Real Life Consequences of Dropping Out of High School

The following stories are real life situations and the consequences of dropping out of high school.

Josh was a highly-intelligent, poorly-motivated student who decided to drop out of high school the minute the system would let him. He had spent the last two years in and out of court for truancy and in and out of detention because of tardies and sleeping in class.

Everything about Josh’s ability said that he should be getting grades that put him at the top of his class, but his performance said otherwise. When he attended class, he talked about the day that he would be able to drop out, get his GED, and get on with life. He thought school was useless and boring which meant that he was not going to participate.

So, just as he said, the day he turned seventeen, he stopped coming to school. I saw Josh a year later walking through a store, and I asked him how life was going. He looked like he had not showered or slept for days. He dropped his head and shrugged his shoulders. I could tell that the hopes of a GED and new life were far from realized. It was a sad moment for me as an educator, especially knowing the intelligence that Josh contained. He made a decision, and was living with the harsh consequences of that decision.

Six months later, I found out that Josh was arrested for selling drugs and sentenced to jail time.

It is a tragedy that a generation of high school students are dropping out in record numbers.

The statistics are staggering and the consequences of dropping out of high school are increasingly debilitating. According to research, every 29 seconds another student drops out of school, resulting in more than one million high school dropouts each year. Nearly 33% of all public high school students drop out, and these statistics are higher for sub-population groups and at-risk students. 50% of all African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans fail to graduate with their class. Something has to be done to change these statistics; it starts with realizing the consequences of dropping out of high school.


The consequences of dropping out of high school need to be considered before taking action that will change the course of your future.

According to research, dropouts will have the hardest time finding jobs. If a high school dropout is able to find a job, they typically earn $9200 less per year than high school graduates and over $1,000,000 less than a college graduate over their lifetime. High School dropouts are more than twice as likely as graduates to live in poverty within a year and begin depending on public assistance for their survival. A higher percentage of high school dropouts have health problems because of a lack of access to basic care.  It is estimated that dropouts are eight times more likely to be in jail or prison than their graduating counterparts. This does not sound like the life free from rules and restrictions.

All stories do not have to turn out like Josh’s.

In an effort to combat this epidemic, school districts nationwide are making programs available to meet the needs of students who want to go back and get their diploma. There are alternative learning centers that accommodate for a varied schedule and online programs with the help of teachers. Resources are available and many students are taking advantage of them.

One such student was Christina.

Christina got pregnant at fifteen years old and was told by her family to drop out of school and take care of the baby. Though she did not like this decision, Christina, an honor roll student, decided to do it.

She lived at home and depended on her mother to help her provide for the baby. Five months after her baby was born, he died of SIDS. She was devastated and at a loss for what to do. She sought counseling and was encouraged to re enroll in school if for no other reason than for it to be a distraction.

I was walking to my classroom one day and saw Christina walking through the hallway. This girl who once was full of joy had a new look on her face; it was a look of determination. We talked for a while, and I told her how proud I was of her for coming back to school. What she said was one of the most profound things that a student has said to me in my teaching career. She said, “I knew when I dropped out of school I was making a decision that would ruin my life. Now, I owe it to myself to be successful and graduate because I will be the first one in my family to do it. I will not be held back by their limitations.”

She graduated, on time, two years later and it was an incredible moment when she came to tell me of her college plans.

Additional Resources for Parents
Ways for Parents to Survive the High School Years
Tired of Not Being Able to Communicate with Your Teen?


  1. Jonathan Hussein says

    Christina stories is such an inspiring one. With the increase of teenage pregnancy, it is important for them and their family especially to counsel them. Yes, teenagers are prone to mistakes like this, but Hey it’s not the end of the world!

    Anyway, bout Josh, poor kid. I hope during his jail period, he will reflect. Hopefully his life will be better when he gets out of prison.

  2. Dr. Patricia Fioriello says

    It is an important message to share that teens can learn, benefit and grow from their mistakes. All the teens out there, listen to Jonathan – it is not the end of the world. Learn from your mistakes and try to move forward. Good advice!

  3. Forrest Ferguson says

    Hello my name is Forrest, I am 15 years old – Sophomore in Highschool and I have 5 medical conditions that hinders me to go to school a lot. I am a very intellectual person but my medical conditions make it seem otherwise. Today (Wednesday Oct 12th) I am mailed a Truancy Juvenile Court letter and I would like help to deal with this such tragic incident. I myself am NOT Intentionally being tardy or missing school but it makes it hard on me when I go to school and have 4-5 things constantly on my mind — hurting my body if I do not get it under control. I have looked at the statistics and I would not want to face what “Josh” went through and not being able to find my Dream Job as a Pilot in the U.S. Air Force or working for a well-known gaming company.

    Thank you for reading this and hopefully you will email me!

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