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How To Drop Out of High School (Do You Really Want To?)

bored student high school dropout

So, you are wondering how to drop out of high school?

Please don’t!

But if you are seriously considering it, below are some important things you should know before you do.

First, you may not realize you’re not alone. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, around 2 million students across the country don’t finish high school.

So, if you’re feeling like dropping out, know that you’re not the only one.

But that does not make it the right thing to do!

The second thing you should know is that there are just so many options to help you finish high school! No matter what your reason for quitting is, there are many alternate high school options and resources that will still allow you to earn a GED or high school diploma.

The third thing, and the most important, is that dropping out of high school may have some severe consequences that can affect your entire life.

We will talk about this in more detail below.

So, if you’re thinking about dropping out of high school, be sure to weigh all of your options before making a final decision.

Now, onto the logistics and risks of actually dropping out of high school.

High School Dropout Facts

According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the most recent high school dropout rate in the United States was 5.1 percent.

This represents a significant decrease from the highs of the 1970s when dropout rates were closer to 15 percent.

Despite the progress in lowering drop-out rates, high school dropouts still face significant challenges.

Earning Potential Decreases

Estimates are that those who do not earn a high school diploma earn $183 less each week than those that are high school graduates.

Unemployment Rises

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with no high school diploma have the highest number of unemployed people. In 2021 it was estimated that they make up 8.3% of all unemployed people in the United States.

Lifestyle Issues

With no high school diploma, there are limitations to the jobs you can get. Many of these jobs may not provide a stable lifestyle which in turn can cause many issues like homelessness, substance abuse, depression, and more.

  • Young adults without a high school diploma or GED are roughly 4.5 more likely to experience homelessness.
  • 56.8% of high school dropouts smoke cigarettes
  • 32.3% of high school dropouts binge drink
  • 31.4% of high school dropouts use illegal drugs

As you can see, dropping out of high school has some pretty big consequences on your future.

But, if you are confident that it is the right choice for you; read on and learn how to handle it properly so you do not put your future at risk.

Reasons Students Drop out Of High School

There are a variety of reasons why students might drop out of high school.

Below are some of the most common reasons with recommendations that can help keep you on the road to high school graduation. Remember dropout prevention is every school and parents goal, so please be sure to talk to those you trust the most!

Family responsibilities

Some students have to take on significant family or other responsibilities, such as caring for younger siblings, and parents, or working to support the family financially. This can make it difficult to juggle schoolwork and other obligations.

If you have not already done so, it would be important to reach out to your school counselors, or a teacher you really like. They may be able to guide you to resources that can assist you with the family burden you are facing. Options like home study or alternative schools may be an option as they might allow more flexibility. Then you can take a high school equivalency test to earn that diploma.

Poor grades

Some students may feel like they’re not doing well in school and decide to drop out rather than continue struggling.

Talk to a trusted teacher or counselor, even a family member! It might turn out that you have a disability of some sort that is affecting your ability to learn that you are not aware of. There are more resources than you can imagine to help you – so be sure you take those opportunities.

Pregnancy

Teenage pregnancy can be a major factor in deciding to drop out of high school. Often, girls who become pregnant feel like they can’t continue with their education and end up dropping out.

Pregnancy should definitely not be a reason to drop out of school! If anything it should motivate you to work harder because now you have this little person to raise that you will want the best for. There are many alternative high schools, some just for pregnant girls that you can attend or you can apply for homeschooling opportunities. Then you can earn your high school equivalency diploma and be a mom your child will be proud of.

Lack Of Interest

Some students simply lose interest in school and decide that it’s not worth their time and effort to stay enrolled.

Talk to a counselor, teacher, or coach. Sometimes even a life coach or psychologist might help you understand why you are not interested in school. Is there a deeper issue at home or in your personal life that can be affecting why you feel school is a waste of time?

Bullying

This is a widespread issue and for many kids, the daily bullying in school can make them want to drop out and give up due to the feeling they are not worth it.

This is a serious issue that no student should have to deal with. If you are facing bullying, please be sure to reach out to a trusted adult or guidance counselor to find solutions that do not include dropping out of school. There is homeschooling, alternative schools, or maybe the bully can be the one that is “handled” so the bullying stops. You are worth so much more than the bully might make you feel – please get help so you can finish school!

Mental Health

Some students are facing major mental health issues, especially since COVID. If they are not getting the help they need, or have people to talk to, this can present some major issues including dropping out of school.

Life can be hard sometimes, and this might be taking a toll on your mental health. Whether you have ADHD, depression, or some other mental illness it is important to get help. Proper medication, resources for dealing with the challenges, and a supportive group of friends and family can make all the difference.

Learning Disabilities

There are many learning disabilities that can make high school a challenge. One of the most notable, and hard to diagnose is dyslexia. When kids are not diagnosed properly they can become frustrated and give up.

Be sure to talk to a legal guardian or trusted adult to find resources to help you! If you have been diagnosed, a doctor or counselor can assist you with finding alternative options. Many school districts have resources to help those with learning disabilities that can not only help them excel but to exceed their high school education expectations! This may mean a more flexible program where you can learn at your own pace and follow up with taking the GED test instead of graduating with your class.

Remember, it does not matter HOW you graduate high school, but it is important that you do!

Steps To Take Before Officially Dropping Out of High School 

You have seen the statistics and been warned of the risks of dropping out of high school.

You have read the most common reasons kids drop out and saw options for getting help.

But, you are determined that dropping out of school altogether is the right path for you.

While we never condone dropping out of school, we do want to make sure you take the right steps before doing it. Below are some recommendations to drop out of high school while minimizing the risk to your future success.

Check the legal requirements in your state

You may not realize that every state and school district has different requirements for high school graduation as well as dropping out. All states require students to attend school through a certain age or grade, whether public, private, or even home-schooling.

How long you need to actually attend school varies by state.

For example, in Wyoming, they require students to be in school until the age of 16 or complete the 10th grade. Meanwhile, Texas requires all students in school until the age of 19 or when they graduate. In Florida, if you drop out of high school, you won’t be able to get a driver’s license before the age of 18.

You can see a full list of the requirements on the National Center for Education website. The best thing to do before you consider quitting school is to review your state’s educational websites or ask a school counselor what the exact requirements are for your state.

Below are some of the steps you might have to take before you will be allowed to legally drop out of high school.

  • Parental consent is usually required for a student to drop out.
  • Students may be required to pass high school equivalency tests.
  • A meeting with school officials or a counselor might be required to discuss options or to get approval.

Can I just stop attending school? No! This would be considered a “truancy”. Please do not do this! It can result in fines, and community service, and can cause legal troubles for your family.

Talk To Your Parents

In most states you will need to have approval from your parents to drop out of school. It is important that you have this discussion with them and lay out your reasons – and plans for not getting your high school diploma. If your parents are not supportive or you do not feel you can talk to them, reach out to a trusted adult to see if they can intervene on your behalf or help you find other options.

Obtain your GED or Diploma Online

If you do not want to go to school anymore, we get it. But you should continue on to get your GED or diploma online. This will help improve your chances of landing better-paying skilled trade jobs or even at some point help you get into college if you decide to go back to school in the future.

You can attend schools or take classes online or even attend a GED testing service to help you with your GED prep and increase your chances of passing on the first try. This will help you have more options in life! It does not mean your next step has to be college, but taking this step will allow you the opportunity to find some great college alternatives!

Related: Trade school vs. college

Prioritize Your Goals

If you have decided you do want to quit high school, you really need to think about your next steps. Without a plan, you are going to set yourself up for a future filled with stress and regret.

The first step is to determine options for making money:

  • Do you want to go into the military?
  • Are you interested in going into a trade and want to attend trade school? (FYI, many trade schools do require a GED or high school diploma to attend)
  • Is starting a business in your plan?
  • Are you going to try your luck as a sports professional?
  • Is your dream to get to Hollywood as an actor?
  • Do you hope to travel the world as a musician?
  • Is being a social influencer something you want to try?

Keep in mind, several of the options above may not pan out the way you think! becoming a musician for example is not easy and only a very few of those who try make it.

So, if you are one of the majority who does not make it in music – or acting – or sports, what is your plan B?

You also need to consider other elements of the future you want to create.

  • Do you want a spouse?
  • How about kids?
  • Is living in the country or city more appealing to you?
  • Will you be happy in one place or want to travel the world?
  • Are you good at saving money, or are you a spender?
  • How will you pay for healthcare or medical bills?
  • Is renting or owning a home your preference?

All of these items matter as well, since how much you make will determine whether you can meet these goals.

Before you even think about dropping out of school you need to have a clear vision of what your perfect future looks like. The future you are dreaming of is going to determine if leaving school is really something you can do or not.

Jobs High School Dropouts Might Be Able To Get

There are not many well-paying jobs for high school dropouts, you can check out our list of high paying jobs for teens if you want to see some options. In the past, it was possible to land some great skilled trade jobs, but many of those are now requiring at least a high-school diploma or GED.

Below are a few additional options if you have no high school diploma or GED:

  • Fast food worker
  • Gas station attendant
  • Construction worker
  • Truck driver
  • Housekeeper
  • Taxi or rideshare driver
  • Delivery driver
  • Cashier
  • Cosmetology or hairstylist
  • Massage therapy
  • Real estate agent

Some of the requirements for these jobs may vary by state as well.

Some states will require a cosmetologist to have a diploma before going to cosmetology school for example, but not all of them. Even most trade school requirements include a high school diploma or GED.

bored student high school dropout

5 Successful High School Dropouts

Most of the people listed out there that have dropped out of high school include actors and musicians. Those artists are typically the first people to drop out as they have a specific dream they want to pursue and believe high school will not benefit them. But the chances of succeeding as a musician or actor is so small!

We wanted to focus on those that have degrees that are not in acting or music.

Below are 5 people who have created amazing businesses and never even finished high school!

Richard Branson

Richard Branson is the founder and chairman of Virgin Group, a conglomerate that includes over 400 companies. Branson, who has dyslexia, dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to start his first business venture. Today, Branson has a net worth of over $5 billion.

Hyman Golden

What could a high school dropout who then became a window wisher do with their life? Well, how about starting a beverage company? Hyman Golden is one of the partners that started Snapple, yep, the famous brand of ice teas and other beverages that you probably drink every once in a while.

Carl Lindner

You may have never heard of him, but you may have eaten some of his food. Carl Lindner dropped out of high school to deliver milk for the family’s dairy farm. After several successful business ventures, he purchased Chiquita Brands International in 1984 and is the owner of United Dairy Farmers. He has a net worth of an estimated $1.7 billion.

Jim Clark

Ever hear of Netscape or Shutterfly? Jim Clark is the visionary behind these brands and other hi-tech brands out of Silicon Valley. He dropped out of high school at 16 but did go on to spend 4 years in the Navy.

Anne Beiler

Who the heck is that you ask? Well, she is the woman behind Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, I am sure you have heard of them! Anne Beiler was raised Amish which meant her education stopped after the 8th grade. She went on to create a business with an estimated revenue of $500 million per year.

So, there is a lot of inspiration out there for quitting high school, but that still does not mean you should do it! Yes, you can go on to do amazing things – but it requires a lot of dedication, drive, and getting out there and making waves.

All of these people went out there and MADE it happen. If your personality style is quiet or shy, or you do not have the desire to work 24/7 to make those dreams happen, sticking in school might be the best option.

Sources:

Reasearch.com data on high school dropout rates: https://research.com/education/high-school-dropout-rate

US Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections: https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm

SchoolHouse Connection Homelessness Report: https://schoolhouseconnection.org/groundbreaking-research-on-youth-homelessness-youth-without-a-high-school-degree-young-parents-and-low-income-at-highest-risk/

National Center For Education Statistics Dropout Rates: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2020/2020117.pdf

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