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Student Potential

Why Students Drop Out (And How to Avoid It)


When you start your post-secondary education, you’re excited and optimistic about what the future holds, the new friends you’ll meet and the subjects you’ll explore. But sometimes, it doesn’t entirely turn out how you hoped, and you might wonder whether you’ve made the right choice. You may even think about dropping out.

If you do, you’re not alone.

A 2022 survey estimates that 40% of university students in Canada are considering dropping out. But finishing your education can pay dividends in the future, providing you with more opportunities and earning potential.

Here are some reasons why students might consider dropping out, and how you can avoid them and stay in school.

Tuition and living costs

A post-secondary education is expensive; there’s no doubt about it. Undergraduates pay an average of $6,800 per year for tuition, and that doesn’t even include living expenses. This can be prohibitive to many students. Even if they’ve already gotten a handle on these expenses, circumstances change. Some have to put their studies on hold if something changes – they’ve lost their jobs, have to allocate their savings elsewhere, or no longer qualify for financial aid.

If skyrocketing tuition costs have put your plans to finish your degree at risk, you may have more options than you think. Your school’s financial aid office may be able to help cover some expenses or offer scholarships you can apply for to defray costs.

Work-study programs or a part-time job can also help.

You can also consider transferring your credits to a school that allows you to complete your education more affordably – one that allows you to live at home or offers courses online, for instance.

Life challenges

For many, going to post-secondary school is a significant life change. It may be your first time living away from home. Or you might be without the support of friends you’ve always had around. Sometimes, there might be other factors that are making an impact on your life – changes in your health, shifts in your family, or a breakup. These events can affect your mental health and well-being, sometimes leaving you feeling like you can’t give your studies the attention they deserve.

If you’re going through something like this, wanting to drop out is completely understandable. Speak to a trusted friend or access your school’s mental health support services. They may be able to help you cut through the uncertainty and find a solid path forward. Perhaps you can think about taking a semester off instead of dropping out altogether. You may realize the situation is temporary and find the energy to start your studies again at a later date.

Academic challenges

University and college can be drastically different from high school. From the coursework to the evaluations, even high-performing students might need help to adjust to the rigors of a post-secondary education. While many eventually adjust, some may wonder whether their chosen program is the right fit for them.

Before you think about dropping out, look into resources at your school that can help you with your academic challenges. Student tutors, workshops and group study sessions can boost your grades and give you the tools you need to succeed. Sometimes, you may want to evaluate whether changing your major might be a good option. A less demanding subject in the same field could be the right path forward. You may even decide to do something completely different. Take your time and mull your options.

Dropping out is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It may seem like there are too many obstacles in your way to finish your program, but chances are, there are also solutions that can help you stay on track and in school. Find someone you trust to help you figure it out!

Written by Embark

Embark is Canada’s education savings and planning company. The organization aims to help families and students along their post-secondary journeys, giving them innovative tools and advice to take hold of their bright futures and succeed.