Why College Students Drop Out And Tips To Avoid

Why College Students Drop Out And Tips To Avoid

Why College Students Drop Out And Tips To Avoid

As we round out the end of another semester, some college students are worried about where they stand in their classes. No doubt there are more than a few who are also wondering if they are really cut out for college. Some students get “the talk” from their parents over the winter break when they discover the grades their student earned.

There are many reasons why college students drop out of school, but there are some common ones that it is wise to be aware of, especially before you begin your college career!

Responsibility vs. Freedom

College students are stereotyped as crazy partiers who rarely attend class and pull all-nighters before a big exam. And while it is true that this is a stereotype for a reason, not all students overindulge in the party life; too much fun can come in many different guises.

dropping out of college

Students find themselves independent and “free” for the first time, and they love it. What’s not to love? Suddenly they can eat whatever and whenever, go to bed whenever (and wherever), can study or not study, and the list goes on. Often going from such a large extreme of lots of rules laid down by parents to very few rules and no one checking in with them can get students in hot water fast.

Even the ultra-responsible student can get caught up in all of the available social activities at a university, not to mention all of the diverse groups of people they interact with, some for the first time. Too much of anything can lead a student to drop out of college.


The typical student assumes that college will be much like high school…only fun. Sometimes by the time they truly realize that the amount of work and quality of their work is on a whole higher plane, they are already in over their head. A great number of college students are simply underprepared for the rigors of college academics, and in some cases, the unique social situations college life offers.

Students who did not have to study in high school suddenly find that they are not prepared to keep up with the amount of daily reading, note-taking and assignments that a full college course load requires. If a student’s study skills are not up to par, they can feel overwhelmed soon after the semester starts.

Financial Strain

It is one thing to say that college is an investment in your future, and another to get a huge bill before you have even stepped into your first college classroom. Some students drop out of school for financial reasons, including lack of aid, “sticker shock” or the realization that they would rather be making a living instead of incurring student debt.

A common financial issue comes from students being inexperienced managing their own money, since they have not typically had to do it before. Without a careful budget to work from, students can get in over their heads…the money that should have lasted all year is gone in a semester. Some parents refuse to continue to pay for college if a student is deemed irresponsible with finances, which can force a student to drop out, at least temporarily. Financial stress can put an end to dreams of a college degree, no matter what the source.

Academic Probation

When a student is underprepared and/or overwhelmed, they can easily find themselves on the academic probation list instead of the Dean’s list. Colleges typically have a grace period for students on probation so they have a chance to get their grade point average (GPA) back up, but some students take this as a sign that they are not cut out for college. And sometimes, college parents encourage their student to reevaluate their college plans in this situation.

Unexpected Life events

Life happens to all of us, and college students are no different. Sometimes life events that occur are too much to deal with on top of a full course load, and the student decides to drop out of school, at least temporarily, to deal with it all.

There of course is nothing wrong with this, and hopefully, the student returns to school as soon as they are able.


College life moves fast! Students need to be ready to roll up their sleeves and start working from the first day of the semester. There is no “easing into it.” This can easily overwhelm even the most conscientious student. Some students feel like they just cannot handle all of the pressure and give up before they really have a chance to live up to their potential.

All of these common causes are preventable, other than unexpected life events. Ultimately, it’s best to know the ways to avoid these causes before you begin your college career, but even if you are in college right now, it’s not too late to make the changes necessary to end up with that desired degree in your hand! Here are some practical tips that can help you avoid the common causes of students dropping out of college.

Try: It is tough to balance social and academic lives, especially now that your schedule is your own. But rather than join every club and group that sounds interesting, pick one or two that you think you will love and then add on once you see what the work load is like. Remember too much of anything, even the good stuff, can cause overwhelm!

Try: Reach out when you need help! Many students have never had to do the searching when they had an issue-their parents did it for them. Now that you are an adult, it’s up to you to do this for yourself. It can be scary to step out of your comfort zone, but if you need assistance, there is help right on campus, no matter what the issue. Access free tutoring, advising and counseling services. Get help from an academic librarian, the career center and your professors! Reaching out can make the difference between getting that degree and not.

Try: Taking a study skills class may seem elementary, and well, just plain lame, but many students find themselves unable to keep up with the work load using their standard study methods. A study skills class can teach you how to effectively take notes, how you learn best and effective studying techniques. Each of these skills will be vital each step of the way, so learning them right up front will save you a lot of time and frustration.

Try: Have a Plan B. It is true that life can throw circumstances at us that we do not expect, but having an “escape route” can put your mind at ease, and help you transition more smoothly if necessary. If your car is old and has been making a funny sound, it might be a good idea to come up with a reasonable alternative for getting to class. Sometimes there is nothing to prepare us for bad things that happen, but often times a little problem solving and proactive thinking can turn a stressful situation into something that does not overwhelm you.

Try: In recent years it has become increasingly common for students to take a year off between high school and college-what they call a Gap Year. This can be a tremendous advantage for many young adults! You get a taste of what real life can throw at you while getting a break from the books. If you are on the fence about whether or not college is for you, this is a good time to decide…before you end up with debt that doesn’t lead to a degree.

Try: A Gap Year can also be helpful in avoiding a huge amount of student loans right from the start. You may consider taking some time off to work and save up some money that you can fall back on if another revenue source dries up or does not come through. Sometimes just knowing that you have a cushion if you need it can help you relax and get on with learning rather than worrying about money.

Try: Grab as many scholarships and grants that you can! Applying for scholarships can seem overwhelming, but you are in the right place to get help with that! Acquiring scholarships means less student debt, which means a more secure future. It’s worth the time and effort.

Try: Make a schedule so that you can more easily envision all of your responsibilities and plan your time accordingly. This may mean that you have to say no to some social activities, but on the other hand, it also means fewer (or no) all-nighters trying to cram for a test (which never works anyway).

Try: Make a budget and stick to it! Easier said than done, I know, but now is the time to learn about managing your finances. And it’s easier now than ever to stay financially on track because there are lots of different (free) apps available to help you make a plan and make it work for you.