What Makes Teens Drop Out of School?

By Sara Ipatenco
Knowing the risks can help prevent teen dropouts.
Knowing the risks can help prevent teen dropouts.

Many parents anticipate their child's high school graduation with a mixture of pride, nostalgia and hope for the future. Parents are robbed of this opportunity to watch their child take the next step if he drops out before he finishes high school. Teens drop out of school for any number of reasons, but knowing what they are and what risk factors are associated with them can help parents take action to keep their child in school until graduation day.

School-Related Reasons

One of the primary reasons teens drop out of high school is because they aren't successful at school. Teens who have academic difficulties don't usually enjoy school and might give up if they get tired of being challenged beyond their cognitive capabilities. In fact, children who are in the lowest 25 percent of academic achievement are 20 times more likely to drop out, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. If a teen is failing one or more classes and realizes he won't graduate on time anyway, he might drop out to save face or because he's frustrated with his lack of progress.

Boredom and Related Factors

Boredom is another reason why many teens drop out of high school before graduation day. Being bored day in and day out can get frustrating, often so frustrating that a teen will simply stop going to school. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org, teens who are offered alternate learning opportunities, such as work-study programs, to keep them engaged, might be willing to stay in school until graduation. Teens might also be bored because they don't have positive relationships with teachers and peers. Without social interaction and adult support, teens can grow bored and disengaged with school.


Poverty causes many teens to drop out of school, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. Teens might be forced to drop out in order to get a job and help support the family or find work to support themselves. Other teens might drop out because their family can't afford school supplies or, in some cases, the uniforms required for enrollment. Another reason teens might drop out is because they don't have the funds for consistent transportation to and from school.

Life Factors

Several life factors can come into play that cause a teen to drop out of high school. If a teen gets seriously ill and misses too many days of school to graduate, he might drop out, even if he doesn't really want to. Serious events, such as the death of a parent or sibling, can also cause a teen to drop out. For teen girls, an unplanned pregnancy might cause her to quit school rather than face the ridicule of her peers.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.