Dropping Out for Good

I’m sure you’ve all heard the statistic that people with college degrees will earn at least $1 million more in their lifetimes than those without college degrees. So what does that mean for people who go to college and drop out? Are they automatically going to be worse off than those who graduate? If you think the answer is yes, you should consider that some notable college dropouts include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

Success does not require a college degree, but rather planning, hard work and sometimes luck. Anyone can be successful in life. Nations were created by people who never went to college. A degree does not guarantee success, a high salary job or financial security; however, a college degree does make it more likely you will be able to have all three.

There are many reasons to go to college; it’s an investment for the future. But there are also reasons not to go to college, though most revolve around debt.  But there is one point that colleges and others bring up as a reason to go to college that I strongly disagree with, and that is the idea of using college as a path to “self-discovery.”

When I was looking for colleges I heard many people telling me “college will allow you to truly find yourself”. Personally I think that is the worst reason to go to college. If you are going to put yourself and your family into debt, don’t do it to “find yourself”, do it because you want to get a college education.

I would tell everyone who urges people to go to college on that point that they should find a cheaper way for people to “find themselves.” Colleges weren’t built to be a social training ground. They were built to allow students to attain a higher education in life.

The reason why college dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and others have found success in life is because they are entrepreneurs. You don’t need a college degree in order to become an entrepreneur. In fact, you don’t even need a high school diploma, but you do have to be a good salesman (or saleswoman). But for those of you that want to become engineers and hate going to college (if there are any) you’re stuck here unless you want to try your chances in the field without a degree (you won’t get very far).

So what is a college degree worth? It doesn’t guarantee you anything. That’s right, all that stuff you heard about a guaranteed job and income is really a bunch of bull. What a college degree does is to give you a chance at attaining a good job and better wages than people who choose to work right out of high school.

I’m sure you’re asking why people drop out of college in the first place. Well, the one reason I’ve heard that makes the most sense is the accumulation of debt. If you know what you want to do for the rest of your life, and it doesn’t require a college degree, then why waste the money for tuition if you’re not going to benefit from it?

Remember that a college degree is an investment. There’s not much purpose putting money into hopes of obtaining a higher income when you can stop and make lots of money without pilling on debt. However, there are lots of things that anyone should consider before even thinking about leaving school.

First is how soon you can make money and what your level of income will be. There’s little point in dropping out if you’re going to be working for minimum wage. The second thing to consider is that a college degree can go on your resume and boost your chances of getting employed. The current unemployment rate for college graduates according to the Bureau of Labor was 8.1 percent in October. The rate for those with a high school diploma was at 8.8 percent. So if you are considering dropping out, you really need to have a plan otherwise you may end up regretting it for the rest of your life.

In fact I met some people who dropped out of high school and joined the military. Most, but not all of them were happy with their decision. Most of them didn’t like college and thought they would be better off if they joined the military for the veteran’s benefits. It is an option for many, but I personally would tell people who are considering it to think it through before making their decision.

I’m sure all of you who are reading this know someone who either dropped out of college, or decided not to go to college and is successful and happy.

When you think about it the word success can mean many different things to different people. To some it might mean the accumulation of wealth, for others it might be the creation of a legacy. For some, their version of success doesn’t require a college degree.

Braden Buckel is a first-year literary journalism major. He can be reached at bbuckel@uci.edu.