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Can I Go Back To College If I Dropped Out?

If you withdrew from college, you aren’t alone. In the United States, the overall dropout rate for undergraduate college students is 40%, with approximately 30% of college freshmen dropping out before their sophomore year. 

There are many valid reasons students drop out. Rising tuition costs, family and personal circumstances and inability to balance work and school can all contribute to a student’s choice to withdraw from college. However, just because you dropped out doesn’t mean you can’t go back to college.

College dropout rates can be deceiving because they often don’t represent the number of students who return to successfully complete their degree. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that 1 million dropout students returned to school and completed their degree between 2014 and 2019. Another 1.1 million students were still working to complete their degree.

If you’re a working adult who withdrew from college and is ready to recommit to getting your degree, we’re here to help. Let’s address some of the top questions and concerns for working adults re-applying to college.


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Four Paths for Going Back to College After Dropping Out

Every student’s path back to school is different. For some students, withdrawing from college is a short break. For others it may take over a decade before they return to school. No matter how long it’s been or where you attended college previously, you have options for how to re-apply to college.

Let’s look at four of the most common pathways to college completion and for whom they are the best fit:

  1. Completing your degree at your former college may be right if you want to pursue the same career path and are happy with the student experience at the college.
  2. Completing the degree at a different college may be right if you want to pursue the same career path but have different needs as a student—whether that’s more affordable courses, a flexible online learning environment or better student support services. 
  3. Earning a new degree at the former college may be right if you want to pursue a different career but appreciate the learning environment at your previous college.
  4. Earning a new degree at a new college may be right for you if your previous credits have expired or you want a fresh start at a college that’s a better fit for working adults.

Finding The Right College To Finish Your Degree

Whether attending the same college or a new one, most successful returning students choose to complete their degree through an online program. Finishing your degree online provides a flexible option that makes it easier to balance your work, education and personal life.

Let’s look at what makes an online degree program ideal for a working adult with some college credit who wants to re-enroll in college. Look for online colleges that specialize in meeting the needs of transfer students, indicated by the following characteristics:

  • Accreditation, which shows the college meets the highest standards of academic quality.
  • Policies that maximize transfer credit, including acceptance of non-traditional transfer credits like previous work experience, professional credentials or military credit. The percentage of students receiving transfer credit is also a strong indicator of transferability. For example, more than 90% of Franklin University students receive transfer credit toward their degree.
  • Affordable cost per credit hour and one-on-one financial aid support. 
  • Faculty with extensive industry experience who can translate course content into practical learning experiences.
  • Networking opportunities that will help you grow your professional connections.
  • Microcredentials and certification qualifications built into degree programs, helping to showcase mastery of in-demand skills. 
  • Flexible online courses that combine independent study with real-time meetings and individualized support.

5 Tips for Returning to College After Dropping Out

Going back to school is a significant undertaking. It’s also a major accomplishment that provides many rewards. Make sure you’re prepared to succeed by following these tips.

  1. Know why you want to go back—and why you’re prepared to succeed. Determining your “why,” whether it’s career advancement, a salary increase, or a sense of accomplishment, will help you stay motivated as you complete your degree. Recognizing your personal and professional growth since the last time you attended college can give you confidence as you undertake this endeavor. 
  2. Make a realistic schedule and stick to it. Plan to spend 10-15 hours per week on your coursework and pace it out so you don’t fall victim to procrastination. Effective time management is one of the top indicators of success for working adults who return to school. 
  3. Reduce time to graduation by choosing a transfer-friendly school. A transfer-friendly college will work with you to determine how many of your previous credits transfer. For example, Franklin University provides a free, online transfer credit tool to help you estimate your transfer credit. Franklin’s transfer credit team is also happy to meet with you one-on-one to discuss your potential transfer credit.
  4. Watch out for colleges that sound too good to be true. There are online colleges out there that will over promise and under deliver. Make sure you thoroughly vet any college to ensure that student outcomes show that adult learners are successful. Nonprofit colleges may be a better fit since they are designed to support students, not deliver profits on behalf of shareholders.
  5. Build a strong support network. As an adult returning to college, you can’t do it alone. Whether you’re balancing professional pursuits or family responsibilities, you need people in your corner. Look to professional mentors, peers, faculty members and friends and family to help you stay the course and complete your degree.

Remember: there’s never a perfect time to go back to school. However, if you make a plan, stay dedicated, and build your support system, you can reap the rewards of finishing your college degree.

Choose an Online College Built For Working Adults

As a working professional who is returning to school after dropping out, you have a unique set of needs that traditional colleges may not be able to meet.

At Franklin University, the average age of students is 34. Franklin’s programs are designed to meet the needs of working adults who want to maximize previous experience to complete their degree. Here are the top reasons Franklin stands out from other colleges:

  • Flexible online courses ensure you can take your classes and complete your coursework on your schedule and your terms.
  • Our balanced learning approach equally allocates workload throughout the course to help you balance your study time with other commitments.
  • Multiple start dates and variable course lengths make sure you can start and finish faster and schedule courses that fit into your busy life.
  • Types of transfer credit, including military training, professional certifications, work experience and portfolio credit, and more can count toward your degree. 

Explore even more ways that the Franklin experience can set you up for success and help you earn your college degree.

Free Guide:
Where to Find Free Money to go Back to School
Learn how to get grants to cut college costs.