It's Okay to Leave College - And Here's Why

Photo provided by Constance Browne

Photo provided by Constance Browne


It’s said that college is supposed to be some of the best years of your life.  You’re going to make all of your best friends, meet cute boys, take interesting classes that you excel in, and have amazing experiences that you won’t be able to express in words.  But, that’s not always the case.  Sometimes, college isn’t the best time of your life.

There’s this common idea that every single student should attend a university and receive a higher education.  This idea leads to a stigma that young adults who aren’t in school are lazy, lack motivation, don’t have goals, and aren’t doing anything with their lives.  This idea is wrong.

Take it from someone who had a terrible freshmen year of college and didn’t return the following year: it’s okay to leave school.  No two people are going to share the same college experience and feel the same way about their schools.  Moving away for the first time to attend a university is a huge change that most of us aren’t expecting.  You can hear it a million times, but you won’t truly understand what it feels like to sit in your dorm room for the first night, away from the familiar.  This can be a really large growing time for many students, and teach them about their independence, but nothing really prepares you for it.

My first year of college had many amazing experiences.  I learned a lot about life and myself, and created relationships that could last a lifetime.  Even though I have some great memories of this year, it didn’t change that I was miserable.  I was unhappy, and it really started to hurt me. My relationships were hurting because of it.  I left every weekend I could, cancelled plans, and neglected some really incredible people.  I started skipping class, and had a hard time focusing on school work because I would think about how badly I wished I wasn’t there.  Attending a school that I couldn’t be proud of, that I didn’t want to attend but forced myself to due to fear of being viewed as “lazy,” really triggered a depression in me that I didn’t think was going to come back.  I spent a lot of nights, and days, when I should have been in class, laying in bed crying because I hated where I was.  I couldn’t even bring myself to fake a “I’m so happy here!” Facebook post or wear my school sweatshirt.

A few months before school was out for the year, I realized how unfair I was being to myself.  I was living in an unhealthy environment that I had the opportunity to leave, so after months of going back and forth on whether I should attend another year, I decided to leave my school.  That was both an easy decision and difficult decision for me.  I knew leaving would put me in a much healthier environment, but it also meant leaving the relationships I valued and worked hard to build.

Leaving school ended up being the best decision I could have made for myself.  I was allowed to now focus on myself, reestablish goals, and take on life at my own pace.  All of the sadness that I had been experiencing melted away when I was not living in a place I was extremely unhappy in, which changed my entire outlook on life.  It felt amazing being able to feel confident in my choice to leave.  I started working most of the week, built strong relationships with my coworkers, and was able to do what I wanted, and needed, to do for myself.  I was so nervous that by being out of school for a year and a half, my friends and family would look down on me. Instead, I found support and love, which reinforced how important it is to take care of yourself.

If you’re considering leaving your school because you are unhappy, then leave.  You deserve to live in a community and attend a school that you love, that you are proud of, and that allows you to live a positive and healthy life.  You have no obligation to stay at a university that you are unhappy at.  Your health and wellbeing is much more important.  If you’re friends hurt you by expressing their disappointment or judgement, you are given the opportunity to build new, healthier relationships.  There’s endless opportunity out there for you, and so many experiences that you can create when taking time off school.  You can find a job you enjoy, travel to new and loved places, discover new hobbies, explore your communities, eat delicious food, establish strong relationships, and do good in the world.  When your mind is well and healthy, you are able to then flourish in every other place in your life.  Your life and your time is valuable.  Don’t waste it on sadness.