Reviewed by Julie Vandekreke
Deciding to leave college and go back later happens for many reasons. It’s hard to control everything that happens in life, and sometimes you have to take step back to adjust things, take care of some issues and reenroll when the time is right.
Let’s go over some of the challenges and solutions for students who drop out of college but are now returning. These students are typically known as “re-entry students” when they are returning to the school they first attended. If they plan to go to a different school, they’re called a transfer student.
- Finances rank as the number one issue that causes students to disengage, and this is an issue for the majority of students to some degree. Even if they can afford tuition, they may lack money to pay for classes, books and other related expenses. Solutions include: applying early for financial aid, grants and scholarships, as well as saving money or working a flexible job on or off campus.
- Academic challenges are a close second when looking at reasons students leave college. They may be rusty on math and/or English basics and feel out of place in “intro” classes meant to refresh their skills. Solutions include: taking those remedial classes to gain knowledge, skills and confidence to pass advanced courses while considering whether you learn better in person or online. Online classes may allow you to work at your own pace. You can get the help you need without worrying about what others may think Psst! They’re only thinking about how to pass the class themselves!
- Work/life balance is always a consideration when returning to school. Some students work twenty or more hours every week while carrying a full course load. Others may be caring for children or aging parents or have health issues. One solution includes: cutting back on your course load and understanding that, while it will take a little longer to complete the degree, you’ll be able to maintain your relationships and the employment required to pay for classes.
There are some interesting stats on the reasons students drop out of college. While Isabel Sagenmuller’s list on Fastweb hits the high points of finance, time constraints and preparation for college-level work, she also discusses the feeling that students don’t feel as if anyone cares whether they attend or have the assistance they may need. A StateUniversity.com blog also lists reasons typical to younger students, like homesickness or partying too much as well as broken relationships, which can undermine a student’s resolve unseen to professors and other college staff.
How to Go Back to College After Dropping Out
Given these kinds of issues, it may be tempting to just let go of the dream of earning a college degree to make a better life for you and your family, but don’t give up! Instead, use these steps as a guide to get you back on track.
- Honestly ask yourself if the degree you want is the right one for your situation. Did you drop out because you lost interest in your major? Has your focused changed because of a new interest? Reevaluate what you want to study before heading back into the classroom.
- Negotiate your work/life balance. If you dropped out because you were working too many hours, or felt overwhelmed by family obligations, see if taking a smaller course load this time around works better for everyone. Solicit the support of your employer and family so everyone around you is invested in your success.
- Get a transcript of classes/credits completed. If you want to go to different college than you originally attended, have a transcript ready to complete the application process. Not only is this part of the process, it will also help you figure out how many credits you still need to graduate, a big financial question.
- Complete the college application process. Make a list of everything you’ll need to apply to college, including letters of recommendation, standardized tests, documented work/life experience for credits and anything else that’s required. That way, you can check things off the list, see your progress and be encouraged.
- Apply for financial aid. If a lack of money was the main reason you dropped out, take the time to dig deep into getting financial aid, grants and scholarships to pay for your remaining classes. To get the most out of grants, apply for federal aid as soon as you can. Ask if your employer has a program to assist as well—many do!
While leaving school is often a difficult decision, don’t dwell on the past. Focus instead on restarting your education by resolving the issues that held you back. Be honest in your evaluation so you can look ahead to completing your college degree requirements and graduate with pride.
When you’re ready to come back to college, pick up where you left off – enroll now in a StraighterLine college course today. If you’re unsure, why not try one of our online lessons for free? See what our online courses and support look and feel like, then move forward with confidence toward your degree.