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If you are considering dropping out of college and you share your thoughts with others, you’ll find that the responses or reactions can be grouped into three:
Besides dealing with the reactions from your family, friends, fellow students, and lecturers, there’s a lot weighing on your mind: Should I drop out of college, or should I stay?
There is no easy answer, and only you know the reasons why you are thinking of not staying in college. But it is a significant decision to make, and here are a couple of things you should keep in mind before making the final decision.
Before we dive into the considerations, I want to say there’s no judgment here. You aren’t alone and only you know what’s ultimately the right decision for you. You CAN be successful (whatever success looks like to you) if you quit college.
Famous and successful people who are college dropouts or didn’t go to college include:
Why Do People Drop Out of College?
According to Research.com, the annual college dropout rate is 40%, of which 30% are college freshmen, and about the same percentage of students graduate with a four-year degree with no delay. So why do students drop out of college?
College students drop out for these main reasons:
Let’s be honest: Going to college isn’t cheap.
If you have a significant student loan, it’s more likely that you will drop out than if you had a small or no loan.
Research.com states that more than 50% of college students stop their tertiary education because they can’t afford to pay for their degree. Even Fox Business reports that 42% of those who leave college cite financial reasons.
Plus, it’s not always easy to get a scholarship, financial aid, or a grant to fund studies.
Research.com found that nearly 30% of college dropouts struggle with coping at college. As you may well know, college isn’t quite like high school, and you may find yourself ill-equipped or unprepared for the challenges of college-level education.
When you attend college, you need to balance friends, studying, attending classes, and possibly even work. It’s a lot, and that’s why 54% of students decide to leave college (Research.com).
College can be challenging, and not everyone thrives in this environment, especially if you have a lack of support. This can take a toll on your mental health, and if you aren’t coping, it may seem like the only option you have is to drop out.
Students also drop out of college because of a personal emergency. Maybe your dad passed away, and now you feel obligated to go home and help out. Or maybe your mom is sick and you want to help take care of her.
More than 30% of students quit college because of family commitments, according to Fox Business.
A big question you get asked as a child and teenager is “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Some students know exactly what they want to do with their life, whether it’s to become a journalist, CEO, lawyer, or novelist, while the rest of us don’t know (and there’s nothing wrong with not knowing, even if you are a college student or 40 years old).
If you feel unsure about your future, it’s likely that you don’t feel like college is a good fit for you right now. Perhaps you’d rather see where the universe takes you (and live your life to the fullest).
Fox Business states that 30% of college students leave tertiary education because the college or what they are studying is not the right fit.
Maybe you had an idea of what you wanted to do professionally, but now that you’re in college, you’re realizing that a trades school is a better option for you. Or perhaps self-study and a mentorship program is better because the industry you want to join is still too new (and a college degree won’t help).
9 Things to Consider Before Dropping Out of College
Before you drop out of college or completely make up your mind, it’s essential to keep these things in mind to help you decide:
1. Ask yourself, “Is it just a phase?”
It’s normal to think that you should drop out of college, especially if you aren’t coping at the moment.
Perhaps you are having a hard time adjusting to life on the other side of the country and away from your close-knit family?
Are you struggling to make friends?
Are the classes too challenging?
Do you have support, or do you feel completely overwhelmed right now?
And what about balancing all your responsibilities – studies, classes, your social life, and work?
It’s essential to ask yourself if wanting to drop out of college is just a phase: A temporary thought or idea because you won’t feel so overwhelmed and like you are constantly struggling if you quit.
“Should I drop out of college” could be a phase if it’s a quick fix and an easy way out.
Have you really thought about the impact of you leaving college?
Have you considered talking to a guidance counselor, reaching out to those in your safe inner circle, talking to your lecturers to see how you can supplement your studies to better deal with the workload, and learning better time management skills to better juggle your responsibilities?
If you haven’t, then dropping out of college may just be a temporary idea. So don’t jump the gun. Take the time to self-reflect and figure out what you really want.
2. Does the job you want require a degree?
When you wonder to yourself, “Should I drop out of college?” You also need to take your future into account. Or more specifically, your career future.
Many industries (and jobs) look favorably on applicants who have at least an undergraduate degree, while others require jobseekers to have a post-grad. The “favorably” might also be a “must” for some jobs.
Before you make any final decisions about college and whether you should stay or leave, think about your future and do some research to find out whether you need a college degree to land your dream job.
If you aren’t sure, look at jobs in your industry or niche. You can check out Indeed, Glassdoor, and other job sites. Alternatively, talk to your lecturers and professors.
3. Is what you are studying something you actually want to do?
My mom wanted me to become a pharmacist and urged me to study in that direction, while my dad wanted to push me to study something in the finance field. I wanted to study journalism or psychology, and luckily, I managed to study what I wanted.
Can you relate? Or did your parents pressurize you to study X, when in reality, you really want to study Y because that makes your soul sing?
College is doubly hard when you aren’t studying something you are interested in or even what you don’t have an aptitude for. I totally understand why you feel like you should leave college.
So get career counseling so you can figure out what you do want to be, and see if you can take other classes.
4. What are your push-and-pull factors?
You should also give careful consideration to your push-and-pull factors: What’s pulling you toward college and making you want to stay, and what’s pushing you away from college and making you want to drop out?
You may want to compile an old-fashioned pros and cons list (and remember to be as objective as you can).
You may realize you have a lot more going for you if you stay in college versus leaving, or the opposite could be true.
Nonetheless, identifying your push-and-pull factors helps you look at the situation more objectively as you can consider the small elements and the bigger picture to help you make the best decision possible.
5. Is college right for you?
When you consider leaving college, you need to ask yourself if this is the right college for YOU.
Is it the right college in terms of its social footprint, location, the classes on offer, your living situation, and how you need to study?
Maybe you miss your family too much, or you’re having trouble making friends. Is the college too big and the lectures filled with too many students?
Or perhaps you are a more practical person and want to start working in your chosen profession, so a vocational school or learnership may be better suited for you.
Only you know what’s best for you, and it’s possible that you shouldn’t drop out of college but rather transfer to a college closer to home (or farther away) or one that’s small with more personal classes.
6. Do you have a disability that isn't currently addressed?
While there is a push toward inclusivity, it doesn’t mean that every college caters to those with disabilities, whether you have a physical disability, intellectual disability, a learning disability, or are a neurodivergent thinker.
You may also have a language barrier issue, especially if your native language isn’t English. Or, you may face discrimination because of your disability.
It’s worth it to speak to your academic advisor or your college’s disability support services office and find out if there’s a way forward so you can be accommodated and stay in college.
7. Do you want to drop out because your romantic partner or friends are leaving college?
Peer pressure can make you do (or want to do) strange things, and it’s no different if you are feeling pressured to drop out of your tertiary institution.
Are your friends talking about dropping out? Or have they already? And what about your boyfriend or girlfriend?
Your friends may want you to join them in starting a business together when you all drop out, or do you feel internal pressure to be like your friends, so they’ll continue to like you and spend time with you?
While some kinds of peer pressure are positive and can have a good influence on you, at the end of the day, you need to know who you truly are, live according to your values, and follow your own unique path, and not become a sheeple (someone who follows others like a sheep).
8. What are your reasons for going to college in the first place?
When you are thinking about leaving college, it’s a good idea to stop and pause for a moment and remember why you went to college in the first place.
Will you be the first one in your family to graduate from college (if you stay and complete your degree)? This is a worthy cause, but it’s not your sole responsibility to be the first to earn a degree.
Are you passionate about a certain field or industry and want to break grounds?
What other reasons motivated you to attend college after you graduated from high school?
Reflect on these, and journal about them. Then consider whether these reasons are still important to you and whether you’ve changed or grew since you’ve been at college? There’s nothing wrong if you see the world differently now and maybe want different things.
9. What are your alternatives to college?
Also think about your alternatives if you don’t have college to keep you occupied (should you drop out).
Visualize your potential next steps and create a vision board or journal about it. Some ideas to get you started:
How to Deal with Dropping Out of College
After thinking deep and hard, you’ve decided that college isn’t right for you – or maybe, not right for now. And that’s perfectly okay.
You know what is right for you, and you may have a challenging time now that you aren’t a college student anymore (especially if you face backlash from your family and friends for your decision).
Keep these tips in mind to help you deal with dropping out of college:
Final Thoughts on “Should I Drop Out of College?”
If you are thinking that you should leave college, know that you're not alone. Many students, past and present, have wondered the same, and some of these dropped out while others stayed to finish their degrees.
Which way will you decide? “Should I say in college; should I drop out of college” – like pulling the petals of a flower in the classic “he loves me, he loves me not” move.
I want to leave you with this: YOU need to decide what is right for you, and that could be college, or it could be something different. Follow your heart but also use your head so you don’t rush into anything without carefully weighing up the pros, cons, and your options.
You can be successful if you don’t have a college degree, and your life can be productive and happy. Your life and how it turns out is what you make of it after all.
College isn’t the only route; give careful thought to what path is YOUR path.
Need help finding your path? Why don’t you consider creating a vision board to help you visualize your hopes and dreams? Check out this guide with 11 vision board ideas and examples for students.
Or maybe you are worried that you won’t succeed in life? It starts with setting goals, so here are short-term goals examples to help you become successful.