Top 5 Reasons for Dropping Out of College

College is an exciting time for many, as it opens the door to a plethora of new experiences, freedom, and the opportunity to dig deeper into subjects that you are truly interested in. However, it can also come with challenges if you don’t go into it prepared. Not only are university courses more rigorous than those in high school, but the increased freedom can also lead to procrastination, lack of motivation, and more. It is also expensive to pursue higher education these days, so it’s important to get yourself in the right mindset before starting college.

Did you know? Reports indicate that only about 60% of college students in 2011 actually graduated with their Bachelor’s degree at the same institution they started in.

Even though American dropout rates are quite shocking, you don’t have to be a part of the statistics. As a high school student, you can take measures early on to set yourself up for success and be ready for the transition into college life.

Let’s review some common reasons why American college students drop out so you’ll know the potential pitfalls ahead of time, and be able to create a solid plan of action for when challenges come up.

Reason 1: Higher Education is Expensive

Problem: The cost of college has gone up immensely over the years, and it’s a big reason why students from underprivileged backgrounds drop out. Another thing to consider is that some college degrees may not lead to jobs paying well enough to justify college debt.

Solution: Having a solid financial plan can make college more affordable and within reach for many. You may be wondering, “what can I do now to afford my future college tuition?” As a high school junior or senior, you can start applying for scholarships and grants, and other types of financial aid. Scholarships and grants differ from loans in that they do not have to be repaid. Additionally, you can look into work-study options, where you essentially pick up a part-time job on-campus and have your paycheck go directly towards your college tuition expenses.

Bear in mind that some schools may offer more financial aid than others. If your dream school doesn’t offer enough financial aid to cover tuition, don’t be discouraged. Consider taking a year off to work and save up money, or enroll in a community college for two years and then transfer to the university of your choice. Community college classes are a lot cheaper than classes in four-year colleges, so you’ll be able to save a good chunk of cash this way.

Reason 2: Unprepared for Academic Demands

Problem: Students having a hard time keeping up with their classes and understanding complex topics may be inclined to drop out. While some may do fine in high school, college is a whole other ballgame. It can get very overwhelming if you aren’t prepared for university level-classes and as a result, end up struggling to pass. In fact, studies have shown that a whopping 60% of American students are actually not ready for college courses!

Solution: Trying to take too many classes at once while juggling a job and a healthy social & personal life can be rough, especially for freshmen. That being said, it’s a good idea to take a step back and see where you can mitigate stress. For example, reducing class load for the first few semesters may allow you to get the hang of college life. Though stress is normal and part of college life, it can be harmful if you don’t manage it in a healthy manner.

Don’t forget that career center tutors, guidance counselors, and university professors are always at your disposal should you need assistance. Guidance counselors may help you get a clearer picture of what you want to major in if you are still on the fence, while university professors hold office hours, providing the opportunity for students to drop in and get clarification one-on-one about a class topic.

Reason 3: Lack of Discipline

Problem: Freedom is what you make of it. For many, it’s the first time experiencing life where you can come and go as you please, eat and drink whatever you wish, and even take naps in the middle of the day – all without parental guidance. Going a bit too crazy with the “good times” can come with unpleasant side effects like gaining unwanted weight, academic probation, and more.

Solution: It’s important to set boundaries for yourself so that you can have fun responsibly without “losing it.” Remember that balance is key! Setting a schedule is a great place to start. It will give you a sense of structure to each day, and you’ll be more likely to not only get your schoolwork taken care of, but also remember to eat during meal times, go to the gym regularly, and make it to work on time. Sometimes life in college can get hectic, so having even a rough schedule to follow can make a big difference!

Having an accountability partner can also go a long way in boosting productivity if you are the type to lose motivation if you’re the only one holding yourself accountable. If this sounds like you, consider asking a classmate or roommate to be your accountability buddy.

Reason 4: Unhappy with The School or College Experience

Problem: For some, college life doesn’t pan out as expected. Perhaps you’re feeling an overall feeling of unhappiness at the school you’re in, your roommate is getting to your last nerve, or you’re far from home feeling lonely and homesick. Going to college can come with a lot of strong, difficult emotions. It can be a real challenge to muster up the strength to make it to classes every day. As you might imagine, these feelings may naturally lead to people dropping out of college to go back home, where they can seek comfort.

Solution: Going from high school to college is a big transition. Allow yourself time to adjust. Make new friends on campus by joining clubs or organizations that line up with your interests and values. Alternatively, you can join a local MeetUp to meet like-minded people outside of school, take on volunteer projects, and more. Having a strong support system can help you feel better. You may even create a little study group with peers in your classes so that you can not only work on assignments and prepare for exams together, but also share your unique experiences in the classes. A sense of community and belonging is imperative to success in college.

Reason 5: Life Happens

Problem: Things can happen at any time in your personal life that may deter you from achieving your academic goals. Relationships end, family members get ill, professional opportunities come up. Sometimes, these outside obligations are too big to ignore, and dropping out of college may seem like the only choice.

Solution: Before you decide to drop out, consider talking to your professors and college counselor. Many times, they are willing to help you find a solution so that you can take some time off without sacrificing all your hard work and academic progress.


If you’re feeling anxious about your future after high school graduation, you are not alone. It is totally normal to take some time for yourself to decide what you want to do next. Chase after academic success by taking proactive steps early on. Reach out to mentors, college counselors, and students pursuing your major of choice. With the right preparation, you can thrive in college!