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.