Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A shout-out to dropouts

Editor acknowledges difficulties of college

By Daniel Drake, Online Editor

“Just do your best,” my granddad used to tell me. “Nobody can ask more of you.”

I was 23 years old in 2006, and I had just flunked my three-year bachelor’s at Norway’s University of Oslo. While others received their diploma and celebrated their victory with friends and family, I walked off campus to little fanfare.

Given how life changing it is to fail college, I think dropouts deserve a ceremony too.

The thought of failing to graduate may have haunted you several times as you struggled with a final essay at 4 a.m. But chances are you’ll never know what it feels like to actually fail college.

A surprising number of your peers know exactly what that feels like.

For every three students who enroll in a public university in Washington state, one of them fails to graduate within six years, according to Complete College America.

The same is true in Norway, where there is a 37 percent failure rate nationwide, according to Statistics Norway.

But while the graduates are treated as people, the rest of us are treated as statistics. Every year, analysts write about why some of us failed to complete all four years of our degree. Nobody writes about all the work we did to make it through one year, or two, or three.

If we celebrate the hard work of those who graduate, why not celebrate that of those who don’t?

This doesn’t have to involve idolizing dropouts, which is what a lot of people choose to do in the face of stagnant failure rates. They like to name famous dropouts such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates as reasons why you should drop out of college and do your own thing.

Those same people forget that Zuckerberg, Jobs and Gates were all accepted at elite universities such as Harvard and Reed before dropping out. They were pretty smart to begin with.

My own post-dropout fate was to work dead-end jobs for three years until I finally had an idea of what I really wanted to with my life and decided to go back to school at Pacific Lutheran University.

Today, I am 27 years old, and in May I will be a graduate.

The world doesn’t end if you don’t get it right the first time. If you’ve just realized you might not be graduating this year as planned, don’t feel ashamed about the things you weren’t able to do. Instead, congratulate yourself for all the things you’ve accomplished.

Maybe someday you’ll go back to college halfway across the world and finish what you started.

No matter what you choose to do, just do your best. Nobody can ask more of you.