Sometimes the pressure to be successful in college can be so heavy, the only solution seems to be to drop out. (Withdraw, as colleges and universities put it.) On the other hand, you might just be ready to move ahead with your life, anxious to leave school and start a business.
The objective here is not to talk you out of anything. It’s to offer some advice on the steps you should take as you make this big decision.
First of all, if you’ve thought about dropping out, you’re definitely not alone. According to College Atlas, 30% of college freshman drop out … So only about 2/3 of students who enter college leave with a degree.
In fact, the recent Allianz College Confidence Index shows a majority of students enter college wondering if they will actually graduate. There are lots of reasons why. Academic issues. Stress. Anxiety. Medical problems.
So don’t beat yourself up if you have doubts. Everyone has doubts. The question is, where will your doubts lead you?
Start by asking yourself a few important questions. This list is a great place to start.1
- Why do I want to drop out?
- Is the reason I want to drop out something I can fix? If I could change it, would I be willing to stick it out?
- What are the positives and negatives of dropping out?
- What would the consequences of dropping out be?
- Do I have a plan for what I’m going to do if I drop out?
- What can I do to support myself through this time?
- Who can I talk to about this?
Don’t Ignore It.
As with most things in life, trying to avoid or ignore what’s going on will only lead to more difficult decisions – and fewer options. Take the example of Christopher Tobin, a college student in the UK, who recently related this observation in the student life blog he writes for The Guardian newspaper2:
“Despite realizing that things weren’t right at university, I tried to ignore it. I ended up festering in my own head-space. I wish I had told someone as soon as I felt low, but the pressure I felt at the time made it seem impossible.”
Talking to someone you trust to give you objective, non-judgmental advice is important. A mental health professional is always a great choice, but a study conducted by The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease revealed that nearly 80% of students with mental health problems first receive counseling or support from friends, family or other nonprofessionals.3
That said, “for some students, a single session with a mental health professional is all they need, perhaps to help them problem-solve a situation or talk about a personal concern,” says Chris Brownson, Ph.D., associate vice president for student affairs and director of UT-Austin’s Counseling Center.4
The important thing … talk to someone.
There can also be some significant financial considerations to your decision, and it’s important to understand these implications before you withdraw. Every school has its own tuition refund policy. Depending on when you withdraw, you may get a pro-rated refund of the tuition and fees you (or your parents) have paid … or, perhaps, no refund at all. It all depends on the timing.
You should also think about your student loans. “Many students who withdraw from school not only end up having student loan debt but end up owing the school directly as well.”5
If you do decide to leave college in the middle of the semester, also pay attention to your school’s withdrawal policy. Colleges and universities are also required to have a written withdrawal policy that explains exactly what a student must do to be considered withdrawn from the school.
You’ll need to follow these steps to the letter, or you might end up having to pay for the entire semester even if you only attended for a week or two. And no, just not showing up isn’t an official withdrawal … you need to officially communicate your intent.
Before you act, take the time to really think things through. Consider all the possibilities, including finding ways to utilize your support system – help available at your school, as well as from your friends and family. After all, you don’t want to end up with the kinds of regrets expressed by the student who posted this on the website askmetafilter.com. “I blew $20,000 of my parents’ money in a decision that I’ve admitted to them was the most unforgivable, shameful thing I’ve ever done.”6
There’s no shame in dropping out. There can be regrets, though, at not thinking it through and taking steps to minimize the financial impact. Many families now purchase Allianz Tuition Insurance to protect the investment they have made in higher education. Of the 3 plans currently available, the Advantage plan offers the most comprehensive coverage, including reimbursement no matter the reason. See if tuition insurance is right for you.