College Dropout Diary: "Go Big, or Go Home"

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  • I took a semester off from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in upstate New York.
  • I do not have a current source of income.
  • I live with my parents in New Jersey and commute to New York City daily.
  • I am 19 years old.

My situation does not have a traditional foundation. I do not have a degree or a job. Yes, you read that correctly: you are reading an article from an unemployed college dropout.

What were the contributing factors?

1. I started my Computer Science major late so, at the minimum, I have a list of 11 more CS courses that need to be taken in order with a max of two per semester. So, 11 divided by two equals at least six more semesters. With two semesters a year (I couldn't stand being up in Rochester for the summer), I had three more years of school.

I realized this in the middle of the semester after talking to a CS counselor about a teacher's curriculum. Hearing that I had so much school left to do left me almost paralyzed with disappointment and dreading the next three years. It was the first pang of depression I couldn't shake off.

2. Living situation. Roommates. Cooking my own food. Making lunch and dinner in the morning. Amount of food I bought = hours of the day I spent outside my room. I couldn't do work at home. It never worked out.

3. Not having a car. In Rochester, this is a necessity, especially when you're not on a meal plan and need to buy food. That made me reliant on other people. Not fun.

4. Six classes (21 credits) + one audit class (four credits) + two clubs + four conferences with travel. Yeah, go hard hard or go home.

Why did you stack on so much in the first place?!

I had dinner with a friend a few weeks ago and somehow we got on the topic of our education. He said I was spoiled. Now, woah. I've come from a middle-class background and went to a local elementary and middle school. For high school, I received admission to a magnet high school called Bergen County Academies (we just hosted the largest high-school hackathon).

We liked to say that we were a public school treated as a private school. We had countless electives, College Board's Advanced Placement exams, and even a few electron microscopes. Yes, we had $100k microscopes just laying around for students to do research on.

The rigor of the curriculum matched our school's wealth. I worked my ass off for four years. Sure, I slacked off as much as possible, but hey, I survived. I took every elective that fit into my schedule with an average trimester of 13 classes, and it was that rigor that set me up for college.

When I arrived at college, there wasn't any possible way I couldn't keep up that workload because A) there were ten times as many opportunities and therefore, knowledge! B) I was used to the incredible workload. So obviously, I took on as many classes as possible.

In the past two months, I've learned that I had a mentality that it's better to take on a lot and fail than take on a smaller amount and succeed. It also extends to the victim mentality many of us adopt when we feel overworked. In my case, it was better to cry wolf when I had been doing so much because it was a defense mechanism. How could anyone find fault when someone takes on 15 individual projects and fails? It's a set up for failure from the beginning, but because of unflagging optimism, how could we not root for the person who's going to beat the odds?

The exorbitant workload, and by extension, work ethic, was definitely a byproduct of my high school. The failure, or acceptance of the sub-par, was all me.

Better to learn now than never.

> Part 1 of College-Dropout Diary
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