Student Dropouts

UX Researcher


Fall 2022


We all have our assumptions as to why students are dropping out at alarming rates in the United States. Our UX research explores the core of the college experience that leads students to dropping out, and what an ideal college experience looks like. This was for a UXR SCAD class.

My Role

UX Researcher


Figma, Figjam, Zoom (for user interviews)


Chi Quach, Ghalib Othman

The Goal

Identify pain points in US school system causing high college dropout rates.

CAST Schools is seeking to establish an apparel shop that aligns with their brand values and mission. The shop needs to be appealing to wide variety of stakeholders. The current solution does not fully meet these needs, and CAST Schools is looking to create a more reflective and appealing shop.

The Process



Project Overview & Focus


Data Collection





Secondary Research


Public Colleges

Private Colleges

Students at private colleges are more likely to earn a degree on time than ones at public colleges.

Less than 1/2 of college students graduate on-time

of low-income, first-generation students do not graduate within 6 years of schooling.

of students reported neglecting their studies sometimes because of the money they owed

more than 60% of college students drop out because mental health-related reasons

7 in 10

students feel stressed about their personal finances

Males in higher education

5 Times

the risk of dropout when reporting poor mental health

Sophomore Year

Major changing activity after the second year correlated with modestly lower grades, lower graduation rates, and longer times-to-graduate



Undergraduate students doing 4 years who left school or college before they have finished their studies.
Possible reasons are mental health reasons, financial difficulty, and indecisiveness


Someone who has a vested interested in the success and welfare of a school or education system.
Educators, board members, counselors, career advisors and commissioners of education

Data Collection

We search to find the ideal experience. Our data collection includes interviews, cultural probes, and sensory cues. We sought to understand their pain points and their ideal college experience. The ideal college experience starts before college and after they drop out. The college experience is more like a journey.


In the span of 2 weeks, we were able to interview 7 candidates in total and got in-depth insights from them about what students experience during college in the U.S.

5 Students

Varied from different ethnicities, backgrounds, and financial circumstances.

2 Educators

Have more than 20 years of experience in the education field.

350+ Raw Data points

26 Themes

From 350+ data points we grouped and sorted them into 26 themes

We did not drop out of college overnight, it was a gradual process

We feel college is a waste of time because it’s not preparing me for what I want to do

We feel stressed because we are dependent on our family to pay for college

We feel burdened because we struggle to keep up with costs unrelated to  college

Mental health plays a big role in our ability to preform well academically

We felt the need to drop school to keep up with living expenses

We enjoyed the sense of community at college but it did not play a role in our decision to drop out.

We feel that regardless of the amount of college advising we got in high school, we still ended up dropping out of college.

Although there was hesitancy, we felt supported by our family  when we made the decision to drop out

We can’t ask our parents for college guidance because they don’t have the college experience

After dropping out of college, we feel lost about the future because we have no clear path

We feel relieved after dropping out of college because it was one less thing worry about

Our colleges fail to provide the support that meets our college advising needs

We dropped out of college, even though our tuition is fully covered by scholarships and got good financial advising from the school and gov

Our friends believe we should continue with our education and are sad we aren’t, but overall are supportive of our decision

When we’re not college, we’re working. We aren’t just sitting around.

We feel stressed and anxious, which played a big role in our decision to drop out.

We don't feel that college offers the professional network we need to develop our careers

We don't feel college was the only way for us to develop personally and professionally

We feel like the environment and the class work in high school play a huge role in preparing for our college readiness.

We feel overwhelmed by the college workload, it was draining and didn't allow for social interaction and self care

We feel stressed about online classes because of lack of engagement due to distractions internally and instructor engagement

We feel frustrated by our advisors lack of engagement

We feel overwhelmed by the pressure of not knowing what major to choose.

College was not something I thought about and gradually was pressured more through high school

We felt college didn’t align with what we wanted to do with our life

8 Insights

From 26 themes, we grouped and synthesized into 8 insights.

Even when college tuition is covered, students work to keep up with the cost of living, impacting their academic performance and influencing their decision to drop out.

Students recognize that college does not always provide the necessary professional networks, professional development, and personal development to grow in their careers.

Mental health deteriorated during college because of excessive workloads, lack of social life, and lack of personal time, which negatively impacted academic performance and, in turn, leads to dropping out.

Students struggle with finding the value in continuing to pursue an education when their college experience is not aligning with what they want to do in life.

Students look for authority figure engagement at home and school for guidance and support, especially during high school.

The process of dropping out is a gradual one, with many contributing factors that may in-adversely affect a students college experience.

Students find relief in their decisions to drop out, alleviating the primary stressors in their life, but struggle with determining their new direction.

Mental health deteriorated during college because of excessive workloads, lack of social life, and lack of personal time, which negatively impacted academic performance and, in turn, leads to dropping out.


The ideal college journey for U.S. students. Creating the ‘Framework’ that compasses the wide net of all students who drop out of colllege. The user expirence research team created a methodology that focused on the ideal college journey for students to that will inform our design efforts


The “I feel...”

At the core of experience is emotions. Any interaction with the journey results in an emotion.


The “I am...”

The benefits the directly tie between the system (whether that be a program, product, service) and the emotion.


The “It is...”

Specific ideas about how people want the key benefits delivered. These ideas are pulled directly from insights.


At the core of every experience is the emotions people feel. An ideal journey for setting up someone's future and dream is how they feel about it first. The future and dreams determine the steps of going to college or a career after graduation. The emotion of feeling a certainty about their ability to do in themselves, confidence is key.

My Ideal College Journey Is...


A college journey that is...
Compassionate: It is reaching out to students who gradually miss class more often.
Camaraderie: It is camaraderie: It is a strong, trustful connection with the community, faculty, and friends.

Engagement starts in high school with authority figures, such as parents, teachers, counselors, advisors, and administrators. High schools, colleges, and universities need to offer a more comprehensive array of engagement opportunities to meet the demand of today's students. Education is no longer simply about acquiring a degree or diploma. It's about ensuring that students are confident about their future. We need to do better at engaging with students so they can succeed.

My Ideal College Journey Is...


A college journey that is...
Foundational: It is academic preparedness when going into college and the world.
Involved: It is networking, real-world experiences, more information about resources, & hands-on experience.

Taking giant leaps from high school into the world takes time and resources to develop the skills needed to navigate a career in their field. Augmenting their already existing education in the field and experience in the real world. Likewise, academic preparedness means students will perform and manage well in college. This process starts early, and students need a space to create the educational foundation and the know-how to get involved career-wise with the real world.

My Ideal College Journey Is...


A college journey that is...
Initiative: It makes students feel calm and grounded when looking for a career path, even when there are multiple options.
Diverse: It is a better understanding of all my career options for students.

At the end of the student's high school career into the next stage, adulthood begins. Choosing a direction is an enormous task, especially when there are multiple paths and some that students may not be fond of. A calm and grounded space makes students feel confident in choosing decisions, paired with the diversity of those paths. A deep understanding of the career options will alleviate the uncertainty during this time.

My Ideal College Journey Is...


A college journey that is...
Balance: It is the space to learn how to balance school, work, and life.
Explorative: It is exposure to career paths and showing what that career entails in an explorative way.
Introspective: It is a student learning who they are and how they want to contribute to the world.

A student's process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights, means balancing life, thinking within then exploring without. A student must face many challenges in their daily lives. However, the challenge for students is balancing personal, educational, social, and academic. This leads to growth, and this allows students to not only make their academic performance better but also be happy doing that.

My Ideal College Journey Is...


A college journey that is...
Assisted: It is college support from high school counselors and parents.
Considerate: It is financial support that covers education and alleviates living costs.
Operative: It is necessary career tools and programs students can use to succeed after college.
Inclusive: It is the mental health support students need to overcome obstacles on all fronts.

Higher education helps students gain necessary skills and independence to enter the job market, but financial burdens such as the cost of living can hold them back. To ensure a successful and stress-free college experience, it is important to provide students with access to support systems and tools to use after graduation. These systems should be considerate, forgiving, and assistive, and should start before college to help individuals reach their full potential.

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