How to Tell Your Parents You Want to Drop Out of College

Prepare For What Will Inevitably Be a Difficult Conversation

Student staring at cell phone
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For some students, college ends up being far less than they expected. And whether your reasons are personal, financial, academic, or a combination of many factors, the reality is that you want to drop out of school. You likely know, however, that talking to your parents about this realization is not going to be easy. So where can you begin? What should you say?

Be Honest About Your Main Reasons for Wanting to Drop Out

Dropping out of college is a big deal, and your parents likely know this.

Even if they suspected that this conversation was coming, they likely aren't going to be too pleased about it. Consequently, you owe it to them -- and yourself -- to be honest about the main reasons driving your decision. Are you failing your classes? Not connecting socially with others? Feeling lost academically? Is the financial obligation too much to bear? If you're going to have an honest, adult conversation about dropping out, you'll need to contribute your own honesty and maturity, too.

Be Specific About Why You're Dropping Out

General statements like "I just don't like it," "I don't want to be here," and "I just want to come home" may, in fact, be accurate, but they aren't very helpful. Additionally, your parents may not know how to respond to these kinds of general statements other than to tell you to get your tush back in class. If, however, you're more specific -- "I need some time off of school to figure out what I want to study," "I need a break right now academically and intellectually," "I'm concerned about how much this is costing" -- both you and your parents can have a specific, constructive conversation about your concerns.

Talk and Think About What Dropping Out Will Accomplish

Dropping out has such a heavy feel to it because it is, in fact, a very serious choice. Statistically speaking, students who drop out of college are far less likely to ultimately end up with a degree. And while dropping out to take a break can be a smart choice in some situations, it can sometimes be a devastating one -- even unintentionally so.

Consequently, think about and talk to your parents about what dropping out will accomplish. True, you'll leave your current situation, but ... then what? While withdrawing from your current college or university might be appealing, it should be only one step in a longer, thought-out process. What will you do instead? Will you work? Travel? Aim to re-enroll in a semester or two? It's not just about leaving college; it's where you're going next, too.

Make Sure You're Fully Aware of the Consequences

Your parents will likely have a lot of questions for you about what is going to happen if you drop out -- and rightly so. What are the financial consequences going to be? When will you have to start paying back loans, or can you put them on deferment? What will happen to the loan and grant money you've already accepted for this term? What about your lost credits? Can your re-enroll at your institution at a later time, or will you have to re-apply for admission? What obligations will you still have for your living arrangements?

While your heart and mind might be set on dropping out and leaving your current situation, your parents can be great resources for helping you keep your focus on what's most important.

The key, however, is to make sure you're fully engaged with them and working in partnership to make sure the transition is as painless as possible for everyone involved.