Graduation cap with a rolled diploma on a wooden table tips if you are considering dropping out of college

Should I Drop Out of College? 5 Things to Consider Before Leaving School

College education can be challenging, and some students take longer than expected or decide to drop out early. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 41 percent of students got their bachelor’s degrees within the normal four-year period. Other students needed to take a break or drop out entirely from their educational path.

If you’re considering dropping out of college, you’re not alone. Many students experience uncertainty about their futures, financial setbacks, and mental health issues that make them want to drop out. Some people also decide that college just isn’t for them. Read below for college dropout tips and how to decide whether this decision is right for you. 

Should I Drop Out of College: In Brief

Some students graduate in four years and immediately begin working in the profession of their dreams. However, many people find themselves with extensive loans and no clue what they want to accomplish. College students can end up in student loan debt and abandon their concrete plans when the college experience isn’t what they expect.

If you want to drop out of college, you should consider your career and life goals. You can access alternative education like online coding bootcamps if you want to enter a tech career. You can also enter a trade school or apprenticeship if you want to work hands-on. College isn’t the only education option out there.

Struggling with personal problems or financial issues leads many students to drop out of college. You can save money and still get a great job if you decide to drop out. People like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have had success after dropping out, so it’s not always a bad idea to pursue something different.

College Dropout Rate: How Many People Drop Out of College?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), post-secondary institutions were able to retain 76 percent of their first-time students in 2018, which means 24 percent dropped out. This number fluctuates depending on a student’s time in school and the type of institution they decide to attend. 

When it comes to statistics about dropping out of college, retention rates are easier to find than dropout rates. This is because some students take breaks, take a long time to finish, or go back and forth about dropping out. For example, the NCES reports that the graduation rate within six years varies between 25 and 67 percent, depending on the type of institution.

Why Do Students Drop Out of College? 5 Most Common Reasons

  1. Expensive tuition
  2. Lack of academic preparedness
  3. Disappointment with college life
  4. Lack of value
  5. Uncertainty about college

Expensive Tuition 

Taking out student loans to pay for a college education isn’t ideal. According to a study from the University of Minnesota, 55 percent of dropouts in 2001 cited work or finances as their reason for leaving. Community colleges and public colleges can be less expensive, but college studies in general can be a burden. 

Lack of Academic Preparedness

The intellectual expectations of college may be daunting. Some students are underprepared for university-level studies and struggle to meet the academic commitment. For example, a college freshman might be excited to be independent for the first time, but they might not be ready for the rigor of college studies.

Disappointment with College Life

Another major reason for dropping out of college is a general sense of dissatisfaction with college life. Some students feel compelled to drop out of college and return to their hometown when college life becomes overwhelming or isn’t what they expected. These students may find it difficult to adapt to the independence of college.

Lack of Value

Depending on the subject, not everyone actually needs a college degree. For example, if you want to become a cyber security analyst, a cyber security bootcamp could be just as valuable as a degree even though it is cheaper. On the same note, some students want to become entrepreneurs without wasting time with a degree.

Uncertainty About College

In college, you’re in charge of your own life decisions, and this means making the wrong decision can cost you. Students who feel pressured into their education are more likely to drop out of college. However, students can speak to college counselors about their worries and figure out the best way to approach a college education.

Things to Consider Before Dropping Out of College

Deciding whether or not to drop out of college can be a huge burden and take a lot of time. Before you take the leap, make sure you’ve gone through all of your options. Read below to learn more about the things you should consider before dropping out of college.

1. Reasons for Dropping Out

If you want to drop out of college, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. You can have a one-on-one session with your school counselor for career advice or even talk to people in your field about their experiences. For example, changing your living situation or career goals might motivate you to stay in school.

2. Major Preference

Many students find after a few weeks or months in their major that it is not what they anticipated. There are opportunities to switch your major, so you don’t have to feel trapped. In many cases, different subjects can help you feel more motivated and passionate about school. You can use certain college credit for a different major.

3. Financial Situation

For many students, financial issues in college may be a burden. Even with student loans or financial aid like grants and scholarships, managing funds during college may be challenging. If you are considering dropping out for financial reasons, talk to student services about your options. You may not necessarily have to drop out.

4. Other Commitments

Some students find it difficult to find a balance between work and school. If you’re having trouble balancing the two, you can talk to your boss about altering your work schedule. You might also look for another employment opportunity that works better with your school schedule. Online courses can also be more flexible for school students.

5. Mental Health 

While in college, many students struggle with their mental health. This might make it difficult to balance your job, classes, and social life. The stress of projects and examinations can also worsen mental health issues. However, most schools offer resources to assist students who are experiencing personal life issues or mental health problems. 

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

Dropping out of college should not be done without thought or reason. If you don’t follow the right steps, you could lose money or set yourself up for failure if you want to back to school. Follow this guide to help you through the process of dropping out the right way.

1. Notify College and Professors 

To drop out of college, you must follow a set of instructions according to your school. Generally, upon a request to drop out of college, the college will usually ask you to formally state your desire in writing. You can still keep your connections with professors and peers to use during your career path.

2. Finish Your Semester 

If you’re in the middle of a semester, it’s a good idea to finish it. You could still use your credits to transfer to a different program or towards a continuing education program in the future. If you have federal student loans or money from another loan servicer, you should use them while you still can.

3. Request A Refund 

Let your institute know if you wish to drop out of college before the semester finishes, and you might be able to get your money back. Most schools have a specific date during the year before your tuition is non-refundable. The refund procedure may take some time, but it’s worth it if you want to use that money for other goals or business ideas.

4. Meet Financial Commitments

You may be required to repay part of your money from grants, scholarships, or federal loans. If you drop out of the academic institution early, you may still be responsible for paying the cost of college tuition for the remainder of the academic year. You should have a plan in mind, and you can discuss a repayment term with your school.

Realistic Alternatives to College: What Can I Do Instead of a Four-Year Degree? 

 Silhouette of a man running with a briefcase tips if you are considering dropping out of college
You can still find a high-paying job if you drop out of college.

If you’ve decided to drop out of college, what alternative education paths are available for you to pursue? Many options can provide you with job opportunities for a successful career, even if you’re not a college graduate. We’ve listed a few of them below.

Apprenticeship 

An apprenticeship refers to paid on-the-job training and college-level work. Apprenticeships are offered by future employers to allow people who are new to the field to develop talent to fulfill their organization’s needs. Many who complete apprenticeships are offered full-time jobs by the company.

Coding Bootcamp 

Programming languages, data analysis, and related skills are in great demand all around the world. There are many free coding bootcamps or affordable programs that teach these subjects. Many of these bootcamps may be accessed online, which can help you save even more money on things like transportation.

Trade School 

Taking up a trade may provide you with personal fulfillment, a high salary potential, and work security. In general, trade schools are less expensive and require less time than four-year colleges. Other than this, a trade school may provide you with much better career goals as well.

10 Tech Jobs You Can Get Without a Four-Year College Degree

Tech Job Median Salary
Chief Technology Officer (CTO) $163,447
Cloud Architect $126,298
Software Architect $125,945
Senior Software Engineer $119,455
Senior Database Administrator $110,398
Product Manager $98,548
Data Scientist $96,491
DevOps Engineer $96,424
Information Technology Manager $88,947
Database Engineer $86,859

Should I Drop Out of College FAQ


What is the top reason students drop out of college?

While financial difficulties are the most prevalent cause for dropping out of college, each student has their own reasons. Some face family issues, unanticipated medical concerns, or simply a lack of support.


What are the downsides of dropping out of college?

When compared to high school graduates, the biggest disadvantage is a smaller salary. However, with other education like coding bootcamps, you can still get a great job after college.


What jobs can college dropouts get?

There are many jobs that you can get without a college degree, including everything from web developer to welder. Tech jobs are a great choice because you can get a short coding bootcamp certificate instead of a degree.


What college programs have the highest dropout rate?

According to a college dropout survey by the University of Minnesota, continuing education students had the highest dropout rate at about 28 percent.

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