September 26, 2023

Program Perseverance: How to Avoid Dropping Out of School

Author: Online Learning Tips Staff Writer
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By Loren Germann-McClain
Senior Academic Advisor II, School of STEM, APUS

As you begin your higher education journey, the thought of dropping out of your program or school may be the last thing on your mind. Dropout rates have fallen among some student populations in the last decade, but there are still millions of learners who don’t finish their program of study.

Start a degree program at American Public University.

Here are a few facts to consider when you’re working through your program. In addition, your Academic Advising team can offer you support while you’re at the university.

Pick the Right Program for Your Goals

Keep in mind the program you choose will not guarantee your future career. In fact, many college graduates find jobs that have nothing to do with the field they studied for in college.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “people change jobs fairly often – about every 5 years.” Just as people change careers for a number of reasons, students change their program just as often and for a variety of reasons. That is why it is important to take these ideas into consideration when you’re choosing your major:

  • Choose a program because it will help prepare you for a specific career trajectory or advanced study.
  • Choose a program because you are passionate about it.
  • Research the earning potential associated with your major. Higher education is a big investment, so it makes sense to research your potential earnings with different career paths. Glassdoor and Indeed are good places to start.
  • Consider if you’re looking to complete an academic program in a specific timeframe.

Giving thought to your degree program will benefit you in the long run as you work your way through your program. If you have any questions about a specific program or how your credits may apply to it, reach out to your school-specific Academic Advising team using the links located at the top of your Academic Plan in the ecampus. Academic Advisors are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Your financial situation may also play a role in determining if a degree change is possible. If you are using Federal Student Aid loans and grants such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you should speak with a Financial Aid Advisor to see if there are enough aggregate funds left to complete the program you want, especially if Academic Advising has determined there will be a loss of academic credit (your courses no longer apply to the new program). You can reach Financial Aid Advising by phone at 1-855-731-9218.

Follow Your Course Progression

Each program is given a recommended course progression. These progressions are designed by the Program Director with student persistence in mind and to ensure a positive classroom experience.

Understanding this course progression is key to completing your degree in the most timely and efficient manner possible. As a rule, Academic Advisors encourage students to complete their General Education requirements before moving into their major and concentration courses.

However, if you are looking to change your major to a degree program that has pre-admission requirements, it is best if you meet with your Academic Advising team, who are experts on the degree path. They will be able to assist you in setting up a tailored course progression to help you meet your educational goals.

Scheduling Availability for Program Courses

Some programs will have limited availability for certain courses. For instance, the Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and the Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences are among those programs.

Check the Course Schedule ahead of time to see if the course you want to take is offered in a certain month. Be aware of how scheduling availability plays a role in your course progression and the need to have funding cover your courses, especially if you are using Federal Student Aid.

Identify Any Possible Funding Issues Involving Your Degree Program

If you are using Federal Student Aid, I recommend that you have all of your semester registrations in place two weeks prior to each semester start date. At least one of your courses must start in the same month as your academic year.

This strategy ensures that your enrollment status is reported correctly, which affects your financial aid eligibility. Please keep in mind that each semester is 16 weeks, making your academic year 32 weeks long.

If your method of payment is Military Tuition Assistance (TA), keep in mind the deadline to submit for TA for your branch. You will need to register through your ecampus as well; it is important to make sure the dates of the courses for which you are registered for match your TA submissions.

If you are using Veterans Administration (VA) benefits and anticipate receiving Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), you will need to make sure you meet or exceed a Rate of Pursuit that is at least .50. All VA enrollments are based on a student’s monthly enrollment status, and overlapping course starts may result in differing enrollment statuses.

The Rate of Pursuit is calculated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This calculation is determined by training level, the credits taken in a term and the length of the term.

You’re working hard to get your degree, avoid common mistakes and issues by planning ahead, and learning the ins and outs of your degree program. Stay motivated, and keep your eyes on the end goal of receiving your hard-earned diploma in the mail.

If you have questions, do not hesitate to reach out to your Academic Advising team. We’re here 81 hours a week to assist you!

About the Author

Loren Germann-McClain is currently in her second year as a Senior Academic Advisor II with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at American Public University System. She holds an M.A. in English – Rhetoric and Composition from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, as well as an M.A. in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University.

Loren previously worked in human resources and public relations at a public library in Indiana, where she helped develop a project to bring mental health first aid and awareness to public and academic libraries across the state. She has earned grants to help develop coding programs for school-age children and develop free, extracurricular activities to help align with the Indiana State standards for computer science, technology, and coding. Her work has helped empower Hoosier students to be equipped with the critical and computational problem-solving skills they will need in order to succeed in a digitally powered and ever-evolving world. 

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