Students dropped out of college

College Advisor Admits: “I Dropped Out of College.”

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I never thought I was going to go to college. 

My feelings on this were so strong that in high school I chose the career-related English course geared toward students who weren’t going to college. The alternative was the AP English course for college-bound students. It didn’t make sense for me to earn college credit when I would never need it. 

Students dropped out of college

After high school, I did end up returning to school in the evening. I drove 45 minutes each way three times a week for maybe five or six weeks before I dropped out of college.

I Dropped Out of College And Now I Have A Master’s Degree

Why did I drop out?

I had no clear goals, I was not engaged in the campus community, and I didn’t really connect with anyone on campus because I was a commuter student. I went to class and immediately went home. Those are all big reasons why students drop out of college, and I was no exception to that.

What now?

After I decided to quit school, I remained in the same minimum-wage job for two years. I enjoyed the job – for the most part – but I didn’t enjoy the money. I decided I better try college again. Especially since I would have to find my own health insurance if I didn’t become a full-time student to stay under my parents’ insurance. 

Talk about the wrong reasons for going back to school, huh? This time, though, I was committed. I got a better (temporary) job with higher wages, and I focused on my studies. I was feeling pretty good!

But I was lost.

What did I want to do with the rest of my life? I didn’t have a clue. I hadn’t really considered college again until I was up against the wall with the whole health insurance thing, so not having a defined plan isn’t all that surprising. I was lost.

The search…

Thus began my search for the right career path for me.  Not an easy first step, as you may know!

I remember first thinking I would get a certificate in Administrative Assisting. I started with a typing class that I completely aced. I was the fastest typist in class. But, I couldn’t see myself doing that for a living. I wanted something more. Something that would get me up in the morning. 

Then I met my boyfriend, and I almost immediately decided I would be following him to Iowa State University. I still didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, so I started looking through Iowa State’s available majors. 

Then I found it. Family Financial Planning. I loved numbers, and I loved helping people. BINGO!

I transferred to Iowa State before graduating from my community college (not uncommon, though I don’t necessarily encourage it. More on that later.). My first semester had my Intro to Family Financial Planning course. 

I hated that damn class. It wasn’t that I disliked the content, it was because the instructor was disorganized and didn’t know what he was doing. It turned me off to the major, so before the semester was over, I went to my advisor and switched to English.

I later learned that women are more likely to change majors based on past instructor experiences (or something like that). Interesting! 

My second major didn’t go any better.

I always liked writing and proofreading papers, so an English major seemed like a good fit for me. At that point, I had dreams of possibly working at a publishing company as an editor. 

At the university level, there are things called “Blue Book Exams”. Essentially, they are essay exams that you write in a little blue book. Very common for English majors. 

I failed my first Blue Book Exam. In my 14 years of schooling, I had never failed an exam before. Maybe being an English major wasn’t for me. I knew the material, but because I didn’t elaborate enough, I failed.  If I couldn’t bullshit my way through the essay, how was I going to pass all of the required courses for an English degree?

I was lost again.

I cried the day I found out I failed the exam. What was I going to do? I didn’t want to be an English major anymore. If I wasn’t already lacking confidence, that failing grade wrecked any shred of confidence I had left. I felt defeated. 

But I wasn’t going to drop out of college again. I wasn’t going to give up on myself.  I may have had a fixed mindset about my ability to be an English major, but I still had enough confidence in myself that I would earn a college degree.

I was going to graduate no matter what it took.

I went to my advisor and told her I wanted a 4-year (bachelor’s) degree. At that point, I was so frustrated I didn’t care what the degree was in, but it was a goal of mine to earn my degree. I asked her what the fastest way to graduate was, and she told me about the Liberal Studies degree. I signed up on the spot. It was only going to take me three more semesters, and I would be the first in my family to graduate from college.  And that’s what I did.

Do I regret making that decision? Yes and no. 

I regret changing my major to Liberal Studies because it isn’t a specialized degree in anything. In other words, it’s not like I walked out of the door at graduation with a degree in Psychology or Math.

I don’t, however, regret changing my major again because it led me to where I am today. I know it’s cliche, but it’s true. My long journey brought me right here, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. (Well, maybe a winning Powerball ticket, but I believe in my heart I’d still be helping college students in some way.)

I finally graduated, but I was no better off than before…

Not surprisingly, I was still lost. Even after earning my 4-year degree. I applied to many places, but no one was interested in hiring me because I didn’t have the required degree and/or experience. Most of the jobs I was applying for were in the human services/helping field. They wanted either a bachelor’s degree in Human Services or Social Work. I didn’t have those, but I applied anyway. I had nothing to lose, so why not? 

My first job after graduation was an administrative role at an outpatient drug recovery center. I worked with billing and answered phones. Not glamorous, and too stressful for my personality type. I think I worked there for a few months. 

Then I worked at an agricultural seed counting place. I enjoyed that job more than my first, but it was only temporary with no room for advancement.

I went back to school.

When my boyfriend told me he was staying to earn his Master’s degree, I made a decision. I had to do something. The floundering I had been doing for so many years just wasn’t cutting it anymore. It was really wearing on me. 

So, I went back to school. Again. For a second bachelor’s degree.

Third time’s a charm… Right?

I figured it out! Or so I thought…

I finally decided! I was going to work with ex-cons being released from prison to help them obtain employment and/or go to school. I majored in Human Services this time. I was on my way…

…until I had my internship in a prison the semester before I was on target to graduate. It’s not what you think, I’m sure. My experience there was great! I walked the yard by myself and felt safe doing so, etc.

What I discovered pretty quickly, though, was that I cared too much about the inmates. I was young, naive, and I trusted too easily. Not a great combination in that type of environment.

I knew I wanted to help people.

So, at the end of the summer… there I was… still trying to figure out my future. I knew I wanted to help people, and I knew I wanted to help an “at-risk” population.  It never occurred to me that students like myself would benefit from someone like me on the sidelines cheering them on.

As I searched for job opportunities, I ran across something that changed my life forever.

A for-profit college was hiring for a “Student Services Advisor”. It explicitly stated the Advisor would be working with an at-risk population. Perfect! I applied and ended up getting the job where I stayed for about two years (and started the A Minute with Marnie newsletter). 

It was there I discovered my love for helping college students. 

My third return to college. This time, for my Master’s Degree.

I eventually quit that institution to pursue my Master’s Degree full-time. The employer did not fully support my educational pursuits (allowing me time off work to go to class), so I decided the best thing for me was to leave so I could further pursue my education.

Before I graduated with my Master’s Degree, I obtained my Advisor position within TRIO Student Support Services at a community college. 

Introducing: COVID-19 Pandemic

I stayed in that TRIO position for almost 10 years. I loved my students so much, and it warmed my heart to watch them succeed and go after their goals.

I quit for a part-time job at a community college closer to my home. Eight days into that new job, the pandemic hit, and now I am officially unemployed. 

The silver lining in the pandemic (and my unemployment) is that it has freed up time for me to reincarnate A Minute with Marnie. Now I have the ability to help thousands and thousands of students a month. What could be sweeter than that?

I knew it all along! This is nuts.

A few years ago, I discovered that I had written in a diary when I was a teenager about wanting to have a career as a College Personnel professional. Crazy. Life has an interesting way of working out sometimes.

It worked out in the end.

This is where I am meant to be. I truly believe that. I may be unemployed, but my life is rich with enjoyment and purpose. Plus, I get to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) for my kiddos and walk my kids to and from school each day. Life doesn’t get much better than that. 

I may not remain a SAHM forever, but I will always remain passionate about helping others succeed in life.

And if you are wondering… I married that boyfriend from college. 😉

Final Thoughts

Every day, students drop out of college. For some of them, it’s their best option at the time. But for others, there are different paths they could take. It breaks my heart to see them give up on themselves as easily as I gave up on myself those first few years of school. In a future post, I will write about things to consider before dropping out of college.

What’s even worse is seeing potential students give up before they even enroll in classes. The whole enrollment/admissions process can be confusing – especially for first-generation college students. And let’s not forget the wonderful financial aid process!

Where are you? Are you thinking about dropping out of college? If so, why? Maybe I can help!

Or are you considering enrolling in college? Tell me your goals!

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