Five years ago I abandoned my degree (double major in Psychology & Biology) to strike out from NYC and move to California.
Dropping out of college was one of the toughest and weirdest decisions ever because I love learning, had spent a fortune on my education and had no idea what the next few years would hold without a college degree.
I had no idea why, how or where my journey was going to take me. I just knew I had to make it epic.
Soon after I withdrew from classes, I came off all my pharmaceutical medication (which I’d be on for 10+ years), went through horrific withdrawal symptoms and learned how to heal myself totally naturally.
I started practicing meditation and cooking meals at home.
I began to treat myself lovingly and with respect.
I ferociously read more biology, psychology, chemistry and quantum physics books than I had ever read in school.
I started this blog about my journey and wrote my heart out every night.
I moved across the country.
Last month, my first book was published in bookstores everywhere, including some of my favorite retailers ever, like Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indie Bound, Kindle, Amazon and more… by one of my favorite publishers!
And get this: it’s in the Psychology section!
So, how did I get here? How did I drop out and still end up doing exactly what I was going to school to do, which was to publish a psychology book that touches and helps others?
Here are some tips that got me to realize that what I was doing was an option: not a necessity.
It’s Doesn’t Mean Anything
Abraham Lincoln left school at 12 years old to help his family on the farm.
He quit in 7th grade and later became the President.
Society makes you feel like the Mayor of Losertown if you’re not going to college. Not only is college par for the course in today’s world, it’s icing on the cake if your school has a fancy, recognizable name.
My family was stoked because I fit in that category. I was a bragging right. I was going to Dinner Conversation College. And I was going to graduate cum laude. I was also the first person in my family to go to college. No pressure, though.
Your family wants what’s good for you: not always what’s best for you.
If only I knew that getting into a good school is pretty much the same as graduating from it, as far as people-you’ll-meet-for-the-rest-of-your-life are concerned.
And if only I knew that abandoning the idea that you MUST go to college is really what’s integral to your self worth.
Because those are some of the most freeing thoughts you may ever have. So have them now. Where you go to school or IF you go to school does not determine how smart you are or what you’re capable of. In fact, sometimes it can really hold you back.
Here a (very) short list of other college dropouts you may have heard of:
Oprah, John Lennon, Russell Simmons, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Wolfgang Puck, Ellen DeGeneres, Mark Zuckerberg, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone (Founders of Twitter), Lady GaGa, Brad Pitt, Natasha Bedfield, Matt Mullenweg, Tumblr CEO David Karp, John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods), Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Ted Turner, David Geffen, Coco Chanel and Ralph Lauren.
Some of the greatest companies of this era were founded by dropouts. It’s really not bad company to be in.
From the 1983–1984 enrollment year to the 2013–2014 enrollment year, the inflation-adjusted cost of a four-year education, including tuition, fees, and room and board, increased 125.7 percent for private school and 129.0 percent for public school (according to the College Board). Whaaaaat?!?! I had to read that like, ten times.
Unlike a lot of people who are forced to go to college, I actually LOVED school and enjoyed going. I love learning. But does it need to cost several hundred thousand dollars to learn how to think critically?! Bennington College, where I went for undergrad, currently costs upwards of $60,000. A year.
One look at my credit report and you’ll see I took out not one… not two… but THIRTEEN student loans to pay for 4 years of college.
Did I learn a few new things? Sure.
Could I have just bought the books and learned it all for free at home? Yes. I totally could have.
And, knowing how self-driven I am, I know I totally would have.
The best way to learn is to live life. The best way to learn how to think critically is to face challenges. To talk to people, explore, hike, swim, travel, read and have real life experiences.
If you’re truly trying to learn, it won’t do you much good to sit in a dorm room with headphones on trying to pretend you can’t hear the person next door having sex. I mean, really.
Check out http://uncollege.org/resources for some amazing, free learning resources right at your fingertips!
There’s also a great, free place called the library that’s probably in your very own town! It has tons of information on every single shelf for almost any subject you’ll want to study.
It’s No Guarantee
Many of my friends who’ve graduated with amazing degrees, masters degrees and even doctorates… don’t have jobs. No, not even entry level jobs. Many of my other friends have jobs, but their work is not even close to being in the field they’ve studied or are passionate about.
Think things are better than the year of the Great Recession (2007/2008)? According to The College Board, for young college graduates, the unemployment rate is currently 7.2 percent (compared with 5.5 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 14.9 percent (compared with 9.6 percent in 2007).
Wages of young college and high school graduates are performing poorly—and are substantially lower today than in 2000. The real (inflation-adjusted) wages of young high school graduates are 5.5 percent lower today than in 2000, and the wages of young college graduates are 2.5 percent lower.
Women in particular have seen large declines in hourly wages, among both high school and college graduates.
For creative types or those looking to pick up skills that have real, tangible value in the marketplace, look to CreativeLive, which offers free live courses on everything from design to photography. They attract world renowned instructors like Tim Ferriss, Noah Kagan, and Ramit Sethi, and is a much better alternative to that expensive art school you were thinking about.
It’s Supposed to be Fun
At Bennington I took 6 classes per semester and always made it a priority to go out of my comfort zone and travel (aka spend more $$) for Field Work Term. It was supposed to be fun… but it wasn’t. I was stressed out constantly. And I was totally exhausted.
A lot of the bad decisions college students make stem from working their butts off. They work like crazy and then feel like they deserve to party just as hard. I know I did. For many college students this has often lead to countless hangovers, bad sexual decisions, sometimes overdoses and even, in some cases, death.
If you’re struggling through college or feel like you’re just getting through your days, you’re doing something wrong. Consider whether you may be able to apprentice in some way for the career experience you are looking for instead. Apprenticeship or interning can teach you many valuable lessons that we often miss when we’re exhausted and living off coffee, running from class to class.
I’ve Learned and Done SO Much More Since I Left
Truthfully, I can tell you that I learned more on my two week roadtrip from New York to California than I learned in my 5 years going to college. I’ve gained more inspiration in traveling than I ever felt in Creative Writing. I’ve learned more from running my own business than I ever learned in Business 101. It was easier to write my #1 bestselling book in the Psychology section than it ever was to write a term paper for Psychology.
Going to class is no longer a guarantee of having an a-ha moment or an elevated life experience.
Is this decision for everyone? Of course not.
Am I really glad I made it? Yes!
I have no qualms with formal education. I appreciate my background. I am grateful for the schools that teach our surgeons how to be surgeons and our lawyers and judges how to defend us. I give many of my mentors and teachers far more credit for shaping me as a person than anything else (other than books).
I gave up on spending a fortune on college, but I still went out of my way to get certificates, awards and recognition in my field. I did apprenticeships and I found ways to figure out if I was doing the right thing: before I wasted a ton of time on it. Instead of continuing in pre-med, for instance, I took my Medical Assistant course and got my clinical cert. In just a few months, I was working alongside doctors. Drawing blood, taking EKG’s, recording vital signs, administering meds, even weighing in on medical recommendations.
I learned in just a matter of hours that I did NOT, in any way, shape or form, want to be a doctor. I belonged in the lab.
People stuff grossed me out. And jeez – the pressure!
This may have otherwise taken me 10+ years to figure out!
Once I realized I didn’t want to work one-on-one with people, I got my Environmental Laboratory Technician Certification. Then I got my Environmental Analyst Cert. I took every extra class and got every certification I could think of in the field I still loved. This allowed me to work in the lab and figure out if maybe that was truly what I wanted to be doing (nope.)
I did everything I needed to do in order to figure out what my future might hold. I just didn’t do it the old fashioned way.
And I want to let you know: you don’t have to, either.
I want to send a loving reminder to anyone who’s frightened about making a big move, a big decision, or about leaving your education or relationship or doing anything because it doesn’t feel right anymore.
If you listen to your gut, the universe works for you. I promise you it does.
Had I stayed in school, I’d still be going. I’d never have had the time to write a book, speak, go on a book tour or actually do what I wanted to do all along: change people’s lives.
Follow your hearts my loves.
I’m telling you, you won’t regret it.