For many students, their time at college or university represents the best days of their lives. From the exciting new concepts that they discover within the lecture hall to the friends they make outside of it, every aspect of the experience is an opportunity for growth and self-development.
Except, of course, not everybody feels that way.
In fact, it’s a sentiment shared by a sizeable contingent of undergraduates every year. In the UK, dropout rates are on the rise, with 6.4% of students in 2015–2016 not making it past the first year, while in the US less than 40% will make it to graduation.
So, what does this mean for your own education?
If you’re worried that you might soon be contributing to these statistics, then don’t panic. While there is a wealth of alternative options available to you outside of your current circumstances, it may simply be a case of taking stock and re-evaluating what your goals and motivations are.
To help, we’ve looked at some of the main reasons why students are quitting school and what you can do if you’re feeling the same.
So, before you make any bold decisions, sit down, relax and ask yourself: ‘Should I drop out of college?’.
Reason #1: You Hate Your Course
This is probably the number one reason why people choose to quit uni. After all, a law degree might have made perfect sense when you were in high school, but it turns out torts and trusts aren’t as stimulating as that marine biology place you spurned.
The good news is that if your disenchantment is purely course-related, then you’re not alone: as many as one in three graduates believe that they studied the wrong degree. The fix is quite simple, too. As long as you have the requisite qualifications, you can simply transfer, whether it’s within the same university or a different one.
On the downside, unless you have existing credits that are related to your new choice, it’s likely that you’ll have to wait until the next academic year (and you’ll probably have to start from scratch), but you can always earn a bit of money in the meantime. The most important thing to remember is that, in the grand scheme of things, an extra year is always going to be preferable to three years – and a potential lifetime – in the wrong field.
Worth dropping out for? No. Ensure that if you transfer, though, to choose the right course for the right reasons.
Reason #2: You Hate Your Surroundings
This is another common reason to make permanently for the campus exit – you hate your environment.
There may be a number of factors involved in this. Maybe you’re a quiet introvert stuck in your school’s equivalent of Animal House, or you made a mistake with your university’s location and you miss the city or countryside. Whatever the case, you first need to consider if your problem is solvable.
For example, if you hate your flatmates (and let’s face it: you wouldn’t be the first person to feel that way), then look at the possibilities of alternative accommodation. If you want to live in a more student-friendly city (or move away from one), then consider transferring to a different location. Jumping ship should be a last resort in these situations.
Finally, don’t confuse your reservations with homesickness. Most undergraduates are living on their own for the first time, and it’s almost guaranteed that at some point they will miss the comforts and familiarity of home; always remember that this will pass. Flying the nest is an important part of a person’s development and, besides, with the advent of digital technologies such as Skype, as well as an array of cheap transport options available to students, there’s no reason why your family and friends cannot be an active part of your university experience.
Worth dropping out for? Again, no. Think carefully about what it is that is causing the issue and seek to rectify it before you consider leaving for good.
Reason #3: Your University/Faculty Is Not Up to Scratch
With proper prior research, this can be negated to an extent, but as with all things, it’s difficult to gauge a truly accurate idea of what your learning experience is going to be like until you actually start.
For example, if you feel like you’re not getting the value for money that was promised (maybe the lectures are uninspiring, the tutorials are constantly cancelled, or there is no interaction with staff), then this is a serious sign that the school is letting you down.
Maybe you are dealing with certain personal issues, and you don’t feel like you’re getting the backing that you need from student support; again, this is a failing on the school's part.
Before you decide to leave, though, you should arrange a formal meeting with your tutor or assigned point of contact and convey your thoughts. If you feel like your points are still being ignored, or positive changes are not being implemented, then it could be time to move on.
Worth dropping out for? For most students, higher education is not cheap, and you deserve value of money. If you’re consistently not getting it, it could be worth looking elsewhere.
Reason #4: You’re Struggling Financially
Students aren’t meant to be financially flush, reliant as they are on combinations of grants, loans and parental donations. But if there comes a point that you’re seriously in over your head – and your financial future is potentially at risk – then it is absolutely vital that you do something about it.
Financial jeopardy doesn’t mean that you can’t afford to go out on a Saturday night, either. It means that you’re borrowing money from unreliable sources to meet fees or living costs, that you’re so incapable of managing your money that you can’t pay for basic bills and amenities, or that you’ve been hit with unexpected costs or loss of income in your personal life.
If any of these circumstances apply to you, then speak immediately to your school’s student finance or student advisory representative, who will be able to point you in the right direction for support.
In the meantime, pay close attention to your budget (a few simple tweaks could up saving you more than you realise), and look at getting a part-time job to supplement your income.
Worth dropping out for? If your case is severe enough, yes. It’s not worth putting yourself in a dangerous financial situation for the sake of school. Besides, you can always return to your course in the future when your outlook is a lot more stable.
Reason #5: You’re Failing all Your Exams
There’s a number of reasons why you might not be performing well academically.
For instance, the material may be too difficult, there could be external factors affecting your focus, or you might simply be guilty of neglecting your studies in favour of the party life. Whatever the cause, it’s important to address your poor grades.
If you’re struggling with the course content, then you need to tell your tutor at the earliest opportunity. Things are only going to get harder, and if you can’t grasp the basics, then the problem is only going to be exacerbated further down the line. Likewise, if personal issues are affecting your concentration, you need to let people know.
Alternatively, if you’re burning the candles at both ends, then this comes down to you. Remind yourself why you are in college and ask yourself if it’s really worth flunking with reams of debt just for the sake of being the campus beer pong champion. It’s your future and your wallet that will suffer in the long run, so organise your study schedule more effectively, and remember the importance of doing everything in moderation.
Worth dropping out for? No – you should do everything you possibly can to improve your grades, whether it’s extra tutoring or cutting down on the vices of campus life. If, despite extra help, the course is genuinely beyond your understanding, though, then you should discuss your options with your tutor.
Reason #6: Personal Issues Are Affecting Your Study
As touched upon in the previous points, many students find that their study is affected by unexpected or ongoing issues in their personal life, usually ranging in severity. For instance, you may be suffering from a condition such as depression or anxiety that is taking its toll, or there might be a sudden turn of events back home such as a serious illness or death in the family.
When this is the case, it’s imperative to let someone know, whether it’s a friend, flatmate or a member of the faculty, as allowing things to build up will affect not only your education but also your mental health. University is difficult enough as it is without carrying the burden of serious personal problems, and with most schools now having teams of trained advisors and policies in place, you shouldn't be afraid to reach out for help.
This might also apply to part-time or mature students as well, particularly those balancing their study with full-time jobs, children or both. Talk to staff and discuss the problems that you’re having, as a good tutor will always try to find a solution that works for both parties.
Worth dropping out for? It depends on your circumstances and your personality – everybody deals with things differently – but your health and your family are always more important than education. In such cases, don’t worry about the ramifications, either – you can always return to your studies later.
Of course, nobody wants to be saddled with the term ‘college dropout’, but the reality is nearly always different to the perception. Whether it’s a case of demanding more for your money, trying to deal with the demands of a difficult course or simply trying to balance study with a particularly difficult time in your life, leaving isn’t akin to defeat.
That said, though, in most cases, it should always be a last resort.
Make sure you have exhausted every option to address your problems and, most importantly, always communicate with not just your tutor but also with those you trust.
You owe it to your education and your future to dedicate everything you have, so only consider the alternatives when this is no longer the case.
Did you ever drop out of university or college? What were your experiences? Let us know in the comments section below.