Did you drop out of college? You’re not alone…

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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Did you drop out of college? You’re not alone. Figures released at the end of April 2017 showed that one in six third-level students drop out during their first year. In total, that’s 6,200 students every year.

Certain courses have higher drop-out rates. These include construction, computer science and engineering. In addition, the level of the course affects the number of students deciding not to complete. Level 6 courses have the highest drop-out rate at 47 percent, while Level 7 courses have a rate of 35 percent.

The figures also showed a correlation between CAO points and drop-out rates. Students with low CAO points were more likely to drop out.

Reasons for dropping out

There are many reasons why one in six students drops out. Many have nothing to do with a student’s potential or willingness to study.

Personal reasons such as family or health issues can play a part, as can unforeseen emergencies.

Finances are another. The costs associated with studying, particularly for students not living in the family home, may be more than anticipated. A change in financial circumstances may mean that finding a full-time job becomes more pressing than finishing third-level studies.

CAO points also play a role. A student with high CAO points may feel pressured into doing a course like medicine or engineering, instead of arts. However, high points do not always mean an aptitude to do a particular course.

Likewise, students with low CAO points may not get a place on a course that interests or excites them. However, they may feel obliged to progress to third-level anyway.

Furthermore, students who are unsure of what to study may accept a place on a course without necessarily having an interest in the subject. This is particularly true of courses that relate to buoyant sectors of the economy.

Do you need a degree?

If you decide that you’d like to return to education, there are a number of options to consider.

The first is deciding what to study.

This is a balancing act. Most of us want to continue our studies to lead to improved career prospects. However, we also want to study the subjects that interest us. If you’re a computer science fan, the choice is easy; if poetry is your passion, it’s a lot harder!

Not everyone enjoys academics. If you love working with your hands, or spending time in the gym, consider career options in these areas.

Here’s another thing to bear in mind. SUSI now have funding for mature students who previously dropped out to do a PLC programme with the five year break period.

Before deciding what to study, think through your options. It is better to take your time deciding. Success is not about getting a piece of paper – it’s about finding a rewarding, fulfilling career.

Part-time or evening courses might be your path back to education

The next issue to decide is whether to study full-time or part-time.

If you are working, and do not have the financial support to stop, a part-time or evening course is your best bet. This allows you to work full-time while also studying. Of course, this is a significant challenge because you’ll have to juggle work and study responsibilities – and perhaps child rearing as well.

Having said that, many people have completed their studies part-time – it can be done!

However, if you are unsure how you’ll manage this, or considering a course in a new area, a short course may be your best bet first. This allows you to become familiar with the subject area before committing to a longer course. It also allows you to get an idea of how you’ll handle all your responsibilities as well as your study commitments.

Anne Sexton

Blended, distance education and e-learning and may be the future
Chinese courses: Learn one of the world's most widely spoken languages


  1. Angela cleere 4th May 2017 at 3:35 pm

    I would like an ecdl course please partime

    1. Anne Sexton 5th May 2017 at 9:05 am

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