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Case Studies of Students who Dropped Out - N to Z


I have a history of depression and other mental health problems that affect my school work and so forth. I've been living with them for years and to be honest, I was coping fine in sixth-form. I applied to study psychology at 5 very good universities and got places at all of them. Unfortunately I had this whole "dream big" mentality which meant I only applied to courses offering AAB. And I was predicted AAB. Results day comes along and I check my UCAS. Instead of any kind of rejection or acceptance, a screen comes up that says 'Changed course' and that I had been accepted to study sociology. So I rang up Nottingham University (my firmed place, and where I had the offer to do sociology) and they put me through to the psychology department. This is before I'd got my grades so I thought there must have been some kind of error gone on. The woman tells me that I hadn't been accepted to study psychology because my grades were 'just not good enough' (emotional breakdown ensues... I don't know what my grades were at this point) and that they had liked my personal statement and thought that I'd be suitable for sociology. I got to school, and finding out the number of people who had been rejected from their first-choice universities, I felt as though it would be ungrateful of me to turn down the opportunity to study at what I considered to be 'my dream university'. I chatted with my head of year, and despite getting what was for me, abysmal grades (ABC... SHOCK HORROR.) he said I might have the opportunity to switch in the first few weeks.

So I get to university, and move into halls. I had no idea which ones to apply for, so picked some that looked ok. My hall was the only one I know of on campus that isn't separated into blocks or something similar. Instead, it's essentially a massive building with 300 rooms. I'm a bit socially inept, and I gave it a go, but I really struggled in the first few weeks at finding friends because I seemed to be in halls with such massive characters. The hall I'm in lacked the intimacy that my small sixth form had. My personality and humour relies largely on sarcasm and a lot of people (the genuinely nice people... bless 'em) just didn't get it, and thought that half the time I was being rude, or when poking fun at myself, didn't understand that I wasn't fishing for compliments, but actually trying to make a joke. But hey. It also doesn't help that I dislike clubbing as I can't dance, hate dance music and should never, ever, under any circumstances, go out in a mini skirt (for others' protection, mainly. I don't want to cause blindness in unsuspecting innocents). Thus, I stayed in a few nights on freshers' week, instead of dressing up as an OMG SEXXXY SKOOLGIRL!!11!!!!!! and got some much-needed shuteye. Naturally, this caused the more outgoing members of my corridor to have a conversation, which I overheard, saying "I wish someone else was staying in C8... she's really boring". So yeah. Hall life wasn't great. It's better now, as I've found some people to be friends with, and they're lovely people, it's just they're lovely people.

I started lectures and I immediately knew that sociology wasn't really for me. I managed to get on with it, but to be honest, my heart wasn't in it, which meant I was producing second-class work and didn't participate well in discussions because I just wasn't interested in the material. I approached the psychology department on a number of occasions, and they told me every time that they couldn't accept me onto the course as my A Level grades weren't strong enough. Their attitude irritated me as I had got 590/600 UMS marks for psychology, so clearly I could do the subject, I just sucked at history and narrowly missed my predicted A grade for drama, which I suppose is fair, but it's just life, eh?

So all this time, being dissatisfied with the halls and social life and with the course, as well as constantly sitting there thinking "I WANT TO BE A PSYCHOLOGIST" brought up some feelings that I had battled with before, and the symptoms I recognised as early signs of when I had depression began to emerge. I stopped sleeping. I completely lost interest in everything. I sat in my bed all day, not realising hours had passed. I started self-harming again. So I took myself off to the university doctors and the doctor said that I was probably just trying to adjust to university life, and that he wouldn't refer me to anyone else because 'they had more important things to do'.

Then I had a big think. I didn't want to go through 2 and a half more years of this. It was just going to make me ill, and paying to do something I had no interest in seemed like a big waste of time, money and effort. I had a big chat with my mum, and agreed that it would be best for me that I leave. I tried to ask psychology if they would accept me as a student next year, but alas, they said no.

I tried not to think about it in terms of failing. Yes, I'm a drop-out. But I gave it a go. And I stuck it out for two months before giving in. Other people I know left after two weeks. I'm proud of myself for at least trying, because you never really know until you've tried and you've realised it's not for you. And sociology could have been my calling in life; I could have loved it. The fact that I've hated doing it has only cemented the realisation that psychology is definitely the subject I want to do, and has given me a stronger determinism to try again and get it right this time.

Other students have raised concerns that I 'might not get into a uni that's as good as Nottingham', but in my opinion, so what? Yeah, it's a 'good' university, but I don't think it's right for me. I've been intimidated by the number of very academic people here, and I think would be more suited to a place with less obvious elitism. It's also a very big place with a massive student body, which made me feel out of my depth. Obviously all universities will be bigger than my comfortable little private school where everyone knew my name, but twinned with a massive city, I just felt lost most of my time at Nottingham.

I've now got an amazing opportunity to try again, and to apply for places I know I can get into. I can then go and work or travel and become more independent before I go off to university for the second time. And next time round, I'll have an idea of what's what so I can make the most of it. Yeah it's going to take a little longer than anticipated, but hopefully this time it will be the right decision.


I felt completely alone, and like I was bringing shame to the family, but I had to keep telling myself over and over and over again that I was doing the right thing. Because I knew deep down that I was. It has turned out alright in the end - But something that you really have to do is plan. I didn't. I just quit with no plan in mind, and spent a very depressed two months jobless, I did eventually land a job, but I just wish I had thought about it a bit more. I'm okay now, because it worked out, but it quite easily could've been like that for much longer.

Just thought I'd add a little more detail to that. The reason I quit was because I was on the wrong course (and the wrong Uni, I didn't like where I was). I chose a course that I was good at, at an average Uni, and my family thought I should do, but in my heart I always wanted to be a 'rebel' and study my other course. I even used to take books for my other course into my lectures to read cause they were boring! That was a sure sign.

Also, I wasn't personally ready. I wasn't mature enough, and I kept locking myself in my room on my own because I was cripplingly unconfident. I have to be honest, this was knocked even further down when I quit and didn't have a job, but then as soon as I got a job it has rocketed up, and now I'm one of the most confident people out of me and my friends. If I'd stayed at Uni I would still be moping along, thinking that the world hates me.

I'm now in the process of re-applying and am more than happy with my life. I don't regret my decision in the slightest. Procedurally, it was very easy, I just had two sign a couple of forms. I did however have to pay back the rent on my accommodation there, which would've been painful had I not found a job, but I was really fortunate.

So yeah if one word would sum up the piece of advice I would give someone, it would be: Plan! (And, it will all be okay!)


I did well at my A levels, gaining AAAB. But didn't have much confidence and was too scared to apply to any unis ranked over 60th because I didn't want to get rejected. I was the first person in my family to go to uni, and my parents and I were really excited about the prospect of me getting a degree. So the issue of which uni and what course never really crossed our minds, I was just greatful for being accepted to uni. I ended up going to a Media Studies course at a very low ranking uni.

When I finally got to uni. I was pretty shocked by how ridiculous the course was. Despite paying £3k a year in fees, I only got two lectures a week, and the seminars were pretty upsetting. Going over terms and concepts you learned at GCSE. I realise it was early in the year, but the kinds of basic questions people were asking made it quite obvious to me that we would not be progressing to a university level for at least a year or more, when people are THAT behind. Very few of my peers had A levels, most came in through access courses, I stuck out like a sore thumb. My teachers didn't want too push me when I did well in an essay, or would make me do an essay in something they liked, despite the fact I'd researched a particular topic for 8 weeks and would have to start all over again. The environment was terrible, a slum in south London with a high crime rate. Everything was expensive, I daren't leave my home after dark. My student room had no windows.

Meanwhile I kept in contact with my old friends from sixth form, and it really upset me how they had gone to top 10 unis despite getting worse results at A level than me. So I got very depressed. I hated my uni and course, and I felt like I was throwing away my hard work at A level, wasting two years of work and 480 Ucas points on a very poor degree. So I dropped out and reapplied to better unis. I'm at Warwick now. It's everything I wished for and more. A complete dream come true.

umop apisdn

When I first got to my university I loved how it looked, the atmosphere was buzzing and it was close to home so it was easy to commute to.

After about 3 weeks I got offered university accommodation which I willingly took because the 2hr commute each way was quite tiring and it was hard getting to know many people when I only had the people on my course and there were massive gaps between when my seminars and lectures finished and the societies began. I made friends almost instantly in halls and I felt people made more of an effort because I was the new person and they already had their friends and wanted to make me feel welcome.

Everything was great apart from my course. In December I decided it wasn't working out and started the procedure to leave. I had a meeting with my tutor who suggested different things I could do, including transferring to different courses within the university if I wanted and even being a reference in my UCAS application. After deciding that this was the right thing to do, I just made my way down to the student administration office who helped me get my money back for my accommodation, spoke to student finance on my behalf and just gave me a few forms to fill out and get my tutor and course director to sign (which included a short, friendly meeting). After that, I was good to go.

If you do want to drop out of university it's not difficult and at the university I was at, I received a lot of support, both from my friends and from the student admin staff. The hardest thing was actually going to the student admin office in the first place!

One thing I would mention is that student finance took a long time to contact me to reclaim overpaid grants/loans. All in all it was about 3-4 months so try not to spend this money if you can! Also, I had SF bugging me about what money I was living off of, if I could prove it, if I had a job, but once I explained my parents were supporting me they seemed fine.

I'm at a new university now and experiencing the complete opposite, I'm doing a course I really enjoy but I'm not enjoying living in halls and it's a really lonely experience because I've not made any friends. Also the workload is a lot heavier here, I'm working for about 3-4hrs minimum every day whereas before I only had to do 7 essays in the whole of the first year! Also, I can't really afford to be going to a university here, in the south of England because everything is so expensive! Going out and meeting new people isn't really an option but I'm just at university for my course now, and not so much of the social life. I feel I've had my fun so now it's time to settle down and actually do some work!


1) Course: I mistook my interest in languages at sixth form (Modern European) for an interest in languages in general. Thus doing Arabic was doomed to failure, mainly because I wasn't genuinely interested or motivated by the culture that often tied in with the language that I tried to study solely as an academic pursuit.

The work load was insane. Up to 20 hours a week, it started to take over my life and when it was something I didn't reeally see myself doing in later life, I started to think wtf am I doing this for?

2) Staff: Some of the staff were really unfriendly, and cold. Also, they often humiliated the students in class. One of the tutors made some girls cry on several occasions by forcing them to participate when they didn't want to, and the senior lecturer used to force people to do really really tough translations first thing in the morning (like 9AM) in front of everyone.

3)University itself: SOAS is a very weird place. I think you have to be a really bolshie person and alternative for the sake of being alternative to get by there. The campus is not very nice at all, it looks like a cold war-esque ministry and the place is kind of grotty inside. The Union is awful, holds the most boring events known to mankind like Party for Palestine where people smoke weed and pretend they care about saving orphans.

It's also incredibly disorganised - noone seems to know what is going on. Then again, when you've inhaled that amount of second hand weed smoke, I don't blame the admin for being as clueless as they are.

I am also rather a conservative person, and this is the sort of background I came from. I'm not going to lie - I went to a rather bourgeois public school that was fairly politically conservative. Throwling myself into a land of sexually fluid, hardcore hippies and champagne socialists was probably the worst idea of the century.

4) I was generally unhappy at Soas and felt a million miles away from what I want to do. I am much happier now I am no longer at that place and completely regret going there and wasting a year of my life, but there again I have learnt a lot and grown up a lot.


I first applied to university in 2007 and got a place to study psychology and, from my 5 choices, i accepted a place at the highest ranked university.

My only influence in choosing psychology was enjoying it at A-level. I had done no research on the course content and did little research into the different universities on offer. I just took for granted that the highest ranked universities would be the best therefore i would like them. Overall i was unprepared, uninformed and just not ready for university - in regards to my maturity and attitude to academic study.

I really enjoyed my 'university experience' - every part except for the course (mostly because it was very maths based and i was looking for something different, more interesting and applicable to life) and because i did not enjoy the course, the exams put extra stress on me because i just did not feel i was doing something worthwhile.

To try and overcome the unhappiness my course created, i spent alot of my time over working myself (which only made it worse) especially in the lead up to exam periods or coursework deadlines to try and use my good grades as justification for staying on the course.

After going home for the summer after year one i began to dread going back and consequently dropped out just before the beginning of year two when i decided that no amount of disappointment from my parents could be worse than continuing on a course where i felt so unhappy.

Since dropping out in September 2008, i have worked 25 hours a week in retail to get some money together and have been participating in a variety of voluntary placements, work experience and doing every aptitude test under the sun to try and get a feel for what it is i ACTUALLY want to do, what i would be good at and would be happy to spend 50 years doing as a career - not just something i like, but something i love - as cheesy as that sounds!

I now feel ready, not because everyone else is going or because it is what everyone else thinks is best, but because 'I' feel ready to go back to university and have re-applied to do a degree in Nursing starting March 2010, with the plan to go onto a clinical medicine postgraduate degree, and am now happy that i have chosen a career that is suitable for me.

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