Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why I Decided to Go Back to School || Confessions of a College Drop-Out

Why I Quit

In the winter of 2013 I dropped out of college after my first semester of my sophomore year as a music ed student. I had little notion of going back to school at the time and I had no motivation to think about my future whatsoever. I wasn’t in a place emotionally where I could make those kinds of decisions, so I simply deferred it for a year or two. Many people somberly informed me that, “You know what they say about students who drop out of college...they never graduate.” And whenever I mentioned possibly going back to college, I mostly received negative cynicism as a response. But if I am honest, at the time I didn’t really want to go back to school. I didn’t really want to do anything. This begs the question, why did I drop out of college in the first place?

My brother Ben died in an accident when he was seventeen years old on December 6, 2013, the week before final exams. It’s not fair to attribute me dropping out of college entirely to my brother’s death, though it certainly had a lot to do with it. I was already dissatisfied with my major and considering taking a break before my brother died. That’s actually one of the last conversations I remember having with my brother, asking him what I should do next. I was already not in a good place emotionally. I was overextended, exhausted, depressed, and ready to be done with everything. When my brother died, whatever little resolve I had to keep on keeping on died with him and I just needed to get out, get away from everything.

My brother died the weekend before finals, the weekend we were supposed to go to a choir concert together. He missed the two finals for the classes he was concurrently enrolled in at the time. I wandered around campus the following week in a traumatized sort of daze, receiving nervous glances and spontaneous hugs and words of sympathy from students and faculty alike. I did my best to finish any remaining finals I had and to coordinate schedule changes and make-up times with my professors, but I didn’t really have a heart for any of it.

In hindsight, my decision to quit school was probably not the wisest. It’s not a good idea to make a big life change right after a traumatic loss. Moving was definitely hard for a lot of reasons and it proved more stressful than I imagined, but ultimately it was the best decision I could make at the time. It brought me closer to my family and gave me space to be alone and work through my grief while at the same time not be totally isolated.

Why I Decided to Go Back to School

It seems one bad experience with college should turn me off of it forever, right? For a while it did but slowly the idea was reintroduced to me and I began to reconsider it in a new light. My friends, family, boss, and coworkers began to ask me if I was interested in further education opportunities and possibly working toward filling in different positions at my job in the future. I had some time and saved money on my hands, so I began to think, why not? Opportunities started opening up and I began to explore different options. A lot of different programs piqued my interest, but I ultimately wanted a program that would open up even more opportunities instead of limit my qualifications to one specific field. I eventually landed on Mass Communications, a program that entails technical writing, speech, journalism, photography journalism, and all other forms of media, a good combination of creative fields applied pragmatically.

This fall I enrolled in two classes, an introductory class to the program and a gen ed computer class, nothing too strenuous, a nice way to start wading in the shallow waters of coursework once again. I was happy to see many of my music credits actually transferred into my Mass Comm degree and I have enough that I will probably end up double-majoring or minoring in music. Ultimately I was surprised at how easy it was to go back to school. For some reason I had built up this huge mental block—maybe because of the statistics, the stigma surrounding college dropouts? I don’t know. But in a couple days, I had completed my application, enrolled for classes, retrieved my student ID and parking permit and—boom!—I was a college student all over again.

But wait....why?

The short answer? Because I want to. I have given it a lot of deliberation, trust me, about two and a half years' worth of deliberation. 

It was hard for me to get past all the negativity aimed toward college drop-outs. And I believe this is why it’s difficult for so many people to go back to school once they have dropped out, because going back is like admitting you were wrong in the first place. It's a blow to our pride (I wonder how many of our decisions and opinions are solely based on personal pride?) The thing is there’s nothing wrong with dropping out of college. There’s nothing wrong with foregoing college altogether. So many people who never went to college have successful careers and businesses. In fact, skipping college altogether is often the smarter option these days as it means avoiding years and years of tuition debt (I have yet to accumulate any, praise God!) and nothing but a degree that is becoming increasingly less valuable to show for it. A college degree does not necessarily guarantee success or even intelligence. Ultimately, whether you succeed or fail in life simply depends on how you use whatever gifts and qualifications you have (and how you define success in the first place). 

But you know what would be wrong? Blaming “college” for the fact that I decided to drop out of college and suddenly pretend that I’m too good for a college education. Because even though I dropped out of college, I still learned a lot during those two years and I wouldn’t be the person I am today if not for everything I learned then. It is one thing to say college is something I don’t want to do and that it’s not for me. It’s an entirely other (and overly reactionary) thing for me to vilify it simply because I personally had a bad experience. Any intelligent person can see the institution of higher education for all its advantages and disadvantages apart from their emotional bias.

Before I was ready to go back to school, I had to remember that ultimately this doesn’t define me. My possession of a college degree or lack thereof doesn’t define me, my worth, or even my success. My take on life might seem a little flighty to some, but I’m still not dead-set on acquiring a college degree. This is the opportunity I have right now and I’ll follow through with it and learn what I can until the door closes, but it’s not a make-or-break situation for me and when I view it more openly, somehow I find myself even more motivated to move forward. After all, it’s not about the end result as much as it is about what we learn along the way.


  1. Wow, Dani. I just stumbled across your blog and I loved this post. I'm so sorry about your brother. About a year ago I lost a young cousin to a car accident. My cousins and I are all extremely close and almost like siblings, so it was crazy hard. But God is always good, and He always knows what we need and how to help us through. I'm so glad you've been able to work through your feelings and congrats on deciding to go back to school! Best of luck in your studies <3

    xx Lorraine // Laurel Crowned

  2. Lorraine, thanks so much for stopping by my blog! And thank you for the follow! :D

    I am so sad to hear about your cousin, but I am glad to hear how you relied on the Lord and continue to do so.

    Thanks again!

    Dani xoxo

  3. I found your blog awhile ago, and I've enjoyed reading your posts. Congratulations on your decision to return to college! I look forward to your updates, and I wish you the absolute best. You'll be so proud of yourself when you get that degree you've worked so hard for!!

  4. Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoy it. And I know that degree will be worthwhile. 😀

    Dani xoxo


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