Do you find yourself asking, should I drop out of college? You are not alone. Around 30% of students drop out during their first year and 56% of students drop out by year six. While we believe college is still worth the cost, there are some real reasons that making dropping out of college a smart move. Below, we help you answer that question and offer some tips on what to do after dropping out of college.
Should I Drop Out of College?
Thinking about dropping out? Before making a decision, talk to your family and your college about your concerns. Whatever your situation, here are some tips on how to know when you should and when you should not drop out.
When You Should Drop Out of College
- You are not motivated: College is not an easy four years. If you feel no motivation to join clubs, go to classes, complete coursework, or find internships, college probably is not right for you. There is nothing wrong with that. Drop out and discover what motivates you.
- You have something else going on: In the internet age, it is easier than ever to become an entrepreneur. If your venture or family business takes off while you are in school, it might make sense to drop out. Just run the numbers before making a rash decision.
- Medical or family reasons: If a serious medical condition or family commitment is distracting you, dropping out—at least temporarily—could help. This gives you time to get better or deal with a family hardship without wasting tuition dollars. Do not make yourself sicker or more stressed out by refusing to take some time off.
- You cannot afford it: College is expensive. If you cannot feasibly afford tuition, consider dropping out. You can always return after saving up money or finding a cheaper alternative.
- Nothing is helping you: College is stressful. If you are struggling with stress, depression, or anxiety, seek out help. If resources on campus are not helping, taking a break makes sense. You need to take care of yourself, and not everyone can do that on a busy college campus.
- You are not ready: One in three students was not prepared for any entry-level college courses in 2013. If you feel unprepared, drop out and build up your skills. Taking remedial classes online or at a community college will save you money as you decide if you can handle college-level work.
When You Shouldn’t Drop Out of College
- You have one or two semesters left: Even if a senior no longer likes what they are studying, a bachelor’s degree in something is better than not having one. Only leave school this late in the game if you have a concrete plan to finish. You have already invested so much in your education, so do not let it go to waste.
- You failed one course: Do not drop out over one failing grade. Talk to your professor or an academic counselor on campus. Make a better study plan and retake the course. If you failed because you were disinterested, consider changing your major.
- It feels like too much work: College is hard because it is preparing you for the workforce. It pushes you to stay organized, manage your time, and challenge yourself. Do not quit just because you do not want to put in the effort. You can always switch your course load around if necessary.
What to Do After Dropping Out of College
If you have already dropped out or are determined to end your college studies, you have to determine your next step. For some, the next step may be the very reason you dropped out—like taking over the family business or caring for a sick loved one. For others, the next step is much more uncertain. You might just want to take a gap year. Here are some suggestions on what to do after dropping out of college.
Join a Volunteer Service Corps Organization
Volunteer service corps organizations send volunteers to complete a yearlong or multi-yearlong service commitment in a high need area. This experience can replace a lot of what you miss from college. It offers you a chance to use your knowledge, learn new skills, broaden your worldview, and connect with different people. Although many recruit on college campuses, you do not need to be a graduate to participate. For example, the Peace Corps sends volunteers age 18+ all over the world. Some stateside programs to consider include Lutheran Volunteer Corps and AmeriCorps. Participants typically receive a living stipend in exchange for their service. Some even live with host families.
Most of these programs require a documented history of volunteering. Language skills are a plus, but not necessary. After completing your service, you will return home with loads of new skills, a great resume, and perhaps a new career path. This is a great gap year option for anyone looking to find new direction in life.
Volunteer in any Capacity
Without classes to attend, you have more freedom during normal business hours. Spend some of that time volunteering. Non-profits are often desperate for office support, event planners, and writers, amongst other things. Most organizations do not care about your education; they just care about your passion and skill set. Volunteering will make you feel happier, help you build connections in the community, and increase your marketability to prospective employers.
Find a Job
Fill your new free time with a full-time or part-time job. You will bring in some money to help pay off loans and learn some marketable skills. Although jobs for those without a college degree typically pay less, there are some good options. You want to get your career started.
Check out your state or county’s civil service job website. Some jobs do require years of experience or a degree, but many simply require that you pass a standardized test. These are typically office jobs like typists, administrative assistants, and clerks. Most pay better than minimum wage and all would qualify you for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Another similar option is applying to the United States Post Office, which hires based on test scores as well. Here is a list of great jobs which qualify for student loan forgiveness.
Continue Learning in Some Capacity
Take any opportunity you can to learn new skills or a new hobby. Pick something you have always wanted to do and run with it. This is a chance to exercise your creativity, build your confidence, and find a new passion. Look into hobbies like photography, cooking, graphic design, art, carpentry, foreign languages, coding or music. Some of these could even lead you to your next career path.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a great way to learn new skills from highly skilled educators. MOOCs are large online classes similar to a regular college class. You take them online at your own pace, and most are free. You will find MOOCs on subjects like math, history, English, photography, computer programming, coding, foreign language, graphic design, and science. Not all MOOCs offer college credit, but some do for a fee.
Consider other College Options
Maybe you had a bad experience at your particular college given its academic rigor or high tuition costs. Remember, every college is different and dropping out of one college does not mean that college is not right for you. If your desired career path requires a degree, research other options for schooling. The college scorecard is a great tool to help find the right school. Online school is a great option if you are working, have a family, or did not care for the college social scene. Community colleges keep you close to home and help you save money.
Figure out Your Long Term Goals
Now that college is out of the picture, you need a new path. This might mean a plan leading you back to college or something different entirely. Whatever it is, write down what you need to do to achieve each goal. Having a plan will give your life direction and help you stay focused.
Keep in mind that leaving college does not mean you have to abandon your career goals. For example, anyone hoping to enter the IT field can still do so without a degree. Fields like IT give weight to certification exams. These exams cover a particular aspect of computer science like networking or a programming language. Other fields like graphic design or acting often care more about your audition tapes or portfolio than your education.
Student Loan Repayment after Dropping Out of College
If you have left school early, you need a plan to start paying back your loans. Remember, you can start paying off federal loans even before your grace period expires. However, some private loans have penalties for paying down the balance early. Look at the specifics of your loans prior to making a plan. If meeting the monthly payments on federal loans seems impossible, apply for a repayment plan. Income-driven repayment plans reduce your monthly federal loan payment and result in loan forgiveness. Unfortunately, most private loan companies do not offer repayment assistance. It never hurts to ask though.
In general, limit your spending and put extra money toward your highest interest loan. This saves you the most money in the long run.
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 5/18/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.