The state of modern education is changing.
Only 50 years ago, a college degree was all but mandatory for success in the professional world. But today, with the rising cost of college tuition (which will amount to nearly $100,000 for an average 4-year degree from an in-state university) and the proliferation of free learning platforms like SkillShare, Udemy, and even YouTube, the importance of formal education is beginning to wane.
Students all over the country are beginning to question the efficacy of our modern universities and have become disenchanted with the outdated lectures taught by professors who lack real credibility.
For less than 1/100th of the cost, students can access real-world training created by successful individuals in their field of interest and compress four years of banal classes and insufferable “gen ed” requirements into a 3-month long learning bender.
And despite all of the studies that claim college dropouts earn, on average, more than $1 million over their working lifetime, these studies were based on a pre-internet era education system.
And as college education moves closer and closer to obsolescence many young men are asking themselves a simple question…
“Should I drop out of college? And if I should…how do I do it?”
In this guide, I’ll help you answer both of these questions.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to dropping out of college. But there are proven principles and valuable questions you can ask yourself to determine, definitively whether you should drop out of college or not.
Let’s dive in.
Should I Dropout of College? 4 Factors to Consider Before Dropping Out of College
Before we dive into the tactical steps about how to drop out of college, I want to first point out that I do not encourage or endorse blindly fleeing university with no plan or action or consideration for the long term ramifications of your decision.
In the end, the question, “Should I drop out of college” deserves careful thought and consideration.
I know that every internet guru is telling you to leave university, and they might be right in some cases, but before you make your decision, you must carefully consider your options and decide what’s best for you.
Because at the end of the day, the question you are really asking when you ask “Should I dropout of college” is, “Is my time and money best spent in a classroom learning specific skills or out in the real world earning money and on the job experience?”
And by asking yourself the following four questions, you can arrive at an answer for yourself.
1. The “Whose Dime” Principle
Although I personally believe that most young men attending university would be better served by charting their own path and getting experience in the real world, there is one important caveat to this belief…
WHO is paying for your education.
Simply put, if you are in college right now–and don’t wake up every day hating your life and fantasizing about your departure from university–and someone else is paying for your education (namely parents, government or scholarships) then I strongly suggest that you continue your time at university.
Unless you have a trust fund or exceptionally lenient parents, there will be no other time in your adult life where someone else is picking up the check for all of your living expenses.
And, even if you don’t enjoy the classes you’re taking right now, there are ways you can capitalize on your free ride to maximize your personal and professional development and graduate with not only a degree, but invaluable high-income skills.
You can lighten your course load and invest more of your time and energy into extracurricular and leadership activities to broaden your network and develop new skills (e.g. starting a “young entrepreneurs” group or becoming a leader of an existing organization).
You can invest less time in your academic work, by either accepting a lower GPA or leveraging the skill of “efficient studying”, and use your free time develop marketable skills such as copywriting, coding, web design, or sales.
You can even get the best of both worlds and get a part-time job or apprenticeship in your field of interest while continuing your education.
If you aren’t paying the bills, you have almost unlimited opportunities to pursue growth and personal development without the normal stressors of adult life.
However, if you are the one paying for your education either in the form of loans or working full time in addition to your studies, then dropping out of college might be the right move.
The same $25,000-$50,000/year you’re investing in your college education could be used to travel the world, cover your living expenses while you embark on a once-in-a-lifetime apprenticeship, or provide the startup capital you need to start your first business.
2. The “Why” Factor Behind Your Education
Regardless of who’s signing the checks for your education, before you drop out of college, it’s important to consider why you are attending university in the first place.
Many of you reading this may have a genuine interest in a field that requires an advanced degree, e.g. engineering, software development, medicine, law, etc.
However, more often than not, young men attending college are not there because it is the obvious next step that will help them land their dream job and build the life they want…
…They’re attending college because it’s what they were told to do and they aren’t even aware that they have other options.
So right now, I want you to do something for me…
Imagine that it’s ten years in the future and you are working a job or running a business that you love! Now ask yourself…what does this career look like? What do you do every day when you woke up? And most importantly, is a degree necessary to achieve this goal?
If the answer is “yes” but you’re still feeling the pull to drop out, I encourage you to consider a gap year instead.
Take a break from academia (you know you need it) and volunteer your way around the world, get a full time job for a year, or find some other pursuit that allows you to recharge, recalibrate, and
If, however, after searching the recesses of your mind you cannot find a valid need for a college degree after considering your career aspirations, it’s safe to say you can and should drop out of college.
3. The “Why” Factor Behind Your Desire to Drop Out
In addition to considering why you’re in college now, I also encourage you to consider why you want to drop out.
The world is filled with noise and there’s no shortage of gurus and pundits decrying the modern education system and encouraging you to forgo college to pursue your real-world goals.
But the simple fact of the matter is that none of these individuals know you.
They don’t know your situation, your strengths, your weaknesses, or your desires.
And as much as I love Gary Vee, you shouldn’t base an important life decision on one of his Instagram live rants.
That said, many successful people have made some great points about why you should drop out of college.
So before pulling the trigger, ask yourself, “Why do I really want to drop out of college?”
Is it because you’re burned out and tired of academia (something that is very common for exceptional students who work hard to get good grades)? If so, you could consider some sort of alternatives like a gap year or 12-month apprenticeship before returning to university recharged and ready for action.
Is it because you don’t see the value of a college degree and you don’t want to waste $100,000 of your own money on an education path that you know is unnecessary to fulfill your personal ambitions?
Or maybe you’re simply at the wrong university studying the wrong field where you aren’t challenged or don’t mesh with the culture and vibe of the campus (e.g. you’re a die hard liberal at a conservative university in the south or you’re an avid outdoorsman trapped in a big city school).
Think carefully about why you want to drop out of college and ask yourself, “Is there a way I could continue my education in a way that would meet all of my needs?”
Again, there are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions. Only the answers that are right and wrong for you.
I’m going to be blunt here.
Dropping out of college is hard. REALLY hard. And anyone who says otherwise is lying.
Unless you have an unusually supportive family, dropping out of college will thrust you into the “real world” with no clue what’s going on, a painfully obvious lack of marketable skills, and no real way to sustain the lifestyle you want.
My Editor for this site, a young man named Austin, dropped out of college at 19 and, in the year that followed his decision, was forced to sleep on park benches in foreign countries, (literally) beg for money, and take out loans from friends just to eat.
In the end, it worked out for him and today he has a thriving career doing work he loves…but the path to get there was not easy.
So before you decide to drop out you need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself…
“Am I prepared for the adversity of charting my own path?”
Are you really ready to face long hours working a menial job to keep food on the table? The long nights spent studying your chosen skill while working a day job you hate? The lack of income? The disapproval and disdain of your friends and family?
Furthermore, it’s important to consider if you are personally prepared to drop out of college.
Remember, dropping out of college doesn’t change anything about who you are as a man.
You can’t escape yourself and leaving university is not a panacea for your toxic habits.
If you’re unmotivated, lazy, and disorganized now, you’ll be just as unmotivated, lazy, and disorganized after you drop out…the only difference is that now you’ll be forced to fend for yourself and will have no safety net to protect you from your bad habits.
Dropping out of college can be the best decision you ever make. But it can also be a big mistake. And to make the decision effectively, you must be brutally honest about where you are and what you want out of life.
Even if you don’t see the point in continuing your education, it may benefit you to stay in college while you develop high-performance habits and marketable skills.
Remember…dropping out of college doesn’t change who you are as a person. You can’t escape a lack of motivation or bad habits and dropping out of college isn’t a panacea to your problems.
If you’re lazy and unmotivated in college, you’ll be lazy and unmotivated as a college dropout.
The “Cost/Benefit Analysis” of Dropping Out of College
Before we discuss how to drop out of college the right way, I want to take a moment to digress into a short breakdown of the cost/benefit of dropping out of college.
If you’re still on the fence and can’t decide “Should I drop out of college or not?” this will help you make your decision.
The Costs of Dropping Out of College
The first and most obvious cost associated with dropping out of college is a marked decrease in your immediate earning potential.
Unless you pursue a career in a trade, the military, or entrepreneurship, your immediate employment opportunities following a decision to drop out will be limited.
The average college graduate earns roughly $47,000/year after their graduation and, unless you have an existing high income skill on which you can capitalize, you’ll likely be earning between $28,000 to $36,000 immediately following college.
However, these numbers will fluctuate based on your work ethic, network, and resourcefulness. I know plenty of college dropouts who were making 6-figures by the time their peers graduated and plenty more who struggle to find employment to this day.
And even though your earning potential is limitless (I built a successful company without using my degree or formal education) regardless of your decision, your career options will be limited without a degree.
If you have an interest in a STEM field, dropping out will handicap your career for decades to come.
Another often unrealized cost to dropping out of college is that you will need to begin paying off your existing student loans almost immediately.
For example, if you’ve racked up $20,000 in student loans over the past 12-24 months, you’ll have six months following your decision to drop out before you are forced to begin making payments on your loans. Depending on the type of loan you received, this could be a considerable amount of money you may or may not be able to afford.
The larger your loans, the more prudent it is to finish your degree and leverage your degree to quickly eliminate your debt and achieve financial stability.
The Benefits of Dropping Out of College
Although there are definitely costs associated with dropping out of college, there are a plethora of benefits you can achieve by leaving formal education to pursue self-education.
For starters, you can immediately shift from accumulating debt to earning money. With a bit of resourcefulness and creativity, you can quickly find a job working with a new startup, in a trade, or in sales that will allow you to earn $40,000+/year instead of spending $40,000+/year.
Another important, but often unmentioned benefit of dropping out of college is that it actually gives you time away from the halls of academia to explore your interests and pursue your passions.
Most guys go directly from highschool to college or gradschool without ever taking time away to learn about themselves or explore how they might monetize their passions and taking time away from university (either permanently or temporarily) will give you a chance to figure out who you really are and what you really want to do.
In fact, the Harvard Admissions board along with other ivy league universities stated that they encourage applicants to defer enrollment for at least 12 months so they can take time away from school to develop their interests and become well rounded as individuals and they’ve noticed that students who take time away from school tend to be more driven and successful when they return.
It’s important to realize that this decision to drop out of college is not permanent. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you dropout, get your teeth kicked in by the real world, and realize you need to return to university to shore up the gaps in your knowledge and skill set.
And you can return to college and finish your degree with nothing more than a trivial 12 month “educational experience” in your graduation.
Finally, should you choose to dropout of college, you can actually use the opportunity to receive a more effective education.
Instead of wasting your time going through superfluous classes to meet all of your general education requirements, you can invest your time, energy, and money into low-cost online learning opportunities that allow you to focus 100% of your efforts on the field of your choosing.
If you know you want to be an entrepreneur, for example, you can skip Geography, Calculus, and History and instead spend your time learning about business on SkillShare and Udemy from entrepreneurs who have actually “been there, done that.”
Plenty of successful individuals have chosen to dropout and done so successfully.
Ryan Holiday, for example, dropped out of college at 19 to pursue a career as a Hollywood Executive and apprentice as a writer under the infamous best selling author Robert Greene. And today, he’s a multimillionaire, multiple time best selling author himself, and one of the most sought after marketing experts in the industry.
Inversely, there are plenty of successful and prolific individuals who claim college was one of the best decisions they ever made. Tim Ferriss, Sam Harris, and Ramit Sethi all speak highly of their time at Stanford and laud their higher education as one of the most valuable investments they ever made.
But at the end of the day, as it the case with most endeavors, the decision to stay in or drop out of college is intensely personal.
Depending on your skillset, personality, and disposition, it can make or slow down your future and even though it might be a good idea for some of you, it can be a bad idea for many more.
The most important factor in your decision then, is your level of self-awareness.
Do you have what it takes to chart your own path, go against the status quo, and suffer the inevitable adversity that will face you should you choose to drop out?
I can cite statistics and “averages” all week long but at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is what you believe is right for you.
If you can stomach the risk of dropping out and you believe it’s the right move, then do it.
If you prefer to play it safe and lack confidence in your skills and abilities, stay in university and spend as much time as possible pouring into your personal development and professional skills.
As the Oracle of Delphi pronounced nearly a millenia ago, “Know thyself.”
Because self-knowledge is the only way to make the right decision.
How to Drop Out of College (The Right Way)
If, after reading everything above, you feel that dropping out of college is the right decision for you, it is still a decision that should be made with care.
Knowing that you should drop out of college is one thing. Knowing how to do so the right way is another thing entirely.
To help you with this, here are five important points to keep in mind as you navigate the murky waters of #dropoutlife.
1. Embrace Your Fear of the Unknown
I’m going to be blunt.
If you decide to drop out of college, you are going to be terrified.
When you walk to the registrar’s office with your letter of intent in hand, your heart will be beating out of your chest. And when you finally hand it in and make your decision official, don’t expect to feel some great sense of relief.
Instead, expect abject, total, and all consuming terror.
Expect to feel afraid…to wonder if you’ve made the right decision every night or screwed your life up forever…to wonder how you’re going to make ends meet and to second guess yourself every step of the way.
This is normal and what’s more, it’s healthy.
Every important decision you make in your life will be marked by fear. But what will define you as a man is not the feeling of fear but the ability to act calmly and deliberately in the face of fear.
This decision, as terrifying as it will feel, is not permanent. And if you choose wrong, it’s not the end of the world.
Barring death or disaster, you can always return to college and finish your degree later if you so choose.
So take a deep breath and relax, everything will be ok.
And never forget that the decision to drop out is, at its core, a “vote of character.” You are saying to yourself, “I am the type of man who is willing to take risks, go against the status quo and brave the unknown in pursuit of what he wants.”
And that is perhaps one of the most valuable things you will earn from dropping out of college.
The realization that you are stronger, smarter, and more resourceful than you ever realized and that, however terrified you might be, you are willing to brave the dangers of the world to live the life you want.
2. Set Your Financial House in Order
To make your transition from college life to the real world as seamless as possible I strongly encourage you to delay dropping out for a short period of time so you can set your financial house in order.
Having 3-6 months of living expenses (likely $10,000 to $15,000) set aside will give you peace of mind and mobility so you can capitalize on new opportunities and spend time developing marketable skills before you feel the pressure to start making real money.
While this figure might seem untenable at first, I promise it isn’t.
By working a side job and selling your belongings and even down sizing your living arrangement you can quickly accumulate a few thousand dollars in savings to ease the challenge of your transition.
At the very least, you should have a 1-3 month runway set aside before leaving university.
I promise, it will make your life 10X easier once you’re in the real world.
3. Line Up an Alternative BEFORE Dropping Out
When my Editor made the decision to drop out of college, he didn’t do so haphazardly.
He was already making $800/month online and, even though that was far from a livable number in the U.S., he knew he could travel and use that money, in conjunction with volunteering for room and board, to travel through Latin America comfortably and safely.
And this is a step most dropouts skip.
Before you drop out you should have some sort of alternative already lined up. You need an exit plan so you don’t end up living in a halfway house wondering, “What do I do now?”
Luckily, creating such an alternative is much easier than the pundits of higher education would have you believe.
By deferring your decision to dropout for 3-6 months, you can spend time developing a high-income skill like copywriting, email marketing, online advertising, coding or sales.
With your skills developed to a marketable extent, you can begin finding clients and job openings that will allow you to make money immediately upon dropping out.
You can also look into apprenticeships, trade schools, and other alternatives to a traditional career that will allow you to provide for yourself after leaving university.
Or, at the very least, you should have some sort of plan for sustaining yourself.
If you decide to travel for example, look into work exchange programs like WorkAway, WOOF, or HelpX where you can work for free food and accommodation (for example, my Editor spent three months working on a lemon farm in Chile to pay for his room and board).
If you want to dive deeper into this topic, be sure to check out my guide to the best college alternatives here → link
4. Remember the “NSLAG” Principle
There’s a twisted paradigm in our modern culture that has led people to believe their growth and education end upon graduation.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
As Jim Rohn once pointed out, “Formal education will make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune.”
And, as you consider dropping out and going for your dreams, whatever they may be, it’s important to remember the NSLAG principle or… Never stop learning and growing.
Your education is just beginning and, if you do it right, will continue until the day you die.
Before you pull the trigger and drop out, I encourage you to create a “personal development curriculum” to guide your efforts and help you capitalize on the freedom you will have.
What professional skills do you want to develop? What interpersonal skills (e.g. sales, negotiation, social dynamics) do you want to strengthen? What artistic pursuits interest you (do not neglect these, it might not seem obvious but things like music, art, and even yoga can have profound implications on your well being and growth)?
How do you plan to continue your growth and education after university is in your rearview mirror?
Once you have a list of all the skills you want to learn and the ways in which you wish to continue your personal development and education, make a list of the books, podcasts, online courses, seminars, and mastermind groups that can help you achieve your goals.
These resources can take you much farther than most people imagine and by injecting a modicum of intentionality into your post-college education, you can quickly lay a foundation of skills and abilities that you will carry with you throughout your entire life.
5. Build a Support Network of Winners
Dropping out is hard. Especially since most of you reading this will likely not have the support of your family.
And as such, it’s important to build a network of supportive achievers, whether in person or virtual, who can help you along your journey.
Before leaving university, I encourage you to begin reaching out to mentors you admire and individuals in your local area who have the lifestyle (not just the money) you want.
It’s especially helpful if you can find other dropouts who managed to make their lives work without a degree and get insights and encouragement from them as you navigate post-college life.
During the months leading up to your departure from university, I encourage you to attend as many networking events and relevant extracurricular activities as possible (or to simply begin reaching out to people you admire and offering to work for them for free).
If possible, I strongly encourage you to find a mentor who is willing to apprentice you and pay you a small sum of money (read: almost nothing) while you learn from them and get experience in a field of your choosing.
The more successful individuals you have in your corner, the easier your journey will be and the fewer mistakes you’ll make a long the way.
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