What Age Can You Drop Out?

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

To a teenager child, school is often seen as boring and irrelevant. The idea of dropping out is undoubtedly alluring particularly in an internet age where entrepreneurialism has never been more advantageous and college debts pile high.

Although statically, dropping out is seen as a bad idea, the motivation and desire to quit school can often be overwhelming and the mental health of children can sometimes depend on it.

If a student wishes to drop out, however, state laws are a barrier to doing so until they reach the age of 16, 17 or 18 depending on the state that they reside in.

There has been a trend throughout the United States in more recent years that has been tailored towards the expansion of compulsory schooling in order to reduce the significant number of dropout rates.

According to the latest figure provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, the vast majority of states now require that a student is either 17 or 18 before they are legally able to drop out of school. In fact, the number of states that have placed the dropout age at 16 years old has decreased from 29 to 15 since the millennium.

Additionally, many states have taken other measures to try to dissuade students from leaving school at an early age by linking items like a driver’s licence to school performance and crucially, attendance. 

Inherently, this has meant that the dropout rate amongst students is declining and every effort is taken to keep kids in school. Studies have found that this has undoubtedly had an impact over the last 18 years as high-school dropout rates have continued to decline by nearly two-thirds.

At the turn of the millennium, approximately 1.6 million teenagers dropped out or failed to finish school. That number has since reduced to approximately 669,000 and whilst each individual state has a specified minimum age when it comes to dropping out, there is also a variety of asterisks that allow for earlier school dropouts when required.

Some states allow for earlier dropouts in order to adapt to specific provisions that occur in rural areas, for instance, students that need to work rurally are able to drop out earlier and those who have debilitating physical or mental conditions will be able to drop out earlier alongside those who have explicit parental permission etc.

Of course, this is all dependent on the laws of the state in question. 

What Is Defined As Truancy?

If a student drops out prior to reaching the minimum age required to do so, then they will be regarded as playing truant. Students will, of course, skip classes without permission for a wide variety of reasons but if their truancy becomes chronic, then most states will take action when their absenteeism reaches a certain stage.

For instance, in Connecticut, a student who has four unexcused absences in a month or 10 in any school year is classified as truant. Whilst in Illinois, if a student has unexcused absences for 10 percent of 180 days, consecutively, then they are classified as truant.

In the vast majority of states, this means that criminal charges can be brought against parents and in 24 states, juvenile or family courts will press charges against parents of truant children. 

What age can you drop out?

What Measures Can Parents Take?

If your child is insistent that dropping out is the best thing for themselves then it can be extremely difficult to talk them into staying in school. This can cause masses of stress and tension that can fracture the family dynamic.

Your child may see dropping out as the key to their overall happiness and they may be eager to start earning money earlier. It is advised that you sit your child down and talk to them in a calm manner in order to explain the more than likely consequences of them dropping out of school and you should also liaise with school counsellors to seek further assistance when required.

An improved experience of school can make a drastic difference and this should be presented as an option prior to undertaking any undesirable options that may come with unwanted ramifications for your child at a later date.

Although children who drop out can become stigmatized, it is also worth bearing in mind that dropping out of school is not always the ending to your child’s education. They may decide to get a college degree at a later date or get a GED when they feel like it is a worthwhile endeavour.

Sometimes, it is the environment that is more damaging and inhibits their ability to enjoy the process of learning as opposed to the process of learning itself.


To conclude, if your child is considering dropping out of school, you should research the age requirements in your individual state of residence. This is important as many states have increased the dropout age from 16 to 17 years old in recent years and this will prevent you from making an allowance for something that may be illegal in your state.

You should also ensure that your child is not making any rash decisions as dropping out may have unwanted implications at a later date and they may come to regret their decision.

Changing their educational environment may be a better alternative to dropping out entirely and homeschool is always an option, whatever you and your child decide to do, ensure that you are abiding by the law in order to prevent any further hassle that is counterproductive to both yours and your child’s mental health and wellbeing.