While many politicians and parents consider attending college a means to success, that isn’t always the case.
For some students, the large amount of debt that they’re left with after college can affect their quality of life for several decades.
Circumstances also change while you’re in college.
For most students, attending a university occurs while you are starting to establish your identity, friendships, and values.
This transformative year can be stressful enough, and adding college classes on top of it can impact your mental health.
You may eventually come to the decision that college isn’t right for you, or it isn’t the right time yet to attend college.
In that case, maybe you are wondering how you can drop out of college the right way without simply skipping classes.
Here’s how to officially drop out of college.
How To Drop Out Of College (The Proper Way)
1. Determine Choices
Before you drop out of college, you should determine if any other choices might fit your situation better.
For example, if you know that you really only need to take a semester off from school, then dropping out may not be worth it.
When you drop out of college, you have to reapply to the school later.
This can be hectic if it’s a tough school to gain entry to already.
It may be even more difficult to get into it a second time if they see that you dropped out before.
A better course of action might be to take a leave of absence.
You’ll need to put in a formal request to your advisor if you want to use this method.
A leave of absence allows you to take a semester off without a penalty.
You don’t need to enroll in any classes, and you don’t have to pay anything.
That gives you a few months to settle yourself and determine whether you want to continue with college or not.
Some schools require you to have a doctor’s note or some other written reason for the leave of absence.
However, you can likely work with your advisor to have them grant your leave.
If you determine at the end of your leave that you still want to drop out, then you will have given yourself plenty of time to prepare for it.
2. Decide On Going Part-Time
Another option to consider before choosing to drop out is to attend college part-time instead.
When you go to college part-time, it means that you attend classes for half the number of credits that you usually need to take every semester.
In some cases, you can still receive financial aid even if you’re attending part-time.
You only need to ensure that you’re taking the right number of credits to qualify.
That said, if you’re taking classes part-time, then you usually have enough time to also take on a part-time job.
The job can help pay for the one or two classes that you’re taking at college.
Not only is this a great way to stay out of debt, but it ensures you’re not completely overwhelmed by your classes either.
The downside is that it’s going to take a lot longer to earn your degree.
If you don’t mind trading time for staying out of debt, however, then attending part-time might be a great solution instead of dropping out of college.
Attending part-time also gives you enough time to focus on yourself.
Whether you need to take care of a loved one, focus on your own wellbeing, or simply put certain aspects of your life together, limiting the number of hours you’re at college can help you.
3. Prepare Your Grades
If you’re still planning on dropping out of college, then you need to prepare your grades if you decide to return later.
You should do your best not to leave school during a semester.
Leaving the school during the semester may force you to pay for the classes without the help of financial aid.
It can also affect your grades.
One of the best things you can do to ensure your grade point average at the school remains unimpacted is to have your courses withdrawn.
You’ll see this as a W on your transcript.
A W doesn’t carry any grade penalty.
This means it won’t affect your GPA.
If you leave during a semester, however, then your professor may mark your grade with an incomplete.
Having an I on your record does carry a penalty on your GPA.
One good aspect of an incomplete, however, is that if you speak with your professor, you can have them keep the incomplete on your record for a limited time.
Within that time, you can complete any exams or projects that they require you to complete.
As long as you finish your tasks within that timeframe, the professor will remove the I and grade you accordingly.
It’s a good way to give yourself a little extra time to ensure you leave with the best grade possible.
You’ll also want to do your best to finish the rest of your classes with decent grades.
If you ever decide to return to college, then having a transcript with good or decent grades improves your chances of acceptance back into the college.
It’s also helpful if you ever decide to attend a different college.
They’ll consider your performance at your previous college when determining to accept you or not.
If they see you did what you could to maintain a good or decent GPA, then they’re more likely to accept you.
Taking care of your grades before you drop out of college is a great way to prepare for your potential future.
4. Put In Your Notice
One of the formal steps that you need to take to drop out of college is to put in an official notice.
Most colleges require that you submit a written note about your intention to drop out of school.
You’ll also need to include an official date of your withdrawal.
It’s not unlike putting in a two-week notice when you’re quitting a job.
The note needs to go to your advisor or the registrar.
In most cases, your advisor will give the note to the registrar on your behalf.
Every university is different in how they approach the withdrawal process, however.
Your advisor can tell you if you need to take any further steps.
The registrar may also have additional paperwork for you to read and sign.
Although you may be eager to leave college behind, it’s worth taking your time with the paperwork to ensure you understand the scope of leaving college.
5. Determine Moving Out Timetable
Another step to take when dropping out of college is to determine what happens if you’re living in a dorm or some form of college living.
Dormitories, for example, are places for students to live.
Since you’re no longer a student, you will not be allowed to live there any longer.
Before you put in your notice to leave college, you’ll want to ensure you have a place to live.
That might mean moving back with your parents, moving in with some friends in their apartment, or finding your own apartment to live in for the time being.
You’ll also want to ensure that you have that place available to you right after you submit your notice.
The last thing you want is to find yourself between two different rental agreements with nowhere to stay until your leasing period starts at your new home.
You’ll also need to be aware of any obligations you owe to the dormitory or apartment when moving out.
For example, most housing offices require you to clean your dorm room and fix any damage that occurred during your time there.
That might come with some expenses that you didn’t expect.
Others may still require you to pay your lease in full even though you’re no longer staying there.
To avoid financial hardship, you should speak with the housing office beforehand to determine your financial obligations when leaving.
A final step to take when you drop out is to leave your keys with the appropriate authority.
This might mean the person at the front desk of the dormitory or in the housing office.
Knowing where to go, whom to give the keys to, and when to do it can make dropping out easier and ensure you don’t receive any penalties.
6. Prepare For Financial Obligations
Dropping out of college isn’t as simple as never returning to the campus again.
It comes with financial obligations that you need to attend to avoid penalties.
If you take out federal loans, then you’ll likely need to return the money that you borrowed for that academic year.
The federal loan system requires you to complete at least 60% of the loan period.
This generally extends through most of the academic year.
If you drop out before then, the college will take the remaining money that you have and pay it back to the federal loan service since it isn’t being applied to tuition anymore.
The good news is that you’ll owe less money to the federal government overall.
That said, if you accrue any more tuition fees for the rest of the year, then you’ll have to pay for them out of your own pocket.
This also applies to scholarships and grants.
Some scholarships and grants require you to complete a course, semester, or even a degree.
If you fail to do so, then the scholarship or grant becomes void.
You’ll need to pay that money back since you didn’t satisfy the requirements to receive the funds.
If you received any scholarships or grants, then it’s worth it to check the fine print to determine if there are any of these clauses.
In most cases, it’s a better idea to drop out of college before the academic year or semester begins.
This ensures that you can avoid any tuition fees and avoid taking money from the federal loan system, too.
What To Do After You Drop Out Of College
If you’re considering dropping out of college, then you’re not alone.
Around one million students drop out of college every year.
While many consider attending college to be the path to financial freedom and success, that isn’t always the case.
You can still find financial freedom and success without a college degree.
Here are some of the steps you should take after dropping out of college to ensure your own success.
1. Consider Vocational Training
One reason that you may have decided to drop out of college is that you didn’t feel that it was the right fit for you.
Maybe the degree wasn’t what you thought it would be.
Maybe the career outlook for the degree didn’t look particularly prosperous.
Maybe you just didn’t enjoy the workload.
Whatever the reason, you may find attending vocational training to be more satisfactory.
Vocational training is a type of school or class that teaches you a specific set of skills to do a job.
It may be something like working as a paramedic or an HVAC technician.
Trade schools and even formal apprenticeships tend to be a lot cheaper than a college degree.
You can also make considerable money with certain trades like being an electrician, plumber, or HVAC tech because those jobs are difficult to automate.
Not everyone has the skills to take care of HVAC or plumbing or electrical systems.
As a result, you can earn a decent amount of money and even start your own business.
You may have dropped out of college, but you can still earn a lot of money without accruing as much debt by attending a trade school.
2. Determine Your Skills And Level Of Experience
You may feel that you’re out of luck applying for some jobs because they require a college degree.
However, this requirement is often negotiable if you can demonstrate that you have enough experience.
Employers are more interested in what you bring to the table than what school you attended.
If you can prove that you have the skills and experience they’re looking for, then you’re more likely to receive the job.
You can often develop your skills and experience by working through an apprenticeship, an internship, or even on your own.
Use that time to build a portfolio or earn letters of recommendation that prove you have the skills and experience to back you up.
Dropping out of college is a great opportunity to focus on yourself and start developing your skills and experience in a more targeted way.
Instead of learning about the theory of something, you can start working on the practical part of it and land a job faster.
One of the benefits of attending college is that you can make some decent connections.
You can find other students who are in the same field as you who can become useful coworkers later.
You can find students in other fields who might be useful in other departments.
Your professors, research assistants, and even your advisor can also all be great connections for networking down the line.
When you drop out of college, it’s worth trying to maintain these connections for your network outside of college.
If you never attended college, then it’s worth trying to create those connections on your own.
That might mean attending paid lectures of a professor or lecturer in the industry you have an interest in joining.
It might mean seeking an apprenticeship or internship in a company that you want to have connections to.
You can even find connections at the trade school that you attend.
Networking is essential to success because it gives you opportunities that aren’t open to the public.
For example, if you have the right connection, then you might learn that a specific business is looking to hire soon.
You can put your name in the hat right from the start and potentially get the job before it’s even officially advertised.
Networking is one of the best ways to find success outside of college.
4. Online Courses
One of the best things the internet has given to society is the ability to learn anything for little to no money.
You can find whole college courses online for a fraction of what it would cost you at an actual college.
Not only can you cut out the fluff courses that degrees force you to take, but it also saves you time and money.
When you know you have an interest in a particular industry or subject, then you should find an online course for it and learn.
You can start your own business or find jobs in the related field with all the education you need to get the job done right.
Dropping out of college can be a scary concept for young students.
However, if you need to focus on a loved one or your own mental wellbeing, then it’s usually worth it.
The good news is that, with proper planning, you can drop out of college without it hurting you.
You can also find other methods of success without having a college degree attached to your name.