Dropping Out of University: Why It’s OK to Quit

“I’m dropping out of university”. This sentence always has a very negative connotation to it. It’s almost as if nothing positive could ever come from this statement.

For most people, dropping out of university equates to complete failure. This is mostly because you have to deal with your own as well as your family’s expectations and the fact that you couldn’t fulfill them.

Making the decision to drop out is not easy. It involves a lot of negotiation with yourself and dealing with the possibility of an uncertain future. However, as the title of this article says, we won’t focus on all the potential negatives here. Instead, we’ll talk about why it is totally ok to call it quits.

The Beginning of the End: Choosing the Wrong Subject to Study

In Germany as well as in many other countries, you usually chose a university based on the subject or program it offers. The location and reputation of the university are often only secondary factors. Most people start their studies right after finishing high school, but let’s be honest here: which 18-year-old really already knows unambiguously what they want to do in the future?

From my experience, most people chose their major based on these factors:

  • Interest in the subject
  • Recommendation by others
  • Possible future salaries and prestige

Whichever strategy you apply, the major you chose can still turn out to be the completely wrong one for you. You usually only realize this after you start your program and there can be various reasons for this such as:

  • The way of teaching doesn’t suit you
  • Your interests change over time
  • Your career plans change and you realize your degree doesn’t get you where you want to be
  • The subject is simply not what the brochures made it seem to be

There are a ton more possible reasons, but they all have something in common: after you have come to the realization that something has to change, you start to question yourself: is it really that bad? Should I just pull through? What will other people think? What will my parents say after they have supported me for so long?

female student suffering from headache in library, dropping out of university
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

To drop out or to not drop out?

That is the question I was asking myself in 2019. In September, I started my master’s degree in the belief that I could now study and research the topics that interest me. Considering the program was called digital communications, I was expecting to focus on social media and the effects of digital communication on people.

And then, the professor walked in with the latest newspaper. No digital communication or social media anywhere to be found. The first weeks, I thought things might get better. After all, topics and curricula change… Well, the longer I attended classes, the more I realized that wouldn’t be the case.

Of course, the program and its topics were designed for a reason, but still, my plain realization was: my expectations were not met.

Getting out of a bad situation before you get stuck

In my opinion, being in university is basically a road of self-discovery. And only if you know yourself you can you really pick the right subject to study at university. You evolve through the gaining of life experience, but also through work experience i.e. internships. Something you obviously don’t have when you start out.

It doesn’t really matter which degree we’re talking about, work experience is crucial. It helps you make decisions not just about what to study, but also about your future career. It also gives you the confidence of knowing that you don’t have to pull through. There are other options.

For my bachelor’s degree, I was pulling through. Especially because I knew I would be able to study abroad during my studies. So, I kept going even though I didn’t know where I wanted to go. In the end, I got lucky because my minor made it possible for me to do internships related to what I’m interested in.

Through those internships, I found my way into PR. So when I started my master’s degree, I knew where I wanted to be. I could immediately tell that this program wasn’t for me, but rather take 2 more years I’d rather spend getting more work experience.

Source: Merriam Webster

Your Happiness Is the Key to Your Success

I believe that you cannot be truly successful and happy with a job, degree, program or a path in life that you are not passionate about. If you’re going to spend 80 % of your time with something, you need to enjoy it. If you are unhappy with your current situation and after careful evaluation, you don’t see it getting you to where you want to be, it’s ok to quit. Opinions of others don’t matter, you are the most important person!

Let’s work with a metaphor: say you are dating someone and while you get to know them, you realize you have very different views on many topics. Once you have established that the other person can’t be educated about what’s important to you and their views won’t change, you don’t keep dating them. You tell them this won’t work and you move on to somebody whose views align with your own. It’s basically the same with education or work.

Only if you are passionate about what you do you’ll be able to excel. So yes, it’s ok to drop out of university if you are not passionate about what you’re doing. It’s also ok to leave a situation or an environment that just do not conducive to who you are and where you want to be in life! Don’t worry, you will find your way!

Have you ever been at a crossroads having to make a difficult decision that could impact your career? Feel free to reach out, we would love to share your story.

Make sure to check out our other posts.

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