Success tips for returning to college after dropping out
Going back to college after dropping out can make you feel anxious. Lots of people who want to return to college are full of doubts. Some are worried about dropping out of college again, while others don’t think they have what it takes to succeed the second or third time around.
Unfortunately, self-doubt only leads to inaction. While it’s okay to reflect on the past to avoid making the same mistakes, it’s not okay to allow self-doubt to stop you from pursuing your dream.
If you are serious about going back to college, this post will provide you with a road map for doing just that. Returning to college after dropping out takes courage, determination, and a plan. Here’s how you can do it.
First, let’s answer two burning questions lots of people have when they think about going back to school.
CAN YOU GO BACK TO COLLEGE AFTER DROPPING OUT?
For lots of people, going to college isn’t always a smooth ride, and for some, the first time around usually ends up with them failing or dropping out of college. But, dropping out of college the first or even second time shouldn’t be the end of your journey. So, yes, you can go back to college after dropping out as long as you take the time to understand why you dropped out, and you have a plan for staying the course this time around.
CAN I GO BACK TO THE SAME COLLEGE AFTER DROPPING OUT?
Yes, in most cases you can go back to the same college after dropping out. However, depending on your academic standing at the college, you might face a few hurdles like being placed on academic probation or not being eligible for financial aid. It all depends on how long you have been out of college. The best thing to do is to contact the college and meet with an advisor to discuss your situation. A college advisor can tell you what you need to do to get back into college.
With that out of the way, let’s look at how to get back into school after dropping out.
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1. ANALYZE THE REASON OR REASONS FOR DROPPING OUT OF COLLEGE
There are lots of reasons why students drop out of college. They include feeling overwhelmed, can’t keep up academically, lost interest in college, or can no longer afford it. While there are lots of other reasons for dropping out, the ones I listed are some of the most common.
So, before you proceed, it’s really important to identify and analyze your reasons for dropping out of college. The better you understand why you decided to drop out, the better your chances of following through this time around.
It’s really important for you to be honest when analyzing your reasons. Don’t gloss over anything. Make a list of the things you hated or the reasons why you made the decision that you did.
Once you have completed this process, you will be in a better position to ascertain whether you are ready to go back to college or whether the circumstances that lead to your decision have been resolved or still exist.
2. RETURNING TO COLLEGE AFTER DROPPING OUT: WHAT’S DIFFERENT NOW?
While it’s a good thing you are thinking of going back to school, it’s very important that you avoid falling into the same problem. One of the best ways to do this is to articulate why you want to go back to school.
If you can’t explain to yourself why you should go back to college, then you are probably not quite ready. Going back to college after dropping out isn’t going to work unless you know what’s different now.
For example, maybe your circumstances have changed, or you are more mature. If you are a mom, maybe your kids have grown up and don’t need you as much, which means you can now focus on your education.
Perhaps you are stuck and need a college degree to advance or change your financial situation. Whatever it is, you should be clear on what’s different now and how that knowledge will help you, when you go back to college again.
Unfortunately, lots of students think they are ready to go back to college after dropping out, but some end up dropping out again because they never actually addressed the initial problem or had a good and convincing reason for going back a second or third time.
If you can’t convince yourself why you need a college degree or confirm that the reasons you dropped out the first time no longer exists, then you probably need to spend some more time reflecting and fixing your current situation before you head back to school.
Going back to school with the same baggage will lead to the same result, so know what’s different this time around, and be sure you are ready to go all the way.
3. HOW TO GO BACK TO COLLEGE AFTER DROPPING OUT
Going back to school after dropping out requires careful thought and planning. To avoid making the same mistakes you made in the past, it’s important to have a clear plan not only for going back to school but also for succeeding while in school.
Here are some practical steps and some tips to help you get back to college after dropping out.
1. CHOOSE A MAJOR
One of the most important steps, if you are thinking of going back to school, is to decide on your major. What do you want to study? Do you want to continue with your original major or do you have some new interests?
Figuring out your college major is a big deal since choosing the wrong major can hinder your progress or stop you from graduating college. If you already have a good amount of college credits, you might find it easier to just continue with your original major since it would cut down on how much time you have to spend in college. However, that shouldn’t be the only consideration.
If you struggled academically while you were in school, consider choosing a different major or getting some more help, if you insist on continuing with the same program of study.
2. WORK OUT HOW YOU WILL PAY FOR COLLEGE?
Sadly, you can’t talk about going to college without talking about how to pay for college. Can you afford to go back to college right now? How will you pay for it? Do you know how much college cost?
These are some of the important questions you must ask yourself before you jump in. This is even more important if you dropped out of college for financial reasons. So, think about this very carefully, and make sure you sort out your finances before enrolling in school.
Here’s a list of some of the most common sources of paying for college.
- Personal funds (paying out of pocket)
- Family or friends
- Grants and Scholarships
- Financial aid
- Student loans
Which of these sources do you plan to use to pay for college? Finally, remember to get in touch with the financial aid office, if you plan on using financial aid to pay for your education.
3. SET SOME GOALS
Far too many students enroll in college without taking the time to set some goals. Goal setting is a great way to keep you focused and organized in college. Without goals, you might find yourself distracted, unmotivated, or lacking a sense of purpose or urgency.
Whether it is academic, financial, or time management goals, taking the time to set goals will give you a sense of purpose, keep you focused, and help you prioritize your activities.
Come up with a list of goals you’d like to accomplish when you return to college. Make sure your goals are measurable, realistic, and relevant to your overall purpose. Set a long-term goal, then break it down into smaller short-term goals.
Don’t forget to set time frames or limits for achieving your goals. Continue to review your goals and be willing to make changes or pivot, if necessary.
4. FIND OUT IF YOU NEED TO TAKE A PLACEMENT TEST AND PREPARE FOR IT
There are some circumstances where you might need to take a placement test. Find out from the college if this is something you have to do so you can prepare it.
The purpose of a placement test is to determine your current level of knowledge in subjects like math, reading, and writing. It’s not something to be ashamed of, so if you need to take one to be accepted back into college, just prepare for it and take it.
Here are some of the most common placement tests and some resources to prepare for them:
5. IDENTIFY KNOWLEDGE GAPS AND TRY TO FIX THEM
Before going back to college, try to identify knowledge gaps and how you can fix them (especially if you are an older student returning to college after a long absence).
Do an analysis of your current knowledge and skills and try to identify some areas you might need help with. Think about your college major and the skills or knowledge that’s required to graduate and succeed in that field. Then, ask yourself “do I have everything I need to succeed?”
Make a list of concepts you struggle with, then come up with a plan to fix them. Identifying and fixing knowledge gaps will stop you from falling behind or struggling when you go back to college.
6. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO MOTIVATE AND SUPPORT YOU
Depending on your reasons for dropping out of college, you probably feel a little bit apprehensive about the prospects of going back. That’s totally normal and understandable.
If you are scared of making the same mistakes or think you are making the wrong decision going back to college after dropping out, it’s very important that you try to find some motivation from somewhere.
Look for a mentor, family member, or friends that can motivate and support you on your journey. You don’t have to do this alone. Don’t be scared to reach out to people. If you know someone with a similar story, reach out to them and learn from them.
Failing at something can affect your confidence, but you can bounce back if you make a decision to do so and also put in the work. So, surround yourself with positive people, and don’t allow negative people or any type of negativity into your life.
7. HOW TO RETURN TO COLLEGE AFTER DROPPING OUT: START SLOW AND EASE INTO IT
If you are wondering how to return to college after dropping out, one suggestion is for you to start slow and ease into it. Don’t try to take on a full course load (or more classes than you can handle) at once.
This advice is even more important if you have been out of school for a long time and you need some time to get back into school or study mode. So, start with one or two classes or six credit hours per semester. Of course, this all depends on how you plan to pay for college.
If you are going to pay for college with financial aid, you may have to take a certain number of credit hours each semester, but if you have an option, it’s better to start slow, then work your way up to taking more classes (three or four) each semester.
8. IDENTIFY SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF GOING BACK TO COLLEGE
Once you decide to go back to school, it’s time to identify some of the challenges you will face as you try to earn a college degree. Think about your current circumstances and consider whether there are some factors that could pose a challenge for you.
For example, if you are a working mom, can you juggle work, school, and family life? What about your childcare needs? Is your living situation stable or do you need to find new accommodation?
Students face a lot of challenges in college and student parents face even more challenges. So, it’s really important to identify potential challenges so you can start addressing them
Whatever the challenges are, write them down and try to brainstorm a couple of solutions for each problem. Taking the time to do this now will save you a lot of stress and will make the transition back to school easier.
9. DEVELOP GOOD HABITS
No matter how motivated you feel about going back to college, you need a good plan and lots of good habits that will keep you on track. If you are in the habit of sabotaging yourself, developing good habits early on can help to prevent that.
Some good habits you should consider developing include goal setting, attending classes without fail, studying every day, and completing assignments before their due dates. Positive habits can help you stay on top of your schoolwork so you don’t end up feeling overwhelmed.
10. LEARN TO PERSEVERE AND RETHINK YOUR STRATEGY
If you dropped out of school because you failed, got overwhelmed, or for similar reasons, then going back to school is an opportunity for you to do things differently.
Now, I know some of you reading this post may have dropped out for reasons outside your control. But, I know some of you had other options and could have made a different decision.
College is hard and everyone goes through different challenges. The difference between those who make it in the end and those who quit is the ability to persevere and make changes when necessary.
So, the next time you think of quitting, think about what you can do differently. Learn to persevere even when college becomes a little bit hard. Always remind yourself of your goal and what a college degree would mean to you.
Try to focus on the benefits of having a college degree and keep reminding yourself that the pain and suffering are only temporary. That’s how you get through college even when things are not going smoothly.
11. CREATE A SCHEDULE AND HAVE A DAILY ROUTINE
One of the easiest ways on staying on top of your schoolwork is to have a daily routine. A routine is simply a set of activities you do every day. While it’s nice to do the same things at the same time each day, a daily routine can still be effective even if you don’t do them at the same time every day.
So, as a student, your daily routine could look like this.
- Check planner and to-do list
- Drink a cup of coffee/eat breakfast
- Prepare for class
- Attend classes
- Study time/complete assignments
Of course, you can add some other activities to your daily routine, but the list above are some of the most common/important activities for any student.
Creating a schedule is also a great way to stay on track. With a schedule, you can keep track of when assignments are due and the dates of upcoming tests and exams. You can also schedule some important activities like study times or logging into online classes.
So, take the time to create a daily routine and schedule that works for you.
Related: How to Create an Effective Student Mom Schedule
12. ASK FOR EXTRA HELP IF/WHEN YOU NEED IT
There’s no shame in asking for help if or when you need it. Instead of struggling in silence, it’s always better to ask for help. In my experience, asking for help early can save you from a lot of problems later on.
If you need extra tutoring help, go ahead and ask for it. You can also participate in study groups or reach out to your classmates or professors for some additional help.
So, don’t try to do this alone or feel embarrassed if you are struggling with a class. If you have been out of school for a while, your brain might have gotten a little bit rusty, so it’s okay to get some help understanding difficult concepts.
13. MAKE A LIST OF YOUR COLLEGE ESSENTIALS
Going back to college can be very exciting and expensive. Some students get so carried away they end up spending lots of money on things that are not essential.
If you are an older student with some other responsibilities, it’s really important for you to save as much money as you can whenever you can. And, one of the smartest ways to save money is to shop with a list.
Before you start purchasing anything for college, spend some time creating a list of the most essential items you need for college. Keep your list tight and shop around for the best deals before buying anything.
Below is a list of some college essentials you should consider buying before returning to college.
- A laptop
- Large calendar
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Notebooks, binders, folders
- Pens, Markers
Final thoughts on how to go back to college after dropping out
It’s possible to go back to college after dropping out. Don’t think it’s too hard or talk yourself out of it, if it’s something you want to do.
Dropping out of college and restarting is an opportunity for you to get back on track, so you can earn a degree. Use the tips in this post as your road map and remember to have fun along the way.
Finally, remember to take care of your mental health. Eat well, get enough sleep, don’t stay up late every night, or live on coffee. Without rest, you will get burnt out, so do everything you can to prevent that.
Did you drop out of school? Are you wondering how to get back into college after dropping out?
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