If Kanye West’s seminal album The College Dropout taught us anything (other than the fact that his beats go hard as hell), it’s that it’s ok to drop out of uni. On his debut record, West rapped about how tertiary education isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: it’s expensive, challenging and holds dubious value for young people.
And West isn’t the only person who proved you don’t necessarily need a degree to be successful at what you do. Tech legends Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs all dropped out of college before going on to build empires. Even the dude that co-founded Google didn’t complete his course.
So it’s safe to say that it’s worth being just a lil bit critical about how valuable uni is to your career.
Maybe you’re struggling at uni and really need to make a clean break. Maybe you’ve started something up outside school that doesn’t need a degree. Or maybe there’s shit going on in your life that can’t wait for mid-sem break.
Syrup’s here to help: here’s the nitty-gritty about dropping out of uni.
First of all…
Before you peace out from uni, you should really think long and hard about if dropping out is the best decision for you. While you can always come back to uni as a mature age student (or just never come back at all (yee haw)), it’s a big decision to halt your studies, so consider the alternatives first.
Many universities allow you to defer your studies for a year or two, depending on your course and institution. That way, you can take a break from uni without completely saying goodbye to finishing your degree. It’s way easier to defer and resume, rather than just quit completely.
You can also defer for just a semester if you don’t think you’ll need a whole year. Regardless of what you’re doing, be aware that many unis only offer some courses at certain times of the year—try and plan your deferral around what suits your academic progression the best.
Consider a gap year
If you need a break from studying, you could also consider taking a gap year. A change of scenery even if you’re continuing to study might be just the refreshment you need. Can confirm that writing essays becomes a million times more fun when you’re doing it in the middle of a snow storm.
Read our gap year destination recommendations here.
A gap year doesn’t have to be tied to university, or indeed tied to travelling overseas, either. Taking a year off to work, travel or volunteer in and around Australia is just as acceptable and just as good for you has jumping on a plane and going halfway across the world.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, however, an overseas trip isn’t a one-step solution. Changing environments and putting distances in relationships is tricky, so make sure to think about that, too, if this is the way you wanna go.
In a nutshell, a gap year can be a great way to recharge your batteries if uni study isn’t treating you well. Just don’t try and escape your feelings by making a huge lifestyle change—you won’t feel any better in the long run.
Breaking the “bad news”
Half the stress of dropping out of uni is the prospect of having to tell your parents or your family. I know when I first wanted to defer from uni, it was tricky trying to bring it up with my mum and dad.
At the end of the day, your parents should only have your best interests in mind, so if you have a good reason to drop out of uni, you shouldn’t be scared of breaking it to your parents.
You can make your life easier by giving them a concrete explanation of why you’re dropping out, and present them with a plan as to what you’re going to do next. For your own sake and theirs, don’t just drop out with no plan.
But, at the end of the day, it’s your life. So while, yeah, it’s always good to take your parents’ wishes into consideration, remember that you’re in the driver’s seat and it’s your decision to make. It’s true that dropping out is a huge step, but so is staying in a course when you’re not happy.
Every institution is different so the way you officially drop out can be wildly different. Most unis have an online portal for handling enrolment, so chances are you can suspend your studies from the comfort of your own home.
Consider consulting a uni careers advisor or your uni’s student representative council (SRC) for advice on the specifics of dropping out, and what to do next once you’ve dropped out or been excluded from study. These services are usually free and can give you more specific help than an external advisor.
Additionally, many universities give students access to free counselling services. Take advantage of these whilst you’re still studying or before you drop out, because they tend to be pretty strict about providing assistance to non-students.
Keep in mind that once you drop out, you won’t have access to student concessions and may have different financial obligations e.g. your insurance policy might change. Do your research to see what changes once you finish studying (the same is true when you graduate, so even if you don’t end up dropping out, do some research anyway to stay ahead of the game).
I’ve dropped out. What now?
Like we said earlier, uni isn’t the be all and end all for finding a good career.
There are plenty of other study options, including TAFE, apprenticeships and private colleges. Many university courses can also be completed online through programs like Open Universities if physically being at uni is a problem for you.
Many organisations also offer free counselling and career advice such as BeyondBlue and Skillsroad, who are able to give you the advice you need to make informed decisions about your career (and life tbh).