step I took to take the leap was reaching out to my community for guidance and mentorship. I know it’s scary, but sometimes a well-worded email is all it takes.
Below is the first email I wrote to build a supportive community around me. If you feel that you could be pushing your own learning further, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and join Edventurists to take your education into your own hands.
After reading your article, I felt inspired and slightly in awe at how many of your criticisms and beliefs regarding higher education I could relate to. I am currently on inactive status at my university after a rough fall semester where I experienced feelings of overwhelming apathy towards the monotonous, systematic nature of my classes. There was something that felt inherently wrong with spending the amount of money I did in exchange for the same regimented, repetitive curriculum I was familiar with from high school. I am a firm believer in learning by doing, and feel compelled to dedicate myself to self-education and project-based learning while I am in between things this semester.
With this email I intend to merely start a dialogue between us regarding anything from alternative career paths and “Edventure”-based learning to personal philosophies and miscellaneous adult wisdom. I am currently 20 years old, and at a time in my life where exploration and self-discovery are not optional, but necessary. While I don’t expect you to plan out my life for me, I am in search of accessible, actionable goals which I can use as catalysts for my career and life experiences in general. My interests are varied, and I am not looking to find my passion. I’m looking to find pathways and goals I can be passionate about, while maintaining a sense of direction career-wise.
From what my sister has told me you are currently abroad doing very interesting work through the Kalu Yala institute, so I appreciate any time out of the day you set aside to respond to my inquiry.
Henry Lee is a 20-year old from New Jersey that is now studying Design Thinking at the Kalu Yala Institute in Panama.
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Photo by: Alex Jones