My question is whether the word 'Dropout' has negative connotations?

I would like to express in a job resume how I 'dropped out' of University during the first semester but my proofreader thinks withdrew is a more appropriate word.

This question led me to reconsider how I have used 'Dropout' to describe myself in my social media profiles as well as to people, as a quick indicator of my past experience at University.

Do you think embracing this term if it has a negative connatation may impact my public image?

Thank you

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    Yes, "dropout" generally has negative connotations. – Doug Glancy Apr 8 '16 at 1:05
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    Definitely. I would suuest that you say ' I "studied"at U. Wantfrieswiththat, but chose not to complete my program in order to pursue more immediaely promising opportunites.' It's transparent BS, but it beats calling yourself a "dropout." – Rob_Ster Apr 8 '16 at 1:12
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    Dropout makes me think (probably incorrectly) that you're a quitter and are unlikely to keep working at something when it gets hard, so yes, very negative connotations for me. Maybe a more interesting question would be whether there's a neutral word for someone who was accepted to University, tried it and decided it wasn't for them, although if you didn't complete a single semester, it hardly seems worth mentioning. – ColleenV Apr 8 '16 at 1:31
  • Don't say "dropped out" or anything similar. At most say "withdrew", or "left the university". – Hot Licks Apr 8 '16 at 1:59
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    @Drew ~ You are correct. Trying to spin it or cover up looks too obvious, and that is precisely why I suggest being honest instead of covering up. The OP (hopfully!) had a good reason to drop out/withdraw from the course, and he should explain that. No blah blah blah. No cover up. – Roaring Fish Apr 8 '16 at 4:42

Surely your public image is defined by more than one word. It's true that many entrepreneurs and billionaires are college dropouts and they likely have little use for a resume, but I would expect them to have fully embraced the word, "dropout".

I would also be careful to distinguish the distinct purposes and differences of the things you brought up: job resume, social media, and your public image. A job resume is meant to impress someone enough so you'll get that follow-up call or interview. Social media is, well, for being social -- interacting with people who may or may not know you. And finally your public image is something that is hard to control. The entire field of public relations is devoted primarily to managing a person or business's public image, and may even include managing their social media.

My point is that your resume is a one-on-one "communication" whereas the other two are not. A resume is for interacting with the person while social media and public image are about interacting with people.

You can choose to embrace or not embrace the word at your discretion, and the choice may depend on your self-esteem or confidence in defending your idea of the term and how well you feel you fit into that context. Interacting with the person and interacting with the people are entirely different circumstances, and your usage of the word should reflect that.

One solution is to simply put the dates of your university attendance and leave it at that (and omit the "expected graduation date" entry). No need to explain anything explicitly. You want your resume to hint or guide the reader so that he or she creates the best "image" of you based on the text and layout of a simple sheet of paper with your name at the top.

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    So...does the word 'dropout' have negative connotations? – Sven Yargs Apr 8 '16 at 1:57
  • +1 for accomplished people embracing having dropped out, and mentioning that it is important to not let a single word sum you up. And for pointing out what a resume is for: helping you to get an interview, where you really introduce yourself. – Drew Apr 8 '16 at 4:38
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    @SvenYargs The term dropout has much wider currency, as a negative stereotype, in the USA than it does in Britain, where it is seldom used. It became popular in the 1960s. In Europe, at that time there was a lower incidence of students not completing their courses. The enormous pressures on university places made authorities take more care over deciding who they accepted, and hence far fewer students dropped out than was the case in America. (Europe in the 60s had still not fully recovered, and was relatively poorer in most things than America) – WS2 Apr 8 '16 at 7:06
  • @WS2 Actually in the US if you just say "dropout" there is a strong association with someone who didn't complete high school/secondary school. If you search for "news dropout rate" most of those hits will be about people who didn't finish high school, not University. Given that high school dropouts, poverty, minority status, teen pregnancy, gang membership, and drug use all go hand-in-hand in those stories for maximum impact, the negativity historically has not so much to do with number of university dropouts and a lot more to do with our grammar and secondary school problems. – ColleenV Apr 8 '16 at 22:52

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