Bailing out or failing out of university

Wizard Wheezes and other alternatives to school: Leaving school or even failing out of university isn’t the end of the world. Here’s an example of success despite school, and what it takes to get kicked out.

Dan Doucet is doing fine without a university degree, thanks very much.

Fred: "George, I think we've outgrown full-time education...Time to test our talents in the real world, d'you reckon?"

George: "Definitely."

Fred and George Weasley are an interesting pair of wizards in the Harry Potter universe, but one thing makes them stand out from most of the other characters: They never graduate from Hogwarts.

The twins left the school after realizing it wasn't for them and set their sights on things outside of the academic, namely opening up their own shop. And even Harry Potter was almost expelled from his program. It can happen to the best of us.

So if you decide academia isn't for you, or get booted for low grades, what options do you have?

Dan Doucet says he decided to go to Dalhousie because all of his friends were doing it. "They were going to commerce, to engineering," he says, "I just wanted to hang out because I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do."

He ended up taking management for two weeks but says he didn't like being just one out of 400 in the Potter Auditorium (it's actually called that). He then switched to informatics as it had a smaller number of students and touched on things he was interested in, including website design.

 Doucet failed one of his courses and his grades tanked. "So they said, 'We'll give you the option to take the programming course to try and change your grade---but you're kicked out of school. So you have to come back 12 months from now.'"

Doucet found out the consequences of not meeting the strict grade point average requirements most schools have, after plunking $20,000 in tuition and other costs. "I'll never see that money again," he says.

Each program has strict guidelines for what your GPA needs to be in order to continue in a particular major. Knowing this will save you time, money and stress.   

"It does differ a little bit from program to program," says Mari Kim Oliver, assistant VP of student academic success services at Dal. "There are going to be different standards for something like medicine when compared to English."

If you are going to a post-secondary institution, be prepared to face consequences for not getting work in on time and more than just detention for cheating on a test. Get caught copying your major paper directly from the internet, a friend or book and say goodbye to your chances of passing the class---or staying in the school for that matter. Plagiarism is considered a serious offence.

Professors have been catching this for awhile and can tell when your writing changes abruptly. Often they just have to copy and paste the suspected passage into Google and if it pops up, they got you. It's not magic, it's technology.

In most institutions students have a chance to face a committee, chat with the dean or professor to discuss the incident and depending on the circumstances, a student could come out of it only slightly wounded. But you're better off committing to academic honesty, and if you feel that the course of study isn't for you, making other plans before all your money is gone.

Leaving school, for whatever reason, doesn't mean your life is over. Look at Doucet: He currently works full-time as a graphic designer and web producer and creates marketing material for the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Education and Development.

Doucet got the job by applying to start his own business in graphic design when CEED informed him they were looking for their own graphic designer. He brought in a resume, and with no degree, he beat 30 other applicants to get the job.

"I got an interview, laid all of my knowledge on the table, and got the job," Doucet says. "It was only supposed to be a summer gig, but they decided to keep me on full- time."

He's been with CEED for a year and a half now, working full-time, with no degree from Dal.

"The next step is either breaking into a web agency, but my goal in life is to become an art director," Doucet says. "I wish I owned a wizard joke shop though. That would be cool."

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