Why It's Okay to Take an Untraditional Education Path

A quarter of the way through my junior year of college I felt my motivation and mental health slipping. As a student who deeply valued my college education, it felt terrible to be losing interest in my studies. Not only was I feeling overwhelmed, but I didn’t like the school I was going to and didn’t feel connected with any of my professors or peers. 

At the time I was going to school at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This had been my dream school, yet it wasn’t quite matching up with me. I found myself visiting Colorado whenever possible and dreaming of it constantly back in Chicago. I knew I needed to make a change, but I was scared. Shouldn’t I just tough out another year and a half?

overhead view of a woman sitting in front of her laptop Photo by energepic.com from Pexels I knew some friends a year ahead of me who dropped out around their junior year from feeling too overwhelmed and second guessing their path in life. I was experiencing the same anxieties, but there was no way I would ever drop out. It seemed too late in the game to transfer schools across the country. But what other options did I have? 

With some courage from my mother and feeling as if I had struck a dead end, I decided to withdraw from my program in Chicago, take 6 months off from school, and move across the country to Colorado to follow where my heart was being called to. It was the best decision I ever made. 

This decision was detested by some in my family. They thought I was dropping out and said I would never end up going back to school once I took time off. I loved college, so I knew this wouldn’t be the case. And I also knew I needed to follow this path regardless of what my family or friends thought of the decision.  

Travel Photo by Annie Spratt from Unsplash The time off from school gave me time to reflect and reconnect with the reasons I went to college in the first place. I reinvigorated my passion for reading, focused on fostering creativity through writing and painting, spent time moving my body and finding my balance, and I once again felt ecstatic to start classes up again. My mental health improved with this newfound focus on taking care of myself again, something I hadn’t had time to do in depth since starting college. When I finally started school again at the school I transferred to––The University of Denver––I felt like a freshman all over again. I loved my major more than I ever had and felt ready to take on the final years of my college education. 

The moral of the story: it’s okay to take the time you need. There doesn’t have to be one narrow path to get to your goals. In fact, it’s usually never going to go the way you planned anyhow. Even though it was frowned upon for me to transfer and take time off from school, it’s what I needed to do to not only be happy, but to reach my goals. Do whatever YOU need to in order to be healthy, happy, and to succeed on your terms.