Are you ready to drop out of college? We all know that 2020 was a rough year and 2021 seems to have us stumbling through to make our way through it. We all have seen and heard how COVID-19 has impacted businesses and schools. Between the frustrations we’re facing with digital classrooms and ever-growing student loans why would we continue to work through this? It would be better to just call it quits and move on to something else – anything else. Right?
👉👉Not quite…and I write this from a few different perspectives.
- College dropout (walking away from a full scholarship)
- Mother of a child who graduated college in May 2020
- College educator
I was the traditional “good” student in high school. Graduated with two full scholarships to attend my local college. I honestly didn’t want to go. Like many high school graduates I was sick of going to school and wanted to just get a job and have my own place. I enrolled in college and completed about a year before I had my son. Between not really wanting to be in class in the first place and trying to learn how to be a mother at the age of 19, I decided to walk away from my classes and go to work. Fast forward a few years later, and you’ll see me trying to make ends meet as a single mother. I learned the importance of having a degree would be for me and my son. At the age of 28, I graduated with my Associates Degree from Rio Grande Community College and at the age of 34 I earned my Masters Degree.
My son graduated from Hocking College with his Associates Degree in May 2020 aka “the year of Covid”. In the Spring semester, all his hands-on labs went virtual overnight. Like many students during this time he struggled staying engaged and motivated to continue to attend classes and had the mindset of dropping out to go to work. Fortunately, with the support of his instructors and several conversations that I had with him he did graduate. One conversation that comes to mind the most is him stating “I don’t like learning online. I want to be in the classroom”. As an educator I firmly explained that no one likes this. This is tough for everyone – teachers, administration and students but we don’t have a choice right now. Unemployment is high, businesses are shut down – everyone is looking for work. Focus on what you can control – which is your studies.
In 2018, I joined Hocking College as the Computer Science Program Manager. In this role, I’ve seen students succeed and I’ve seen students struggle. Some left when Covid caused a rapid change in what they knew or expected from the college experience. Some stayed on knowing this was still the best option. I’ll admit, college does not provide the absolute value it once had. Bootcamps, apprenticeships, online, and on the job training opportunities is making many question how necessary college is. In short, it’s not as necessary as it was when I first enrolled 20 years ago. Other opportunities to train are available but that does not mean that college is any less valuable for the experiences, resources, and opportunities it can provide.
With these perspectives in mind…the question at the beginning “Are you ready to drop out of college?” comes back. What would that conversation look like for anyone who’s thinking that college isn’t for them? From first hand experiences I know that to berate and belittle anyone’s choices will do little good. Instead, I ask questions that (hopefully) help them reach the decision that is truly best for them – whatever that may be.
Questions to Ask
- What is your plan? Tell me about your family and goals.
- Are you depending on anyone else to help you? Unfortunately, people and circumstances do change. Divorces, deaths, loss of income are very real things to consider. If you’re depending on another person (parent, spouse, etc.) they may not be available 5, 10, or more years down the road. You’re responsible for you.
- What do you enjoy doing? Tell me your hobbies and things you’d like to spend your time doing instead of studying. I’d almost guarantee there’s a career path for it.
Tell me your hobbies and things you’d like to spend your time doing instead of studying. I’d almost guarantee there’s a career path for it
I see it from all perspectives. Student who didn’t want to be a student to a mother of a college student and as an educator.
Ultimately the choice is yours and yours alone. I just ask that you take a few moments and answer the questions. If you’re not certain – talk to me and I’ll help you find some possibilities for you to live the life you’re excited to see every day.
Tasha Penwell is the Computer Science Program Manager at Hocking College. She’s the instructor for classes related to website development, social media marketing and is an accredited AWS Academy Educator.
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