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

Prepare for what may be a difficult conversation

Worried and tensed late teen girl holding head and thinking.

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If you are considering dropping out of college, you likely have a good reason: personal, financial, academic, or a combination of factors. Even though the benefits of dropping out may be clear to you, your parents may have some concerns, and talking to them about dropping out may not be easy. So where can you begin? What should you say?

Be Honest

Dropping out of college is a big deal, and your parents know this. Even if they suspected that this conversation was coming, they probably 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 expect to have an honest, adult conversation about dropping out, you'll need to contribute your own honesty and maturity as well.

Be Specific

General statements, like "I just don't like it," "I don't want to be there," and "I just want to come home," may be accurate, but they're vague and therefore not very helpful. Additionally, your parents may not know how to respond to these kinds of general statements other than to tell you to get back to class. If, however, you're more specific—"I need some time off from 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 constructive conversation about your concerns.

Explain What Dropping Out Will Accomplish

Dropping out has such a heavy feel to it because it is a very serious choice. To assuage their concerns, discuss with your parents 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, carefully thought-out process. What will you do instead? Will you work? Travel? Aim to re-enroll in a semester or two? The conversation should not just be about leaving college; it should also include what you're planning to do next.

Be Aware of the Consequences

Your parents will likely have a lot of questions for you about what's going to happen if you drop out. What are the financial consequences going to be? When will you have to start paying back your student 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 you re-enroll at your institution at a later time, or will you have to reapply 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 fully engage and work in partnership with them to make the transition as painless as possible for everyone involved.