Things to consider before dropping out of college

Leaving college can be a difficult decision to make, so it’s important to consider all your options

Written by spunout


Leaving college can be a difficult thing to do, but for many students, it might be the right choice. Some people find that college just isn’t right for them, or there might be something going on outside of your control that has led to the decision to leave college.

There are lots of reasons why a person might decide to drop out of college, but it’s important to think about it fully before making the final decision.

Think about why you want to drop out of college

It can be helpful to sit down and think about your college experience and make sure you fully understand why you’re feeling the way you are.

You don’t like your college course

A lot of students discover after a few weeks or months of their course that it’s not what they want to study at all. This can be stressful, because you might feel like you’re stuck on this path now that you’ve started. This is not the case, and there are a few options available to you if you want to leave your course to study something else, including transferring to a different course or doing a PLC.

Financial problems

Financial problems in college can be a source of stress and anxiety for a lot of students. Even with support like the student grant, it can be difficult to keep on top of finances during college. Before deciding to leave, you could speak to student services about applying for the Student Assistance Fund, a source of funding that can help students with with either temporary or ongoing financial difficulties. The fund can be paid on top of the student grant.

Balancing work and college

If you’re working in order to afford going to college, think about whether or not your hours are affecting your college life or work. If it’s a struggle to balance the two, try talking to your manager about changing your work schedule. You could also try to find another job better suited to your college timetable.

Mental health problems

Many students struggle with their mental health while they’re in college. This can make it difficult to find the motivation to keep up with your work, go to classes, and get involved with social activities. Pressure from assignments and exams can also contribute to mental health difficulties.

If you feel you’re struggling, talk to someone. There are services on campus that can help students going through a mental health difficulty. Most colleges have a free counselling service for students where you can talk about your problems, and you can also go to the welfare officer in the Students’ Union if you’re not sure where to start.

NiteLine is a free listening service for students available from 9pm-2:30am every night of term on 1800 793 793.

Struggling with the workload

Depending on your course, the workload in college can become overwhelming for many students. A lot of the time, big assignments like essays will be due around the same time of the year, and there can be a lot of pressure around exam time to stay on top of all of your subjects. If you’re finding it hard to keep on top of everything, you’re not alone. Many colleges have services on campus to help you with handling your workload, including support with essay writing, maths, and creating a study timetable.

You could also ask to meet your lecturers to discuss your workload and find out if you can get extensions on some of your assignments so that you can complete everything.

Talk to the education officer in your Students’ Union or get in touch with Student Services and find out what help is available.

Feeling like you don’t fit in

Making friends in college can be difficult for some people, especially if you don’t know anyone going into your first year. If you’re having a hard time meeting people, try and find a college club or society that interests you and go along to some of the meetings. If you’re a commuter, ask if they do any events during the day so that you can still attend. It can be hard to take the first step, but you might start to enjoy college more once you get more involved.

College just isn’t for you

College isn’t for everyone, and if you’re starting to feel like you’re not in the right place, or this just isn’t the right time for you to go to college, that’s okay. If you decide to leave, take time to consider what you’ll do next, even if that means trying different things until you find what works for you.

Who to talk to about leaving college

If you’re thinking of leaving, the best thing you can do is talk to others about it.

Student advisors

Many colleges and universities will have a student advisory or academic advisory office where you can speak to someone about any difficulties you’re having with your course or with college life in general. The student advisor should be able to talk through these problems with you and make suggestions about what to do next.

Students’ Union

You might find it helpful to speak to someone in the Students’ Union, whether that’s the welfare officer or the education officer, about the problems you’re having with your college. They will be able to explain your options, offer advice, and direct you to the right person within the university to speak to next.

Switching into a different course

In some circumstances, your university may allow you to transfer into a different course if your current one isn’t working for you. The more similarities between your current course and the one you want to switch to, the more likely it is that your university will approve it. It’s also better to look into this as early in the year as possible, because there may be a cut-off date, and certain fees may apply. Speak to a student advisor in your university to discuss how to switch into a different course.

Fees and grant considerations when leaving college early

If you decide to leave but think you may want to come back to college at a later point, it’s important to think about the costs that could be involved. Depending on how early you decide to switch, you could be entitled to free fees in the first year of your new course, or you may need to pay half of the fees or full fees (usually around €4,000-5,000) if you transfer too late in the year, in addition to the €3,000 student contribution charge.

What is the cut off date for free fees when leaving college?

Usually, if you leave before the end of October, you will still be entitled to free fees. If you leave before January, you will have to pay half fees, and if you leave after January, you’ll have to pay full fees. This can sometimes vary from college to college. In order to find out what potential fees you could face and what the cut off date is for free fees, speak to the registration office at your university.

How does leaving college affect my grant from SUSI?

If you are receiving a grant, deciding to leave could affect your grant entitlements. It’s important to get in touch with SUSI and find out if there are any implications by deciding to leave your course. Generally, you are not eligible for a grant if you are repeating a year or going into the first year of a new course. However, sometimes there are certain circumstances where you may get a “second chance” at receiving the grant. The best way to know how leaving could affect your grant entitlement is to contact SUSI.

Consider deferring or taking a leave of absence

Before deciding to leave college permanently, you could find out if you are eligible to take a leave of absence for a year. This means your place on your course will be held for you for a year, and you’ll have time to think about what it is you really want. If you decide to return, you can pick up where you left off.

Most colleges and universities will have a policy for allowing students to take a leave of absence in exceptional circumstances, and there are usually different procedures if this is happening at the beginning of the academic year or in the middle of the term.

Speak to the admissions office about eligibility to find out if this is an option for you. Learn more about deferral here.

What to do after dropping out of college

It’s a good idea to think about what you’ll do after you leave college. Without a plan, you might find yourself sitting at home wondering if you’ve made a mistake. It’s better to get out there and keep busy while you find a new path.


Leaving college could be an opportunity to start working so that you can gain experience and save money. Starting work can also help you decide what it is you want to do. For advice on finding a job, doing interviews, and starting work, visit our employment section.

If you’re not sure what sort of work to go into, use our employment tool at

Doing a PLC

A PLC can be a great way to get practical experience, gain a qualification, and build up your skills. PLC courses tend to be targeted towards specific jobs. About half of your time on the course is spent on knowledge and training directly related to employment, meaning there’s less pressure on students to complete assignments and exams, If you decide you want to go back to college, your PLC could allow you to move into a Level 8 course. Learn more about PLCs here.

Apprenticeship or traineeship

An apprenticeship is another option if you want to start work but you’re interested in a job that requires training. An apprentice is a person who is studying a particular craft from someone who has been working in the field for a while. It gives the apprentice an opportunity to combine education with hands-on experience in the area that they want to work in. Common apprenticeships include construction, electrical, engineering, hospitality or cooking, mechanics, or IT. Learn more about apprenticeship here.

A traineeship combines learning in an education setting and combining that with on-the-job experience in the workplace and covers areas like care hospitality, business retail, fashion and beauty, and finance. Learn more about traineeship here.

Re-applying to the CAO

If you’ve decided to leave your current course to start a new one the following year, you may need to re-apply to the CAO. If you decide to go this route, you will need to fill out the CAO at the same time as all of the other student applying to college that year. Take a look at Level 5, 6, 7 and 8 courses when looking for something new to study. Learn more about how to choose a college course here.

Remember to consider whether or not you will have to pay fees for your new course if you left your original course after the cut off date (see fees and grants section above).

Make sure you consider all of your options, reasons, and any financial implications before you make this step. Remember that college is not for everyone and it’s okay that it hasn’t worked out for you.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.


Our work is supported by