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Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Drop Out of College

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This heart-to-heart post is for all those students who get up every morning facing the dreaded question: “Should I drop out of college?”

As an undergraduate student in her early 40s who is going back to school after dropping out of university FOUR TIMES, I have quite a bit of wisdom to share with you.

2023 Undergraduate Student Dropout Rate

Did you know that according to Education Data Initiative’s 2023 report, up to 40% of undergraduate students in the United States drop out?

As someone who’s been in the 40% statistic four different times in my life, the number doesn’t surprise me. But this percentage doesn’t mean failure – and sometimes dropping out is the best thing you can do for yourself.

My journey through formal education is a bit unconventional, and I sincerely hope that both my experience and this post helps anyone who is unsure about dropping out of college.

If you’re interested, you can read my full story here!

10 Valid Reasons Why You Should Drop Out of College

In a society where the traditional path to success often involves obtaining a degree, a decision to drop out of college may seem irresponsible. However, there are circumstances and considerations where dropping out could pave the way for a more fulfilling and successful future.

In conjunction with my own experiences, below I go over 10 reasons why dropping out of college may be the right choice for you.

1. You Were Pressured Into Enrolling

A lot of us have parents to thank for being pressured into college, usually right out of high school.

From someone who’s dropped out of college four times, this (combined with reason #8) was the first reason why I left school. I wanted a year off to work as I didn’t know what career I was interested in pursuing, but my parents insisted I had to do some kind of post-secondary study, in (their) fear that I would never go back to school if I had any kind of time off.

I know they meant the best for me, especially coming from someone who’s mom was a teacher. However, when you feel pressured to pursue higher education against your will, it results in low performance, unhappiness and in my case, lots of tears.

Going to college is a big commitment. It should be a decision rooted in personal ambition and genuine interest, and not the expectation of external pressures or social expectations.

2. You Can’t Afford It

With college tuition costs increasing every year, many students find themselves burdened with substantial debt upon graduation.

Taking out a student loan sets you up for years (if not decades) of financial obligation, whether you graduate or not. Even if you’re paying for college without a loan, you may be on a very tight budget that leaves you worrying more about how you’re going to pay rent than your upcoming assignments.

Crippling feelings of stress or anxiety about not having enough money or inevitable loan debt is a strong indicator to drop out of college. It’s not worth your mental health or well-being if college is a daily financial struggle.

If you’re in a traditional brick-and-mortar university, you could consider doing your degree online instead. While the tuition isn’t necessarily cheaper, it will save you money on transportation, room and board and campus meal plans.

3. It’s Not What You Want To Do Anymore

Many students start college for a career they think they will love, only to get a few semesters in and decide it’s not for them.

For example, you start a computer science program excited to become a video game designer, but after a just a few courses you learn how much math is required in daily coding. You hate math, and couldn’t imagine doing this for the rest of your life.

Laptop open to a math instruction YouTube video beside an open notebook, calculator and textbook.
The math component of coding is why I dropped out of my computer science program.

Or, you could work be working in the field alongside getting your designation when a more suitable career option presents itself.

When I was working as a staff accountant, I was also going to night school to get my accounting degree. However, I got the opportunity to temporarily experience a different role within the company and after a while, the idea of becoming an accountant and doing the same thing day after day bore me to tears. So, you guessed it – I dropped out of college and couldn’t have been happier.

It’s ok to change your mind. Liking the idea of a career is very different from how it actually transpires, and nothing can prepare you for how you’ll feel until you’re actually doing it. With all the career choices we have today, the world really is your oyster.

Gone are the days where only professions like lawyers, accountants and doctors make all the money, unless that’s what your passion is of course!

4. You Lack Direction

Also know as “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” You can have this feeling at 20 years old or 40 years old – it’s a tough question!

If you’re going to college just for the sake of going to college because you think it’s the right thing to do, it may be better to take some time off to think about what you really want. This could be getting a job in the industry you’re interested in, or traveling to broaden your horizons to see what’s out there.

– Alexandra

If you want to have a degree in your back pocket just in case then there’s nothing wrong with that, but is it really worth your time, energy and money?

Not knowing what you want to do in this day and age is very common, no matter what your age. There are so many more ways to make money than there was even 10 years ago, so it’s no wonder people have a hard time deciding.

Rather than forcing yourself to follow a predetermined course of study without a clear vision for your future, allow yourself the time and space to pursue your passion over prestige.

5. The Work You Love Doesn’t Require a Degree

While Melanie Perkins (founder of Canva, an online graphic design platform) and Bill Gates (co-founder of Microsoft, a computer software company) are more famous examples of successful college dropouts, there are millions of others who created their own business and made their dreams come true.

But you don’t need to aspire to be a CEO of a multi-million dollar company to be successful in life if that’s not your passion.

Success looks different to everyone, and what one person views as successful may mean nothing to another.

– Alexandra

Many well-paying jobs don’t require a degree, such as sales representatives, real estate agents, pest control technicians and postmen to name just a few. Entrepreneurship, blogging and content creation don’t require degrees either.

A degree may help you gain an advantage, but if the work you’re really passionate about doesn’t require an official diploma and everyday you’re asking yourself the “Should I drop out of college” question, then “Yes” is probably the right answer.

6. The Format Isn’t Right for You

Some students don’t do well with in-person classes, while others suffer with the online learning format.

The second time I dropped out of university I was taking a night class at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). I loved learning and didn’t mind the homework part, but commuting and sitting in class at night while working full-time during the day was a killer. So much so that I dropped out, and back in those days online degrees weren’t very well-known.

Sometimes the format just isn’t right for you, or your school or program doesn’t offer another alternative. If you’re suffering with in-person classes but your college doesn’t offer your program as an online option, you may have to drop out until you find another school that accommodates you.

See also: How to Choose the Best Online Degree Program: 19 Tips to help you find an online college that’s right for you

7. You’re Experiencing a Major Health Issue

If you develop any major health issues while you’re in college and studying prevents you from getting better or makes the issue worse, dropping out of university is undeniably the right decision.

During my second term of the Marketing Management Program at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) one of my closest classmates got really sick and had to be admitted to the hospital, and it turned out she was going to need a while to recover. Because both of us were forced to enroll at BCIT in the first place (reason #1 on this list), she was actually happy about it and I was jealous. It meant she got to withdraw while I had to stick with something I didn’t want to do.

However, some medical conditions can make it impossible to study even remotely. When it comes to dropping out of college, your health always comes first and school second.

See also: How to Stay Healthy as an Online Student and learn how to take every precaution within your control to feel your best

8. A Close Family Member Falls Ill

Health is so important in life, and a family member falling ill is both heartbreaking and devastating, reshaping your priorities and shifting perspectives in ways you never imagined.

When I was enrolled in the Bachelor of Commerce program at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), my dad was diagnosed with a very rare form of spinal cancer. One day he was walking, and a month later he was in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. It completely turned our family’s world upside down. Learning to properly care for someone who becomes suddenly disabled is a college degree within itself. And to add insult to injury, this coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, I dropped out.

Your loved one could be a parent, spouse, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle or anyone who isn’t blood related but is part of your family.

During these challenging times, the demands of caregiving and emotional support can become all-consuming, leaving little room for study. In this situation, dropping out of college can be a necessary and compassionate choice.

9. Personal Reasons

In addition to your health and the health of others close to you, there are many other personal reasons why dropping out of college is the right decision.

Sometimes life has a way of throwing a wrench into our most well-crafted plans. Whether it’s grappling with mental health challenges, navigating family responsibilities or confronting significant life changes, personal struggles can take their toll on your studies.

In these circumstances, dropping out of college can be a courageous act of self-preservation and self-care. It’s about recognizing your limitations and honouring the need for time and space to address your personal challenges.

Remember, you can always go back to school at anytime.

10. You Want to See What the World Has to Offer

Travel is the number one reason why I chose to do my degree online. I’m able to study and explore the world simultaneously.

However, if you don’t know what you want to study or just want some time off, dropping out of college to travel allows you to gain a global perspective of the world that you won’t get from a classroom.

Experiencing new cultures, languages, and landscapes broadens your perspectives, fostering independence, adaptability, and problem-solving skills as you navigate unfamiliar environments and situations. Learning how to take the tube in London by myself was scary at first, but after a few times of changing lines (and not getting lost once!) I noticed my self-confidence greatly improve. It’s still something I proudly look back on.

You could even find your calling in another country. Many people today move cities, countries and continents, sometimes every few years.

Dropping out of college to pursue travel over a degree isn’t for everyone, but for those adventurous souls who feel most at home when traveling the world, it’s the right option.

Your Decision to Drop Out of College Isn’t Final

Even though you decide to drop out of college, know that you can always go back to school at any time no matter how old you are. These days it’s common for people to change careers multiple times throughout their lives.

“When one door closes, another one opens.”

If you’re on the fence about dropping out and need some support and encouragement, sign up for my email list below and follow me on Instagram to join our online student community. You don’t have to go through your study journey alone!

Have you ever dropped out of college, or are considering it?

By sharing your thoughts in the comments, your insight may be a lifeline to someone who may feel isolated or overwhelmed by their circumstances!

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