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Don’t Treat Me like A College Dropout

Posted by Chanelle Schneider on August 15, 2009

college dropout“The college dropout”. Unless you’re Kanye West or Bill Gates, having this label attributed to you garners only negative attention. To be a college dropout is to be a wasted resource. “It’s a shame to see all that potential go to waste” is what most people say (behind the backs of the people to which they are referring). We hear you, though. You don’t have to say it to our faces because it shows in your eyes. Your body language expresses your contempt for us. It’s a good thing some of us don’t pay attention to your misguided attempts at encouragement, or else we may never get past the pain and onto success.

What follows is an interview conducted with Sommer Johnson, who founded Gemini Magazine, is achieving her goals and doing it all with passion. She is encouraging people to “join us in the revolution to open minds one cover, one article, one beautiful, sophisticated, professional curvy woman at a time.”

  1. Did you feel expectations from family, friends or society to succeed in college? If so, what impact did this pressure have on you?
    My parents always used to say, “If you are going to stay here after you graduate (from high school) you have two choices: college or a full time job.” It never bothered me or put pressure on me because I love learning & I love school.  What did bother me was the fact that I don’t think my parents understood my major. They wanted me to major in something like business or accounting or HR Management instead of English.  I’m sure most English majors feel frustrated like I did when fielding questions like: “So what are you going to do with an English Degree…teach?” My parents just wanted me to have a degree in something that could help me 10 years from age 18; and, to them that was business or accounting or HR Management.
  2. How do friends and family treat you because you don’t have a college degree?
    Only a few people in my family have an actual college degree.  Most of my family, if not all of them, doesn’t really care.
  3. How do you feel about yourself?
    Honestly, sometimes I feel stupid. Sometimes I over hear grown women talking about their college experience and I’m saddened by it because my experience was limited.  Sometimes I am grateful for being able to start my family early. By the time I am 43 my kids will be away at college and my husband and I can dance naked in the kitchen. Lol.
  4. Why did you leave school without a degree?
    The first time around I was lazy. I was also boy crazy and I didn’t feel like I fit in.  The second time around I was working full time, mothering 2 kids under the age of 4, and being a wife.  The 3rd time around I ended up getting a 65 on my exam paper in English (go figure), which gave me a C, which meant I had to repeat the class, which meant my financial aid was yanked (I had to get B’s or better to keep it).  Being laid off with a mortgage, two kids, a husband, and old cars made it hard to go back.  I will one day…
  5. Do you plan to return to get a degree? If so, what is preventing you from returning in the immediate future?
    Money. I would go back right now if I could afford it. Perhaps when Gemini blows up I can go back and not think about what bills I have to pay.
  6. What is the biggest myth equated with dropouts that you would like to dispel?
    That we are inexperienced.  I see tons of jobs in the accounting and admin assistant positions looking for just any kind of degree.  I’ve worked in accounting for 10 years and I grew up watching my mother be the Executive Assistant to Sanyo VP’s, small business owners, and so on. But none of that seems to matter. It’s all about what we look like on paper.  I realize from owning my own business that just because you didn’t make it through school that doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to make it. I feel like education is an array of things.  It’s the crappy first job you had; the stupid boyfriend/girlfriend you broke up with (or who broke up with you); it’s the half finished college degree and birth of your first born. Your life is your education, but you have to add to it to make it greater.  For some, that means getting a degree.  For others it means spending hours in Barnes & Noble or online reading up on this or that.  With my eyes on the future and my heart in God’s hands, my life is looking pretty good – degree on the wall or not 🙂

Many people have had to leave school for reasons other than the stereotypical “college just isn’t for me” attitude; and, many would like to return to get their degree, but existing roadblocks make it difficult. Support education reform to enable the passionate people to more efficiently achieve their dreams.

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5 Responses to “Don’t Treat Me like A College Dropout”

  1. DJ Young said

    This is so interesting – and so true, all the ridiculous mythology about either being a dropout or never having gone to college – and timely as I listened (okay, eavesdropped)to a conversation the other day between a hospital administrator and a young man who had applied for a job on her team.

    He was perhaps 25 or so and admitted that he never finished college, not even a two-year degree. He was cheerful, upbeat and already had some 4 years of experience doing the sort of work he would be doing on her team. She made this comment: “Well, in spite of not finishing the college, you do sound intelligent.”

    It took all the nerve I have in my body not to walk in that office (hey, open door) and stick my nose in that woman’s face. I know from experience that there are so many families out there that simply cannot afford to send a kid to college, the thought is never brought up and there are so many young people who do not have the funds themselves or the grades or the esteem to put themselves through college. There are too many reasons why someone may choose not to attend. Sometimes the choice is made for them.

    Attending college should NEVER be a barometer of someone’s intelligence or even, honestly, how much they have learned. I will take years of experience over a college degree any day of the week and it is an insult to the millions of Americans right now who are seeking work and not even getting an interview simply because they do not have a degree. A degree in no way guarantees that you can do a job. A degree in no way guarantees what kind of person you are. A degree is not some official stamp of ‘I Am Better Than Everyone Else’ – but those with degrees, especially higher degrees, will often fall into the prejudiced category of believing it. For many, it is all part of their social status and only members are allowed to enter.

    No one should be undermined or underestimated based on their level of education. I’ve known a few PhDs who could use some character building and people skills. I’ve known a few high school drop outs who run their own businesses. I give credit to anyone who goes through the struggle of trying to obtain a higher degree (especially if they are also juggling work, kids, etc AND having to pay for it themselves), and if it is something that really matters to you, you’ll find a way to get through it. But no one should be judged by whether or not they fit into the system. It simply isn’t for everyone – and it is DESIGNED to ensure that only those who meet a certain very high criteria (and cost) will benefit from it.

    I do not believe that hospital administrator intended to insult this young man, but her attitude is symptomatic of the real prejudices that those without degrees often face – yes, how we look on paper seems to be all that matters – and it is a short-sighted and shallow human being who would believe it.

  2. David said

    Hey Chanelle,

    It seems this college thing is bothering you, so I thought I’d note what I’ve found – I’m a fair bit older than you so I probably have a different viewpoint.

    First, I quit school when I was 15 – at the time this was the legal age one could leave in the UK. This was against the advice of my parents and teachers. At that time, if I had gone straight from school to college, it would not only have been free, I would have gotten a grant to cover living expenses, books and things. No matter, at that age, I knew better than everyone.

    After a few years (I was working as an engineering apprentice and did get to attend technical school a day a week) I missed exercising my brain and did my math degree part time in my late twenties (at great expense). I still like to give my brain a workout and I’d love to go back to school to take a degree in Middle Eastern History. Will it happen? probably not, but there are other ways to learn.

    I’ve worked with many many people over the years. Some have been MBA types from the best business schools – many of them totally inept dickheads. Others have had little higher education, but have learned the tough way, actually doing things – some of the smartest and most successful people I know are in this group.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about the college thing right now. Do what you can, keep learning – remember, the education scene is changing quickly these day – more opportunities to get degrees from good schools by distance learning rather than on-campus. Plus there are millions of students looking to go back and the education business is slowly finding ways to help them.

    The old style of education is probably to go the way of the print marketing business – there are new, better, more effective, more cost effective ways to learn than the traditional high placed old style school.

    Hey, if money is tight, is there anyway you can do a few credits a year and get to where you want to be?

    I don’t subscribe to the view that employers are only looking for people with degrees. I think they are looking for people that can help make their organizations better – I know that’s the approach I take!

  3. Being one of the few members of my family to go to college, I will say this: I appreciated the opportunity, I LOVED IT!!!, and I learned alot from it. But I must tell you, most of what I learned in college came from experiences outside the classroom. Go figure! I do believe that everyone should advance their education. But you have to do it in the way that best suits you. For some that could mean going to a four year university full time and earning a degree. For others that might mean taking one class at a time at a community college, or going to a trade school, or reading about everything they ever wanted to know on Google.

    Furthermore, among the many reasons that people leave school, I think the main one is finances. If education was more affordable, or better yet free, I imagine there would be a lot less college dropouts. Why empty your parent’s bank account or get a side job and work to death, or put yourself in ungodly amounts of debt to earn a piece of paper that, in this day and age, essentially means nothing. Yeah, I said it! I have my Bachelor’s and am currently working on my Master’s but really ALL that proves is that I showed up to class and handed in assignments. My intelligence and abilities are NOT defined by a certificate. Do you know how many dumb degreed people there are out here?! That only got where they are simply because they have a degree? That are currently supervising or leading non-degreed people that are more competent than they are?

    Stop looking at college as something that people are obliged to do, and view it for what it really is: merely an opportunity that many people are not able to take full advantage of; and consider yourself fortunate…. not first-rate.

  4. Revelations 313 said


    I really enjoyed your article. Although I am a college graduate, I can relate with Sommer Johnson. My major is in Business. However, my two favorite subjects in school were History and Philosophy. The only reason why I did not pursue those two subjects was because I thought I would not have a lucrative career. While I do not regret my decision to stay in my major, something is evidently wrong with the notion that we have to pursue a one major over another simply because the other major is not considered popular.

    In my honest opinion, I believe that our society has made it perfectly clear that the level of your success is totally linked to/and with your educational background. While this is not a fair assessment of how “successful” someone is going to be, it is however what we have been led to believe. A person’s success should not be linked to the level of their education, but to the level of their character and goodwill to their community. If a person can follow their heart and find happiness at the end of the road, then in my book they have found true success.

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