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How to Go Back to College After Dropping Out

How to Go Back to College After Dropping Out?

Going back to college isn’t just about getting a degree. It’s a cool journey that can totally reshape your destiny. 

Here, let me introduce you to John, one of my bosom friends, a rockstar who faced challenges and hit pause on his college journey but bounced back stronger to achieve a greater and brighter future. 

Just like him, you are not alone. According to a report by the Education Data Initiative, 32.9% of undergraduates do not complete their degree program. 

Plus, In July 2021, 40 million Americans had dropped out of college and among them, 864,824 returned that autumn to complete their unfinished program. 

So, if you are someone who wants to chase a new career dream, personal Zen, or level up your skills by completing your incomplete graduation, this comprehensive guide on how to go back to college after dropping out is for you. 

Discover compelling statistics on adults returning to college when exploring ‘How to Go Back to College After Dropping Out’.

Why Do Students Dropout of College?

Let’s understand why do students leave college first, then I will talk about the strategy to overcome all the obstacles:

Academic Issues

Sometimes, the academic journey can feel like a rollercoaster with unexpected twists for some students. During their academic journey, they struggle with the coursework, grapple with the exams or just feel lost in the academic maze. 

All these challenges lead students to a stage where they can’t bear the pressure and quit. 

Financial Problems

The cost of college can be a financial mountain to climb. Because college expenses in the U.S.A. were never cheap. 

A report of the Education Data Initiative shows that an in-state student of a public 4-year institution spends around $26,027 per academic year and the cost for a private university student can go up to $55,840 on average per academic year.

Though the government has offered a lot of student loan programs, due to lack of knowledge, students feel it necessary to take a timeout to figure out how to fund the educational journey. 

Work-Life Balance

Juggling the demands of family, work and classes is a tricky act to perform. Students often struggle while balancing all these responsibilities together. 

They think working full-time will be more financially beneficial rather than investing a lot of money in tuition, fees, and other expenses. So, they drop out to catch their breath.

Personal Issues 

Life throws unexpected curveballs. Health issues, family drama or just the general chaos of life; all these personal challenges can make it tough for the students to focus on their studies. 

For example, sometimes taking care of an old family member or bearing children becomes a bigger priority than just achieving a bachelor’s degree. 

So, it turns out to be a necessity for some students to stop everything and deal with life’s unscripted dramas. 

Lack of Support

College is a team sport and having a rigid support squad is crucial. Without proper guidance, family support, and mentorship, some students feel like they are playing solo. 

And I bet that’s not a good feeling. When the support network is missing, quitting seems like the best move. 

Plus, without any major knowledge of financial aid requirements and course management, students face challenges at every step. As a result, they decide to leave college. 

4 Reasons to Go Back to College After Dropping Out

You see, different people have different causes. Finding out your reason to go back to college is always important because, at the end of the day, it will boost you to chase your goals. 

However, here are four common reasons why you should go back to college:

Uncover insights on overcoming the fear of returning to college as an adult for those seeking guidance.

Self-esteem & confidence

Heading back to college and gaining some academic victories can be a part of your personal growth. But what does it demonstrate? It shows the commitment that you have to your self-esteem. 

Plus, this return journey also increases your belief to tackle any challenges, which may be professional or personal. It is a boost to your sense of self-worth. 

Career Advancement

College isn’t just a place of books and exams: look at it like a staircase leading you to new heights in your career. 

Pursuing higher education and finishing up your undergraduate degree programs by going back to college always opens up new doors of opportunities and avenues for promotion and position with better pay. 

It can be the key to unlocking the next level in your professional journey, equipping you with the knowledge and skills needed to ascend the career ladder.

More rewarding and interesting career

Going back to college is your golden ticket to transcend mere employment. It’s a venture into passion and fulfillment.

Completing your undergraduate program with a bachelor’s degree in your desired major can provide you with a more rewarding and interesting career. 

For instance, according to the report of Statista, in 2022, a high school graduate earns around 34,320 U.S. dollars per year, whereas a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree earns approximately 52,000 U.S. dollars per year.

See, the payment gap is huge and that’s why you need to get back and complete your unfinished business. 

As diving into your college study is a big of an investment, achieving a bachelor’s degree can ensure your return on investment (RIO).

Change Career and Pursuing a goal or passion

Life’s too short for a lackluster career. So, hit the reset button on your professional narrative by returning back to your dream college

It’s time to switch lanes and pursue something that you really love to do. And in this career change game, there are more like you.

According to a survey by FlexJobs, 58% of workers are actively trying to change their careers due to different reasons like remote work options, higher pay, better work-life balance, and so on.  

Plus, a significant number of them are considering a return to their college and getting a degree in a different major that has more job scope. 

So, consider switching by returning back if you are also faded up with your job and want to pursue your passion. Now, let’s talk about the routes that you can follow for going back to college. 

4 Routes to Go Back to College After Dropping Out

Your path of getting back to college doesn’t have to be similar to other students. The truth is different students follow different paths to return back.  

So, It doesn’t matter how long ago you had left your college, you have multiple options to re-apply. Yet, here are the 4 routes that you can follow to return back to your college—

  1. Former College and Former Degree

Getting back to the same college to complete your unfinished degree would be an amazing idea if you were satisfied with the choice of your former career path and the overall student experience of your former college.

2. Former Degree and New College

If you are not ok with the resources of your former college but still want to stick to your old career path, look for a new college that offers more facilities like flexible course schedules, affordable courses, or online learning options.  

3. Former College and New Degree

In case you wish to chase a different career but love the learning environment and facilities of your prior college, get a new degree from there. As you are already acquainted with the campus vibes, it won’t be a hassle for you.

4. New Degree and New College

This route is the best fit for adult students who have a tight working schedule. If you want a new start with a new career path in a new college and your previous credits are far gone, then follow this route to re-apply to college after dropping out.  

Things You Shall Do Before Returning to College

Here are some key points you should prepare for before returning to college –

Understand Your Reasons for Going Back to College

Before diving back into textbooks and lectures, ask yourself why you want to return to college? Ask the following questions to yourself—

  • Is it to climb the career ladder?
  • Do I want to pursue a new passion? 
  • Do I want to check a personal goal of my list? 
  • Do I need further potential job opportunities?

Understanding your motivations will help you stay focused and committed.

Be honest with yourself about your expectations and set up a goal that is realistic for your academic journey. 

Know Your Weaknesses and Strengths

Take a moment to think about why you hit pause on college in the first place. Life happens, right? We all have been there.

Look, you have to realize your weakness because at the end of the day, it will help you develop strategies to overcome challenges this time around.

Same thing about your strengths. Understand what you’re good at and leverage your strengths for academic success. 

But, what about counseling? Yes, have a discussion with counselors and mentors for some insight into your learning style and what makes you tick. 

Build Relationships with Other Dropouts

Connect and hang out with others who have hit the pause button like you. Join online forums, groups, or local meetups for returning students where people share their stories. 

Having a crew who understands your struggle, compassionate about your emotions and goals can really make a difference throughout your college adventure.

For instance, if you are an adult who has children and other stuff going on in your life, hanging out with other students who are also parents can be beneficial. 

You can learn about time management and how they are balancing their studies with their personal, professional, and family life.

7 Tips to Go Back to College After Dropping Out

As you are now aware of the routes, here are ten essential tips and strategies that will help you through your journey to return back to college—

1. Choose Your Major Wisely

Your successful future and manifold job opportunities mostly depend on the proper choice of major.

So, as you get back to college, think about what you enjoy, what you are good at, and where you see yourself down the road. 

Do comprehensive research on different majors and job market trends and see if they align with your field of interest. A well-chosen major can make the whole college thing a lot more exciting. 

As the job market is evolving day by day, an investigation regarding it is going to be highly beneficial for your future. 

For example, information technology is a rapidly growing area where a large number of high-paying jobs are waiting for you. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that overall employment in this field will grow faster than the average for all occupations between 2022 and 2032. Every year, an average of 377,500 positions are expected.

Therefore, you will have tons of job scope and possibilities in the future if you choose this subject as your Major. 

2. Choose the Right College for You

Not all colleges are equal and not all of them provide valuable support for the dropout student like you. 

So, find the right one. How to do it? Consider the following things—

  • Prefer colleges that offer flexible online courses
  • Colleges that have balanced learning approach
  • Colleges who offer multiple start dates and course length
  • Think about the location, campus vibes, and class sizes

Plus, try to identify colleges that have extra support for students who are returning after a break.

For example, some community colleges do not require a re-application process for re-enrollment. Some of them even offer partial credits for previous prior coursework and let you choose majors that might go with your desired goals.

Moreover, for some adults or dropout students mental health is a big issue.

According to a report of New York Post, 55% of students are dealing with emotional stress and wanting to drop out. 

Regarding this, some colleges and universities provide online counseling, mental health services, and tutoring for the students who are willing to get back. 

So, you better look out for those colleges as well if you are going through some mental issues.

3. Navigate the Admission Process

Look, re-applying might seem like a maze, but have faith, it’s totally doable with some planning. You can reach out to the admission office of your dream college and ask for what they need from returning students like you. 

In general, they require the following admission materials:

  1. Former college education transcripts
  2. General Education Diploma (GED) or high school diploma
  3. Standardized Test Scores
  4. Recommendation letters
  5. Cover letters

Some colleges even require an in-person interview. Plus, in case you need any financial aid, you must fill out and submit documents that are required for financial support. 

Oh! Don’t forget to meet with an admission counselor after you finish your preparation for applying to your desired college because you need to make sure you have successfully met all the requirements. 

4. Transfer Your Credit

Take time to evaluate the credit transfer policy of your new college. If you have some credit in your pocket, make sure they count. 

In this case, you must have a course description of your prior classes and a transcript. However, different colleges have different rules, so work with your academic advisors. 

Smooth out the credit transfer process according to their advice. Also, reaching out to your professors and other experts will be an amazing idea for further inquiry about the course. 

What’s the benefit of transferring your old college credits? 

Well, it could save you money and time, which means a win-win situation. Plus, you can make sure you fulfill the prerequisite courses for your degree by comparing the classes you took with those listed in the course catalog. 

5. Explore Financial Support for College

Returning back to your college often needs financial considerations. Because college fees in the U.S.A. are not cheap at all. 

As per Education Data Initiation, the average college cost of a student in the U.S is $36,436 per, which includes supplies, books, and daily living expenses.

And this cost may vary from college to college and state to state. For example, in-state tuition solely can cost $9,678 and out-of-state tuition can cost around $27,091. 

But fear not, let me tell you what you can do regarding your tuition and course fees:

  • Explore scholarship opportunities, student loan options and financial aid. 
  • Develop a budget that is realistic enough which includes your tuition, fees, textbooks, and daily expenses. 
  • Seek help from your family  
  • Seek help from the Human Resource (HR) department, If you are a job holder and your company offers tuition aid or partial.

What Financial Support Does the Government Offer for the Adult or Dropout Students?

The U.S. government’s official website Federal Student Aid provides financial support like loan forgiveness programs for the adult and newcomer students. 

They offer more than $125 billion in loans, federal grants, and work-study for students who are joining community colleges, colleges, schools, or universities. 

Even they have dedicated emails for loan services. Contact them through the following email to discuss about your loan application:

You can also call them in these toll-free numbers:

  • 1-800-433-3243
  • 1-800-621-3115 (Defaulted Loans)
  • 1-800-557-7392 (Loan Consolidation)

6. Try Flexible Online Programs

As a dropout or working adult, you have a lot of responsibilities to maintain. In this situation, getting back to college online to complete your degree can help you balance everything together.

For example, you can achieve a bachelor’s degree in psychology online. It means you don’t have to go to the college campus, and you can easily attend all your courses, exams, and classes from the place that fits you the best. 

Moreover, you can take your classes at your preferred time while maintaining a balance in your working schedule.

7. Enjoy your journey

There is a saying, “Live every moment to its best because you never know what happens next.” That should be the motto throughout your college journey. 

Don’t think about the destination, enjoy every bit of your journey. Remember, it’s not just about reaching the finish line. 

Think of it as a new chance for growth both academically and personally. Embrace all the new experiences, make new friends and, collaborate with professors, join clubs and use all the resources you find for a better and brighter future. 

Celebrate every single win because every step gets you closer to your ultimate goals. 


To sum up, deciding to go back to college after dropping out is a pretty awesome move. You know what it’s like? It’s like giving yourself a chance with a ton of potential. 

Yet, here’s the deal: don’t let the idea overwhelm you. Take the first step by checking out different programs. Shoot a message to your academic advisors.

Remember, it may feel like a big leap, but it’s really about investing in yourself. So, do a bit of research and start your journey. Trust me, you got this. 


  1. U.S average wages of college graduates 1990-2022 (2023 Nov) by Statista Research Department
  2. Federal Student Aid Information Center
  1. More students willing to skip college to protect mental health: Gallup (2023 March) by Jane Herz
  1. Computer and Information Technology Occupations by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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