College and University Blog

College Dropouts: 10 Reasons Why Students Quit School

If you’re returning to campus as a sophomore this fall but can’t seem to find all of your friends, don’t be too alarmed. Research shows that thirty percent of college and university students drop out after their first year, and about half of all college students never graduate.

Students are Leaving College without a Degree and Plenty of Debt

Thanks to the financial assistance I received from scholarships, I was able to attend a small, private university in my own hometown. I met a lot of new people during my freshman year, most of who came from out of state. Some of them seemed to disappear after the month-long Christmas break between the fall and spring semesters, and others never returned after summer vacation.

College completion rates have been stagnant in the United States for the past thirty years, which is the main reason that the Obama administration has started a new $12 billion plan to help boost the number of community college graduates by the year 2020.

Despite government assistance and drop-out prevention programs, facts are facts—a large number of students never earn a degree. The sad part is that most of them walk away from school with massive debt and no real skills to earn a decent-paying job.

Dropping Out and Dropping Down

Enrollment is actually booming at community colleges across the nation as more and more middle-aged people return to school after being laid off from jobs they held for years. “Traditional” college students in their late teens and early twenties are also flocking to community colleges because tuition is considerably lower than it is at private universities and other four-year schools.

Four-year universities – both public and private – are struggling to prevent students from dropping out, often spending more funds to retain current students than they once did to recruit new ones. “Dropping down” or leaving one school to attend a less expensive alternative is becoming fairly common. In fact, half of all college graduates have attended two or more schools.

Reasons Students Drop Out

College is supposed to be the best four years of your life—a magical, unforgettable experience. For some it is, but others wind up leaving long before getting that coveted degree. The question of the hour is: why are so many college students quitting school? You can find a few reasons below, in no particular order.

1. Homesickness kicks in—and wins. Going to college across the country from the only home you’ve ever known might have sounded like a great idea at the time you filled out your application, but an extreme change may be more than you bargained for.

2. Some students are unprepared for the rigorous academics required to succeed in college. If you skirted through high school with little or no studying, you’ll be in for a rude awakening once you get to college. Professors aren’t baby-sitters; they expect you to read and learn on your own outside of class. If you don’t, your grades will show it. A semester of bad grades is often enough to cause some students to give up on school.

3. Partying heartily can take its toll. The newfound freedom that comes with living on campus, not to mention the easy availability of alcohol, causes a lot of freshmen’s grades to suffer. Fun is good, but too much fun can cause problems.

4. A lack of financial support makes paying for school nearly impossible. Some students that do not have financial support from their parents can’t afford to pay for college on their own If you’re attending an expensive private school, you may only get enough financial aid to cover a portion of your tuition and the meager salary provided by a part-time job may not cut it.

5. Work schedule conflicts. Non-traditional students with full-time jobs have to put work first, and some classes are only offered during the daytime. If school is already taking a back seat to your job, it’s easy to say good-bye and drop out.

6. Family commitments. Students with families to support have to put their family first—their children are more important than their classes.

7. You chose the wrong major. Enrolling in a degree program and realizing you don’t like it isn’t very much fun. Some students decide to quit school instead of change majors.

8. Your school isn’t a good fit for you. People can realize pretty quickly whether or not they like sitting in an auditorium full of 300 other students as opposed to a classroom with 30 students. Sometimes, the college you decided to attend just isn’t what you expected.

9. Burnout. A demanding course schedule, difficult professors, and piles of homework and exams are enough to drive some students to the point of no return—and they don’t.

10. Personal issues. A death in the family, an unplanned pregnancy or a chronic health problem can all occur out of nowhere. Dealing with personal issues causes many students to leave college.

Dropping out happens, it’s inevitable in some cases. However, you don’t have to be a statistic unless you choose to be one—switching to a part-time status, taking a semester off, moving to a community college or enrolling in an online degree program are possible alternatives if you find that you’re unable to continue being a full-time student. Speak with someone at your school’s student retention services department for further information.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.