Contrary to popular belief, college isn’t for everyone and there are plenty of people who do consider dropping out of college or declining their college enrollment offers. In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 30% of students drop out of college in their freshman year, with around 56% dropping out by their sixth year.

Dropping out of college

For many students, college is beneficial and there are plenty of advantages which come from sticking with your college education. However, this isn’t true for everyone. If you’re considering dropping out of college, it’s important to take the time to make an informed decision.

Do you have an alternative plan, for example:
  • Are you going to go straight into full-time work or do you want to undertake vocational studies?
  • How will you manage the transition from college to the next stage of your life?

Of course, dropping out of college and starting something new can seem overwhelming but there’s no need to feel out of your depth. Asking yourself some realistic questions, identifying why college isn’t working for you and considering other options, such as those listed below, should help you to come to a decision about your future and whether dropping out of college is the right option for you.

The following are a few things you should consider before making a decision about dropping out of college:

Is dropping out of college right for me?

If you’re thinking about dropping out of college, it’s vital you talk to people. Your family, your friends and your tutors can all help you to make a decision that you’re happy with in the long run.

Drop out of college, if it feels right

In the meantime, the following points can help you to identify whether dropping out is the right choice or if you should give college another go…

1. Family or medical issues.

If you or a family member is unwell or your family is experiencing some type of difficulties, it may not be the right time to pursue a college education. In fact, forcing yourself to try and keep up with your studies in these circumstances could be detrimental to your health. Choosing to drop out in these circumstances may help you to save your tuition money and use it to fund further study in the future.

Although dropping out is an option in this situation, your college may also permit you to take a semester off or to take a study break for a year. If you’re keen to continue with your education but you or your family are experiencing some form of hardship, a temporary break from college might be the right choice.

2. You don’t feel motivated.

College can be a positive and enriching experience but it’s certainly not an easy ride. If you find you’re not motivated to attend class, read relevant class materials, complete assignments, join clubs, take part in extracurricular activities or you’re regularly asking yourself is it worth it?

It may be a sign that college isn’t the right option for you or that the course you’ve chosen isn’t suited to your interests.

3. You are not ready for college.

Most colleges will expect you to pass certain exams or assessments before you’re offered a place and these types of tests are often on-going throughout your freshman year. Of course, you’ll need to pass your end-of-year exams or assignments in order to progress to your sophomore year and then your junior year and senior year.

If you don’t feel you’re properly prepared for college, there’s no shame in taking some extra time to build up your skills. Pre-college classes can help you to learn essential subject matter, research skills and general knowledge which will help you when you’re studying at college level and they’ll also give you a boost of self-confidence.

4. Nothing seems to help you.

College can be a stressful experience and sometimes it simply isn’t the right time to immerse yourself in such an environment. If you’ve sought help, used on-site resources and aren’t finding things any easier, dropping out may seem like the most sensible option.

5. You have another venture on the go.

Many students work whilst they’re at college and a significant number of college students run their own businesses. Launching a product or service can be a lot of work but it can also be highly lucrative. If you’ve been working on another venture and it begins to take off, you may be considering dropping out or taking a year off college to pursue it further.

6. College is too expensive.

Whether you’re in your freshman year or your senior year, you’ll already know that college is expensive. As well as your tuition fees you need to finance accommodation, books, learning materials and equipment, and this can add up to a considerable amount.

If the cost of college is making it too difficult to continue, dropping out may be the most realistic option right now. However, many colleges do have funds which can assist students who are facing financial difficulty so it’s always worth speaking to your tutors before you make a firm decision.

Stay in college, if it feels right

You’ll need to balance the pros and cons of dropping out college, so take your time when thinking about it.

1. College is too much work.

You will need to work hard if you want to do well at college but that’s true of all situations. If you leave college and start full-time work, you’ll need to work hard to do well there too! If you need help to manage your course load, seek help from college counselors, advisors, and the academic team, and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

2. You’ve failed an assignment or course

Failing one course, one exam or one assignment is not the end of the world and it certainly isn’t worth dropping out over.

Firstly, identify why you failed:
  • Did you misunderstand the subject?
  • Were you disinterested?
  • What went wrong?

Book an appointment with your professor and/or tutor or study counselor and seek guidance from them. Often, creating a more effective study plan will help you to boost your marks or you could even consider switching courses or majors if you want to.

3. You’re nearly at the end of your senior year

If you only have a couple of semesters left, you may regret dropping out if you do so now. If your final exams are causing you stress or you’re feeling anxious about graduating, your tutors should be on hand to provide the help you need. With so much already invested in your education, only extreme circumstances should justify you dropping out at this point.

What to do after dropping out of college

If you’ve already dropped out or you’re planning to drop out of college, you’ll need to identify what your next steps will be. In some cases, these may be directly related to why you chose to drop out. If you left college mid-semester due to anxiety and depression.

For example, you may need to seek treatment so that you’re able to recover. Similarly, if you dropped out because a family member is unwell, you may spend the foreseeable future caring for them. However, if you didn’t drop out for a specific reason you may not have any firm plans for the future.

If you’re unsure what to do after dropping out of college, consider some of these options:
1. Find A Job

If you’re no longer studying, you’ll want to find a suitable full or part-time job as soon as you can. As well as bringing in some much-needed cash, a job will kickstart your career and help you to develop more transferable skills.

Jobs for non-graduates may pay less to start with but you’ll have the opportunity to increase your salary as you gain more experience. In addition to this, many roles aimed at non-graduates pay more than the minimum wage and offer access to the Public Loan Forgiveness program, which would help you to minimize the amount you owe.

2. Join A Volunteer Service Corps Organization

When you sign up with a volunteer service corps organization, you’ll be sent to a high need area in order to provide support. With domestic and international opportunities available, you’ll have the chance to travel, broaden your world view, use the skills you’ve already developed and learn more while you’re on your placement.

3. Volunteer In Any Capacity

Leaving college gives you an empty schedule but it’s important it doesn’t stay empty for long. Working or volunteering is crucial after dropping out of college as you’ll need to do something productive with your time.

Volunteering can help you to understand how specific industries work and this could give you an idea of what you want to do in the future. In addition to this, you’ll learn a whole host of skills while you’re volunteering and you’ll get to provide much-needed help to a range of organizations as well.

4. Consider Other College Options

Depending on why you decided to drop out, a different college or major might be an option for you. If your college wasn’t the right fit, tuition was too high or you didn’t like being so far away from your family, an alternative college with more affordable fees might be a great option. Look for in-state colleges if you’d prefer to stay closer to home or consider taking online college courses in order to complete your education.

5. Figure Out Your Long Term Goals

If you already have specific goals in mind, such as working in a specific industry or starting a new college, write down a list of what you need to do in order to get there. You may need to gain experience in a particular role, for example, or complete extra classes to meet certain entry requirements. Once you’ve written down a plan it will help to keep you focused and you’ll find it easier to identify what to do next.

6. Continue Learning In Some Capacity

You don’t have to stop learning simply because you’ve dropped out of college. Whether you’re planning to return to college at some point or you’ve left for good, continuing education can be beneficial for your future.

You may want to take online courses which would help to prepare you for a particular career, for example, or take part-time courses to increase your employability. If you’re still not sure what you want to do in the future, taking a course in your favorite hobby is a fun way to keep you focused and it may open up opportunities in the future. Alternatively, try something new and see if it’s something you’d like to pursue in the future.

Start paying your student loan, after dropping out of college, immediately

If you drop out of college, you may want to start repaying your loans straight away. Whilst some loans allow this with no penalties, some loan providers do apply charges if you start to make early repayments, so be sure to check the terms of your loan to determine the most sensible course of action.

Paying off your loan with the highest interest first is often the best way to save money in the long run, but getting specialist financial advice will help you to determine what you should pay off first and whether an income-related repayment plan would be a viable option.

If you’ve dropped out of college or you’re planning to leave college, there are plenty of alternatives available to you. However, leaving school is a big decision and it shouldn’t be rushed. Take the time to consider why you want to leave and, if you do decide to drop out, have clear goals in place and a well-structured plan to ensure you can achieve them.