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Q&A: Dropping Out Of School

Note: The vast majority of information and advice on this page applies only to North America, although much of it can probably be adapted to apply to other places. For country-specific advice and information, try the country list on the main page.

Forum Discussions about Dropping Out

Should I Drop Out Of School?

Advice from various people:

What other options do you have? Is there some kind of GED program? That might be a better way to go, to get some kind of terminal credential first. Otherwise, you may be happy, but surely will be poor. - Doc Johnson

Maybe you could try to pass with minimum grades. - Madness

That nagging feeling is probably right. Is is very hard to succeed without finishing high school. Succeeding without finishing high school is possible if you have friends and family to help you and more importantly, if you have determination. - Kirby

don't drop out unless you have a backup plan, like getting a GED or something. technically, you don't need to do that right away, so in theory you could drop out now and then sort that out later, but i'm sure you can guess people will give you a hard time about it if you don't have a Plan B right from the start… - SoulRiser

What do you like to do? What activities do you take part in that bring you a sense of pleasure ? What are your hobbies? Art, music, computers, etc…? It's not uncommon, actually it's quite common, that those in public education lose desire, motivation, the ability to make decisions for themselves. You've been told what to think, how to think, how long to think about it, and what to do for so long that you become blank. It's all part of the master plan of compulsory education, to take away your ability and/or desire to think for yourself so that you will take your “worker” place unquestioningly in society. Sit back and ask yourself what do I really enjoy? START THERE. You may need time to deprogram/unschool yourself before you make any moves. - Mom

You have to do what is best for you. If you're truly miserable in school then you should talk to a counselor about maybe taking night classes or just getting the GED. You can still go and get a college education through community colleges. Life doesn't just end if you drop out of school. The only reason I stayed was because a friend of mine wanted me to. She gave me the emotional support I needed, and didn't judge me because I wanted to drop out. Or you can also talk to your counselor about what electives they're offering next year. I'm sure they have a couple shop or art classes that you would be interested in and would take your mind off wanting to drop out. Again, this is your decision, and there really is no wrong choice, so long as you follow through with everything. - Ayliana

I don't want to play devils advocate here, but if you're absolutely not prepared to establish a source of income after finishing/quitting school, then this isn't going to come easy for you. Dropping out of school is not the end of responsibility, it is the privilege of REAL responsibility (for once). If you're going to drop out of school, you have to have a plan of action, some form of financial activity, and a way establish independence so that you can design your ideal lifestyle from there. Schools provide a one size fits all option for that stuff but people tend to forget that it WAS an option nonetheless and needs detailed replacement. Get a job - pay your landlord (your mom) - at 6.50USD an hour for four hours every four days a week you'll have $416 at the end of the month at any minimum wage job. - David B.

I am not going to say this advice will work for everyone. In fact, this advice is pretty much geared at anyone who has a family who pushes them for grades and would never consider letting them drop out, which is exactly what I had. Most high schools work on a credit system, and many high schools allow you to take extra classes. My school called the classes zero hour classes. If you go to the counselor, they also had access to classes you could take at home and summer school. I simply took three extra credits worth of classes and got out of school a whole year early. The reason you can do this is because they design the system so that it's easy to graduate even if you fail a few classes, so all you have to do is take a few extra classes to get your senior year out of the way. My school never publicized this option but once I asked for it they gave me access to a take-home class, made me sign some paperwork saying I wouldn't go to prom, and from then all I had to do was wait until the end of my juniro year to get a diploma. If you can just manage to get a passing grade in a few extra classes - and if you're at your freshman year you could split it up into one a year probably - then you can get out a whole year early. It was worth it to me. It saved me. - Marty

More advice:

I was always one of the highest grades in my class, loved learning and therefore put up with school. But in the 9th grade when I was being taught things I literally learned in 2nd grade and was told to “deal with it”, I started skipping class. I was bored, the people were shallow, the teachers disrespectful and I had too much respect for myself to subject myself to that.

I missed so many days that I was failing most of my classes (except the few that I found interesting enough to attend). My mom made an appointment with the dean to discuss my “catching up”. He didn't even know I wasn't attending! Once it was brought to his attention, he then said he “had to” expel me for the rest of the year. Darn.

Well we decided to unschool from there. I got my GED but it was a waste of time as I have never needed to show it for anything I've ever done. When I was almost 19 I decided to go to massage school and went from there into working for myself as a therapist, making my own schedule, seting my own fees, etc. From there I went on to open my own massage business, hiring others to work for me, learning accounting, bookkeeping, contracts, scheduling, licensing, promotionals, etc without every taking a biz course or class or cracking a book.

I sold my business to be a stay-at-home mom and unschool my 8 year old son.

I'm telling you all of this to prove that all you need to be successful is self-motivation and a passion for something. Oh and a little common sense, which you won't learn in school! (School's tell you what to think; they don't teach you how to think!)

The best advice I could give anyone is to ignore the BS, do your best to get out of it if you can and if not, remember that once you're out, you never have to look back. Find something you love and ignore the people who try to rain on your parade. Focus on what you want, not what you don't want, and work towards *your* goals, not someone else's.

- Tara

How Do I Drop Out Of School?

Advice from someone who dropped out:

I dropped out of school halfway 11th grade. I was miserable in school, I had terrible grades, and I didn't really participate in any meaningful way. I learned about the GED from a friend, and I presented a plan to my parents where I'd drop out, take the GED and SAT tests, and enroll in a local college the next fall. They agreed, and I got the GED and enrolled in college – a full year earlier than I would have if I'd graduated on time.

I'm very glad I dropped out, and I wish I'd known about the GED and dropped out earlier. But you should definitely have a plan.

What state are you in? The rules for getting a GED vary by state, but in almost every state you should be able to take it at your age. The GED, if you're not familiar with it, is a diploma that is in many ways, including by employers and colleges, considered equivalent to a high school diploma. See this page.

I took the GED without studying, and got high scores, and I know several people who also passed with little or no studying. You could get a GED study book, with sample versions of the test, and take one to see how you do. There are classes you can take to prepare you for the test, or you could develop your own self-study plan.

Have you thought about college? Do you know what you might study? Or do you know what kind of work you'd like to do? A lot of questions like these are basically the same whether you drop out or graduate, so it's a good idea to think about them anyway. One advantage of dropping out is getting free time to explore your interests, learn on your own, maybe work some, and figure things out.

A major question, too, is what your parents are like, what they think of dropping out, etc. Their support would help a lot. Also, you might want to talk to your guidance counselor at school, who is probably the person who would help you initiate the dropping-out process anyway.

In my case, my parents were supportive once I presented a solid plan. And I did follow through on the plan, and I did well in college the first year. Then, I transferred and eventually droped out. Subsequently I've enrolled in and dropped out of college several times. College was way nicer for me than high school, and you might find that you can stand it. I eventually became less satisfied with the structure.


More advice:

Just something I found on an unschooling website. Thought it might be helpful– The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Llewellyn has some great ideas :)

Internships & Apprenticeships Excerpted from “The Teenage Liberation Handbook” Reprinted by permission of the author from “The Teenage Liberation Handbook” All rights reserved. © 1998 Grace Llewellyn

If you know what kind of work you want to do, move toward it in the most direct way possible…

John Holt, Teach Your Own

…Apprenticeships and internships are based on the concept of mutual benefit.

The apprentice or intern gives labor in exchange for the chance to learn about a certain kind of work. The labor itself may seem repetitive or boring to someone experienced in the field, but should be interesting and challenging to the newcomer. By the same token, the “master” or supervisor should not have to take a lot of time to stop and explain how to do things, because the apprentice will learn mainly by watching and doing . Sometimes the apprentice or intern is also paid in money. Sometimes the apprentice or intern pays. Often, no money is exchanged.

What's the difference between internships and apprenticeships?

Internships often involve office or administrative work, while apprenticeships usually focus on learning specific skills in a craft or trade. But many people use the terms interchangeably.

Apprenticeships can take place in any field, from chemistry research to interior decorating. They’ve been around for millennia, though in recent decades they’ve been somewhat forgotten in the U.S. or at least restricted to certain trades. But homeschoolers have rediscovered them as a superb learning arrangement, and more recently, some schoolpeople have even started to set up apprenticeships for school students.

In some countries, apprenticeships have always been the way that people learned certain types of work, but these fields are often stigmatized as the fate of people not brainy enough to become doctors or ambassadors or such. I’m excited that unschoolers are reinventing apprenticeships for their own purposes ¾ not only completing long-term apprenticeships to become electricians or midwives, but also arranging short or long term situations that may have nothing to do with their career goals or that involve an academic field rather than a “trade.” Unschoolers apprentice themselves for a week or five years, to chemists and museum creators and windmill repairpeople and poets. So, if you live in an area where people define apprenticeships or internships imaginatively, don’t let them limit you ¾ dream up the best situation for you and for a skilled adult you admire, and then explain you dream and suggest a trial period.

Organizations that offer internships

Thousands of organizations offer positions in fields including communications, arts, human services, public affairs, science and industry. You might work on costume and scene construction with a ballet company, conduct a research project for the Peace Corps, do camera work or lighting for TV stations, write and conduct surveys for a newspaper, or do office work for a publisher. Some internships offer stipends. Many provide room and board, free classes, college credit, and help with finding employment. If you want to apply for a particular position, do keep this in mind:

Some programs are rather rigid, others are flexible enough that you can adapt them to fit your particular interests Some internships are in high demand, and difficult to get. You will compete for them with other people, most older than you.

Many internships will be officially off-limits until you are eighteen or so, though others are open to high school and even middle school age people. Furthermore, almost all organizations are open to ‘independent” inquiries. In other words, they will consider ignoring normal requirements, creating special positions for people who wouldn’t fit into their usual slots. And anyway, persevering unschoolers often find that age requirements are not written in stone Check with businesses, non-profits, and other organizations near you, or go to the library for a reference book such as Internships: on-the-job training opportunities for college students and adults, America’s Top Internships, Peterson’s Internships, or Student Advantage Guide: The Internship Bible.

If you use one of these reference books, remember that the less famous organizations will be easier to break into. A small toen newspaper, for instance, won’t have as many applications as The Washington Post.

Your library may also have specialized internship guides, like Ronald W. Fry’s Internships: The Travel and Hospitality Industries, or the National Directory of Arts Internships, or the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta’s Internship Directory, which lists over five hundred summer jobs and internships at botanical gardens and other horticultural institutions.

How you can arrange and design you own apprenticeship or internship

You may need perseverance, but all you really have to do is decide what kind of a position you want, and then talk to everyone in your area who works in that field until you find someone who like you will take you on for at least a trial period.

A very helpful book is The Question is College, by Herbert Kohl. It discusses apprenticeships as an alternative to college, but is relevant for people of any age.

Of course, you can approach strangers too. After all, apprenticeships and internships help everyone involved. You learn by watching people, who know what they are doing and by actually doing many of the same things they do. They get free or inexpensive help, as well as the joy and pride that comes from sharing what they love with an excited newcomer. Chances are, if you phone all the dog trainers in the yellow pages, at least one will let you try a one-day experiment, and that may lead into a week-long volunteer job, and then a three-month apprenticeship. Don’t give up after one “no-thank-you.”

Be sure to talk about your ideas and goals thoroughly enough that both parties have similar experiences. Write them down. I you envision three hours on weekday mornings of laying out newspaper copy, but Mr. Mendoza sees you sweeping floors and running errands, it won’t work. Discover that before you commit yourself.

- Mom

More Questions

I am of somewhat high intelligence, and people (parents/teachers) think that for me to get the most out of it I need to be in fulltime school. Advice?

You say that you are intelligent, which makes it of greater importance for you to get out of school. Pretty much all school counselors and youth psychologists agree that smart children and teenagers benefit very much from working on their own or with a loose group of people, rather than being forced to learn from a curriculum. There are a few people that thrive in the school environment but most people, not just those with higher intelligence, do best learning outside of the traditional school environment. From your comments it is clear that school is not helping you. In other words, whoever said you need to be in school to learn best is totally incorrect.

Life is too short to be stuck in school for 15% of your life. We need to get out and learn from the world and each other instead of sitting on uncomfortable chairs in small rooms for five days a week. - Kirby

Can you still get into good universities if you have a GED? (North America only)

Yes! You have to work hard, but there are plenty of people with GED's who can get into great universities (notably Unschoolers.)

Generally speaking, its best to go to community college than transfer to a school. It's much cheaper as well to go that route, and you can go to community college any time. However, if you work hard and get good reccomendations you can go to plenty of good schools.  -Ahab

Yes, but you'll be better off starting out at a community college for the first two years. For starters its loads cheaper. My tuition is half as much per year than what I would pay at a state university, which is only a third as much as I would pay at a private university. You'll get better quality instruction due to the fact that class sizes are smaller, and teachers will be able to involve you more. Also, professors at community colleges are usually adjuncts, meaning they have real world experience in what they're teaching, as opposed to grad students working towards thier PHDs with little to no experience otherwise.

The education in the first two years of college is the same no matter where you go. Its all general education requirements that for the most part have nothing to do with your major or your goals in life (Highschool: Part II). Its only in your junior year of college that you really start an in depth study of your field.

Oh, and don't let anyone look down at you for going to a community college. I get really pissed off when I hear people knocking my school just because it only gives out two year degrees. Half of all college students go to community college, and some of them are better than traditional colleges. My schools nursing program is second only to Yale University in the state of Connecticut. Which means our math and science department is state of the art. You need straight A's coming out of highschool just to ensure a good spot on the waiting list. My sister has to take a shit load of remedial classes just to prepare.  -Ayliana

I know in Canada the GED is as good as a high school diploma for college or university. The good thing is that colleges here aren't looked down upon as much as in the US.

Note: In Canadian parlance, “college” refers only to community college and “university” refers only to schools that gives out three/four year degrees. -Kirby

Where to next? Pick one!

Posted in: Knowledgebase on August 12, 2021 @ 6:22 PM

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