If you’re asking yourself, “should I drop out of college?” our heart goes out to you.
This is not an easy decision to make and is usually a question that is forced upon you by circumstances that are out of your control.
Perhaps you found college coursework too challenging, or you ran out of money. Maybe your family life and other personal obligations are getting in the way of your studies – and you find that you just can’t commit to the rigors of a college education as diligently as you would like.
Whatever the case may be, don’t rush to quit just yet. There are several situations in which dropping out of college makes sense, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons (and think through all of the logistics) before you do so.
Here’s what you need to know.
College Student Dropout Rates
If you’re thinking about dropping out of college, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that about 30% of students dropout of college after their first year, with additional students following in subsequent years (though of course, the first year is the most common when it comes to dropping out).
That’s not great news, as college dropouts tend to earn about 35% less than the average college graduate – and it’s estimated that as many as 43% of all students who enroll in two-year public schools drop out before earning a degree. Sadly, only 5% of students at these colleges actually graduate on time.
Overall, the average four-year graduation rate for all colleges in the United States is only around 33.3%, with the percentage taking six years a sombring 57.6%, according to Cappex. Many students dropout of college – and for those who stay, graduating on time may not be a reality, either.
Most Common Reason for Dropping Out of College
There are several reasons why students dropout of college – many of these might seem familiar to you if the thought of dropping out of college has ever crossed your mind.
Problem number one with staying in college? College is expensive. The cost of college has increased exponentially within the last few years and many jobs that require college degrees don’t pay enough to justify the debt required to obtain them.
2. Poor Academic Preparation
Many students also find themselves dropping out due to poor academic preparation. If you’re having trouble understanding complicated course material, achieving a good GPA, or keeping up with a demanding course schedule, you might feel inclined to leave. College is a whole new ball game compared to high school – and it can be overwhelming if you don’t feel prepared.
Life happens. For many students, college just isn’t what they expected – and that’s okay. Maybe you feel unhappy with the overall school or campus experience. Perhaps you’re lonely or otherwise homesick. It can be a challenge to fumble through these feelings of uncertainty, many of which can be scary and unprecedented.
4. Work and Family Obligations
Juggling a packed college schedule is a struggle even for the full-time student with no other ocmtmiemtsn – but for the student also working a full-time job or caring for a family, it can be even more daunting.
5. Lack of Guidance or Motivation
Lack of discipline is a problem for many students who find themselves considering dropping out of college. Freedom is, after all, what you make of it – and for many students, college is the first time in their lives that they’ve ever experienced any kind of freedom at all. It’s important to set boundaries for yourself but lacking discipline and motivation to do well in your classes is a common reason for many students dropping out.
Similarly, a lack of guidance can lead to drop-outs. You may have felt unprepared, either academically or in regards to your career, for your college courses. That can be a very disillusioning experience that makes you want to drop out for good.
Dropping Out of College: What to Keep in Mind
While there are many reasons to go to college, there are also some reasons for dropping out. From Mark Zuckerberg to Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, there are all kinds of success stories out there about people who dropped out and achieved massive fame and fortune. If you’re thinking of dropping out of college, there are things you should keep in mind before you take the plunge.
1. College Isn’t for Everyone
Let’s get this clear right from the beginning – college is definitely not for everyone. Nor does it have to be. Entering the workforce without going to college isn’t always a bad idea and it’s not the only way to start a career path. There are thousands of jobs that do not require a degree, many of which pay extremely well, especially if you invest in time in trade school or apprenticeship programs.
Skipping college is a legitimate option – formal education is a godsend for many, but many students simply don’t thrive in an academic setting.
2. It’s Not the Only Way to Start a Career
As mentioned above, going to college is not the only way to start a career. You might consider other pathways to starting your career path out right, such as getting a job, traveling, volunteering, or starting a business. Although college does open up many doors for many students, it’s not your only option – particularly if the career path you’re considering doesn’t include a college degree as a required credential anyway.
3. You Can Always Go Back – After Work Experience, Perhaps
Although you might feel down about your decision to drop out, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just because you’re dropping out now doesn’t mean you have to swear off collegiate life forever. IN fact, spending a year or two working might be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to getting your mojo back – and it could help you save money before you return, too.
5. Experience and Education Don’t Have to Be Mutually Exclusive
If you’re reading this article and trying to decide whether or not you should drop out, there’s a good chance that you’re probably quite young. You likely don’t have any idea about what the future is going to hold or even if you need a degree.
The good news? Experience and education do not have to be mutually exclusive – you can have your cake and eat it, too. A degree is valuable, but so is experience. Consider doing both part-time or taking a break from college to work for a bit so that you can have the best of both worlds.
Consider working for a few years before returning – or try to explore a new skill that might be invaluable in starting your career. You could start your own business (hello, Bill Gates!) or perhaps join a trade apprenticeship program. There are jobs all over the place that don’t require a college degree – from becoming a machinist to working in roofing – and still pay quite well. These might not be jobs you want to have forever, but they can open the door and give you an idea of whether college is right for you.
6. Certain Colleges Have Academic Forgiveness Programs
Keep in mind that some colleges make it easy for students to come back and finish their college degrees. Many allow dropouts to come back without having to reapply. Others have academic forgiveness programs that will wipe out the bad grades you may have received earlier. Look into whether this is something your school offers and if so, what you might need to do to qualify.
7. Ignore Everyone Else’s Opinions
Although it can be tempting to give credence to everyone’s concerns, from your Great Aunt Gertrude to your next door neighbor, ultimately the decision to drop out of college is one that should be made by you and you alone (and perhaps your parents, especially if you typically turn to them for advice or rely on them for financial support). While it’s fine to get advice and opinions from those you trust and respect the most, at the end of the day you just need to make the decision that is right for you.
Why You Shouldn’t Drop Out of College
There are certain situations in which dropping out of college is not a great idea – here are tips to help you figure out whether you should leave your college life in the dust or give it another chance.
1. If Finances are the Only Concern
There’s no doubt about it – college is extremely expensive. Many college dropouts blame their decisions to leave on the high cost of earning a degree.
However, if you are able to do a little research, there are plenty of ways to reduce the cost of receiving a degree so you don’t have to worry about dropping out due to finances later on.
For example, many community colleges are extremely affordable, often offering low or free tuition to county residents. Although you may be more interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees at larger institutions, community colleges often serve as an excellent pathway to get there. You can enjoy the best of college life without paying an arm and a leg for your most basic college credit- and that fancy private school will still be there for you to finish up the last couple years of your degree.
2. If You’re Stressed by the Workload
Earning a college degree is a lot different than earning a high school diploma – that’s likely something that most college students will agree on. However, before you throw in the towel, consider whether you are tapping into all the resources offered by your school to make your education a bit more manageable.
For example, you might lower your course load or look into an easier major. Can you reduce the overall number of credit hours you are taking? While the first instinct you have might be to quit, it doesn’t have to be a knee-jerk reaction. Instead, consider cutting your classes in half and becoming a part-time student. You can even work a side job to make extra cash and gain work experience as you do this, if it’s not too overwhelming to you!
The extra time outside of the classroom might prove to be invaluable. You might not feel as overwhelmed, you can save money, and you can use your extra time to get work experience on an internship or a job. Most importantly, you’ll save your sanity.
3. Other Consequences
Dropping out of college isn’t necessarily bad for everyone – but it might be bad for you. Think carefully about your reasons for wanting to drop out. If you drop out, will it allow you to chase your passion? Is that passion something you could reasonably pursue while you are still enrolled in school, even if taking classes part-time?
If the answer is no, you can’t do both, then dropping out might make sense. But if you can, think carefully before dropping out of state, private, or community college, especially if your attitude is, “Well, Mark Zuckerberg did it – I can, too!”
Just because dropping out of school worked well for one or two celebrities you aspire to be like, doesn’t mean it will work just as well for you. The story of the successful college dropout is not as common as you might think – so don’t do it just to build your reputation or street cred.
Another reason not to drop out of college? It’s what your friends are doing. College students often find themselves pulled by the tides, not exploring all of their options because it’s easier just to go with the flow and do what your friends happen to be doing. Instead of relying on only your friends’ opinions, get opinions from other mentors whose advice you care about – this might give you an idea of what the best decision for you (and your future career) might be.
How to Drop Out of College
If you’ve decided that dropping out of school is the right choice for you, you will want to take these steps to do so wisely. Some college students assume that all they need to do is throw their books in the trash can and set off into the sunset, never to give the thought of earning a bachelor’s degree a thought ever again.
That’s certainly not the case! Consider these tips instead.
1. Notify Those Involved
First, notify anybody who is involved, from your parents to the officials at your college. You will need to follow a specific set of steps depending on your college and their procedures – check with the Registrar’s Office on campus to see what you need to do. Your professors or advisor might also be able to give you advice on how to do this.
They may ask you to withdraw by submitting a written statement of intent or you may just have to give a date by which you plan to leave.
2. Finish the Semester
If at all possible, finish out the semester in your classes. You already paid and it’s better to have low grades for your courses than no grades at all.
3. Request a Tuition Refund
If you have to drop out before the semester ends – say, for example, if you are leaving for personal reasons like family troubles – you will want to let the institution know and request a tuition refund. This might take a long time – and some schools might not issue tuition refunds at all – but it can help shore up some money to finance your plans later on.
4. Shore Up Financial Obligations
Last but not least, keep in mind that when you drop out of school, there might be some additional financial worries to consider. Many grants and scholarships have strings attached – meaning if you don’t follow through on your promise to earn a college degree, you might have to pay back the money that you were given. The same goes for student loans. Look into these and take care of them before you leave.
Dropping Out of College is a Risk – is it the Right Decision for You?
Dropping out of school is rarely the right choice – there’s almost always something that can be done to make it unnecessary. However, in some situations, leaving school might be the smartest choice for you to make.
Remember that dropping out now doesn’t necessarily seal your fate for the future. There’s nothing stopping you if you want to return later on, especially if you follow the tips for dropping out as we outlined above.
If you’re asking yourself, “should I drop out of college?” weigh the benefits and disadvantages carefully. It might not be the easiest thing for you to do – but it might be the most responsible.