Withdrawing From College

Being Smart Now Can Avoid Costly Mistakes Later

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If you've made the difficult decision to withdraw from college, you should make sure you follow the necessary steps as closely as possible. Approaching it the right way will save you headaches in the future.

Once you've made the decision, the first thing on your mind is likely to simply get away from campus. Unfortunately, however, moving too quickly or forgetting to do a few important tasks can prove both costly and detrimental. So just what do you need to do to make sure you've covered all of your bases?

Talk to your Academic Adviser 

The first stop should be to touch base with your academic adviser--in person. Even though it might seem easier to talk to them over the phone or 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 about the detailed specifics you need to do 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 took out to cover your school expenses. Additionally, any scholarship funds, grants, or other monies might need to be repaid.

If you withdraw late in the semester, your financial obligations will be much different. Consequently, talking--again, in person--with someone in the financial aid office about your decision to withdraw can be a smart, money-saving decision.

Talk to a financial aid officer about:

  • Your official withdrawal date.
  • What this means for any money you've been awarded or loaned this term.
  • When you'll be expected to begin paying back any loans you have from this or previous semesters.

Talk to the Registrar

Regardless of how many conversations you have in person, you will likely need to submit something formal and in writing about your reasons for withdrawing and the official date of withdrawal. The registrar's office might also need you to complete paperwork or other forms to make your withdrawal complete.

Since the registrar's office also usually handles transcripts, you will want to make sure everything is in tip-top shape with them. After all, if you're thinking of going back to school or are applying for a job later, you don't want your transcript to show that you failed your courses this term when, in reality, you simply didn't get your official withdrawal paperwork completed in time.

Talk to the Housing Office

If you're living on campus, you'll have to let the housing office know about your decision to withdraw. You'll need to figure out what you'll be charged for, if you need to pay any fees for having your room cleaned, and by when you should have your things moved out.

Lastly, be very specific about to whom and when you should hand over your keys. You don't want to be charged any kind of fee or additional housing costs simply because, for example, you handed your keys to your RA when you should have turned them into the housing office directly.

Talk to the Alumni Office

You don't have to graduate from an institution to be considered an alumnus. If you've attended an institution, you're (most often) considered an alumnus and eligible for services through their alumni office. Consequently, make sure to stop in before you withdraw, even if it seems silly now.

You can leave a forwarding address and get information on everything from job placement services to alumni benefits (like discounted health insurance rates). Even if you're leaving school without a degree, you're still part of the community there and should leave as informed as possible about how your institution can still support your future endeavors.