6 Tips for Students Going Back to College After Dropping Out

college student attending commencement and wearing a graduation cap decorated with the words "I did it"
Category: Going Back to School

Posted on

Earning a college degree can be one of life’s most rewarding pursuits. In addition to the potential boost to your career, it exposes you to people, ideas and opportunities you may not have known existed.

However, after starting college, some students find the course load, schedule, and financial commitment to be too much for them, at least at that time. According to the Education Data Initiative, adults who are out of school and have some college experience, but no degree, account for up to 11% of the national population.

You’re not alone if you’re wondering: “If I withdraw from college, can I go back?” The answer is a resounding “yes.” New funding models, educational flexibility, and technological developments have made earning a degree more accessible and no less rewarding for returning students.

If you’re considering a return to college after dropping out, here are six ways to help increase your chances of success.

1. Research Your Options

Researching school accreditation*, tuition costs, financial aid eligibility, degree concentrations and more will help you formulate a plan for returning to school. It’s a major decision, so it makes sense to set goals for yourself and spell out exactly why you want to go back, including what you want to try differently this time. Even if you end up going back to your former school and pursuing the same degree, it’s worthwhile to learn about any new financial and educational opportunities that may be available to you now.

2. Gather Your Team

Think about your network of friends, family, coworkers, and other connections who can help you through the transition. For example, if you’re a parent, do you have family or friends who can help with childcare while you attend classes and study? And if you have a job, is your employer willing to be flexible about your work schedule, and do you have coworkers you can rely on to trade shifts when needed? Gathering a “team” around you can help you know how much time you can devote to college versus your other responsibilities.

3. Ask About Transfer Credits

Don’t forget to contact your school to ask about transfer credits. Since you’ve already attended college, you’ll want to make sure you receive as much credit as possible from that previous experience, including other sources of transfer credits.**

4. Take Advantage of School Resources

Once you’re enrolled, learn about the various additional resources your school offers to students. Colleges employ professionals whose entire jobs are to help students through academic advising, career services, library services, technical support and more. When you’re paying to attend college, you’re also paying for access to these services. Take advantage of them.

5. Start Slowly

Returning to college doesn’t mean you need to take a full course load. Starting slowly can help you get used to the rhythm of taking college classes again, and you can always increase your pace in the future. Additionally, if you aren’t 100% sure about which degree program you want to pursue – but you know you want a degree – taking classes at a slower pace gives you time to consider or reconsider your academic focus without investing time and money you may regret later.

6. Attend Online

Education technology has changed the way people study, and there have been significant advancements in online learning in recent years. Many colleges have invested in online platforms because they enable massive improvements to accessibility and flexibility. Attending college online can be another way to ease your transition back into school. Although it can be different than the traditional college experience, the inherent flexibility built into online programs make them popular with returning students.

Going Back to College at CSU

Here at Columbia Southern University, our online degree programs are designed to help students earn a degree no matter how long they’ve been away from the classroom, digital or otherwise.

Whether you took a short break or dropped out of college many years ago, we at CSU are committed to helping you find a degree program that helps you achieve your goals. To learn more about our online degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, visit our website.


Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography and degree field, affect career outcomes. CSU does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, eligibility for a position, or other career growth.

*Columbia Southern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees and certificates. Questions about the accreditation of Columbia Southern University may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (www.sacscoc.org).

**Transferring credits does not guarantee reduced tuition or amount of courses.

Topics in This Article