Career

5 Young Aussies On Dropping Out Of Uni To Pursue Their Passion Project

Sometimes university life doesn’t feel quite right or like it’s getting in the way of your ability to focus your energy on doing the things you love. But there’s a persisting belief that we need to complete our university studies before embarking on any kind of career path, and frankly, it’s not completely true. Well, not for these five 20-somethings.

For many of us, university is a privilege and excellent way to learn. But there are many who find the one-size-fits-all system isn’t for them – and considering dropping out doesn’t mean your life is over. A quick Google search of “successful people who’ve dropped out of university” (or college) will include the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ellen DeGeneres and Julian Assange, plus endless stories of people pursuing an alternative route to learning and finding success.

“Your success and fulfillment in life will come down to how much and how well you learn. So only leave university if you have an opportunity to learn more elsewhere.”

Jack Delosa is the founder and CEO of Australia’s largest community and education institution for entrepreneurs, The Entourage. Delosa is critical of the idea that a university degree is the be-all-and-end-all in terms of entering the work force. “The idea is prevalent but is unsubstantiated and therefore being met with more and more resistance. Many of the worlds most traditional and prestigious corporations such as Ernst & Young, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and Penguin Publishing are removing the need for job applicants to have degrees because the research today tells us that there is no correlation between success in tertiary education and success in the work force.”

And if that wasn’t enough to inspire you, meet these five go getters who bit the bullet and dropped out of university to pursue their passion project.

jack hartican3
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The Entrepreneur

Like Delosa, Jack Hartican, 27, holds the view that today’s tertiary education system simply isn’t cutting it in terms of equipping students for the work force. “There’s a great TED talk by Salman Khan where he discusses the Swiss-cheese education people are currently given by our learning models. People learn something without coming close to mastering it, pass the subject and move on. They then try to build on that knowledge without proper foundations, at the pace and learning style the aggregate student demands, relying on Band-Aid solutions to fix knowledge gaps as they arise.”

Jack was studying engineering with only 12 months to go before graduating when he was offered a position managing the tech and business development of an established roll-forming business (sheet metal shaping). Since then the project has morphed into a full-time startup, Roofit Online, allowing Jack to be remotely based while traveling up and down the East coast.

“I think a sense of urgency and a ‘leap and the net will appear’ approach can be a useful catalyst for motivation. The skills I’m learning from helping to develop a building products e-commerce startup allow me to influence other ventures; It’s all connected in some way, at the very least in first principles.”

Brooklyn Original
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The Lucky One

The music industry was always something that Brooklyn-Shai Taylor, 24, had been passionate about within her personal life, but when the opportunity came about for her to make it a part of her work life, she had to make some tough decisions.

While studying a Bachelor of Arts, Brooklyn-Shai was offered a job with the Yours & Owls record label and music festival company. This job was a dream position for her, but meant she would need to leave university.

“I have always been passionate about music within my personal life, but never thought there was any room to make a career from it. I grew up with the impression that University equalled success, so the decision to leave university was a bit difficult initially.”

Brooklyn-Shai took some time out to really think things out. “The thought of being able to learn so much more than I ever envisioned for myself, and from people who I have always looked up to over shadowed that fear almost immediately, and it became incredibly easy to make the decision.”

“I’m still working for Yours & Owls and learning new things every day. I like the idea that I’m just constantly surrounded by so many different elements that make up this incredible world I’m now involved in and I have the opportunity to try them all if I want.”

scott mileto
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The Barman 

Scott Mileto had worked as a bartender while he was studying commerce at university. He enjoyed the university lifestyle – but not the degree he was enrolled in – and after a while he began immersing himself in his bartending job more and more until he was managing a venue.

“I was trying to keep my family happy – well so I thought anyway. Coming from a small country town, career bartending isn’t really a thing.” Scott eventually made the decision to put his studies on hold and focus on bartending full time. After spending 12 months working in various bars and spending his days off in bars watching bartenders, their techniques and the way they interacted with people, Scott felt it was time to open his own bar.

Moving back to Orange in rural NSW in 2015, Scott opened Washington and Co, his own whisky saloon, with the full support from his family.

“We’re in our eighth month of trade so we’re still extremely young as a business. But we’ll spend the next 12 months establishing ourselves, developing our products and service. I’ve always been one for irrational decisions but thankfully this one is paying off.”

Junket 2015
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The Redirected Sports Prodigy 

A normal career trajectory was never on the cards for Annabel Blake. Ranked number 12 in the world for slopestyle skiing, Annabel was on the Australian Olympic Team aiming to qualify for the Sochi Winter Olympics when a knee injury froze her dream. During this time she was studying a psychology degree online, but became restless after her injury, eventually putting her studies on hold.

“Uni is, oddly enough, at odds with my personality, and as a kid with ADHD in school, university didn’t seem like the logical decision. Sitting at desks, quite simply, is not my forte. However whenever I get to work on a project, or something that is creative, I can be hyper focused, and a lot of traits that could be negatives at uni switch over and become strengths.”

Annabel used these strengths to create her own company, Jetpack Beluga – a grassroots company hosting informal lectures in the community, aiming at getting people thinking and doing.

“Straight after putting uni on hold, I went into an internship position. However one month into that, I knew I wanted to explore the area of creative design/strategy as quickly as I could, so I could make a decision on whether to return to uni. I shot for my dream job, and emailed the creative director of Google in Sydney. It was the complete opposite of my degree, and very out of line with most of my experience. But I was driven and I explained that in the next five years, I would like to be a member of that team and that’s where I am now!”

Image: Daniel Boud

George Kettle (1)
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The Family Man

George Kettle tells a story that is all too familiar – the 21-year-old graduated high school and went straight into a medical degree at UNSW. Doing anything apart from this simply wasn’t an option for George; his family always held this expectation for him, and eventually George felt he had no other path to take.

After studying medicine for six months he quit university. “I had no motivation to try, because deep down I always knew I didn’t like the course. I was worried about what people would think of me. Most of all, I was scared of the question ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ because I really had no answer. I didn’t know.”

After telling his parents he had deferred, George spent the next six months travelling and studying a graphic design course. He reflects on this period of his life as time invested in discovering his true passion.

Today George runs wechildish.com, a blog that gives voice to the thoughts and learning’s of young people. “Wechildish stemmed from my decision to drop out of uni. I really want people to realise they have the power to choose whichever career path they wish. No matter how unconventional it is, or how ambitious your goals are, I think they’re achievable.”

Delosa’s parting advice

Delosa advises people in a similar situation at university to take a long term view of your life and your career and be willing to start at the bottom if that’s what it takes. “When I dropped out of uni, if I found someone I wanted to learn from then I would work for them for free, doing anything, and this was how I ultimately got an education far more valuable than traditional university.”

jack delosa

Leaving university doesn’t mean you stop learning, in fact, it’s extremely important to seek out your own learning if you choose to move on from Institutional education systems. “Education is critical, whether it happens inside of a university or elsewhere. Your success and fulfillment in life will come down to how much and how well you learn. So only leave university if you have an opportunity to learn more elsewhere, such as in another business, travel, or your own startup.”


Tegan Reeves is a Wollongong based freelance writer who isn’t afraid of oversharing. She writes for Beat magazine, BRAG magazine and is always up for a Fleetwood Mac singalong.