Let's face it, college is not for everyone. Whether you're caring for a sick family member, can't afford expensive tuition, or just have other plans, there are a few things worth considering before suspending your education. It will be important to go through the right channels to finalize your enrollment, have a realistic backup plan and, above all, be sure that you will do what is best for you. With just a little foresight, you can take an invigorating break to improve your chances of succeeding in the future.
Part 1 of 3: Handling the Bureaucratic Details
Step 1. Talk to your teachers about your decision
A trusted teacher or advisor can help you clarify your reasons for leaving college and offer wise advice on what to do next. Even if you are not interested in hearing what they have to say, it is common courtesy to let them know that you will no longer participate in their classes.
- Meet with your teachers in person to explain your circumstances instead of sending them a perfunctory email or leaving them wondering what happened to you.
- Feeling that your classes are too difficult is not a strong enough reason to justify dropping out; Realizing that you don't need formal education to do what you love is.
Step 2. Discuss the possible consequences with a counselor
Meet with an academic advisor from your school to talk about what will happen once you interrupt your education. Keep in mind that by leaving college, you may be forced to give up scholarships, grants, or other benefits that you may have received. It could also affect your relationship with your family if they don't agree with your decision.
- Some colleges do not allow students who dropped out to re-enroll, which could limit your opportunities should you decide to return later.
- Paying off student loans after leaving college will leave you stuck with the financial burden of going to college and not receiving any of the benefits.
Step 3. The semester ends
If the deadline is already in place and you have missed the deadline to drop classes, a good idea would be to simply finish them. This way, you won't have to worry about ruining your GPA. When the next semester rolls around, you can tie up some administrative loose ends and make a clean break.
- Finishing a semester will leave you with a documented final grade and not an ambiguous "incomplete" or "blank."
- The more classes you have under your belt, the more experience you can show employers.
Step 4. Submit a withdrawal request
As part of the withdrawal process, you must fill out some forms and provide a reason why you are leaving. In addition, you may be asked to meet with your academic advisor for exit counseling, which usually involves reviewing important university policies and discussing the options that are open to you. Once you complete the process, your registration will officially end.
Learn about deferred payment plans and other options that could make the financial burden easier to bear while you figure out your next move
Step 5. Take advantage of your university's refund policy
Depending on the date you retire, you may qualify for a full or partial refund of your tuition. In most cases, students who drop out of classes or withdraw from the university before the first day of the semester are eligible for a 100% refund. You will still be responsible for paying student loans and other school expenses, but getting back what you paid for your classes can lighten the load significantly.
- The amount that is normally reimbursed will decrease the later you wait within the established timeframe.
- Check with the treasury office to see if you need to make a formal request to receive a refund.
Part 2 of 3: Planning Your Next Step
Step 1. Prepare to pay off your student loans
Your loan payments will begin after a 6-month grace period after the drop-out date. To make sure you can cover the costs, you will need to look for a job with a steady salary or have some other means of financial security in place, such as an existing savings account. At this point, your main focus should be doing everything you can to avoid the dreaded debt trap.
- Make a financial plan to determine how much you can set aside to make your monthly payments.
- Defaulting on your loans can seriously damage your credit, as well as your chances of being accepted to another college.
Step 2. Find a place to live
Since you will not be able to continue living in the dormitories after leaving college, you will have to start looking for housing options. Find an apartment or a small house somewhere near campus. Once you settle in, you can focus on working and preparing to start a new stage in your life.
- If you don't have a lot of money, consider going back to your family until you earn enough to be able to fend for yourself.
- Moving in with a roommate can ease the financial burden of renting a place on your own.
Step 3. Analyze your prospects
Take an inventory of the options available to you now that you've dropped out of college for the time being. You may be curious about pursuing a career in the military, or you may already be working an internship that promises to give you a full-time position. No matter what your interests are, having a goal to accomplish will give you a sense of purpose and help you make better use of your time and energy.
- Find out if (and how) it would be possible to land your dream job without having a degree by looking up the typical requirements on a job search site or career advice website.
- Be realistic about your other opportunities. Assuming that you will find a way to make things work without having a concrete plan could end up leaving you in a more difficult position.
Part 3 of 3: Exploring College Alternatives
Step 1. Consider taking a break
Instead of giving up academics once and for all, you can simply take a long break. Let your advisor and professors know that you plan to take time off from college. They will walk you through the steps you need to take to re-enroll in the future and explain what will happen to your grades and financial aid money when you drop out.
- If you leave college in good academic standing, you may be reinstated in the same program later with your record intact.
- If you view dropping out as a temporary measure, the whole experience may be a lot less scary.
Step 2. Have a job reserved
If you weren't working to pay for your studies, you will definitely have to find a job in order to make ends meet once you are alone. Even a part-time job will serve as a safety net and give you the opportunity to accumulate funds as you prepare for what might come. Just be willing to start small and progress as you will arrive with fewer credentials.
- Sales, retail management, customer service, office management, and waiting tables can be lucrative jobs for people without graduate degrees.
- For some people, dropping out of college can be an advantage, allowing them to focus their time and attention on a job they are passionate about.
Step 3. Apply for an internship
The right opportunity can help you develop valuable real-world work experience and attach your name to a reputable company, making you that much more attractive to employers. Most companies do not require their interns to have a college degree, which means that their chances are no worse than anyone else's. Hopefully, they might even offer you a permanent position once your internship ends.
- Look for internships that are directly related to your field of interest or area of expertise. If you want to get involved in nonprofit work, for example, you could try volunteering with an organization that helps the homeless access critical social resources.
- Don't be too quick to rule out unpaid internships. They have the potential to lead you to a stable, well-paying job.
- Be sure to mention how long you were in college when completing your education history.
Step 4. Be part of a learning program
Find someone who does what you want to do and ask them to teach you. Many trade and vocational institutes offer internships for professions such as carpentry, plumbing, and auto repair. Learning the basics firsthand from an experienced craftsman is a great way to gain practical knowledge to help you enter a new industry.
- Apprenticeship programs tend to be cheaper, shorter, and more specialized than working toward a degree at a traditional university or community college.
- Do an online search to find out which companies and organizations offer apprenticeship opportunities in your area.
- If you're not satisfied, you may be overworked or it may be time to choose a different field of study.
- Instead of dropping out, consider transferring to a different university or finishing your degree online at your own pace.
- Try to make a decision about whether you should finish your college degree sooner rather than later to give yourself more time to plan your next move and avoid getting into more debt.
- Sit down with your parents or spouse and discuss your feelings before taking any drastic action. This is especially important if they are the ones paying your tuition.
- Make a 2-, 5-, or 10-year plan for yourself. At the end of that time, reassess whether higher education is essential to being successful in your chosen field.
- If you decide to continue your studies where you left off, try twice as hard and come back stronger.