When It Makes Sense to Drop Out of School

Pros and Cons of Leaving School

School homework
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At first glance, dropping out of school is a terrible idea. The outlook for high school dropouts is considerably more bleak than for teens who finish their education. According to a 2005 study by the non-profit Brookings Institution and Princeton University, adults ages 30-39, who never completed high school were earning $15,700 a year less than their colleagues with high school diplomas, and $35,000 a year less than adults of similar age who had attended college for two years.

Dropouts are more likely to be unemployed or on welfare. In addition, the incarceration statistics - which aren't correlated but are worth noting - are alarming. Two-thirds of the inmates in state prisons are high school dropouts.

Artistic Teens Who Delay School

That said, there are a few cases where dropping out or delaying completion of a traditional education makes sense. Young musicians, dancers or actors who are already pursuing professional careers as teens may find the standard school day difficult to manage. Even if school hours don't conflict, rising for an 8 a.m. class may be impossible for someone with late night gigs on a regular basis. Most of those students and their families opt for private tutors or independent study programs which allow them to graduate on time. Some students choose to defer their education by a semester, a year or longer when professional commitments require traveling or excessive hours.

That's a decision a family needs to weigh carefully. Many young actors and musicians, including Dakota Fanning, Justin Bieber, Maddie Ziegler and others manage to continue their education while pursing professional careers - but it takes commitment to do so.

Health Issues and School

Health issues may also necessitate a pause in education while your child heals, gets his physical or mental health condition under control, or finds an alternative path.

From being in treatment for serious illnesses like cancer or other diseases to managing depression, anxiety or other psychological challenges, school can sometimes become secondary to the pursuit of good health. Again, most teens and their families opt for tutors or independent study programs which can be done privately or under the auspices of a public high school district, but there is no shame in needing to put academics on hold in order to take care of more pressing health issues.

Additional Reasons Teens Drop Out

According to the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, other reasons teens drop of out school (in order of frequency include: pregnancy, unable to work at the same time as going to school, needing to support the family, need to care for a family member, becoming a mother or father of a baby, and getting married.

However, nearly 75 percent of the teens who drop out eventually finish, according to the Brookings Institution. The majority earn their GED while others finish their coursework and actually graduate. Before freaking out at the very thought of your child dropping out, carefully weigh the pros and cons of dropping or stopping out. A traditional path to a high school diploma is not necessarily the right fit for everyone, and after the initial shock of the idea has subsided, you may come to the conclusion that your child would be better off pursuing an independent path to adulthood.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't encourage - indeed, insist - on pursuing an alternative route to a diploma. Give your child time to consider your input, with the knowledge that you are ready to support him or her in whatever way you can to help reach the goal of completing their education. Then, formulate a plan with your child for resuming their education - via re-enrollment, tutors or independent study, or one of the "second chance education" programs available, such as the GED. Whatever path your child takes, completing his or her education is the ultimate goal and parental help will only make that easier.

Successful High School Dropouts

They do exist!

  • Billionaire  Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin
  • Multimillionaire David Karp, founder of Tumblr
  • Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino
  • Robert De Niro, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Uma Thurman
  • Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Billy Joel
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Burrell, Jackie. "When It Makes Sense to Drop Out of School." ThoughtCo, Nov. 27, 2017, thoughtco.com/when-makes-sense-drop-school-3570197. Burrell, Jackie. (2017, November 27). When It Makes Sense to Drop Out of School. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/when-makes-sense-drop-school-3570197 Burrell, Jackie. "When It Makes Sense to Drop Out of School." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/when-makes-sense-drop-school-3570197 (accessed April 22, 2018).