OK - hold the fucking presses here.... let me give you some straight to the fucking heart advice. I also HIGHLY recommend that you pay very close attention to what I'm going to say, as I have way more perspective than anyone else here.
Primarily because, I dropped out of school halfway through to both try and be a pro skier, and to work as a park tech.
I'll give you the good stuff first, the bad stuff then the facts.
I can not explain to you (and any of you feeling this way) how much I absolutely loved my time as a terrain park technician. To be honest, I would have done that for the rest of my life... hell I still wish I could. Originally I only started to work at Newshoolers because I couldn't get the park management job at the hill I was working at, but my plan was really just to make a few bucks at NS then go and start my own park building company.
I love building terrain parks more than I have loved doing anything else in my life. I still do. The feeling of shaping the perfect jump was like crack to me. Arranging a park that had flow made my life feel complete. I even managed to get jobs both in the winter and at a summer camp building parks all year round.
Its really easy to get up in the morning when you love your job. I would have been perfectly happy living in a little chalet with a big-ass dog, wife, kids and building parks until the day I die. Every moment of every day was like a gift when I was building parks... I wanted nothing else.
As well, I will finally add onto the positive part of this - I never finished school. I never completed it at home, I never went back, and I never will. I hate fucking school with a god damn passion. You couldn't keep me there if you had a gun to my head. Leaving school and becoming a park tech is the reason I met Matt Harvey, Chris O'Connell, and the early NS crew. Its the reason I met everyone in the industry, and its the reason that I am right where I am today. I would never have found Newschoolers, never would have been able to build its ad sales program from my contacts, and both Newschoolers and me would not be close to the position that they are in today. Many of the things that happened were because I dropped out of school and followed my dream. If you have to follow your dream, you have to follow your dream and that is fucking that. Fuck the consequences.
You MUST be conscious of one extremely important fact - If you drop out of school you are on your own.
If you drop out and milk off your parents, then you're a fucking loser. When a person says they don't need to finish school, you must take on the responsibility of taking care of yourself. You become an adult at that point, and adults have a shit load of responsiblity that you have never faced before when you're a student and mommy and daddy are there to bail you out. Paying bills fucking sucks. Paying rent fucking sucks. Buying food fucking sucks. Be prepared that if you drop out, and you're not making enough money you can simply not have enough money to eat. I was there more times than I can count... unable to even buy a coffee because I was simply tapped out and waiting for payday. Can't call mom and dad for a bail out either, because you dropped out and shoved the massive investment they put into you with school in their faces. You gotta be a man now, and if a man can't support himself he either starves or figures it the fuck out.
Making friends and especially meeting girls is very fucking difficult when you're an adult. In school there are bazillions of people your age, and there's chicks everywhere. Chicks in university are also just breaking out of their shell, and there is lots and lots and lots of fun 'experimentation' that takes place.
Making money is hard. The park job will pay like $10 / hour, and you'll move up. Even the park manager is probably only making like $14 / hour though, and will be making that until they retire at the end of their career. You can absolutely live on that much money though, but the problem is that the job isn't stable. Even working at a summer camp, I'd be employed for maybe 4-6 months in the winter and 1-2 in the summer. Best case scenario that still leaves 4 months of the year where you have to do SOMETHING to pay rent, eat food, etc. Sadly the jobs you have to get to bolt it together usually are fucking horrible. I used to do ANYTHING I could in between to make ends meet. Golf course maintenance (shift of 4am-1pm), unloading boxes from trucks, being a bitch runner at events... absolutely anything I could do to avoid running out of food. Again, the park job is awesome but its the in-between that is horrible.
The failure rate is super fucking high. Most people never work their way up into the management position. That was what happened to me, I was at the top of my career as a park builder, I was doing it all year, and I was super fucking good at it. I had taken ski patrol training on my own dime, started to learn to drive cats, and I was willing to not only work myself to death every day - I was willing to give my entire future to this mountain. However... they hired someone else into the management position, and told me that I could replace him when he retired in 20-30 years. I was going to be a shift leader in a terrain park for up to 30 years.
The people are fucking stupid. The type of person that is attracted to the park jobs most of the time are lazy fucking moronic assholes. They aren't there because they are passionate about the park, they're there because its an easy job that gets them a pass. So not only is your conversation every day reduced to that of what you were used to in the 5th grade, you're also surrounded by lazy people who are just watching you work. You can get lucky and get on an awesome crew, which makes a massive difference... but usually unless you're in Mammoth, Whistler or one of the big places you're going to be surrounded by morons. Your brain will eventually end up craving challenge.
The reason I left park staffing was not a lack of passion, I simply had nowhere else to go. I wasn't given a leadership position, I was surrounded by people who didn't care, and I couldn't afford to eat all year round. Passion only goes so far, and I ended up freaking out packing up my car and driving to whatever city seemed like there was an opportunity. I got extremely lucky because Newschoolers needed an ad sales guy, and I had zero education but I knew how to talk big game.
When you don't have a degree, your best career opportunity is to work at a fast food restaurant, or in retail. Both of these things are FAR more hellish than school. Imagine how horrible you feel at school, except being trapped flipping burgers 40 hours per week and not even with girls and partying around... and you still can't fucking afford to eat. THAT sucks.
Its bullshit though that without a degree you can't get a job. All you have to do is work your brains out to climb the ladder at a company. Most of the ski industry is this way too - a degree only gets you so far - connections are what gets the promotion. The trick though is that finishing your degree (with chicks, partying, buddies and parental support) seems like a fucking breeze compared to taking 5 years to crawl you way up a company.
Onto the straight facts -
School feels like it fucking sucks while you're there... but if I could go back in time I'd finish.
Really compared even to working a shitty job, its easy as all hell get done. Your parents are supporting you, there's parties all the time - and really compared to the 'real' world you barely have to work. When you look back, you realize that school was a fucking joke. Its easy work, you're getting laid all the time and you're partying your brains out. All you gotta do is study for like 10 maybe 15 hours per week, attend a few classes and afterwards you can just hustle that piece of paper and get whatever job you want.
Hell, park staffing won't go away, and if you finish your degree but tell your parents you need a few years to 'clear your head' and 'follow your passion' I'm sure they'll be fine with it. Shit, little head clearing and real-world experience is great after school.
To wrap this up, I'll give you what I'm planning to tell my son when we eventually have this conversation. Fact of the matter is, I dropped out to follow my dreams and I'm doing fucking great. My parents were super pissed at first but I told them to go fuck themselves. My friends didn't believe in me and I didn't give a shit - I did what I believed in and I'm killing it harder than MANY people that stayed in school. Shit - sometimes I think that staying in school is fucking stupid. I wish I'd never gone as it was a god damn waste of my parent's time and money.
HOWEVER - Do not drop out because you're tired of working in school. It is an extremely bad mis-conception (that I had) that if I dropped out to follow my dreams it would be way easier. Dropping out to follow your dreams is about 10X as hard as staying in school, and you have zero safety net backing you up. Its scary, its extremely hard work, and its filled with horrible moments. If you want the hard work to end, well stay in school. You'll at least put off 'real' work for quite some time, and have a nice cozy cushion to fall back on.
If you're going to drop out, be a man, be ready, and brace yourself for the hardest time in your life. You have about a 95% chance of completely failing and ending up a nobody. However, if you're willing to bust your ass to follow your dreams... well shit sometimes you can accomplish your dreams and laugh at those that didn't.
Just remember how hard it is going to be.
And if you do drop out to become a park staff... just tell your parents my story.
newschool is a state of mind, not a style of skiing.