Leaving College Because of Depression: Is it Ever Worth it?

Carolina Jacobs

Feb 23, 2023
Leaving college because of depression

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Depression can affect even the most dedicated students. When the dark apathy of mental illness settles in, it can be hard to muster up the courage to get out of bed, much less attend lectures and make good grades. How can you perform when even day-to-day living is a struggle? If you’re considering leaving college because of depression, here is some advice. 

  1. Assess Your Lifestyle 

Can you pinpoint a habit that’s contributing to your depression? Maybe you’re not sleeping well due to staying up late studying, which can make depression worse. Could it be that you aren’t giving yourself enough time to eat lunch because your schedule is so packed? Or, maybe you used to be an avid gym member, but you stopped going because they’re closed by the time you finish your last class for the day.

How about social activities? Have you joined any campus clubs or organizations to get a better sense of belonging? In contrast, are you spending too much time socializing and your grades are starting to slip?

See if there’s a lifestyle change that could ease your depression. Whether you need to take classes later in the morning so you can get more sleep, start an exercise routine or develop better eating habits, there might be a simple change you can make to improve your mood. 

  1. Identify Situational Depression

Maybe it’s not a habit or routine contributing to your depression, but rather a bad situation you’ve found yourself in. If there was a death in the family, you’re all alone in a new city, you have a toxic roommate or you’re experiencing health problems, it’s understandable that you’d be depressed. 

Ask yourself if it’s worth dropping out of college. Will this problem be going away any time soon? Is there some way you can change your response to it, like by talking with a counselor? Can you develop better coping skills? 

If you’re really struggling, you might be able to ask for some time off to grieve, go to doctors’ appointments or move to a new apartment rather than leaving school. 

Or, maybe you could take classes online. If you’re taking in-person classes and you’re halfway through the semester, for example, you could sign up for online classes next semester. Just knowing that you’ll be able to work from home soon might motivate you to stay in school. 

  1. Drop Extra Classes

Did you overload yourself with coursework? Was organic chemistry harder than you thought, and pairing it with biostats and physics turned out to be a mistake? That’s OK! If it’s early in the semester, it’s usually easy to drop a class that’s overwhelming you. 

Your school might only offer certain classes once a year. If that’s the case, and you know you’d like to graduate before they offer the class again, stay in that class and drop a different one. You might also be able to find a substitute for a course you dropped. 

For example, maybe you need an art credit, so you signed up for art history. If it turns out to be much more difficult than you expected, you can drop it and take another art class, like pottery, next semester. That way, you can still get an art credit, and you might have more fun and learn a new skill. 

Sometimes withdrawing from classes affects your GPA, and sometimes it doesn’t. Talk to your professor and advisor to see if it will influence your grades. 

Still, it might be better to quit one or two classes rather than drop out of school. There’s no shame in taking a lighter course load. 

  1. Graduate Later

It’s a myth that you have to graduate within four years. In fact, only 41% of undergraduate students do so. You could take one or two classes per semester if you wanted, studying at a relaxed pace. This ensures you have plenty of time to devote to each subject, allowing you to fully understand the topic by the time finals roll around.

Your diploma won’t say how long it took you to finish school. You could take 10 years to earn a bachelor’s degree and still get the same diploma as someone who finished in half that time. Set your own pace. 

  1. Study What You Love

Anyone could get depressed studying a subject they aren’t passionate about. Maybe you always dreamed of being a marine biologist, but when you started taking science classes, you realized it wasn’t for you. Then, you start wondering who you really are. This can cause an identity crisis that leads to depression.

Maybe you’re only going to law school because it’s what your parents wanted or you want to make a lot of money. If you’d much rather study graphic design, you could get depressed following the rigid path of a lawyer. Consider if changing your major would change your outlook on life. 

  1. Consider Medication

Have you thought about trying antidepressants to boost your mood? Many people benefit from taking medicine when they’re depressed. Maybe you’d feel an improvement, too. 

It might even be a hormonal issue or vitamin deficiency causing your depression, which could be remedied by taking pills. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in going down this route. 

  1. Adjust Your Work Schedule 

Are you taking on too many hours at work? Do you get out of class and immediately have to drive across town to your job? Stressful work situations can bring down your mood. 

See if you can lighten your workload or adjust your schedule. You may even consider quitting your job if it’s causing a lot of added strain.           

  1. Take Time to Heal

If you’re seriously depressed and don’t think you can handle taking classes, it’s OK. Leaving college because of depression is nothing to be ashamed of. Take time off to work on yourself, visit another country, escape a toxic situation, find medication that works for you or reconsider your degree path. 

You might even decide college isn’t right for you, and that’s just fine. There are many paths to success. If leaving college is the key to healing your depression, then it’s ultimately worth it. You can always enroll again at a later date if you want to. 

It’s Your Decision

Regardless of what anyone thinks, leaving college is your choice. Depression might make it hard for you to attend school during this phase of your life, so quitting — either temporarily or permanently — could be the best move for you. Assess all your options and weigh the pros and cons carefully. Whatever you decide, odds are that everything will turn out fine. 

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