Published On: Mon, Oct 17th, 2016

College Woes: Why Many Students Drop Out Of College In The Freshman Year

The US, or “The Dropout Factory”?

The US ranks as one of the most developed nations of the world with their superior technology and powerful currency. In spite of their supremacy, it’s shocking to see the prevailing problem of high college dropout rate that goes unnoticed. Retaining their students has been a long-standing worry among colleges, as the US Department of Education states that nearly 41% of freshmen don’t complete their degrees, and dropout before the final year.  

The numbers look alarming, as 31 million students have dropped out of colleges in the last 20 years. It surely justifies the fact that US is called “The Dropout Factory”. As of now, there are 29.1 million US citizens without a college degree. It should perhaps not be so surprising to see our jobs being outsourced.

So why are freshmen dropping out? Excess pressure to perform and financial troubles (rising cost of student loans) may well be the two obvious reasons, but there are a few more that go on the list.

Nontraditional students

As per the Education department report of 2013, only 29% of the total undergraduates were traditional students. The number of non traditional students who put their work on hold and give college another chance is high in the US. But, only ⅓ (33.7%) of all such students who enroll / re-enroll after a long break end up completing their degrees.

Students who enroll for the first time have become used to not being a student for so long that their minds are not as sharp as their younger peers. Students returning to complete their degrees often have to juggle between their studies, personal life, job and family. The early enthusiasm to rediscover their career fades away with the added responsibility of attending school, hence forcing them to drop out yet again.

Orfalea College of Business, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California. Public domain image/Gregg Erickson

Orfalea College of Business, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California.
Public domain image/Gregg Erickson

Work or study?

I had to work so I couldn’t take any more stress” is the most common reason given by more than half of the students who drop out of colleges. Yes, many young adults who support their living expenses by taking up part time or full time jobs are met with excess stress that causes lack of concentration during class hours. They end up performing below average and miss out on important deadlines, resulting in poor grades.    

Inability to cope

Students sometimes make a poor choice of college based on factors like their favorite sports team, college rankings, someone else’s good experience, or even on emotional grounds. They do not thoroughly research the colleges to find out more about their courses and to find one that is most suitable to their requirements and interests. This lack of research and analysis doesn’t always turn out to favor their academic success and personal goals. They must weigh different options and choose the right place that’s worth their calibre.

Another reason for high dropout rates is that, students often get into college for a fancy graduate degree which would earn them a higher pay package (almost twice as much as a high school grad). Eventually, they are unable to cope with the course requirements that are way tougher than what they had experienced in high school. Nearly 60% of them do the catching up work throughout the initial months and give up even before completing their first year.     

Depression (drugs, social freedom)

Going off to College” is something that every parent dreams for their kids. The thought of leaving all restrictions behind seems like an attractive option to a seventeen year old.

Once in college, the high school grads are exposed to a social freedom that drags them into clubbing, alcohol and drug abuse. While some resist this temptation, there are many more who get carried away with the social pressure. One in three students suffers from depression and is reported to have taken remedial classes. 75% of such students never graduate.


College students are often brimming with new ideas and the dream to create something big. They aspire to be the next Gates, Jobs or Zuckerberg and drop out to live their dream. A few make it through (like Sam Forline) while the rest lose out due to lack of patience and skills and end up working menial jobs, later regretting their decisions.

Dropout vs. Persistence vs. Retention

The retention rate is the the number of Freshmen who return to continue their Sophomore year in the same institution, while the persistence rate is students returning to any other institution. As per the 2016 research paper released by National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, there has been a marginal improvement in both the parameters whereby, the persistence rate has gone up to 72.1%. It means 72% of the students have continued with their course, leaving the dropout rate to 28%.

This indicates that the Government must shift their focus towards bringing the dropout numbers further down as there are high chances that they may go up in the coming years.

Exaggeration? Apparently not!

The above numbers are perhaps indicative of why jobs are being outsourced, or are taken by deserving immigrants. The youth unemployment rate as of September 2016 has gone up to 10.30% as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rising number of youth who can’t match the required job criteria leads to this high rate of unemployment. And, no matter how many new jobs are created, unemployment rate cannot come down until the the number of college dropouts in the US reduces sharply.

College education is very expensive and is more of a privilege than right. So if you get accepted by a college, you must stick through those years to earn that precious degree.   

Author Bio:

Ethan Miller is a private ESL teacher who also works as an online tutor. Apart from his passion for teaching, he loves to write and holds a degree in creative writing. When he is not teaching or writing his book, Miller loves to blog and is a huge fan of educational technology. You can follow Miller on Facebook and Twitter and check out his blog.

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  1. The Career Advice that Nobody Tells 18-Year-olds | The Global Dispatch says:

    […] to surprise us all. Meanwhile, many of those lucky enough to go to college don’t make it all the way, while those that do can expect to spend years afterwards servicing their […]

  2. Kyle Connor says:

    Yes. This is so true. The employment rates will not go up till the dropout rates are not resolved.

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