Alternatives to dropping out

Are you really considering dropping out?

If you're got to the stage where you're seriously thinking about dropping out of university, for whatever the reason, then why not stop and take a few minutes to think about what sort of alternatives there are to doing that. Dropping out seems like such a final step, and once you've made it, you may struggle to force your way back into further education, and you could miss out on what is, for a lot of people, a life defining experience.

So, you may be wondering, what alternative options do I have?

Actually, there are quite a few alternatives to dropping out completely, that will make things much easier for you when it comes to returning to your studies when you're ready (assuming you still wish to complete higher education). So what are these options?

You could...

Defer the rest of your year

This should give you the time you need away from your place of study to deal with whatever personal issues are holding you back. This could mean giving you the opportunity to find work and earn some money, and equipping you with valuable work experience for when you complete your studies; it could mean allowing you to go travelling, and to see some of the world; or it could simply give you the freedom to do whatever else you feel would put you in a better place to pick it up next year, which could include volunteering work, a wide range of independent reading, or simply time to recover from an illness or bereavement. You wouldn't have to go back to the course you left, either; you might be able to switch to a different course. Which leads on to point two...

Request a transfer to another course at your university

Perhaps you rushed your subject application for university, perhaps you chose the subject you were best at rather than the one that would be best for you, or perhaps you simply changed your mind after your application was submitted. Either way, there's a good possibility that you can move onto a course you'd enjoy more or find more interesting or suitable for you. If this is early enough in the first term, you could transfer straight away, otherwise you might have to wait until the next academic year to pick up this new subject. Alternatively,

Organise a transfer to the same course at another university

This would be beneficial in cases where the reason you were considering dropping out was because of the course content, where you could find a course with better structure or content; because of the university, in which case you could find a more suitable university for you; or because of homesickness, in which case you could find a university nearer to home. Again, if this is early enough in the year, you could transfer to another university which has clearing space in the subject you want; otherwise you would have to either complete your first year and pick up from year 2 elsewhere, or you'd have to leave and start the other course in the next academic cycle. Similarly,

Organise to transfer to a different course at a different university

Mixing and matching the two above options to find you another course that would be more suitable for you at an institution more suitable or closer to home. Likewise, be prepared to have to complete your first year or take a year out if you don't speak up about your grievances soon enough. Perhaps...

Be able to complete your studies via a distance learning arrangement

Although this is only likely to be available on certain courses at certain universities, if your problem is solely personal, and relating to physically being at the university, then this option would allow you to study the course you are already taking from home. Don't panic if you think this would be too difficult for you; universities will have teaching methods in place to give you access to help and materials whenever you need them. The final options would be...

Be offered the opportunity to take your studies part time

Obviously, part time study can only be offered where circumstances permit, but if the workload seems to heavy for you; you're struggling to manage with a part-time job and your studies; or your health necessitates working less, this could be a good option for you. Or...

Be offered extensions to deadlines

The university may be able to organise, where appropriate, extensions to essay deadlines and assignments. This would allow you the extra time you require to complete the work you need to, without the stress and pressure that may have been building due to extenuating circumstances, such as depression, bereavement or injury.

How can I go about this?

The best way to sort any of these out would be to talk with your personal tutor. Acting on your behalf, they are likely to be able to inquire as to whether you'd be able to defer, switch department or be eligible for part time, distance study or extensions. In the case of wishing to transfer to another university, again, your personal tutor should be able to make contact with other institutions on your behalf. Alternatively, seek the assistance of one of your existing tutors, or, at a push, your head of department, who should all be willing to help you. You may also wish to contact any student support committee, or similar body who could help represent you.