Fiachra Johnson talks us through the pros and cons of dropping out.
It’s crossed everyone’s mind at some point in their academic career, from the fresh-faced Junior Cert entrant to the stressed out Leaving Cert survivor, from the doe-eyed college fresher to the embittered final year university student. Everyone, everywhere has suffered a blow that has made them consider dropping out of school.
Be it low CAO points, a failed module or - the bane of everyone’s lives - a failed exam, it’s natural to feel as though the education system isn’t made for them, and you’d be right in thinking you’re not alone. The Irish Times reported that The Higher Education Authority estimated “one in six third-level students” were dropping out in their first year of college, while the Department of Education estimated one in ten students who began secondary school in 2008 have since dropped out.
So, let’s suppose for a moment that this is it - the final straw, and you have decided that the modules are awful, the subject isn’t interesting, and college just isn’t for you. After considering all your options, acting quickly is key. Dropping out before January 31st means half of your fees are refunded. It’s not ideal, but it’s a large amount of money, so it’s better to decide before the end of your first semester rather than halfway into your second.
Surprisingly, the act dropping out is simply a matter of talking to the head of your school, contacting college services, and requesting to be taken off the list of attending students, or in the case of some universities, simply submitting a form online. It’s ironic that such a big decision can be executed so easily, but signing your name on some paperwork is as hard as it gets.
Is it worth it though?
It certainly isn’t over in the States, where per The Atlantic, 71% of college dropouts are unemployed. It’s upsetting to think that in a country with such high costs for college education, a university degree is practically mandatory, but without one, dropouts are not only missing out on work, but also paid less than their graduate counterparts in every stage of their career. The same can be said for the UK, where The Complete University Guide claims that of the 5 highest paying graduate fields, only two, economics and chemical engineering, were accessible without a college degree, with those employed in those fields making up to £10,000 less a year than their graduate counterparts.
Perhaps one reason for this necessity for a degree to succeed comes from the actual jobs required today. Since the 80’s, as manufacturing and trade jobs have gone down, more jobs in software, programming, and computer engineering have risen. The field of work has moved from practical work based on real world experience and apprenticeships, to technical positions that require classroom learning to excel at. This ‘skilled’ work has influenced the 2000’s more than any other area, and has proven to be far easier to step into with a degree compared than without one.
But there's also more to consider than just employment and academics. Foregoing college means you may be missing out on one of the most vital parts of the education system: those elements found outside of the classroom. University isn’t just a lecturer droning on in front of a hundred students in a theater. It’s a miniature eco-system, a chance to explore hobbies through clubs and societies, to make friends that can possibly last a lifetime. College life isn’t for everyone, but the connections made and the social skills acquired through third-level education can help to lead bigger and better things, in both work and your own personal happiness.
So you should you power through a college course you don’t like, if it means you’ll get a job? Only you can answer that. Ultimately, you'll know what is the right decision for you. Dropping out is not an easy decision. It never is. But the fact of the matter is regardless of what you choose to do, know that it’s never too late to go back to school. You’ll always have that as a comfort if you do decide education isn’t for you. In the words of Dave Chambers of the RubberBandits: “I failed my Leaving. Now looking at doing a PhD and have awards coming out my h*le. You're a mature student at 23. Ye'll be grand.”