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If you are considering dropping out of college and aren’t sure how to proceed, you are not alone. Surprisingly, about 31% of students who begin college do not finish. While a college degree has many benefits, it is not the only path to a fulfilling life or success.
Students choose to not continue with their education due to many reasons (finances or scholarship problems, struggling to be successful academically, family issues, health issues, etc.). Regardless of the circumstances, if you find yourself in a position where you are considering dropping out, then it is natural to feel uneasy. College is not for everyone and if you are on the fence about whether or not it is best for you to continue then it is important to take time to make a well-informed and rational decision.
This article will cover some tips on what to do if you feel like you want to quit college, examples of when it is and is not appropriate to withdraw, and some possible pros and cons associated with this decision.
Note: These recommendations are intended for students still enrolled in college and in the consideration stage, and are not meant to address individuals who have already withdrawn and are looking for next steps.
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While Associate’s and Bachelor’s programs have grown to be more popular over the past few decades, there are millions of Americans without higher education degrees who are extremely successful. Leaving college can absolutely be the right decision for some students, but it is not best for everyone. This choice should not be taken lightly and requires thorough consideration and planning.
What to do if you’re on the fence
Do not make any rash decisions. There is no definitive answer regarding when is the right time to drop out or if it’s the right decision. All you can do is make the best possible decision considering the circumstances.
Whether or not to continue in college is not black and white, and proceeding without evaluating all options can be detrimental to you in the long run. If you are going through a difficult time then dropping out might seem like the only solution, but it is crucial that you communicate with your advisors, mentors, family, etc. before proceeding with quitting college.
Should I withdraw or not?
The short answer is, it depends. Campus resources such as academic advisors or mentors can provide excellent guidance, so I recommend you seek assistance as soon as possible. Below are possible situations where it might be recommended to withdraw or take a leave of absence versus remain enrolled.
- Financial struggles: You need to prioritize a full-time job or multiple part-time jobs that prevent you from devoting the time needed to be academically successful in college.
- Health/medical issues: There are health issues for self or family present that prevent you from devoting the time needed to be academically successful in college.
- Lack of motivation: College is an investment and if you are not motivated to be enrolled and are not academically successful as a result then it might be a good idea to take some time off and reassess.
- Lack of direction: If you are not sure what you want to major in or what you want to do with an undergraduate degree, it might be wise to take some time to reflect on your goals and ambitions and the best way to achieve them.
Stay enrolled if…
Examples of when it might be recommended to stick it out and remain enrolled in college:
- You’re almost done: With one or two semesters remaining, it is understandable that you might be burnt out. Senioritis is a real thing! But when you have already come so far, this is not the time to quit.
- You have a couple of unsatisfactory grades: While a high GPA is impressive, it is not the golden ticket for getting a job. Even if you have a few failing grades on your transcript, you can still be very successful and you should not drop out for this reason.
- You’re feeling overwhelmed: If you are going through a challenging time and feel like you can’t handle the stress anymore, don’t worry. There are countless resources available to assist you.
- You don’t feel like you click: Homesickness is normal, even beyond the freshman year. Transfer students or individuals who go back to school later in life, for example, might have a hard time adjusting to a new place with new responsibilities and expectations. This is not a reason to quit. There are multiple clubs and organizations that you can join in order to help make a large university feel small!
Evaluate the pros and cons before you quit college
It is possible that dropping out is the only option due to difficult circumstances, or perhaps it is simply a challenging time that will soon pass. Regardless, it is important to consider all factors when making this decision. Below are the possible pros and cons of choosing to quit college before completing a degree.
Pros of quitting college
- The ability to join the workforce and start earning an income
- Now you can pursue a new career or life path
- You can pursue other interests such as travel or other hobbies
- You’ll have more time for other commitments (such as raising a family)
Cons of quitting college
- Certain jobs require specific credentials (a college degree)
- Interviewers and family/friends will inquire about your decision, so you must be able to defend it
- You might be required to begin paying student loans earlier
There’s no right or wrong
An undergraduate degree is not for everyone and withdrawing from college is not a bad thing! If you are considering withdrawing from college, the most important thing to note is not making an impulsive decision. Take time to evaluate your options, ask for help, and do your best to make an informed, rational choice.
Take time to make the best choice for you
There’s no need to rush this choice. Spend some time doing self-reflection to fully weigh your options.
Evaluate the pros and cons
Write out lists of both pros and cons so you can make the most informed decision.
Campus resources, mentors, advisors, family, and friends can provide fantastic guidance.
Remain open to adjust as needed
If you proceed to quit college and then change your mind later, that’s ok!
About the Author
Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
Alyssa is a Doctor of Education, receiving her degree in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. For the last 7 years, she has mentored hundreds of college students on how to be successful academically and in prepping for a job.
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