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I Dropped Out of College and Now I’m Doing Better Than Ever

Sometimes, you're just going to make the wrong choice.

A dream college is something that almost everyone has thought of at least once throughout their years of schooling.

It’s the one-and-only school that some students can see themselves thriving at during their four years of college. Growing up, my dream college was the University of Notre Dame. If someone asked me why Notre Dame was my dream school back then, I’d probably have said because I loved going to the football games as a child. Little did mini-me know, attending football games was not all college was about.

Years later, a more realistic me decided on attending a small school in Iowa. The school, smaller in size compared to my high school, offered everything I thought I wanted: small classroom sizes, a major I liked, nearby civilization, a good financial package and football. More realistic, right?

So, I went off to school with every intention to live the “college life.” However, once I got there, I knew I had made a terrible mistake. Yes, this wasn’t my first time attending the school, but my feelings were different this time; I attributed my uneasiness to nerves and homesickness. Besides, I only had to last there for four years.

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As classes continued, four years quickly became one year. I had every intention to transfer after my freshman year. Then one year switched to one semester and then I could barely survive another week. The people, the environment and the school were not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I met wonderful people during my time there, some who I still talk to, but the overall experience was starting to take a negative toll on my life.

So, I dropped out. I still shudder sometimes when I say those three words. How had a Dean’s-list-making, well-planned, determined student like myself drop out of college? I just did, and it’s okay.

So, if your dream school was completely different than you thought, I’m here to tell you there are other options.

Consider Your Options

Dropping out like I did isn’t an option for everyone. In fact, it’s a bit of a last choice. I sought help from administers and school staff, yet both lacked concern. I was lucky enough to have supportive family and friends by my side who helped me come to my decision to leave school. Unfortunately, not everyone receives the opportunity to leave their school mid-semester, or at all.

Sometimes financial reasons can keep a student at a certain school. Passing up a big amount of scholarship or financial aid isn’t easy, because having a big chunk of debt isn’t a great time either.

Mental health is also something to keep in mind. Sometimes negative environments, like a school you dislike, can create strong emotional problems. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings and determine if the school environment is a part of that discomfort.

Sports can be another thing that holds students back. Sometimes athletes attend certain schools because they allow them to play, and, once again, can offer them money to do so.

Academic programs are another big obstacle to hurdle in that no two schools offer the same curriculum experience. Along with programs, the exact time a student leaves school plays an important role. If you pull a me and leave mid-way through the semester, no credits transfer. Although, if you hold out until the end, some may carry over to your new school.

Reapplying and Choosing a New School

You shouldn’t make the decision to withdraw or transfer lightly. You think you’re out of the woods, but really the choice was only one step in a process. Next is reapplying and choosing another school. You have to now reach out to your high school for your transcripts, re-send ACT/SAT scores and re-write essays or personal statements. It was a hassle the first time around and most definitely is the second time as well.

Choosing a new school isn’t much easier the second time around either, especially with the fearful awareness of already picking the wrong school once. Do you want a bigger or smaller school? One where you know people, or a blank-slate start? All these questions should be taken into careful consideration. People will try to tell you what to do or where to go, but remember that your happiness comes first. You made the decision to leave, and you can make another decision for yourself.

Dealing with the Backlash

No one likes talk behind their back, but it happens. Former teachers will come up to you at Target and act like they’re shocked when you say you withdrew, but admit that they heard you dropped out five minutes later in the conversation. People you met at college may start ridiculous rumors about why you dropped out; just know they’re not true. Old classmates might reach out for the first time since graduation, only to find out the real story and pass it along, although it’s bound to get twisted along the way.

Then comes explaining to everyone the decision of dropping out, which will lead to them offering their opinions every time, even without being asked to. People might offer weird sympathy, saying phrases like, “Well it’s not a smart idea, but I’m glad you made the right decision.” Well, isn’t that comforting.

Find Your Silver Lining

So people talk; let them. As cliché as it sounds, the most important thing at the end of the day is that you’re happy. No one wants to be miserable at a school for four years. The important thing is that you recognized your unhappiness and changed it. Some people go throughout the entirety of their lives and never gain the courage to do that. Be proud of yourself.

I’m happy to say I found a school that fits me, my major and my life better. I don’t think I’d be the same person I am today if I stayed at the little Iowa school, and I love the person I’ve become since leaving. The process was hard, and terrible at times I won’t lie, but, the choice was also worth it. You only live once, and it’s okay to change a dream in that time span. Recognize that change is sometimes necessary, and react the best way for you in your life.

Lauren Clohessy, Northern Illinois University

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Lauren Clohessy

Northern Illinois University

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