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Millions of students are heading to college this year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), roughly 19.7 million students are attending college in fall 2020, including 5.8 million at 2-year institutions and 14 million at 4-year institutions. While this figure is high, it’s actually a 6 percent drop compared to 10 years ago. Out of these students, around 1,998,000 are expected to earn a bachelor’s degree this year, and around 983,000 are expected to earn an associate degree. However, not everyone will end up completing their degree program.

If you drop out of college can you go back? Absolutely! While the reasons why students drop out of college differ, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s never too late to go back. In fact, heading back to college after you drop out could help you make a fresh start on your education. It could also provide a way for you to continue working toward your degree with a clearer focus after taking time off. The following information and advice can help you get the most out of your college education if you’re heading back after dropping out.

Why Do College Students Drop Out?

College students choose to leave school for a variety of reasons. How many students typically leave college? According to NCES, the graduation rate for undergraduate students in bachelor’s degree programs was 62 percent. These students began their college education and earned their degree at the same institution during this time. Other students either left school altogether or switched to a different school to complete a degree program. Overall, graduation rates tend to be higher at institutions that are harder to get into compared to institutions that have an open admissions policy.

Financial Reasons

What might make some college students decide to leave school instead of completing their degree program? For some students, the main factor in this decision is the cost of college. In fact, a recent survey found a 51 percent dropout rate among college students due to costs. These students were unable to continue going to college for financial reasons. Close to 79 percent of these students are expected to delay graduation if they do go back, while 55 percent were unable to find the finances they need in order to afford college.

Personal Reasons

Financial concerns are just one reason that college students drop out. Others end up dropping out of college due to personal reasons. For example, some are forced to leave college at least temporarily in order to care for family members, such as by working full-time or being a family caregiver for a loved one with medical problems.

Academic Reasons

Academic problems are another reason that some college students choose to leave school. Some students find it difficult to understand the material they’re learning and decide to drop out if they continue struggling. It’s important to keep in mind that switching to a more suitable degree program is always an option if you’ve left college due to academic struggles.

Benefits of Going Back to College After Dropping Out

No matter what your reasons were for dropping out of college, there are definite advantages to going back. Leaving college gives you time to think about what you want to do in terms of a career, which can help you determine if you should still pursue the original degree you wanted or look into other degree programs. During your time away from college, you might learn more about what interests you and what kinds of skills you have. This could lead to a different decision as far as what kind of work you would like to do.

Another advantage of returning to college after dropping out is that you might be in a better position to focus on your education this time around. For example, if your living situation caused you to drop out but has now changed, you might have an easier time concentrating on your classes and earning your degree. This can lead to a more pleasant and rewarding higher education experience overall.

Going back to college after you drop out also means you have a chance to earn a degree that opens up new job opportunities and higher earnings. Whether you earn an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, you can expect to find an increased number of available job opportunities when you graduate. With a college degree, you’ll also have a greater chance at making a higher salary, which can help you improve your quality of life overall.

How to Complete a Degree After Dropping Out

When you make the decision to go back to college after dropping out, how should you go about finishing a degree program? Whether you stick with your original plans or start a new degree program, there are certain ways to make the most of this educational opportunity. Keep the following tips in mind if you plan to return to college after leaving.

  • Determine why you’re going back: Knowing why you’re choosing to go back to college can provide you with motivation to complete your degree. You might be going back if you’ve decided to switch careers, or you might return in order to work on advancing in your current field. Figuring out why you want to go back and keeping that reason in mind is an important part of encouraging yourself to finish your degree program this time.
  • Explore financial assistance options: If financial concerns caused you to leave college before, expand your financial options. Look into options you might have overlooked previously, such as tuition reimbursement from your employer. You can also look into currently available grants and scholarships that you either missed or didn’t qualify for before. Exploring as many financial options as possible can help you find ways to afford college so that you can complete your degree.
  • Consider starting out with part-time enrollment: When you go back to college after dropping out, you don’t necessarily have to dive back in full-time. If you would rather ease your way back into college, look into enrolling on a part-time basis at first. You can then switch to full-time enrollment later on when you’re more comfortable with going to college again. Starting out with part-time enrollment might also be a good option if you still need to work full-time while going to school.
  • Set up your own support system: Returning to college might make you nervous or you might have other concerns or struggles with this decision. Having people to turn to for support can help you stay motivated to complete your degree when you go back. Your support system could include family and friends who are willing to listen to your concerns. You might also find support for returning college students via online forums or support groups.
  • Stay organized: One of the challenges of going back to college is keeping track of your classes, assignments, projects, tests, and other school-related events and tasks. Use the calendar on your phone or tablet to help you organize when things are due or when you need to be in class. You can also use apps to remind you of upcoming projects or tests, so you don’t risk handing things in late or missing exams. While this is important for any college student, it’s even more important if you’re also juggling family or work responsibilities while going back to school.
  • Check out student services: The student services departments at colleges are designed to assist college students with their academic and career goals. Look into these services when you go back to school. You can work with an advisor who can help you choose the most suitable degree program based on your current career and academic goals. Keep in mind that you don’t have to choose your original degree program when you return. If you were still undecided when you left, your student services advisor can help you narrow down your options and choose the right degree program.
  • Look into transferring credits: You might not need to spend as much time completing your degree depending on the classes you took before. When you decide to return to college, you might be able to transfer credits toward your current degree program. This can help cut down on the amount of time it takes for you to earn your degree, which leads to other advantages, such as lower college costs overall. Keep in mind that transfer credit policies differ at each institution.

If you’re thinking of going back to college after dropping out, contact Post University for more information on our degree programs. We have several programs available in a wide range of fields.


Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly! 

Please note jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs, career outcomes, and/or salaries expected from any Post University program. To learn more about Post University’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions representative.