A woman sitting on steps tips if you are considering dropping out of college looking at a laptop

A Guide to Dropping Out of College

Dropping out of school is a major life decision. If it’s right, it can be the best decision you’ll ever make, but if you do it without thinking it through you might regret it. So why exactly do students drop out of college and what is their secret to being successful? This article will help you make the right move and land on your feet if you decide to drop out of college. 

Why Students Drop Out of College

The reasons why college students drop out vary. According to EducationData.org, the most prevalent reason is financial constraints. The site indicates that there has been a 1,375 percent increase in tuition costs for American students since 1978. Due to financial frustration and high interest loans, some students opt to look for work instead. 

The report also shows that 54 percent of college dropouts attribute their choice to a lack of balance between work and school. To cater to the high tuition costs, students are forced to work multiple jobs to sustain themselves. This can lead to burnout.

Thirty-nine percent of college dropouts attribute it to a lack of return on investment (ROI). These students feel that the tuition they’re paying does not reflect the quality of education provided. Since they are not getting their money’s worth, they decide to stop paying for it. 

How Many People Drop Out of College?

According to NCES, 2.1 million students aged 16-24 years dropped out of school in 2018. This was 5.3 percent overall college drop out rate. This means more than five percent of college students never graduate. 

Should I Drop Out of College?

If you’re struggling to pay your tuition, dropping out of college might not be a bad idea. You can always drop out and resume when you’re able to afford it, or find a college with more financing options like scholarships or affordable student loans. 

Other reasons you might consider dropping out are a lack of interest in the course or not feeling prepared for it. Whether you are in trade school or a community college, take plenty of time to consider every option before dropping out and make sure you have a plan for what to do instead. 

When You Should Drop Out of College

  • Lack of preparation: It is common for people to not feel ready for college. A high school diploma doesn’t always prepare high school graduates for the demanding nature of college degrees. A typical college freshman can find it challenging to adapt. Taking some time or a different course first can be a good option. 
  • Lack of interest: Students who are unsure what career they should pursue are more likely to quit school. It is important to align your interests with your education. Doing so will improve your entire college experience.
  • Conflicts of interest: It is challenging going to school, working, and maintaining a personal life. This kind of strain can lead to a breaking point. If paying for a four-year college degree is too expensive or time-consuming, you might want to step back and consider other options. You can always go back to school later.
  • Repeat failure: It can be frustrating for students to take on the same course after not doing well enough. This repetition leads to boredom and frustration. The student is more likely to lose interest in the college courses and decide to quit.
  • Negative school environment: The school plays a big role in the motivation of the students. Lack of proper facilities, staff, or substandard education can lead to a high dropout rate. 

When You Shouldn’t Drop Out of College

  • No longer fun: Some students drop out of college because their social life is more interesting than their school life. That is not a good enough reason to stop pursuing an education. A college education is not meant solely to be fun. Education is meant to enhance your professional life, social life can come later.
  • Short-term gains: Many students drop out of school because of the immediate benefits offered by their employer. Some offers seem great in the short term, but make sure you have also considered the long-term benefits of both options. Having a clear long-term goal makes it easier to make short-term decisions.
  • Job promotion: You might have the skills to get a good job before completing your college degree, but you shouldn’t throw away your degree too quickly. A lot of employers require their employees to be college graduates to promote them to higher levels.

Consequences of Dropping Out

There are many consequences for dropping out of school. The main challenge you’ll face will be finding a stable job. Nowadays most employers look for ability and don’t necessarily place as much importance on education, but they still check to see if applicants graduated. Some jobs require employees to have at least a bachelor’s degree. 

It is important to note that you will not miss out on job opportunities entirely. There are countless jobs available that don’t require any degree. The downside of jobs like those, however, is that they usually come with a much smaller paycheck. 

You should also prepare to face some stigma if you drop out of college. There is a lot of importance attached to traditional education, especially among older generations. Your parents or guardians may not be supportive of you dropping out. 

How to Drop Out of College: Step-by-Step Guide

Papers, books, a mug of tea, and an orange spread out on a coffee table how to drop out of college
Having a plan in place before dropping out of college will make it a much easier process.

If you have decided that dropping out is right for you, you can follow these steps to confidently move on to your next life step. Remember Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Oprah all dropped out of college. We curated this step-by-step guide to make sure you land on your feet after you choose to quit school. 

Analyze Your Prospects 

Before you make this life-changing decision, you should first analyze the options you’ll have after dropping out. It is important to have a clear vision of what you want to do or achieve once you leave school. The better the plan, the more successful you’ll be. You should determine the best path to help you land on your feet. 

You can choose to go to the military, become a volunteer, find an internship, or choose an alternative educational path like a bootcamp. Whichever choice you make, make sure it’s in line with your career goals. Your interests and goals will determine your next move after quitting school. 

Talk with Your Career Counselor 

Talk with your school counselor or a career counselor. They have a lot of knowledge and can help give you a sense of direction. Counselors will paint a realistic picture of the consequences that come with dropping out of school. Their expertise means they can give you the best advice if you do choose to drop out.

It is important to note that dropping out of school means losing benefits attached to that particular program. You will not be allowed to benefit from the grants or scholarships provided. 

Notify Your Family

This might be one of the more sensitive topics you will have to discuss with your family. Most parents or guardians frown upon the idea of their children dropping out of school. It can be helpful to have a plan in place and write down what you want to say first. 

However, some families don’t place a lot of proverbial weight on education, and understand the world of work is changing. They might see dropping out as an excellent opportunity for you to reflect on yourself and streamline your interests. 

Inform Your Professor

The courteous thing to do is inform your professor of your decision. They might want to change your mind, but remember the decision is entirely yours. They may be able to give you a different perspective or suggest other opportunities you could follow. 

You can choose to simply meet with your professor in person and explain the circumstances. This will keep your relationship intact, and you’ll have an easier time going back to school if need be.

Have a Job Lined Up

The best way to safeguard yourself is by getting a job. Like any other student, fending for yourself can become expensive. Therefore, it is important for you to ensure you have a job lined up before you drop out of school. You can choose a full-time or part-time job, depending on your availability. 

If I Drop Out, Can I Still Go Back to School Later?

Yes, you can go back to school after you drop out. One big misconception is that students can’t go back to school once they drop out, but that’s not the case. In particular, if it’s financial reasons that are leading you to drop out, there’s no reason you can’t start again once you’ve worked for a year. 

You should check whether you will be able to re-enroll in the same college after you quit, should you choose to do so in the future. Different colleges have different rules over deferring places and re-enrolling. 

What to Do After Dropping Out of College

You have plenty of options of what to do after dropping out of college. You’re likely to have an influx of free time. It’s important to remain productive. Having a plan in mind should come before any education hiatus you are planning. These will help you stay active, continue learning, and can help you understand what you want to do with the rest of your life. 

Take a Hiatus

This is an excellent approach if you are still hesitant about dropping out of school. You can simply inform your school and family that you are taking an extended break from your studies. Use this time to reflect and analyze your prospects. You don’t need concrete plans, but it is important that you have at least a general idea of what you’re going to do. 

If done the right way, you can easily apply for readmission to the same school should you decide to do so. This is a particularly relevant option if you an excellent academic standing with the administration and professors.

Look for an Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are an extremely effective way to learn and develop a career while earning. Once you identify what you want to learn, find a professional to take you under their wing and train you on the job. You will find plenty of trade schools giving people a chance to learn technical skills within a few years in apprenticeship schemes. 

If you choose to attend a trade school, you can specialize in plumbing, sewing, carpentry, or even cooking. Learning firsthand from an expert in the field will set you apart from most professionals. Trade schools tend to be cheaper than community colleges and four-year degree programs, which is why they are so popular. 

Apply for an Internship

The right internship opportunity will set you apart during your job search. The biggest advantage of becoming an intern is acquiring industry-standard experience. You will also have the luxury of attaching your name to an established company, making you appealing to potential employers. 

Many companies don’t require you to have a bachelor’s degree to land an internship position. There are also companies that will absorb the interns into the workplace by giving them permanent jobs. Don’t be too quick to brush off unpaid internship positions as they may result in greater opportunities in the long run.

Enroll in a Bootcamp

If you’re interested in a career in tech, coding bootcamps are an excellent way to gain industry-relevant skills in just a matter of weeks. They are less expensive than traditional college degrees and can be completed remotely through online courses. 

The great thing about bootcamps is that they are heavily focused on making you employable. As well as giving you practical coding experience, you’ll receive career support such as counseling, mock interviews, and even job opportunities through their hiring partners. 

Look for Volunteer Work

Since you’ll probably have more time on your hands, you might consider taking up volunteer work. This is an excellent way to add flavor to your resume while still building industry-relevant skills. Volunteer work impacts you on a personal level and contributes to the general wellbeing of your community. 

Volunteer jobs don’t have a salary. However, they might come with incentives. It is important to have an open mind when volunteering. You could also choose a position that lines up with your future career path, depending on the organization.

Get a Job

If you don’t plan on going back to school anytime soon, you will need to find means to support yourself. Finding a job will help you meet your basic needs and explore other areas of study or business. You can choose to get a part-time job which will give you the freedom to take on personal projects as you try new things.

There are plenty of jobs available that do not require a long-term commitment. You can choose a job in sales, customer service, retail, or office administration. There are millions of people dealing with student debt years after graduation. A job will also offer you an excellent opportunity to cover your student loan debt. 

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of people who go on to be successful without a four-year college education. As the world of work is changing, Universities aren’t necessarily preparing students for the workforce in the best way. Nowadays, bootcamps and apprenticeships are a convenient and affordable way to gain skills to pursue a rewarding career path. 

Whether you drop out of school or not is entirely up to you, and the right decision will be different for everyone. Whichever decision you make, you will land on your feet. However, making sure you have considered all your options before you drop out of school will make it an easier process.

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