According to the New York Times, more than 70 percent of Americans today enroll in a four-year college, but only 75 percent of students who start college finish it. The United States is the seventh highest rated among the 23 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development countries in enrollment, but is the second to last in graduation. Why are so many students dropping out? Many claim to not want more debt, to not have enough money, or to be uninterested in what they’re studying.
While dropping out of college might seem attractive, especially when students are faced with increasing fees and a not-so-stellar job market, leaving school early is such a waste.
While getting more students into post-secondary education should be a priority, it’s important that we address the issues facing our students who are leaving college too early as well.
Students need to realize that, if they’re entering a field of study due to outside pressure, it is very likely that they will burn out. It’s important that those entering college take time to actual explore their options and try to find something they truly love doing — not something they’re expected to do.
Whether their passion is microbiology, actuarial science, social work, or whatever else, studying and working in a subject that they’re passionate about more often feels like a hobby, not “work.”
Also important is that students not get blinded by illusions of grandeur. Our society loves stories of genius. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell are all college dropouts who did amazing things, but they are all also amazing geniuses, and media tends to forget those who dropped out and never amounted to much.
Those who are already professionals should not feel trapped by what they’ve studied. The core goal of higher education is to prepare individuals for society, and the skills one learns in one subject are very often applicable in another. A lateral career switch, though sometimes difficult, is still perfectly possible.
Post-secondary education, whether it’s a four-year college or trade school, is one of the best investments anyone can make. While at times it can be difficult, pulling through and finding something you love is worth it. Though stopping early can be attractive, it’s very often a trap that’s very hard to escape from. Finish school. Spending your youth flipping burgers or working in retail instead of learning is such a waste. (end)