No one wants to quit college, but sometimes dropping out is the only option. Illness, family issues, financial problems, or other hardships may make it impossible to continue with your classes. When it comes to quitting college, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Don’t just stop showing up and turning in your assignments. The long term consequences of a disappearing act may haunt you for years to come. Instead, use this time-tested advice:
Talk to your teachers. Depending on your situation, professors may be able to cut you a bit of slack and make it possible for you to have an extension on your work instead of dropping out. Many colleges allow professors to create a contract with students, allowing them up to a year to complete late assignments. This might give you enough time to resolve outside issues and still stay on track. Extensions are less likely at the beginning of the semester. But if you only have a few weeks or one big project left, there’s a good chance your teachers will show leniency.
Meet with a counselor. If receiving an extension from your professors won’t work, college counselors can walk you through the steps necessary to withdraw from the university. Be sure to ask about any tuition and fees that you’ve paid. Will you receive the full amount or a prorated portion back? Will you be expected to pay back any financial aid or scholarships if you leave the university? Does a hardship situation change the way the school treats cases like yours? Don’t take your name off the rolls until you have solid answers.
Try to get away with a clean record. Aside from getting an extension, the best thing you can do for your future college career is to make sure that your transcript stays spotless. If you simply stop going to class (or logging in to your assignments), you’ll probably receive an entire semester of F’s. That’s bad news if you ever want to come back to college, enroll in another school, or become a grad student. Recovering from a semester of F’s is extremely difficult, and your college may even put you on academic probation or suspension. You may not care now, but it could become a problem years down the road. If you’ve passed the deadline for a clean record, you may be able to get a special exception if you’re going through some sort of hardship.
If that doesn’t work, aim for a “W.” If you cannot get away with a clean record, at least try to get a line of W’s on your transcript in place of failing grades. A “W” means “withdrawn.” While a lot of W’s may indicate unreliability on the student’s part, they generally have no effect on your GPA. Your transcript won’t be pretty, but it’s better than being put on academic probation or having difficulty re-enrolling in college.
Ask about a leave of absence or deferment. Do you think you might want to return to college? If there’s any question in your mind, ask about a leave of absence or deferment before you withdraw from the university. Many schools have a program in place to allow students to leave for up to a year and return to the school without re-applying. There are programs designed specifically for hardship cases. However, there are generally also programs available for students that don’t have any extenuating circumstances. That means, if you want to drop out just to spend a year on the beach, you may be able to pick up classes a year from now without any penalty. Just make sure that you submit the papers before you leave; deferment doesn’t work in reverse.