School: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

You feel like you’ve been in school your whole life. You can hardly remember life B.C. (Before Class)! It’s been at least 10 years and you can’t wait for your real life to begin. But leaving school early is a big decision. Should you stick it out? Here are some thoughts to consider before pulling off your backpack and walking out of the schoolyard for the last time.

So You Want To Leave

Perhaps your grades haven’t been great, or your family is experiencing difficult circumstances such as hard financial times, divorce, death or other emotional issues.  Maybe you would rather work and earn money than study subjects you feel have no relevance to the real world. Or perhaps it simply feels easier to leave social problems like bullying or isolation behind than stay at school and continue facing them.

“I saw work as a refuge from the high school drama that followed me around the courtyard.”  -Lauren

Each person’s situation is unique; however, you need really good reasons to leave school –not just a ‘quick fix’ to your problems. Speak to your school counselor, your parents and other trusted people. Then, if you do decide that leaving is still your best option, plan ahead and be prepared.  Make sure you have definite plans in place first.

Research suggests that people who leave school without a plan often drift from job to job. They may try to study or train later, but the older they get the harder it is to settle into good study routines. Also, family or other financial commitments as you get older makes the time and money that study requires hard to come by. Why not speak to people who have dropped out and ask them what life is like now, years later? What would they do if they had the choice all over again?

Think career. If advancement and training opportunities are not available in your job, then you have chosen a job, not a career. If you need a day job, enroll in night school so you can work towards a long-term career.

Apprenticeships or internships can help you develop skills that will give you employment in the long term or be a stepping stone to a future career.

“For years, I took part in voluntary work for a radio station because media was something that I was passionate about. Even though I wasn’t being paid to work there, that experience provided me with the exposure to a workplace environment so that I was ready when I undertook my first full time job interview. I was ready to be seen as a mature, loyal and diligent individual with something to offer, which gave me the confidence to sell myself, and set me apart from other, less experienced candidates.” -Lauren

How Can I Stay and Complete High School?

Remember the big picture: two or three more years of school is only a dot on your life’s journey but can make a big difference to the rest of your life! Imagine the path your life could take and assess whether staying will be best for you. There are ways of making your school experience better.

If you want to leave because you cannot study the subjects you like, find out if you can change your schedule or study a subject through distance education. If you are depressed by social problems, talk to teachers, counselors or parents and then, if you have tried all avenues to change the situation, it may be best to change schools.

If you feel overwhelmed, you may be able to drop a subject. You can get tutoring too, even if you don’t have much money. Ask teachers, an older student, or a family member to help, or ask a friend to be your study buddy.

Make sure life outside of school is full and fun as well. While school is a lot of work and you may struggle, get involved in activities outside of school where you find success and comfort.

“I decided to give school one last shot, considering I only had one year left (which at the time felt like a lifetime) and I set myself the goal of graduating. I figured I had gone through 11 years of educational torture already, I may as well see the very last year through or it could have all been for nothing.” -Lauren

Give yourself motivation to stay. Put a graduation picture above your desk or picture yourself in a great job or at university.

While you are at school think about gaining some work experience that gives you a head start when it comes time to apply for jobs. Most schools have an insurance agreement to allow you to do this during school holiday periods.

Fear of exams is a common worry, but there are choices here too. If you don’t sit for the final exams, some universities will allow you to complete a six month preparation course and then enter university.

If you’re not sure about life after high school, plan a gap year where you can just work, volunteer, or travel. Take your time and work it out.

If you really want to succeed, you will. Ask questions. Get advice. Take responsibility for your decisions. Use high school graduation as a stepping-stone to your future. Staying at school proves that you can finish something—and that is a good feeling!

It’s About Building Your Future

School is not everything and staying doesn’t guarantee success in life; however, it is a major achievement. Whatever you choose, build your life. This is your life, so make beneficial choices even if they are tough. Set yourself up for the future you want and need.

Life is the sum of all your choices. (Albert Camus)

*Thanks to Lauren who contributed her thoughts for this article. She graduated from high school, entered the workforce, and has a great job in recruitment.