The global shortages of nurses require a closer look at why nursing students stop in the later years of their degree programme. The purpose of this study is to explore nursing students' experiences and reasons that lead to this late dropout. Semi-structured interviews were held in 2017 with eleven former nursing students who dropped out in the third year of their Bachelor's Nursing degree programme in the Netherlands. Data was collected and analysed iteratively, following the principles of Thematic Analysis. Two core themes were identified: ‘ending up in a downward spiral of physical, psychological and social problems’ and ‘experiencing an increasing mismatch between expectations and reality’. Reasons for late dropout from nursing education are diverse and interlinked. In contrast with studies on early dropout, academic difficulties did not play a major role in late dropout. Negative experiences during clinical placements led to dropout in both groups. One group lacked a safe learning environment in clinical placements, study coaching and psychological support. The other group missed realistic information provision about nursing education and the broad range of career opportunities in nursing.