Here at Refinery29, we believe that everyone is meant to march to the beat of their own drum. A path in life that works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. We also believe that women should pursue their dreams — and sometimes, those dreams aren't at the end of a linear achievement track that culminates in a college degree.
We hear about men, especially startup entrepreneurs, dropping out of college all the time — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously dropped out of Harvard, although he did end up getting his degree this year. Men are statistically a little more likely to leave school before completing their degree; a survey of students who entered college in fall 2008 found that 40% of men and 44% of women had completed their degrees within six years. We don't hear about the women as often — but they're there.
The seven women who told us their stories for this piece had originally planned to graduate from two- or four-year schools, but along the way realized, for various reasons, that college wasn't right for them. They dropped out to pursue their passions, whether it was running an organic farm, founding a wellness magazine for people of color, or acting. Now, they're exploring or thriving in their respective fields and helping redefine success.
Going off-script isn't always easy, and many of these women have experienced financial and emotional challenges. But they've persevered, in addition to helping dispel the social stigma sometimes associated with dropping out.
Ahead, they tell their stories in their own words, including advice for others who may be thinking about leaving college to do what they love.
These interviews have been condensed for clarity and length.
Being extraordinary is about living a life of purpose. The Unconventionals is our celebration of extraordinary women who know there is no right way to follow your dreams, and are creating their own roadmap for success. These women recognize that progress comes from the urge to stir up the conventional in order to change the world.