Just over a year ago, after flaming out of a startup, I decided to stay in school. Doing a startup taught me the value of staying in school.
On Monday, just 6 days from now, I will officially become a dropout.
I haven’t graduated. I didn’t enroll in any classes this autumn. I will finish my undergrad thesis research. One day I might even graduate.
I missed graduating this year by a mouse hair. Didn’t pass two mandatory classes from second year, while grabbing up ~115% credits for third year. Odd situation, I know. Regardless, doing all that extra work on the things I found useful was for naught. The school administration is too rigid to let me use those credits on the classes I failed.
Passing those two classes would also mean a full semester commitment on them. I can’t just sit the exams again and, right now, I am not willing to do that. It’s been enough.
After 18 years of continuous schooling I can’t take it anymore. Enough is enough.
Quitting this close to the finish line might seem stupid. And it is. But I’ve gotten everything out of university I came here to get. I’ve made friends, I’ve gotten to know some amazing people, I learned things I otherwise wouldn’t know to look for.
I’ve gotten all the benefits of uni education I wrote about a year ago.
The only thing I haven’t learned is how to pay my proverbial dues. And, honestly, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I don’t like having to prove myself by solving arbitrary problems nobody cares about. Give me a genuine problem and I assure you, it will get solved.
Exams, many of them at least, are nothing more than puzzles. Puzzle after puzzle after puzzle of no practical or even impractical consequence. At least in a bad job interview, they care about your thought process. Here, the emphasis is on giving the exact answer the teaching assistants want you to arrive at through some predetermined process.
I’ve learned plenty in spite of studying.
But I prefer to understand things. College does not seem to optimize for that. When I craved depth, I found my courses lacking. When I wanted to understand, I found the tight schedules unforgiving. When I wanted to learn, I was told to study and do what’s asked.
As Feynman once said “I don’t know what’s the matter with people: they don’t learn by understanding; they learn by some other way –by rote, or something. Their knowledge is so fragile!” – he was talking about trolling his students to prove “They don’t even know what they know”.
I refuse to be one of those students.
The few amazing classes I did have were nothing like that. Professors looking for understanding rather than memorizing, exams based on creatively solving problems with the knowledge they teach. Most students hated that and it seems my course panders to them most.
Missing out on Life
My biggest problem with staying in school, however, was just how much of The Life I was missing out on.
This blog was enjoying month-over-month hockey stick growth until crunch-time came at school. Then the traffic collapsed and hasn’t regained since.
For the past year or so I have been getting so many requests for freelancing that I was turning down several per week. I simply couldn’t afford the time to work with everyone, even very cool projects. More than one client at a time was unthinkable, and even then just a few hours every week.
I turned away so many, people eventually stopped asking. I no longer measure offers/week but offers/month. Sometimes even less.
While I was focusing on school I said No. to a bunch of cool projects as well.
HipsterVision happened in April 2011. It was a fun project and it was growing. Very quickly.
Postme.me happened in September 2011. It was seeing sales. Real sales. Money.
Both of those were killed because I didn’t have enough time. Classes and homework and such were taking up most of my time.
There are numerous other projects I couldn’t even dream of starting because I knew it would just make me sad to launch something and then be forced to kill it a few weeks later.
So I lingered. And I stagnated.
Now, a year later, I have nothing to show for my efforts but failing to graduate and a claim that I’ve learned everything my uni had to teach me. People will just have to take my word for it. I have no formal proof to give.
Today the registration for my one-person business came through.
Things are looking up.
Learned something new? Want to improve your skills?
Join over 10,000 engineers just like you already improving their skills!
Here's how it works 👇
PS: You should also follow me on twitter 👉 here.
It's where I go to shoot the shit about programming.