Let Them Go: Why Dropping School Should Be More Accepted

It’s common for universities to work on improving retention rates. This makes sense, because state funding can rely on good retention, and as a business it’s important to keep customers. Combined with a culture that frowns on “quitting”, this makes dropping out of school a morally difficult move. Unfortunately, this doesn’t benefit everyone.

As you may have noticed, NMT is a very specialized institution. It’s quite good at it too, and has a reputation as a challenging school. However,  Tech can be especially difficult for some people just because of how specialized it is. If a student gets to Tech and realizes they aren’t as passionate about the material as they once thought, there’s normally and effort to manage the mental strain but the question of staying in school is rarely asked. But it’s an important question. The option of dropping out of school instead of learning stress management or making time for yourself isn’t brought up, because that would be “giving up”. But the fact is, Tech isn’t for everyone. And that’s ok.

This moves into edgy waters, because as mentioned earlier this is similar to saying “give up”. Or if you’re from an older generation, suggesting Tech isn’t for everybody may reinforce the sensitive, soft millennial/Gen Z stereotype. “Give up” is also not standard advice, and it certainly won’t come from Tech, who is constantly holding stress management workshops and reminding students of counseling services on campus for anyone feeling the blues. Tech wants their students to stay, and learning to manage stress can be good for those who fit in but need that extra motivation.

But all the counseling reminders, stress management workshops, and crisis hotline posters on the notice boards beg the question: is there something about Tech that is conducive to poor mental health?

There are a few factors that play into poor mental health, including social and financial issues, and the fact that depression is rising all over the country. But for the sake of this article, we will only focus on the pressure to stay in school when perhaps there is no need.

As mentioned before, Tech is a hard school. The material is challenging, but it challenges a specific type of person. Everyone goes to school for a variety of reasons, but part of Tech’s appeal is completing a degree most people don’t. But a lot of people go because they just finished high school and don’t know what else to do. A problem arises when environmental factors pressure you into staying in a school when you’d rather not. Changing majors is easy, but Tech is so niche there isn’t much wiggle room outside hard science.

If you’re not living it, you can probably imagine the frustration. There is always campus counseling, or tips on stress relief. You can remind yourself to make time for yourself, and do things you enjoy. If you’re a reader of Paydirt, you’ve probably heard it from me in previous issues. It’s so engrained, the stress management technique to “set aside time for activities you enjoy” is probably already a part of your day. It’s as if the default way to spend your time is to do things you don’t enjoy, so you have to go out of your way to make time for the things you do.

And if saying it’s ok to drop out still sounds like supporting evidence for softer generations, consider all the different ways people choose to challenge themselves. You have to pick and choose your battles and find challenges that align with your personal values. If you criticize someone for not being up for the challenge at Tech, think about all the challenges you haven’t been up for. “You don’t want to cage fight? Don’t you want to challenge yourself?” is the same as “You don’t want to stay up for nights on end memorizing chemical reactions? Don’t you want to challenge yourself?”. It goes nowhere. Everyone values different things.

So if you’re at Tech and unhappy, drop out. Find something you do value. If a student gets to Tech and decides it’s not for them, they’re one step closer to finding something they actually enjoy.

There’s a stigma about quitting, and it’s unnecessary. The current culture focuses on productivity, but doesn’t care much for individual happiness. If you’re suffering for something you don’t care about, then there is really no point.

Find something you actually care about. Remove the stigma of dropping out in favor of moving a step closer to a fulfilling life.

And as I’ve said before... if you’re at Tech and enjoying it, you’re living the dream.

-Sam Burleigh

Engineers Without Borders

Engineers Without Borders

Victoria Hypes and the NMT Powerlifting Team

Victoria Hypes and the NMT Powerlifting Team