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Not the Right Time for College? Don’t Just Walk Away.

By Karen Hammer

It’s so exciting! You’ve enrolled in classes at a community college, your financial aid is in place, and you are about to take the first step in building the life you’ve dreamed of.

Maybe you just graduated from high school. Maybe you just finished your GED. Maybe you graduated from high school years ago and your children are finally grown and able to take care of themselves. Maybe it just seems like a good time to take the plunge.

For many people, things go smoothly right away. College is hard work, but with determination, and — let’s face it — a little bit of luck, you have enrolled. Your previous experience and accomplishments have provided the time and resources needed to balance the competing demands in your life.

But that’s not true for everyone; it might be the right path, but not yet the right time to be on it. Pressures of work, family, and unforeseen circumstances might interfere with a smooth start and force you to withdraw. There’s no shame in that. And it doesn’t mean that it won’t ever be the right time.

So, what should you do if you’ve determined that you can’t fit college into your life right now, for whatever reason?

    • Most importantly, don’t just walk away!
      If you have registered for classes, you are officially enrolled in those classes unless, and until, you officially withdraw from them.If you don’t officially withdraw from your classes, you might end up owing tuition, fees and receiving failing grades for classes you decided not to attend. If you were receiving financial aid, those failing grades could interfere with you getting financial aid again if you return to school in the future.
    • See your academic advisor immediately.
      If you don’t know who that is, contact academic advising to find out. The advisor will help you officially withdraw from your classes and/or take a leave of absence from school. They may be able to suggest services available to you (like tutoring or academic coaching) that would enable you to stay.
    • Ask your academic advisor what else you must do to complete the withdrawal process.
      You may need to notify financial aid, residence life (if you’re living on campus), or other campus offices. Ask for copies of any documents related to your withdrawal from classes.
    • Keep every piece of paper the school gives you, or sends to you, and print out every email relating to your withdrawal (especially anything that shows that you withdrew).
      Put them all in a folder labeled “[name of school] documents.” Save the emails from the school in an electronic folder with the same label.
    • Don’t forget to show yourself the same compassion you readily extend to others.
      Be kind to yourself. Try to think of this not as a failure, but as a thoughtful, appropriate adaptation to the realities of your life.

      “Remember, you are a work in progress, and that’s okay. Be kind to yourself along the journey.” (Anonymous)

    Karen Hammer     Karen Hammer is a Career Coach at the Ignite Career Center of JCS.

     Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go farther and get there faster. Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition. For information, call 410-466-9200 or visit ignitecareercenter.com.

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