Why Do Students Drop Out of College?

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The number of students attending colleges is on the rise, but so is the number of students dropping out of colleges. While college is a great way to help give yourself the tools you need to succeed in the future, it is also a time and money intensive experience that doesn’t fit well with some students. In this article, we’ll be discussing some of the statistics on why students drop out of college, as well as shedding some light on how we might be able to lower the number of students who feel the need to drop out of college.

What is a College Dropout?What is a College Dropout?

A college dropout is a person who has dropped out of college. Dropping out of college means that you, for whatever reason, are not able to complete the intended amount of years at college and thus leave without a degree. Dropping out of college is generally frowned upon, but many students feel that this is their best or only option.

Unfortunately, since cost is such a significant factor in everything to do with college, about half of college dropouts come from families that make under $35,000 a year. As the wealth gap continues to grow, the statistics on students dropping out of college continue to change, but the general trend is that more students are applying to, attending, and dropping out from colleges across the county.

How Many People Dropout of College Based on Study?

How Many People Dropout of College Based on Study?

Getting an exact number of people who drop out of college is a challenging task since there can be a variety of reasons why someone might leave college, and not all reasons cause them to be counted as a dropout. Some students may take a year off from college and then return, meaning that they would be counted as a college dropout by some studies and not by others.

Depending on the specific study you are looking at and the particular degree program that a student is in, their chance of dropping out is between 35% and 55%. This statistic breaks down some based on the type of school and what year of school the student is in, but in general, a little under half of the students who start on a degree-seeking path are likely to drop out before they complete the degree.

The unfortunate reality is that a large number of people who start college never finish for whatever reason. There are people who are likely to try and re-do college after dropping out once, but they are still at a high risk of dropping out again. This means that people dropping out of college more than once is not an uncommon occurrence.

Why Do College Students Dropout? 7 Reasons

Why Do College Students Dropout? 7 Reasons

There are so many potential reasons why students may feel like dropping out of college is the best option for them at that point in their life. There are most certainly other reasons beyond the ones we’re listing here, but these are some of the most common reasons why students drop out of college.

Financial challenges

Financial challenges are among the most prominent reasons students tend to drop out of college since college is expensive. Although there are ways to get help paying for school, such as financial aid or scholarships, attending college for four years can still get pretty darn pricey, and it’s not just the cost of tuition that students have to worry about. The cost of living, the cost of textbooks and other necessary resources, as well as any travel expenses are just some of the many expenses that come with college.

Bad work/school balance

Whatever the root of the problem is, many students struggle to find a good balance between school and work. Although this tends to be related to a need to maintain a full-time job or multiple part-time jobs in order to meet the financial obligations of college, there could be other reasons why students feel that they can’t balance work and school well enough to make it worth continuing on with.

These top two reasons generally account for about ¾ of the students who drop out of college, meaning that a person’s financial situation can say a great deal about their likelihood to drop out of college. The statistics on why students drop out of college are pretty clear in pointing to money as a significant culprit.

Family troubles

This could be that you feel that you need to quit school to help care for a sick relative, help raise a younger sibling, or get a full-time job in order to help support your family. Whatever the reason is, many students do feel an obligation to leave school in order to help out their family.

Another common occurrence that falls into the category of family troubles that may cause someone to drop out of college is a woman getting pregnant. Unfortunately, it is a considerable challenge for a young mother to care for her child, afford childcare and medical expenses associated with the child, and attend school. This is a challenge if there are two parents, but for a young, single mother, this is a likely cause for her to leave school.

Lack of need for a degree

Suppose a student gets a good job either during school or over a summer or other break, and there is potential for that job to continue on. In that case, they may feel that it is no longer worth it financially for them to continue paying for an education. This is not quite as common as the previous three reasons we mentioned, but the general feeling that you won’t need your degree as much as you initially thought you would, is a prevalent feeling amongst many college students.

Some students also feel that pursuing education through a trade school or vocational school is better for their career goals. By attending a cheaper schooling option that takes less time to complete, some students feel that they can still get a good job. This makes the need for lengthy and expensive degrees not worth it for every student.

Feeling overwhelmed or underprepared.

Going into college is stressful, and feeling overwhelmed or underprepared can lead to students opting to drop out of college. This could be because they feel that their previous education didn’t prepare them well enough for the rigor of classes at college, and they don’t want to waste the money paying tuition, or it could be because feeling so overwhelmed is negatively impacting their health. These manifest differently in different people, but feeling overwhelmed or underprepared can really put a damper on anyone.

Unfortunately, fitting in and succeeding at many elite colleges is more than just being academically prepared for the workload. Many students from lower-class backgrounds or minority students struggle to fit into some elite schools’ general atmosphere. This feeling of being underprepared for or overwhelmed by the social climate at schools can play a large role in why students may want to drop out.

Wasn’t the right school fit

This is why people put so much pressure on the college application process. If students take the time to find the college that is the right fit for them, they are much more likely to continue with their education. If, for any reason, a student feels like the college that they go to isn’t the right fit for them, it can lead them to want to drop out. Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons why students may not take the time to find the right school for them, and a lot of those reasons involve financial stressors.

Unsure of major or focus

If a student feels that they have no focus or have no idea what their major should be, they may feel like the money they spend on receiving a college education is just going to waste. Many students who feel like this dropout and take some time to work and honestly figure out what they want to study. This tends to be the group of students who drop out and then go back and complete college later.

What Can Be Done to Prevent College Students from Dropout

What Can Be Done to Prevent College Students from Dropout?

The best way to prevent students from dropping out of college is to avoid the problems that are likely to make them want to drop out. This is much harder than simply telling a student to stay in school since there are often a lot of forces at play that can make a student feel like they need to drop out of school.

The best thing you can do before you even get to college is to make sure that the college you are going to is the right college for you and that this is the right time for you to go to college. If you feel that the time isn’t right for you, it might be a good idea to differ for a year and take a gap year to really figure out what you want to do. Finding a college that fits your interests and needs can take time, but it is a great way to help minimize the chance of dropping out later on.

Another big reason students drop out of college is their challenges with either their mental or physical health. Health is a huge concern for students and should be taken seriously by the student, parents, and the school. Students with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness may be at a higher risk of dropping out, and the same goes for students with physical disabilities. These students are under immense amounts of stress, so schools need to support them.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Dropping out of College?

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Dropping out of College?

While there are some overarching disadvantages to dropping out of college, the advantages of dropping out of college can be much harder to see. Many of the advantages of dropping out of college are specific to each student and are hard to generalize. Although some generalization can be said about the effects of dropping out of college, many of the specific effects are situationally dependent.

For example, if a student feels that they are needed at home to take care of a loved one or to work a job and help support their family, then they may feel that the advantage of dropping out of college is taking care of their family. This may be a significant enough advantage for the student to drop out of college. The same advantage cannot be applied to every student since each student is likely to have a different reason for dropping out of college.

The big disadvantage of dropping out of college or leaving college early is the lack of education you would have been receiving. If you drop out of college, you leave without the degree or certification you had initially been working toward. This could have a negative impact on your job prospects in the future since employers hardly ever look at dropping out of college as a good thing.

Wrapping Things Up: Why Do Students Dropout of College

Dropping out of college is a choice that students may make for various reasons but can have lasting impacts on their entire life. Understanding the reasons why a student might consider dropping out of college is the best way to help minimize the chance that a student at-risk of dropping out will drop out. Make sure that you understand what you are getting yourself into when you pick a college, and don’t be afraid to take some time off if you feel that college is not right for you at that point.


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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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