Why I Dropped Out of College: Steve Jobs

Why I Dropped Out of College: Steve Jobs

Imagine stepping off the well-trodden path to embark on an uncertain journey, fueled by nothing more than curiosity and intuition. Consider a decision that defies societal expectations, like leaving a prestigious college midway, but first exploring classes that truly capture your interest before dropping out. Picture the audacity it takes to believe that this might lead not to a dead-end, but to a trail of innovation and success.

This article explores the inspiring story of a man who did just that — a man whose name is synonymous with groundbreaking innovation, relentless curiosity, and passion that revolutionized the tech industry. Let’s dive into the captivating tale of Steve Jobs in his own words, his surprising college journey, and the unconventional decisions that led to the creation of many products that changed the world.

How did Steve Jobs feel about dropping out of college?

“I dropped out of Reed College after the first six months but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So, why did I drop out? It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption.”

“She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out, they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So, my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking, ‘We’ve got an unexpected baby boy. Do you want him?’ They said, of course.”

“My biological mother found out later that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would go to college. This was the start in my life, and 17 years later, I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition.”

“After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was, spending all the money my parents had saved their entire life. So, I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out okay. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

“The minute I dropped out, I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me and begin dropping in on the ones that looked far more interesting. It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms. I returned coke bottles for the 5-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it.”

“And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example. Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus, every poster, every label on every drawer was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this.”

“I learned about serif and sans-serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac.”

“It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

“If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on that calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

“You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever — because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference.” – Steve Jobs[1]

Key Takeaways

  • The decision to drop out of university can be fueled by a quest for self-discovery and a desire to pursue interests outside the academic curriculum.
  • Unconventional paths, like dropping out of college, may seem daunting initially but can lead to remarkable, unexpected opportunities.
  • Learning can occur outside the formal education system, and often, it’s these unconventional lessons that have the most profound impact on our lives.
  • True passion and curiosity can lead to innovation and breakthroughs, as exemplified by Macintosh’s groundbreaking typography.
  • The trajectory of life may not always be linear or clear, but trusting in the future and in one’s intuition can connect the dots retrospectively.
  • Even a decision that goes against societal norms, like dropping out of college, can shape your life positively, provided it’s backed by intuition, self-belief, and a clear vision.


The journey of Steve Jobs, from a college dropout to a trailblazing innovator, demonstrates the transformative power of following one’s intuition and passion, even when it veers away from societal expectations.

His story illustrates how unconventional wisdom and unwavering faith in oneself can open doors to innovation and lead to profound impacts on society, such as the creation of the Macintosh computer. Furthermore, Jobs’ narrative emphasizes that life’s dots may not be easily connected while looking forward, but with trust in one’s gut, destiny, or karma, these dots can eventually form a clear picture in hindsight.

The key, therefore, lies in trusting in the future, having the courage to step off the beaten path, and following your heart — principles that can indeed make all the difference in one’s life.