Withdrawing From College

Being Smart Now Can Avoid Costly Mistakes Later

Woman writing in a notebook at night

Reza / Contributor / Getty Images

Once you've made the difficult decision to withdraw from college, the first thing on your mind is likely to get away from campus as soon as possible. Unfortunately, moving too quickly may cause you to forget a few important tasks, which can prove both costly and detrimental. So, just what do you need to do to make sure you've covered all of your bases? Approaching this decision the right way will save you difficulties in the future.

Talk to Your Academic Adviser 

Your first stop should be to meet with your academic adviser—in person. Even though it might seem easier to send an email, this kind of decision warrants an in-person conversation.

Will it be awkward? Maybe. But spending 20 minutes having a face-to-face conversation can save you hours of mistakes later. Talk to your adviser about your decision and ask the correct way to let your institution know you'd like to withdraw.

Talk to the Financial Aid Office

The official date of your withdrawal will likely have a major impact on your finances. If, for example, you withdraw early in the semester, you might need to pay back all or part of any student loans you received to cover school expenses. Additionally, any scholarship funds, grants, or other monies you received might need to be repaid.

If you withdraw late in the semester, your financial obligations might be different. Therefore, meeting with someone in the financial aid office about your choice to withdraw can be a smart, money-saving decision. Let the financial aid officer know your intended withdrawal date and ask how this will affect the money you have paid or loans you've received so far. Your financial aid officer can also let you know when you will need to begin repaying loans you received in prior semesters.

Talk to the Registrar

In addition to the conversations you have with school administrators, you will likely need to submit something in writing about your reasons for withdrawing and your official date of withdrawal. The registrar's office might also need you to complete paperwork to make your withdrawal official.

Since the registrar's office also usually handles transcripts, you will want to make sure your records are clear so you'll have no difficulty obtaining copies of your transcripts and official documents in the future. After all, if you're thinking of going back to school or applying for a job, you don't want your transcripts to indicate that you failed your courses because you didn't get your official withdrawal paperwork completed correctly.

Talk to the Housing Office

If you're living on campus, you'll also have to let the housing office know about your decision to withdraw. You'll want to get a final determination of fees for the semester as well as costs for cleaning and preparing the room for another student. The housing office will also be able to give you the official deadline for removing all of your belongings.

Lastly, ask for the name of the person to whom you should return your keys. Be sure to get a receipt to document the date and time that you turn over your room and keys. You don't want to be charged for a locksmith simply because you returned your keys to the wrong individual.

Talk to the Alumni Office

You don't have to graduate from an institution to be considered an alumnus. If you've attended, you're eligible for services through the alumni office. It's a good idea to stop by the alumni office and introduce yourself before you leave campus.

When you visit the alumni office, leave a forwarding address and get information on alumni benefits which may include everything from job placement services to discounted health insurance rates. Even if you're leaving school without a degree, you're still part of the community and you'll want to stay informed about how your institution can support your future endeavors.