What to Do After Dropping Out of College in the US in 2023
What to Do After Dropping Out of College in the US in 2023

What to Do After Dropping Out of College in the US in 2023

According to the US government census, of the 18-year-olds who graduated high school, 70% go on to gain at least a bachelor's degree, making college and university a common next step.

College is appealing to so many because it can open a huge variety of career opportunities and teach you new skills. It also encourages independence for young adults, allows them to meet new friends and creates a whole new experience.

However, this next step in education is not for everyone.

Less than two-thirds of those who enroll in the US complete the course with a degree within six years, and 30% of those dropping out do so in the first year.

There can be a great feeling of uncertainty about college, as there is no guaranteed job at the end. The next section lists some of the challenges that lead to people dropping out.

Why Do People Drop Out?

Some of the main reasons for a student finishing college early without qualifications include:

Financial Issues

Student loans are a fantastic offering, but many pupils have to top them up with a part-time job, which can be sparse and are often tiring on top of studies.

Many people also worry about getting further into debt and wonder how they will pay it all back.

Expectations Not Met

The course may not be what a student is expecting, whether in terms of the syllabus, the teacher, the coursework or the future opportunities.

On paper, a course may seem suited to the pupil but, once they are studying, they may realize it is not for them.

Personal Issues

Something may occur in a student’s personal or family life that means they feel they cannot carry on with the course. It may mean they have to go home or become too distracted to study.

Not Succeeding at the Course

Although the subject of the course may be something that the person succeeded in at school, the degree work may be too challenging.

Or the course may be something the student has to take for their required career – such as nursing – but they have no experience.

Teaching Does Not Live up to Expectations

Sometimes it is not down to the individual’s issues but something external, such as a teacher on the course.

If the student feels they are not being taught properly or have a clash with the lecturer, it can spur them to want to leave.

Not Prepared

School is very regimented. If someone does not go to class, they are reprimanded; homework must be completed or they get a detention.

However, college is nothing like this. Students are expected to make their own decisions on going to lectures and doing their work.

They need to motivate themselves completely. Many students are not prepared for this new independence.

Change of Heart

Once at college, the student could simply have a change of heart or find another opportunity that suits them better.

If any of these apply to you, read on to find out how and gain some tips on what to do next.

What to Consider if You Are Thinking of Dropping Out

College is not for everyone, and there is no right or wrong choice; each situation is unique.

However, there are consequences to dropping out of college.

Some companies and careers require an employee to have a degree. In general, it can be harder to get a higher paying job without a degree.

Before deciding to leave college, take a step back and consider certain factors:

  • Speak to a friend or adviser – Have you spoken to anyone about your decision? Talking out loud to a trusted friend or acquaintance may shed light on solving the problem that's making you want to leave. It is worth the discussion.

  • Clarify your career goals – Analyzing your long-term career goals is definitely worth doing before making the final decision to leave. Depending on where your passion lies, you may require a degree to get into your chosen field.

  • Think about moving college or changing course – If it is the course or lecturers that make you want to leave, investigate changing course to something related but run by different people at the same college. Perhaps the college’s location is making your time more difficult; therefore, it may be worth transferring to a different university in a more suitable location. There are likely more options than you think, and the college’s administration team will help answer these questions.

  • Seek financial aid – One of the most common reasons for a person dropping out of college is because of financial issues. It would be worth seeing if there is any monetary aid that can help improve your situation.

  • Try a gap year – If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or underprepared, it may be that a gap year or time out is what you need. Many people work in their gap year to be more financially ready for college. Others travel to gain experiences and develop resilience.

Another option is to do some short courses during the year to help prepare for independent study.

A final factor to consider is how this will affect those around you. If your parents have invested much money and time into your studies, it may be worth thinking about how your decision will affect them and your relationships.

Ultimately, it is your life and your decision to make, but the consequences do spread beyond you.

What to Do After Dropping Out of College in the US
What to Do After Dropping Out of College in the US

How Do You Drop of Out College?

It is advised that when you have made the decision to drop out, you do not just pack up and leave without notifying anybody.

It would be recommended to first inform your family and close friends; do not spring it on them the day before you come home.

Having this conversation at a time you choose allows you to keep some control over the situation and state the reasons for your decision.

Each college will have a set of steps that will need to be taken when dropping out, such as required confirmation in writing.

If you cannot find the information on how to do this, speak to the college admin team, an adviser or professor. They can point you in the right direction on how to act on your decision.

Inform the student loan company that you will no longer require any more increments.

Equally, speak to the admin or finance team of your college regarding a refund on any fees that you paid in advance. There may be a chance of getting some back.

Seeking new accommodation should be a top priority. Whether you are staying in the area or moving home, you will need to move out of your student accommodation.

Give the landlord plenty of notice as well as any roommates. You may also be entitled to a refund in this situation.

Five Things to Consider After Dropping Out of College

The hardest part has happened – making that big decision and implementing it.

Now college is behind you, there are some factors to consider:

1. Talk to the Right People

The thought of moving home and seeing old friends will be exciting. However, when it comes to planning your next move, you may want to carefully consider who you seek advice from.

Your friends may want you to stay local and socialize with them more; a partner may suggest things for their own reasons.

Speaking to an impartial acquaintance or even someone who had the same experience may be the best idea. It means the advice will be unbiased and relevant.

2. Reflect on Your Learning Experience

Whatever your reason for leaving college, it is good to look back on the positives that can be taken from the experience.

Were there parts of the course you would still like to learn about? Did you like living away from home? Answering these questions will help with your next steps.

3. Gain Employment

Earning money in some capacity is likely to be paramount once you have dropped out of college. It will be imperative to start earning quickly.

The lucky few may be able to rely on their family for financial support – not everyone can.

For everyone, it is better to have a stop-gap job or an entry-level job or return to an old job, rather than have a gap on your CV.

4. Make a Long-Term Plan

When you're at college, your next three or four years are planned out. But after you drop out, this is no longer true.

Now, you need to make a new schedule.

This may include seeking career advice from a counselor, traveling or volunteering. It may even involve enrolling in another course.

5. Evaluate Your Passions

If you can identify your passion, it will give you drive and help you decide on your next steps. It can direct your career choice.

Consider other options outside of college to broaden your horizons.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions – with answers – surrounding this subject:

Each college will have slightly different procedures for those dropping out.

The main points will commonly include informing your professors, contacting the student loan company and moving out of the campus accommodation.

It is rare that a person can build on any credits after dropping out of college.

However, the credits they gained on the course are kept on file and so they could refer to them in future job applications.

A person can gain further credits through different courses.

Besides a college degree, other types of education include:

No, not usually.

Leaving college or another educational establishment does not usually restrict you from going back.

Some establishments will let you go back without reapplying, and some will allow you to reapply, although it may have to be after a certain amount of time.

However, do check any contract you signed, just in case there are clauses regarding returning.

There can be a stigma attached to dropping out of college. Many people see it as a failure.

However, as discussed above, many reasons can lead to a person dropping out.

Explain to loved ones the reasons why you are leaving, and do not mind the opinions of strangers.

You can still get a good job without a degree, even if you have no experience.

Ultimately, it is best to not worry what other people think – no one else can live your life for you.

Final Thoughts

Dropping out of college is not an easy decision to make and comes with questions, challenges and consequences.

If it is the right decision for you, ensure that you do it properly and inform the relevant people.

Try to look back on the positives of the experience and focus on the future.

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