Why Students Drop Out of College: How to do it Right (If You Must)

There are a few reasons as to why students drop out of college.

Flickr user Will Folsom

College is a huge investment in terms of both time and money. No student begins college with the intention of giving up and dropping out. Unfortunately, despite their best intentions, some students drop out of college.

Knowing the most common reasons college students quit school can help you be more aware of the pitfalls and hopefully avoid dropping out of college.

Reasons Students Drop Out of College

1. Running Out of Money

To avoid any money problems, come up with a plan before the school year starts. Be realistic about how much money you will spend, and think about what you can do to make money.

You should apply to all forms of financial aid available in order to help you pay for college. File the FAFSA as soon as possible so you can earn federal scholarships, grants, work studies, and loans. Next, be sure to apply to numerous outside scholarships as well—opportunities can be found year-round and for various categories. Only after exhausting all scholarship and grant options should you consider federal student loans. If you’re still in need of monetary assistance after this, pursue a private loan.

Additionally, consider attending community college for the first two years. This can save you thousands of dollars in tuition and make it possible for you to complete your higher education.

2. Not Prepared for the Responsibility

College is the first time most students live away from their parents. While this newfound freedom is exhilarating, many people just aren’t ready yet. With so many distractions, some students find that they just don’t have time for class—which, of course, should be the priority. Compounding this is the fact that much more is expected out of college students compared to high schoolers.

Professors will not give you multiple chances to turn in your homework if you forget it. Think seriously about whether you are ready to live on your own in addition to taking a full load of classes. Many students are opting to take a year off between their senior year of high school and freshman year of college. This gives them a chance to work and earn money for college while also getting used to the idea of taking on additional responsibilities.

3. Personal Life Issues

Most students drop out because of problems in their personal life, whether it is a breakup, problems in the family, or some other personal issue such as an accident or mental illness. Although sometimes it is in a student’s best interest to take a break from school, it can often be avoided with early intervention.

Most colleges offer counseling, so if you are feeling overwhelmed or just need to talk to someone, do not hesitate to talk to a counselor. If you get sick or have a family emergency, don’t be afraid to go to your professors. If you are upfront about what is going on, they are likely to support you and work with you so you are able to carry on instead of dropping out.

4. Getting Lost in the Crowd

Even if you go to a private college, it will likely be much larger than your high school. Some students find that they have trouble keeping up with classes or making friends in such a large group of people.

If you are struggling with your coursework, talk to your professors. They are happy to answer your questions and help you learn the material. Make sure you take advantage of their office hours.

If you want to meet some new people, try joining a club that piques your interest. Other students are trying to make friends as well, so don’t be shy.

College is a challenging but exciting time. Make the most of your time there, and don’t be afraid to use your college’s resources to help you. Most importantly, don’t give up. With some perseverance, you can overcome whatever obstacles come your way to make it to graduation day.

Dropping out the Right Way

If, after giving it much thought, you see no other option but to drop out, it’s important that you know how to go about it. Dropping out of college is not simply a matter of leaving campus and not returning. You would have already invested a lot of time and money into attending college so far. It’s important to know how to drop out of college the right way to minimize your losses.

Consider Taking The Semester off

Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by our circumstances that we see no other option except for the one we’ve already thought about. Unfortunately, once you drop out of college, getting back can be very difficult. Getting admission to another school will be just as difficult as your dropping out will go on your record. Schools hesitate to admit students who are likely to drop out as it damages their reputation.

Before you rush into dropping out, make sure to speak to somebody else about your decision. Speak to an advisor, parent, or even your professor. They will have a more objective view of what’s going on and will be able to give you a different perspective. They may also be able to help you understand what other options are available to you.

For example, maybe the situation that you find overwhelming is only temporary.  In that case, taking a semester off may be a better solution than dropping out. There are no penalties for taking the semester off. You won’t have to enroll in classes again, neither will you pay any extra fees. All you need to do is submit a formal request to your advisor. You will need to provide a compelling reason for why you need to take the time off.

Taking the semester off will give you some time to resolve your problems without losing everything you’ve worked so hard for. At the end of your leave, if you decide to go back, it won’t be a problem at all. You’ll just be one semester behind. You may decide not to go back at the end of your leave, and that’s okay too. At least you know you took the time to explore your options and you’re sure dropping out is the best decision for you.

Consider Attending Part-Time

Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed because of money or time constraints, attending classes part time may help. Attending part-time frees up much-needed time that you can use to resolve your problem. If money constraints are the problem, you’ll be able to take on a part-time job. This can help cover some of the tuition fees. Depending on the circumstances, you may also be eligible for financial aid while attending classes part-time.

Attending part-time involves attending classes for half the number of credits that you’d typically need to take every semester. The important thing is to make sure that you’re take the correct number of credits to qualify.

The downside of this option is that you’ll take longer to graduate. But the benefits more than make up for it. You’ll graduate with less debt and you’ll also have more time to focus on yourself when you attend part-time.

Try Not To Make Any Changes Mid-Semester

Whether you decide to take the semester off or attend classes part-time, always make the change at the end of the semester. If you request a change mid-semester, you’ll still have to pay for all the classes. Worse still, you’ll have to pay this without any financial aid.  This can make matters even worse for you.

Another downside of dropping out mid-semester is it can impact your grades and your GPA. Your professor mark your grade as ‘I’ for incomplete. An ‘I’ on your record carries a penalty on your GPA.

Withdrawing your courses is a much better option. In this case, your professor will mark your grade as ‘W’ on your transcript. A ‘W’ doesn’t carry a penalty and won’t affect your GPA. This can be helpful whether you decide to return to the same school or attend a different school.

Submit A Formal Request

After considering all alternatives, if you still decide to drop out, you’ll need to submit a formal request to your advisor. Your formal request must include your reason for dropping out and an official date of withdrawal. Your advisor will share your withdrawal notice with the registrar.

Every school approaches the withdrawal process differently. Your advisor will be able to help you understand the procedure that your school follows.

Prepare To Move

If you live in the dorm or college housing, you’ll have to leave by your withdrawal date. Make sure you have a place to live before your moving-out date. After this date, you’ll no longer have access to your dorm room. You’ll also want to clear all your dorm dues before this date and return your room keys to the front desk. This will ensure that you don’t pay any penalties unnecessarily.

Prepare To Settle Your Financial Dues

Federal student loan repayments start six months after you graduate or six months after you drop out. If you’ve taken any federal student loans, be prepared to start making those loans starting six months after your official withdrawal date.

Don’t forget to check the conditions governing any federal scholarships and grants you were awarded that academic year. Federal scholarships and grants are considered free financial aid. But in most cases, you do need to meet certain requirements to be able to keep the funds. Most scholarships and grants require you to complete the course or your degree to keep the funds. Some require you to complete the semester. If you don’t satisfy the requirements, you’ll have to return those funds. Check the conditions for each scholarship or grant you’ve received to understand the full impact of your decision to drop out.

Dropping out of college is not an easy option but sometimes it’s the only option. If you decide to choose this path, it’s important to understand how to drop out of college properly to reduce the financial and personal impact.

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