I'm A Grad School Dropout — And Here's Why I'm Going Back


Person seated at desk behind a stack of books


Tiffany Lashai Curtis
Tiffany Lashai Curtis25
July 25, 2024 at 6:30PM UTC
In the summer of summer of 2016, I decided to act on my lifelong love affair with New York City and my dreams of being the next Anna Wintour, or at least working for the editress-in-chief. I had just been accepted into what I thought was the perfect school, Parsons School of Design, and with my dad's packed pick-up truck and about $300, I moved to the Upper East Side.
I promise it wasn't one of those rags to riches stories; it was more rags than riches, as I struggled to work an on-campus job and as a personal assistant for a real-estate lawyer who once tried to convince me that an $800 coat was a steal. Suffice it to say, NYC and it's breakneck pace got the best of me, and I ended up dropping out of my graduate program after only six months. Two years later, I've decided to go back.
And it's not as outrageous as it sounds, I promise. While I am taking a second shot at a graduate program, it won't be in NYC. While I will say that the city is an amazing place for creatives, if you don't have piles of disposable income and a solid support system, it can feel impossible to be successful there. In hindsight, what fueled my decision to attend graduate school the first time around was the idea that a bacheor's wasn't enough.
Since adopting the proud label of "grad school dropout," I've realized that it is okay if you don't know EXACTLY what you want to do after you earn your first degree. But instead of taking on the role of professional student and hastily enrolling in a graduate program, take a look at the projected career industry that you're interested in and make sure that taking on more loan debt is absolutely worth it.
This fall, I will be returning to my alma mater — although I swore I'd never go back, you can't beat an alumni discount — and I'll be pursuing a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. It is the most sure I've felt about a decision regarding my future since 2015.
I may have had to stumble in the wrong graduate program, where I experienced enough hunger and depression to question why anyone would ever put themself through such a thing. But I'm able to take it as an essential life lesson now, and tell other people that it's okay to make mistakes, it's okay to work a boring job while you save, it's okay to quit something that doesn't nourish you, and it's okay to try again.

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