How to Go Back to College After Dropping Out

How to Go Back to College After Dropping Out

8 minute read

Going to college can be an exciting time for many people. Students are usually optimistic, energetic, and driven to succeed. But for some, staying in college can be too much of a challenge and they need to drop out. If you are thinking about going back to college after dropping out, you might be worried about how to do it and what to expect. StraighterLine is here to let you know that no matter what your reasons were for dropping out, you absolutely can (and should!) go back to college. There’s never been a better time for adult students to finish that degree they started. We’re here to help you understand your options as well as the steps you need to take to return to the world of higher education.

Why Do Students Drop Out of College?

There are many possible reasons why you may have dropped out of college the first time around. We know there are often circumstances beyond your control that can derail even the best of intentions and hard work. While this is not a complete list by any means, here are three of the most common reasons why students drop out of college:

1. Finances

Finances are a major issue for most students attending college. Even if they can afford tuition, they may lack money to pay for housing, food, books, and other cost-of-living expenses. Financial aid can be confusing to navigate, and some students fear student debt after college.

2. Academic Challenges

College-level work may prove too challenging for some students. They may not be able to balance the demands of a college class schedule with social activities. And even entry-level classes can be tough for students who didn’t excel at those subjects in high school.

3. Work/Life Balance

Students who work or take care of family members while attending school can find it hard to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Their non-school demands may make it difficult to attend classes or complete assignments, causing them to fall behind and eventually drop out.

Why Go Back to School?

Whatever your reasons were for dropping out of college, it’s never too late to consider going back to college now. Anyone can go back to school at any time. Thanks to online learning through programs like StraighterLine, going back to college after dropping out has never been easier or more accessible. Here are some of the reasons why you might consider going back to college:

Career Advancement

Having a degree in a field related to your current job may provide an edge over other candidates vying for promotions. A bachelor's or master's degree can increase your eligibility for leadership or managerial roles.

Higher Salary

People with college degrees earn more money and have a lower unemployment rate than their non-college graduate counterparts. Returning to school to finish that degree can help you earn around $20,000 more per year.

Personal Goal Fulfillment

If you had to drop out of college before, then finally graduating may be a lifelong dream for you. Earning that degree can offer a sense of fulfillment, accomplishment, and set an example for your children, siblings, or other family members.

Switch Industries or Occupations

You may have taken a job in the past because you felt like it was a good fit for you, or because you simply needed the money. Now that some time has passed, you no longer feel that the job is right for you. Maybe you want to switch industries entirely. Going back to college is a great way to set yourself up for a lateral move in your current career or to make an industry switch altogether.

How to Go Back to College After Dropping Out

By now you’re probably wondering how to go back to college after dropping out. School today may be a completely different landscape than when you last set foot on a campus. You’re probably wondering what options are available. Even just taking that first step may be confusing. StraighterLine has the advice you need to get started on finishing your college education.

Choose the Right Degree for Your Situation

Ask yourself if the degree you started is still the right one for your current situation. Reevaluate what you want to study before heading back into the classroom. You may not need to restart your college education from scratch, but you might need to switch majors.

Negotiate Your Work/Life Balance

Going back to college as an adult means you likely already have outside obligations that still need you. Family, work, and any other responsibilities need to be balanced along with your new college path. As you prepare to head back to school to complete your degree, keep these tips in mind for maintaining that work/life balance you need:

  • Consider online learning to cut down on time spent commuting
  • Consider part-time learning to work classes around your existing schedule
  • Choose a school that will help you focus on your pursued degree
  • Keep the cost down by finishing gen ed requirements with affordable online courses
  • Take advantage of academic support, such as tutoring and writing labs
  • Check credit transfer policies to see if you can cut down on the number of classes you need to graduate

StraighterLine is a great option for working adults heading back to college. Our classes can be taken one at a time and average about a month to complete. Take classes at your own pace and on your own time – and from wherever you want. We’ll provide you with eTextbooks, on-demand tutoring, and writing lab access so you have the support you need to be successful.  And the credits you earn through StraighterLine are guaranteed to transfer to over 150 of our partner schools, plus many more with the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service.

Get a Transcript From Previous Institutions

Get a transcript of all the classes/credits you’ve already completed — regardless of how many different schools you’ve attended. If you want to go to a different college than you originally attended, you’ll need a transcript/transcripts to complete the application process. It will also help you figure out how many credits (and which courses) you still need to take for graduation.

Complete the Application Process

Colleges may differ slightly on their application requirements, but generally speaking, you should be prepared to submit these items when you apply:

  • Letters of recommendation
  • Standardized test scores
  • Any work experience that may count toward credits

Make sure you check the transfer student admissions requirements for your chosen school(s) so you don’t miss any important submission materials or deadlines.

Understand Your Tuition Options

Before you go back to school, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll pay for the rest of your degree. There are scholarships and grants out there specifically for adult learners.  Even if you were ineligible for federal aid the first time around, you may be eligible now. Make sure to check the FAFSA website for eligibility requirements and fill out your application as soon as you can. Your employer may have a program that will help you pay for some or all of your tuition. Ask your HR department what the company’s policy is on tuition assistance programs.

Find the Support You Need

Having a solid support system to rely on can make all the difference when you return to college. Your friends and family will hopefully be happy to cheer you on, and they might even be willing to help out with some of life’s daily responsibilities to free up your time. Let your supervisor and co-workers know that you’re going back to college so they can support you at work. Take the time to reach out to your new college advisor before classes begin. They can be a great source of help as you navigate your degree path. Get to know your fellow students through online chats, message boards, and other online student areas. Making friends and reaching out can not only help you form study groups and find project partners, but they can also be a great way to network – especially with other adult students like you.

Get Back on Track with StraighterLine

StraighterLine is one of the best options for going back to college after dropping out. We offer flexible schedules, affordable courses, student support, and our credits are guaranteed to transfer to over 150 partner schools. Take any one of our online college classes across a range of fields and industries to help you finish that college degree.  Preview one of our online courses today and see how easy it is to earn college credits from your home. Let StraighterLine help you get back to college today!

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