General Question

Hobbes's avatar

Should I leave College?

Asked by Hobbes (7368points) July 15th, 2010

College is very expensive. While I have only had to take out a relatively small loan ($5000) my parents are paying an arm and a leg. If I finish a 4-year degree, they will have shelled out nearly $120,000. They can afford it, but it still puts a great deal of financial pressure on them, and I am becoming increasingly uncertain that the cost is worthwhile.

It seems to me that there are three reasons to go to College. The first is, of course, to “get an education”. I certainly desire this, but I disagree with the idea that an education must be received at an institution. The best way to learn anything is by doing it, and since my current major is Theater and I intend to pursue it professionally I believe the best way for me to improve is to be involved in productions, and I do not need to be in school to do that. I agree that in many cases, a knowledgable and skilled teacher is invaluable, but such people do exist outside of colleges.

I also feel that the things I have learned the most about over the course of my schooling have been those I became interested in and pursued on my own initiative. I have always received good grades, but have never been happy with the structure of schooling. I love to read, and I love to learn, but I have felt stifled rather than freed by the intense and unforgiving academics of the schools I have attended. With the endless resources available in today’s world I do not see why attending an institution should be necessary to expand one’s knowledge.

The second reason is the fact that a correlation exists between the ammount of money a person makes and their level of education. However, as Forbes Magazine points out, correlation does not equal causation, and given the ammount students pay for that degree, the numbers are misleading.

Furthermore, I have little desire to earn very much money. The things I need to live a happy life are few, and most of them don’t cost much: fresh air, clean water, healthy food, a safe and comfortable place to sleep, clothing, music, books, and tea. Add in exercise, good friends and creative stimulation and I can’t imagine wanting much else. If I have a family I will want a good, stable place to live and the money to finance my children, but that’s about it.

The third reason is the “College Experience”. Certainly, I have made friends at school, and I would be sad to leave them behind. Certainly, I have enjoyed the independence and certainly, I have enjoyed the partying. But I think one can achieve independence, make friends with interesting and intelligent people, and party all night without paying 120 Grand for the privilege.

It is possible to travel the world cheaply if one is willing to work or volunteer. If I leave my school, I plan to travel with WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and eventually join the Peace Corps. I have Dual Citizenship in the US and the EU, and many relatives in the United Kingdom, so working and traveling throughout Europe would also be very feasible. Of course, I also plan to watch, study, and practice as much Theater as I can. I would like to be involved with workshops offered by the SITI Company (which do not require a degree) and volunteer again at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (I did this in 10th grade).

Bearing all this in mind, I cannot help but question the value of continuing with my college education.

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24 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Just to comment on one aspect of the question:

Furthermore, I have little desire to earn very much money. The things I need to live a happy life are few… I can’t imagine wanting much else. If I have a family I will want a good, stable place to live and the money to finance my children, but that’s about it.

Young people so often forget the very important question of how they will live after they stop working. You must think of a future beyond your peak earning years.

Further: I do believe in the importance of college, not for a job but for your life. In theater you must draw on everything you are or ever have been, everything you know. The richer your life and experience and the deeper your knowledge, the greater your resources. College is not the only source of knowledge and enrichment, but it is an excellent one.

If what you really want to do is quit college, it seems to me that questions about costs and earnings are a smokescreen.

doublebogie's avatar

Seems to be a theme today. You might check out this thread

gorillapaws's avatar

Transfer to a cheaper college…

dpworkin's avatar

I didn’t finish college when I was young, and regretted it all my life. I finally got my undergraduate degree in May, and grad school starts this Fall. I couldn’t be happier that I have finally accomplished this. It affected my entire working life. Most of the time I had my own business, but even then certain clients reacted negatively once they found out.

marinelife's avatar

It sounds to me like you have thought this all out. Except for the fact that I believe the Peace Corps requires a college degree, I agree that your immediate life plans do not.

So, I say go for it. Quit.

nikipedia's avatar

You are a smart kid, and you clearly have put a lot of thought into this. And I agree with your analysis: you can get the kinds of experiences you want without being in school. I am in 19th grade and am still not sure school is really worth all the trouble.

So I think leaving school could be a very good thing for you, given what you want to do with yourself. One thing to consider: you go to a very prestigious school. Think about taking a year leave of absence and having some adventures. At the end of the year, if you’re all adventured out, you can always go back. Or if you’re sure you’ve made the right decision, you can drop out then.

One last thought: it is easy to say that money isn’t very important to you when you’ve always had enough of it. Be careful with that. Very bad things happen sometimes. Money is always a good thing to have access to when they do.

chyna's avatar

I would think since your parents have invested the money they have so far, they would hate for you to not finish your degree.
I only have a 2 year degree and have worked in my field 30 years and got laid off. I cannot find work in my field as they want someone with a 4 year degree, experience means nothing to the powers that be.
But in the long run, you have to be happy, so it seems you have really thought most of this out. Do what you think is right and you can always go back and get your degree if you want to in the future.

Flavio's avatar

if you are going into theater, you need to have exposure to many different types of thought and be able to critically engage with a lot of different ideas. It’s hard to do this in an autodidactic way. The benefit of college is that it exposes you to things you werent aware existed – it’s not only to learn a trade. There is an unquantifiable value to a liberal arts education that goes way beyond earning potential. It teaches you how to think analytically and helps you figure out how to transform adversity/life changes into opportunities because you become a much more nimble thinker.

tranquilsea's avatar

Any decision you make is not irreversible. You can quit now and go back later if you want. I agree that $120,000 is a LOT of money. If you feel you are getting value out of it then continue on. If not, then take a break.

There are a lot of ways you can study what ever you want for free, or for very little money.

It sounds to me like you have reasoned through this very well. Go with your gut.

Hobbes's avatar

@Jeruba – I seems to me that it’s possible to save up enough money to live on without earning a very large amount annually, so long as you don’t spend very much.

@dpworkin – Did you not finish college out of choice?

@marinelife – Teaching English with the Peace Corps requires a degree, but working with the agricultural development section only requires experience (which WWOOF would provide).

@nikipedia – A leave of absence might indeed be a good compromise. Your point about money is well taken, too. However, I think I do recognize the value of money and the need for it in difficult times. I just don’t feel the need to consume very much, especially since constant consumption of goods is behind many of the problems afflicting our world today.

@chyna – That is indeed one of the things that worries me. I don’t feel the last two years were a waste, however, even if I don’t end up with a degree. I just feel that I’m done, at least for the moment.

@Flavio – Is it not equally possible to expose yourself to things you weren’t aware of through travel, friendship and exploration?

GeorgeWood's avatar

@Hobbes, there is choice “C”, which is to take a semester or two off. The one downside is that if you quit school now, you will immediately have to repay your loan. If you’re not earning very much money, even the payments on $5000 are a big hit.

You might want to check with your university and see if there are study abroad programs, or some sort of social justice internship that you can do, and get credit. You may want to look at schools with organic farming or sustainability programs, and switch your major and your school. I think it’s possible to do it all – travel, social justice, and spend less on school. The schools on this list might be interesting to check out:

rooeytoo's avatar

I find it interesting that you say you don’t need much, then you list all the things that comprise life and it is a fact that you need some sort of income to afford them. And it is all the things you feel should be provided to you free of charge (as you stated in this question).

So it seems as if you basically want to quit college, pursue a career that I think very few make money in and be supported by the tax payers while you do it.

I may be misinterpreting you and if I am I apologize. But if I am reading you correctly, it seems as if you are still searching for the proverbial free lunch.

janbb's avatar

I’m a pretty “walk-a-straight line” person much to my sometimes chagrin. This will be the easiest time to finish college and why not have it behind you – it doesn’t preclude doing any of the other things in a year or two? We spent a small fortune on our kids’ education and I have never regretted or resented it. You can ask your parents hwo they feel about spending the money on you. I hear what you are saying and it is well thought out but I do think in the world today, it is good to finish college if you can; you don’t know what paths your life will take. As others have suggested, maybe take a year off if you feel you need or want to explore other options, but leave yourself a way back in. That’s just my 2 cents, FWIW.

Hobbes's avatar

@rooeytoo – I think that every person in the world should have access to those things. The fact that none of them are very expensive (for a citizen of a developed nation at least) makes it even more terrible that so few do.

I am aware that I will have to make money in order to live a secure life, what I disagree with is the idea that the funds required for such a life can only be secured with a college degree.

AmWiser's avatar

Would it disrupt your life so much to go ahead and get your degree. Time flys and 10 years from now, that 4-years will be a memory but the knowledge gleened and diploma earned will go a long way toward your future (because you don’t know what the future holds). What if you have children? Maybe the money you feel you don’t need, could be put away for their future education. You have some wonderful parents who only want the best for you.

talljasperman's avatar

you could always move to hollywood and try to be an actor…I loved reading your essay on college…maybe you should be taking screen-writing…or just plain writing

Carly's avatar

I used to get really upset with my fellow classmates who wanted to major in something completely different than what they wanted to do, but then I had a teacher during my sophomore year who mentioned that her undergraduate degree was in Sociology—she’s now a Professor of Art Theory and Creative Writing. She told our class that everything she learned within her liberal-arts degree has deeply contributed to everything she does now.

I just graduated after a long 6+ years of my “4-year” experience, but all my friends who rushed and got their degree in 3–4 years are in debt up to their eyeballs and they really miss soaking in everything that seemed to fly by so quickly for them. Because I took my own special route of getting my degree, I have work experience that looks really amazing on my résumé/CV and I graduated almost debt free.

Now, from having my most recent experience with American interviews, most employers still consider a college degree of some worth, and it’ll definitely still give you an edge because a degree proves you’ve been professionally trained to a certain level. If you’re already well into college, I would suggest finishing it; if this is your first or second year, I would strongly consider taking a year off, at least, getting some experience in the real world, as well as reading up on everything that interests you. If you get tired of whatever you’re doing later on, you can still go back to college and get a degree— and you might even like it more. You’ll also have some money saved up if you don’t want to burden your parents.

daytonamisticrip's avatar

its your choice but im telling you that if you do quit itll probably be the biggest mistake of your life

casheroo's avatar

If you aren’t putting your all into it, then maybe it’s time for a short break. But, once you take that break, you’ll see how little you’ll earn without a degree. And I understand that you don’t need to earn much, but wait until you see what it cost to ever own your own home, pay the bills..or will your parents continue to help you?
I wish I had the opportunity to go to school and have no worries about it. Yes, it’s expensive but the result is worth it (in my opinion)

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

You don’t go to college for the learning, you go for that little piece of paper they hand you at the end called a “diploma”. Education and learning rarely have anything to do with each other.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

An university degree says you have the ability to commit to a long hard task and complete it.
It says you have learned how to learn.
It indicates that you have some exposure to the cultural underpinnings of our culture.

They are no substitutes for the value of a degree from a respected institution.
There is nothing about completing your degree that will prevent you from doing what you want and some things that will be easier with that piece of parchment.

Don’t squander an opportunity many people smarter than you never get.

Andreas's avatar

@Hobbes You should finish your degree if for no other reason that it will prove you can start something and complete it. Unfortunately for you, at this time of your life you haven’t learned the realities of life and living, and I fear that when you do learn them then you will regret not finishing your degree. Finishing things is character-building.

zen_'s avatar




Carly's avatar

I’m leaving college to go to another one. There’s always a way to finish a degree, so keep researching for the best option for you.

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