It’s okay not to graduate

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Michael Kellen

A few days from now, thousands of Portland State students will walk across the stage at the Moda Center, but there will also always be students who do not graduate. And, guess what, that’s perfectly okay.

Not everyone graduates from college; in fact, according to the United States Department of Education, the number of people that graduate from a university ranges from 56 to 66 percent—little more than half. While not graduating may seem discouraging, it doesn’t mean you will not have a career.

Take your time or take a break

Even though this June marks the end of your fourth year in college, there’s no shame in being a fifth year, a sixth year or beyond. The national average of time spent in higher education before graduation is actually six years.  

You may even want to take a break for family obligations, finances or personal well being. There’s no shame in taking a year, five years or a decade off. If you’re planning on a break, it would be a good idea to speak with your adviser. That way, if or when you returnespecially if you’re planning on returning fairly soonyou’ll know what classes you’ll need. You can ensure you know what university services will still be available to you. Some require you to simply be a PSU student while others require you to be enrolled in classes.

Or stop the madness

You might be considering dropping out completely. One thing to ask yourself before dropping out is why? Is it because of your major? Perhaps you would be happier in a different field. If so, take some time to try out different classes.

Is it that you’ve been taking too many classes a quarter? Then try going part-time, which is between four to eight credits or one to two courses.

And in some cases, the degree might not be worth the price for the career you want.

It’s worth it to brainstorm why you want to drop it out. Even if none of these ideas are the solution, making sure you know why you want to drop out will help you figure out the optimal path to take after you leave. Whatever you decide, consulting with a PSU academic adviser, professor or career counselor is a good idea, especially if you hadn’t joined the workforce before starting college.

You can successfully have a career in a field you enjoy without a bachelor’s degree. U.S. News states careers such as dental hygiene and physical therapy require high school diplomas, certificates or associate’s degrees. There are many fields, such as cosmetology, animation and aviation, which utilize on-the-job training or have special vocational or trade schools. There are also many careers you can obtain without a formal degree but through other forms of training.

It can feel as though society expects everyone to get college degree in a tidy four-year period. However, if you don’t find yourself falling into the mainstream narrative and expectation, you’re not alone. No one is judging. It’s your life. Whether you need to take a break or leave college altogether, do what’s right for you.

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