Jaclyn Ciamillo

Come along and enjoy the ride.

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Why I dropped out of college… And then went back.

When I made the decision not to stay in school, I wasn’t exactly sure what the repercussions would be. I was less than a year away from entering the real world with my BA in English. My future felt as though it was lacking purposeful direction, despite the great accomplishment just in front of me.

To address the disconnect I had with my “next steps,” I dropped out to figure out what I truly wanted. I made a commitment to myself that if I took a break, it would be worthwhile… You know, something I would look back on with pride. 

Serendipitously, I wound up in a management position at a small start-up with an incredible mentor. I learned some of my most important lessons in business and acquired a strong understanding for the financial and strategic sides of running a company. I also gained the ability to communicate effectively, especially when negotiating. Another discovery I made was the impact that a strong leader can make on an organization. Through that experience I realized I wanted to influence people, not tell them what to do. Most importantly, I reinvented myself and built a thick skin towards failure and change. These skills are what I see as some of the most valuable assets a person can have. They create a unique resilience that is not always found in today’s workforce.

Being okay with things not always going as planned made me feel more comfortable with moving to the next phase, so I went back to school and finished my degree (note: I don’t like leaving anything I start as incomplete). My time away from college gave me better grasp on what I was most passionate about and where I wanted to go in life. It was one of the scariest decisions I ever made —  and the most fruitful. Giving myself time to reflect on my strengths and motivations was a brilliant move, though not easy to do or follow through with all the time.

Making the choice to walk away from something I cared about was a test of willpower and mental strength. It provided an opportunity to focus on what was right long-term and forced me to take an honest look at how far I was willing to go for personal and professional fulfillment.

I’m truly grateful that I never overlooked the value of taking a breather and hope that I can inspire others to do the same, if it’s right for them.