So many high school graduates count down the days until it’s time to leave for college, so why do so many drop out before graduating? When we say “so many,” we mean approximately 30% of college students drop out of college or university after the first year. This means nearly one in every three freshmen won’t return for their sophomore year. An even more staggering statistic is that approximately half of the freshmen who enroll in college will never graduate. 


With so many students dropping out of higher education, we must ask ourselves, Why do students drop out of college? 


There are many reasons why students drop out of college, and these are the Top 10 most common.


1. Academic Failure

Students who go from an easy senior year in high school often think their freshman year will be the same. Unfortunately, this is often the farthest thing from the truth, and students learn this lesson the hard way. Just because you were a top-performing high school student doesn’t mean you’ll be an outstanding college student.


First-year students who perform poorly in higher ed can go on Academic Probation. That is where these students have to raise their grade-point average to an acceptable level if they want to continue receiving their scholarship or enrollment status. 


When students fail to increase their grade-point average, the school can revoke their scholarships, causing them to drop out.

2. Financial Reasons

A college degree is expensive, especially if you’re not fortunate enough to have a scholarship or Pell grant. Because of this, many students (approximately 86% of all college students) apply and receive some form of financial aid to help them pay for their annual tuition. 


Student loan debt racks up quickly, and if young person isn’t performing as well as they should, they may choose to forego paying for college and enter the workforce instead. 

3. Students Miss Home

Sometimes being away from home can be too much for a student to handle. After all, freshmen are barely 18 years old. While that’s old enough to be considered an adult, it is still young, especially for someone who may have never lived alone. 


College life can be hard. Students must learn to live with roommates, often strangers, in dormitory housing or off-campus apartments. Which can be a big adjustment for someone to take. Oftentimes, students don’t get along with their roommates, which can exacerbate homesickness. 

4. No Balance Between School and Socializing

As we mentioned, freshmen are just 18 years old when they arrive at college and are expected to toe the line when it comes to going to school and getting all their work done. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens for many first-year students.


Instead, many freshmen focus more on socializing and less on their schoolwork. Not only can this lead to academic failures, but this can also cause students to miss the goals they have set for themselves.


For example, if your goal is to make the dean’s list your first semester or first year of college, you will likely miss this goal if you are partying or socializing too much when you should be studying or in class.

5. No Attendance Policy Can Cause a Big Problem

In high school, attendance was required. The teacher took roll every morning, and if you missed too many classes, you could fail the class simply because you were truant.


Many college professors don’t have an attendance policy in place because they know the repercussions that come along with skipping class. “I’ll just show up on test days” can be the worst thing you tell yourself when choosing to skip class. 


Just because the class has no attendance policy does not mean you’ll get the same learning experience by sitting in your dorm room and cramming the material in your brain hours before a test. 


This approach can cause you to fail the class, which can ultimately cause you to drop out, especially if this is one of many classes you’re failing.

6. You Haven’t Chosen a Major

While choosing a major isn’t a requirement in your first year of college, it will help you get on track and stay on track. Not choosing a major can give you a sense of aimlessness without direction. And even if you haven’t chosen a major, you should still have a goal of one in mind to keep you on track. No goals or major can set you up for dropping out of college after your first year.

7. You Took a Job Instead

Extra cash in college is always a good idea, but what happens when that extra cash looks better than going to class and finishing your degree? Dropping out of college is what happens. 


It’s a tricky question when a college student asks, “Why am I paying to go to school when I can work and make money now?” 


College students thrive on instant gratification. If they can get a job and make money now, why waste three more years at school just to get a job? Taking a job to join the workforce now is one of the many reasons students drop out of college, especially if this is combined with poor academic performance or no direction at school. 

8. Burnout

Burnout is a real thing among all people, not just college students. However, when it comes to college students, burnout is a legitimate reason that many students drop out, especially if they take too many classes.


Some scholarships require students to be enrolled in classes full-time each semester. Full-time classes are 12 hours per week, typically about 4 classes, which is the minimum requirement for being full-time. You can take as many as 18 hours of classes per week, which is approximately 6 classes. 


If you stay enrolled in all these classes, you can quickly become burnt out from the class load, especially if you are involved in various extra-curricular activities or have a job. 

9. Family or Personal Issues

Many families or personal issues can cause many students to retreat home. Some of the reasons include the following:


  • Pregnancy
  • Death in the family
  • Job loss
  • Financial hardships
  • Family member becoming ill
  • Breakup


A breakup at college can be difficult for a student to navigate, especially if they share classes or living arrangements with the person they have separated from. 


Additionally, pregnancy can be difficult for a college student to go through while at college and may cause the student to return home. 


Other family issues that may cause a student to drop out of college and return home include a parent becoming ill or passing away. The student may feel obligated to stay home to be with the surviving family or help take care of the ill family member. If a parent has lost a job and there is a financial burden that needs to be met, the student may choose to drop out of college and help make financial ends meet.

10. It Wasn’t for Them

“School wasn’t for me” is a common theme among many students who drop out of college. This is similar to the lack of direction that comes from going to college without a plan or a major in place. 


Many high school teachers and counselors advise that students should immediately go to college in the fall after graduating in the spring, but college isn’t one-size-fits-all for everybody. What works for one student may not work for another. After all, it’s better to take a semester off before going to college than to get to college and drop out because of poor performance.

Some Final Thoughts

Students will continue to drop out of college, and it’s not always a bad thing, especially if you know that you are only wasting your time and money by staying enrolled and performing poorly.


The best way to ensure you don’t become a college dropout is to follow what feels right and not what someone else tells you to do. Like we mentioned in our last point where college just isn’t for some students; if you feel that you should take a semester off in between graduating high school and starting college, then you should. Only you know what is best for you, and if this includes taking half the classes you were or not going at all, then that’s what you should pursue.