Going Back to College after Dropping Out [2024 Guide]

Ready to start your journey?

Going back to college after dropping out can be daunting, but plenty of people do it in order to advance their careers and start making more money for their families.

Going Back to College After Dropping Out

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Although it may seem overwhelming at first, if you have dropped out of school, you may join the legions of people who have gone back into higher education and been much better for it.

Get the Facts: Going Back to College After Dropping Out

college students studying together in a library

Plenty of people drop out of school and go back. You can be one of the thousands who hit the books and earn their diploma later in life. It can help set you up for a tremendous amount of success, and college is more accessible than ever.

One of the biggest perks to online education is that you may get your degree on your own time these days. Many online programs offer flexible options that can fit with just about any schedule. This is perfect for those with full-time jobs or familial obligations. Let’s look at the top reasons why you should consider going back to school.

1. Lifetime earnings are much higher for college graduates.

One of the key reasons that you should consider going back to college after dropping out is that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college graduates make far more on average than those without a college education. If you want to set yourself up for a very bright future, this may be one sure-fire way to do it.

2. You do not have to quit your job.

With flexible class schedules and online classes, you don’t need to quit your job or compromise your existing schedule to get a college education. Many schools allow you to work on your own time and will happily allow you to extend your period of study if need be.

3. You are not starting over from scratch.

college students studying together in library

Do you have some existing college? Great! Many schools will allow you to transfer credits. There are certain exceptions for rapidly-changing careers like tech, so make sure you check with the university of your choice.

For those students who want to go back to the school they previously dropped out of, there is even better news. Often you don’t even need to reapply.

4. Colleges offer flexible online degrees.

Many colleges let you take as many or as few credits as you want, and some even offer 8-week classes and lighter schedules for those who can’t study at a traditional pace.

5. Financial aid is available to help you pay for college.

college student searching for scholarships online

There are plenty of financial aid options available for returning college students. As long as you are in good standing with your college loans, you can apply for more.

Students may get loans, scholarships or grants to their school of choice. Check out what’s available in terms of local or state help, and always check your school’s website to see if they have any options available to you.

Having a college degree can help open so many doors, even outside of your field of study. Think of it as an essential financial investment in your future. Join the thousands of others who have gone back to complete their college education. It may be smart move that you will not regret.

Lifetime Earnings Comparison

Lifetime Earnings Comparison

Those with a college degree stand to make substantially more than their counterparts without degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the more education you have, the more money you will likely make in the long run.

The chart below is only an approximate indication of what most people can expect to make as a result of their degree. Remember, these numbers will vary depending on your geographic area and the job market after graduation.

Level of Education Average Annual Earnings
Doctorate Degree $110,200
Master’s Degree $78,210
Bachelor’s Degree $77,920
Associate’s Degree $56,590
High School Diploma $39,070

It’s easy to see why getting your college degree may be a smart financial move. The higher your education, the more money you may make in your chosen profession. Your degree may pay for itself!

7 Steps To Return to School After Dropping Out

college students studying in the library

If you are worried about returning to school after dropping out, you are far from alone. Similar to going back to college at 35 or older, many people are skeptical about heading back to college, and often will put it off because they’re scared to take the first step.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

These seven easy tips can help re-enrolling in school be smooth sailing. Simply take it one step at a time, and you can be back in the classroom in no time.

1. Identify the college you would like to attend.

First things first, you should figure out the college that you would like to attend. Please do your due diligence and think about factors such as flexible class schedule, accessible technology, cost, and how their degree programs compare to those at other colleges.

It would help if you considered whether or not it makes sense to re-enroll in the college you dropped out of. Many times, colleges do not require old students to reapply for school. You may also get financial aid as long as you’re in good standing with your previous loans.

2. Decide on a college major.

college student searching for a book in the library

Your college major will dictate the field that you will work in, so choose it wisely. One of the best ways to determine your major is to consider where your interests lie and go from there.

You can also look at different emerging industries to see which ones have a lot of job growth. Many sectors, like tech, experience fantastic growth and offer excellent job security.

3. Submit your college application.

Unless you are granted an exception as a returning student, you will have to fill out a college application to get accepted. Read it through properly and make sure that you fill out all of the fields, so it doesn’t get rejected or held up.

You will also likely have to submit proof of your high school graduation, G.E.D., and transcripts. Some schools require evidence of your test scores, and many of them like to see letters of recommendation.

4. Submit test scores, if required.

college student preparing for an exam

Some schools require test scores, but a growing number do not. It’s good to have your S.A.T. or A.C.T. scores on hand, if you have them, just in case the school asks. Always check your preferred colleges’ website for complete information on all of their admissions requirements.

5. Submit letters of recommendation, if required.

Excellent letters of recommendation come from those who you’ve worked or studied under. Solicit letters from previous mentors, teachers, coaches or other authority figures.

6. Send transcripts.

You can get your transcripts from the previous college that you attended. Make sure that you provide it, regardless of how long ago you graduated. You never know which credits might be able to transfer over. Some schools require a specific G.P.A. to attend, but certainly not all of them.

7. Complete the Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA).

Returning college students are eligible for FAFSA, and you should take advantage of all of the opportunities that you have regarding financial aid. Make sure that you fill out the application entirely and also look into any grant or scholarship opportunities.

Online Degrees for Working Adults

working adult studying online

Getting your degree online may put you at a serious advantage when it comes to securing a job after graduation and setting yourself up for a stable future. You may also reap fringe benefits like increased job security. If you’ve been dreaming of going back to school to get your college degree, now may be the time.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Here are just a few reasons why you may want to take the plunge.

  • Statistically those with college degrees earn far more money than those without college degrees.
  • Accelerated classes and 8-week programs may allow you to get your degree rapidly.
  • You can get your degree on your own schedule, factoring in work and family obligations.
  • In many cases, your previous college credits will transfer.
  • There are plenty of financial aid options to pursue for students of all levels.

Going back to school can be a smart choice, regardless of your age. You never know how it could pan out for you until you take that crucial first step.

How to Maximize College Credits When Going Back to College

college student studying in the library

Are you worried that you will have to start from scratch when heading back to school? Fortunately, there are several ways that you may maximize your credits and get a jump-start on your education.

Transferring College Credits

If you have already attended school, there’s no reason why you can’t try to use your existing credits towards your continued education. Contact the university of your choice to see what options you have in terms of transferring your credits.

College Credit for Work Experience

Some colleges may give you credit for work experience depending on the discipline, so make sure that you check with your school to see if you qualify. This is most applicable when it comes to certain technical fields and tech-related industries.

Credit by Exam

college students taking an exam

CLEP exams are tests that you pay to take to show competency in a given subject. Instead of going through a full course, you may only need to take an exam to get college credit. CLEP exams are very efficient ways of getting necessary college credit.

There are many ways that you may get college credit from transferred credits, work experience, and exams. Make sure that you explore all of your options so that you re-enter college with as many credits as possible.

What is a Re-Entry Student?

college students studying together

Re-entry students are those who dropped out of school for at least a semester and are returning to finish up their education. Often, re-entry students have college credits that they can apply to their schooling and have a leg up on those who are enrolling for the first time.

Many people who initially dropped out of college return as re-entry students. Many of them go back to the same school because the admission requirements are often more comfortable, and they don’t have to jump through as many hoops to be accepted.

Re-entry students make up a significant portion of incoming students, especially since they can take their classes online and adequately balance the demands of work and family alongside their schooling.

Many colleges are becoming more accommodating to re-entry students by offering flexible class schedules, online learning, and options for getting your degree at your individual pace.

What Are Some Challenges Re-Entry Students Face?

college students in university classroom

Re-entry students are often looking at college a lot different than their peers. They are generally much older and have already had the initial college experience.

Where a lot of younger or new college students want to experience all of the social life that college has to offer, re-entry students may be a lot more serious, and many of them have familial or work-related obligations that prohibit them from socializing to the degree that their peers do. This can lead to some loneliness and alienation.

Re-entry students may also struggle with balancing their work-life schedule. Many of them take on too many classes, only to be overwhelmed by the course load. To address this factor, re-entry students should only take on classes that they know that they can handle and opt for schools that allow them to have flexible schedules.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Additionally, re-entry students can socialize with one another for emotional support and continued learning. Since many re-entry students are in the same boat, this can help them adjust to college life. Many schools also have tremendous networking opportunities open to many re-entry students through clubs, social groups and study groups.

Networking opportunities and groups are excellent ways to help set yourself up for a good job right out of college.

Can I Go Back to the Same College After Dropping Out?

college students studying together

Yes, you may be able to go back to the same college after dropping out, and it may even be easier to do so. Your old college will likely be more familiar to you, and you may be able to start up again much easier than you would at a different school.

Many students find that they are more comfortable at a college that they remember, and don’t need to relearn all of the ins and outs of a brand new school.

Additionally, you should consider going back to the same college you dropped out of for the simple reason that, in some cases, you can bypass the admissions process altogether. Some schools waive the admissions requirement for returning students, so you have one less thing on your plate when going back to school.

You might even find that some of your favorite old professors are still teaching at the school, making it a far more enjoyable environment than a brand-new school. Another perk to going back to your old school is that your credits are far more likely to transfer over, eliminating one woe that returning students often have.

If you liked your old school, you should certainly consider going back.

What Percent of College Dropouts Go Back?

college students studying in campus

The number of dropouts that go back to finish their schooling varies from state to state, but it’s roughly between 10 and 15 percent. Many old students go back long after their peers have graduated, in hopes of getting that diploma that they missed out on the first time around.

Many times, students wind up going back to school well into adulthood because they realize that they have acquired the maturity and life skills to be able to handle the chaotic environment of college and take their schooling seriously. Many students who go back to school finish their education rather than drop out a second time.

You should never be ashamed of going back to school to finish your degree. Plenty of people opt for this choice and are able to find excellent work in the career path of their choice after finishing college. Making sure that you thoroughly consider the college you want to attend and go through the proper channels will help make sure you are all set.

Can You Get Financial Aid Again After Dropping Out?

college student searching the internet

You may get financial aid after dropping out of school as long as you are current on your student loans. You must be in good standing or have paid off your previous student loans to qualify for new ones. Every state varies, so check yours to see what you are eligible for.

Financial aid comes in all sorts of different packages, including loans, grants and scholarships. You must pay back all of your student loans, so only take out what you can reasonably return after graduation.

Grants and scholarships are different. These are awarded to students who show exceptional promise or excellence in schooling, and you can apply for them on the state, regional and federal levels. Some schools even offer their own grant or scholarship programs.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Always apply for everything that you think you might qualify for, even if it seems like a long-shot. You never know what might happen, and many students like to get all of the financial help that they need.

If you have any questions about the status of your student loans, talk to your previous loan provider and explain your situation. They can look at your previous loans and let you know if they are in good standing. If you have loans in default, you might need to set up a payment plan before you can take out any additional loans.

Don’t be afraid to ask about all of your options.

Do College Credits Expire After 5 Years?

college students studying in library

Technically, college credits don’t expire, but some credits related to technical fields like computer programming or information technology security might become obsolete after a while Some colleges will not take certain credits after a period of time, leading to the idea that college credits expire.

The only way that you can find out for sure if your credits are valid is to ask. Contact the school of your choice and explain the situation. Be transparent, and don’t omit any details about your credits. There’s a good chance that most of your credits will not expire, and those that do will be in very specialized concentrations.

Often core credits do not expire. Core subjects like Math and English rarely change, so most times, you can be confident that you will not have to redo them. If you are attending the same college that you dropped out of, you have a better chance of having your credits accepted than if you were to attend a brand new college.

I Failed Out of College Can I Start Over?

college students talking to their professor

Most of the time, you can return to a school that you failed out of. You simply need to meet with an academic advisor and talk to them about what happened during your previous attendance. Often, if you were much younger when you initially attended school, the advisor will chalk your previous experience up to being young and impulsive.

Older students are less likely to get swept up in the social college experience, and therefore at less of a risk of dropping out or failing again.

You should also personally consider the reasons why you failed out of college in the first place. Did you dislike your major? Did you take on too much? Did you get caught up in the allure of college life? The answers to these questions can help you on your journey moving forward, and allow you to make better changes for your future.

Can I Apply to College After Academic Dismissal?

college student sitting in university classroom

Whether or not you can apply to, and be accepted into, a college after academic dismissal hinges primarily on the college and their policy on punishing students. Often you will be allowed to return to campus if you can prove that you have changed and take your education seriously.

Often students fall by the wayside when they are younger and come back as more disciplined adult students.

If you were ejected from college for a different reason, like a criminal act, you might not be able to return to the same school. Check with the school of your choice before making any decisions. Often, if a student commits a criminal act during their initial time in college, they are considered a juvenile and the act is removed from their record.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

This isn’t always the case, but it’s certainly worth checking if you think a youthful offense could hinder your chances of being accepted into the school of your choice.

The other factor to consider is whether or not you want to go back to the same school. If years have passed between the time you were dismissed and your bid to re-enter the school, there shouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, if it’s only been a semester or two, you might be embarrassed and not want to go back to the same school.

Trust your instinct on this one.

How Much Does a College Degree Cost?

college student studying in the library

The cost of your college degree will vary depending on the school you want to go to, and what level of schooling you are attending. For example, bachelor’s degrees often cost more than associate’s degrees because traditionally, you need twice as much education to complete your degree.

If you are going for a degree that requires a lot of paid testing, or many years of clinical work, you can expect to pay more. Community colleges often cost less than private colleges, but you may offset the costs with scholarships, grants and loans.

Many private colleges offer grant and scholarship programs to promising students, and you may be able to apply for these right on their website. Don’t be afraid to apply for grants and scholarships that seem out of your league. You never know what you might qualify for until you try!

Another thing to consider is how many of your credits will transfer. The more credits that your college of choice accepts, the fewer classes that you will have to take, and the quicker you can graduate with your degree. Make sure that you take everything into consideration before making your final choice on this vital decision.

Am I Too Old To Go Back to College?

mature college students in class

You are never too old to go back to college. People go back to college well into their forties and fifties. Getting a college degree can help change your life, regardless of the age that you are at when you get it.

Although many traditional college students are in their late teens and early twenties, you don’t need to feel strange getting back into the classroom later in life. Your priorities might be different, but you can still benefit from an education.

These days, plenty of students are opting to get back into college by taking online classes. This is often an excellent option for those who are a bit older and might have jobs and families to attend to.

Since the internet has opened up so many new opportunities for those looking to further their dreams of a college education, you may find many older students to connect with.

Don’t worry about being an odd man or woman out. These days, anyone can go back to school. You are never too old.

Going Back to College and Getting Your Degree Online

college student studying online

If you want to change your life for the better substantially, you may want to get your college degree online. Even if you dropped out of school or were kicked out due to an academic issue, you may be able to come back into the classroom and finish what you started.

Those with college degrees tend to make far more than people who don’t have degrees. The more education you have, the more money you may be able to make. If you want to advance in your field and be taken seriously, a degree can help. It can help you work towards a brighter future.

It might be nerve-wracking at first, but once you start the process of getting your degree, you may wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Many of your previous credits may transfer over, too, allowing you to get your degree in far less time. You may gain far more job stability and a brighter future with a college degree.

Ready to start your journey?
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.