Going to college can be stressful. If you find yourself questioning your college decision, it’s important to research your options. You can take a break from school and return when you’re ready. What’s most important is to understand the necessary steps for withdrawal so you leave in good standing. Seek the help of an adviser so you know what should be on your to-do list for withdrawing from college.

Reflect Upon Your Goals

Before you cancel enrollment in college, take the time to reflect upon your goals. If you’ve hit a rough patch and believe that you just can’t be successful, take a breath and seek the advice of a mentor or counselor. It’s important to have clear reasons for withdrawing from college that match your long-term plans.

Be Aware of Withdrawal Dates

Before withdrawing from college, do some research on the rules of your institution. Each college has different guidelines that may impact what is recorded on your transcript and the potential for a full or partial refund.

In some cases, a medical reason for withdrawal may provide additional leeway for tuition refunds. Some colleges may not allow you to withdraw after the midpoint of the semester without academic penalty.

Paperwork for Withdrawing From College

Once you’ve decided to cancel your enrollment in college, you’ll need to fill out appropriate paperwork. Some colleges may have an online system that will allow you to electronically withdraw from your classes.

Visit the registrar’s office to obtain the necessary paperwork. Be sure to leave contact information and ask if your email account will remain active. If you decide to return, you’ll want to keep the lines of communication open.

Talk to an Adviser

It’s important to meet with an adviser before you cancel enrollment from college. An academic adviser can help you navigate the rules about withdrawing from college. You may also find a way to stay in school and opt out of a class that seems too difficult to manage.

You’ll want to keep your options open for returning to college someday, and having a staff advocate will help you learn what needs to be done to remain in good standing. If you’re considering transferring to a different institution, an academic adviser can help you understand what courses will transfer or the paperwork needed for the transfer evaluation process.

Look at Scholarship Rules

Each scholarship is unique and has varying rules about repayment. The granting organization may have stipulations that require you to complete a certain number of credits in order to avoid repayment of the scholarship. Investigate the rules of any scholarship that you’ve received before withdrawing from college.

Consider Financial Aid Implications

You may be wondering, "Will withdrawing from a class affect my financial aid?" It’s important to check with the financial aid office before withdrawing from college. In some cases, waiting until late in the semester to withdraw may allow you to avoid repaying your financial aid.

Similarly, if you withdraw prior to financial aid disbursement, you can decline your loans. Withdrawing from college may also impact your eligibility for receiving financial aid in the future.

Take Care of Housing Commitments

If you’re living on campus or in an apartment, you’ll need to look into the financial obligations associated with your housing contract. Most institutions will allow you to opt out of a residence hall contract if it’s within the first 10 days of the semester.

If you withdraw from classes later in the semester, you’ll still be on the hook for the time that you spent in the dorm. Off-campus rental leases can sometimes be subleased to another student. Read the fine print so you’ll know your financial and legal obligations for rental housing.

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About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.