4 solutions to explore before dropping out of school

Two students talk together

If you’re thinking about putting your education on pause or dropping out of school entirely, these ideas may help you stay in school.

There’s no question that college can be a big financial commitment, but it’s also an important investment in your future. If you’re considering pausing or giving up on college for financial reasons, don’t give up too quickly.

You might be able to finish your degree using one of the following ideas.

1. Talk to your academic advisor about how switching majors or degrees could make things easier

 Your advisor can help you explore your interests in college, but they can also help you map out your shortest route to completing a degree, preventing you from spending money or time you don’t have.

  • Be open with your advisor about your challenges and be open to their suggestions, even if it means changing your goal.
  • Optimize every class you take, and avoid picking classes you don’t truly need.
  • Look at another major that you haven’t considered that aligns with your currently completed coursework. Your advisor will be able to help you figure that out and make the switch.
  • Talk about your academic performance. Would tutoring, a reduced course load, or other strategies help you get the grades you need to advance, rather than getting low grades and retaking courses?

Also, make sure to ask your advisor if there are any paid internships or work-study programs in your field that would allow you to earn money while getting college credit. If there are, work with your advisor to understand how to apply and qualify.

2. Talk to the financial aid office or do internet research to see if there are any financial aid and scholarship options you haven’t yet considered

 While the amount of financial aid you receive is typically set at the beginning of your academic year, scholarship applications are often rolling, which means you may be able to apply for new scholarships that weren’t available previously. Resources like our Scholarship Resource Center — providing access to billions of dollars of scholarships — make it easy to search scholarships that are both relevant for you and currently accepting applications.

If your financial situation has changed significantly since you applied for financial aid at the beginning of the year, reach out to your financial aid office to discuss the appeal process. It’s true that, in most cases, your financial aid award is set for the year — but your financial aid office can sometimes adjust your award if you or your family have had an unexpected decrease in income or a significant increase in expenses.

You might also qualify for new assistance if a life-altering diagnosis, a temporary disability, or a permanent change in your health is making your academic progress more challenging. Student affairs professionals at your school can refer you to sources of aid or accommodations. Even something as simple as transportation aid could make staying in school easier.

3. Consider transferring to a different school

If you’ve explored all the options in your current program and nothing seems like the right fit, you may consider transferring your credits elsewhere. For instance, if you’re currently enrolled in an out-of-state school, it might make more sense for you to transfer to an in-state school or a community college. Not only would the cost of tuition be lower, but there may be an opportunity for you to live at home to save money.

This type of move can also speed up your timeline, particularly if you’re transferring from a bachelor’s degree to an associate degree or certificate. Since you’ll already have some coursework under your belt, make sure to reach out to the admissions office at the new institution to be certain you can transfer the majority of coursework. It could help speed up the timeline for finishing your degree, saving you some money along the way.

4. Get help for nonacademic costs, like food and housing

Scholarships and financial aid don’t always cover basics like your grocery bill or utilities, and they don’t cover the needs of others who may be depending on a portion of your income, like a parent, grandparent, or sibling. Ask at the student affairs office about on-campus and off-campus programs for students and families who need emergency aid for these basic needs or for specialized aid like free legal counsel. These types of emergency support may be what puts you or your family back on track.

Finally, you might benefit from combining more than one of these four ideas. A change of major, plus a subsidy for groceries could keep you working toward your degree. Or you might qualify for new scholarships when you change your field of study; high-demand careers like teaching or health care may have more funding for students than your current major. Transferring schools and getting a tutor could help you stay enrolled.

Sometimes, quitting college can feel like the only option — but fortunately, there are ways to continue pursuing your degree while focusing on your finances. It’s okay to ask for help, and there are resources on campus (such as those mentioned above) who are there to help you. Take the time to explore every possible avenue before giving up on education after high school.

College expenses can add up fast. Use our budget worksheet to keep track of your spending.

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