Case studies a to m

aerobics girl

I dropped out of university after 6 weeks and I am now on a gap year, I have a place confirmed on a different course at the same university starting in September 2010.

The main reason why I dropped out was that the course was completely wrong for me (geography). This was such a shock to me as I thought that I would love the course because I loved geography at A level. I hated the compulsory topics that I had to study. Also their was very little choice of what to study on the course I did.

Other reasons did influence me to leave however some of these issues I could get over if I loved the course;

  • I hadn’t made many friends
  • I was burned out from studying so hard for my A levels that I was not in the right frame of mind to study and not motivated enough to research and write essays and reading.
  • The professors were all really stuffy and were really unsupportive when I asked for help and advice about the work.
  • I wanted to change from my geography course to a different course but it was too late so I am now on a gap year instead.
  • I didn’t understand the topics that I was been taught when I was on the geography course.
  • Loneliness
  • Having to commute 1hour to university via two busses. I know that this is only a minor problem but I hated waiting for the bus in the cold weather! I am about to take my driving test soon so I hopefully will be able to drive to university next year which will cut my commute time in half. (I don’t want to live in halls it my personal choice).


My reason was: The course.

That was really the only reason i had- but i felt it was quite a big issue, and the main part of being at university.

Basically the course wasn't what i expected. I was doing Psychology and found the course scientific. Which i was aware it would be- but when i was actually there doing it I realised it wasn't what i wanted to be doing. I really enjoyed it at a-level so was very disappointed.

Do i regret dropping out? NO, not really- i seriously miss my flatmates and the fact i loved the university (Birmingham). This made my decision harder, if everyone had been horrible it would have been easy to walk away, but i had such amazing flatmates i really enjoyed my time. But i don't regret dropping out of the course.

I have recently reapplied to university again, other unis but that is mainly because Bham didn't do the course i wanted to do- if it had i would have gone back there I am currently looking for a job, ive had a few interviews last week and i am just waiting back on them.

I think it can be so hard to pick yourself back up again, but it takes guts to admit you made the wrong choice and start again rather than keeping up with something you know isn't for you. Things will get better- When i came home i spoke to careers adviser who helped me with where to apply etc. and just gave me advice. She was very helpful and understood as her son had dropped out, he reapplied somewhere else and is now in his final year loving it still.

Another thing i would say is homesick, although it was only for 1 week in particular. I would say this isn't a reason to leave as it DOES usually get better- lots of people are feeling the same. And at the time i thought "well that doesn't really help me feel better" but if lots of people feels the same, lots of people stay at uni and enjoy it and therefore it will get better and you will cope with change. I went just under 3 hours away to uni, okay maybe 2 and half on a good day! Everyone thinks they wanna go as far as possible away from home- for some people this really works out. But for me and several others i know, when they were actually at uni they found it quite far. When i first went i was like "well i wont be going home much anyways" but quite a lot of my flatmates/people in my halls did, so weekends were quiet! This time round ive looked a bit closer to home, just so that if there is a boring weekend and i feel like going home i can, but so it's far enough to be independent and a new place!


Ok well I studied science at one of the best unis in the world - the reason I chose the uni was purely because of how highly ranked it was, how employable I could be and because it was in a very pretty area. But now I realised that was really all that appealed. The reality was that the environment was not very supportive. Because of its high rankings, you felt just like a cog in a big machine - everyone was out to get firsts, which is good but it turned some people into real cut-throat types, and at all the career events it felt like the biggest focus was how much money you could make (generally everyone was being geared up to do IB). Comparing it to some of the universities I'm applying to now, I realise just how much focus was being put on this area! (For example, I have an offer from Queen Mary who seem to really be promoting public good when it comes to careers e.g. pro bono work, but where I used to go it was all about how much money you could make and how fast you could do it.)

The course was not what I expected and although I could handle coursework just fine, I didn't seriously consider how wrong this course was for me until it came to crunch time - the end of year exams. It was at this moment I realised I never cared for the course and I purposley just stepped into the exam room and failed all of my exams. It made my decision to drop out much easier too.

My decision to choose this course was completely for the wrong reasons too, I chose science just because I got by at A-level and felt it lead to more opportunities - but I've learnt to just go with what you enjoy. I had been questioning the course throughout the entire year, and I don't think I would have plucked up the courage to dropout had I not felt so low about the course and my personal life (which also hit a low at this point) in general. I'd never felt so low in motivation about anything in my life.

Now that I've dropped out and am looking for a new university I realise how important it is to take student care into account, and to see how good an academic relationship can be had with you and the staff, because there really wasn't much support throughout the year, or I may have addressed the issue sooner and dropped out earlier.

Cool Cat

I'm a double drop-out, I have many reasons for that though. I'll do each univ separately:

1) Primary Education with biology

I was just straight out of school. In my A-level year there was a bereavement in my direct family but I was still determined to go to university so I didn't really stop to think if the course was really what I wanted. I also had had extensive work experience in schools/nurseries etc so although I had other course ideas, I didn't really consider other things properly.

So, I went off to university in England (I live in Northern Ireland). I actually really loved the city and I made a lot of friends there (many of whom were from NI aswell) Everything seemed fine until I started my first placement in a Primary School. I found it very different to being a teaching assistant (as I had been in my experience) and started to realise that I didn't see myself being a teacher. I dropped out literally just after the Christmas holidays, in January, as the thought of going on the second placement really did not appeal!. Very difficult leaving, as I was very close to a few of my flatmates but I knew it was not worth staying even for that.

Because I left at the very start of January, I didn't have much time before the UCAS deadline for 07 (this was 06) and so I thought back to my A-level subjects Bio, Chem and ICT and came to the conclusion that I would enjoy Biomedical Science. It was, on reflection, a VERY rushed decision but I guess, I just wanted something to look forward to again and well, I thought it was right for me.

2) Biomedical Science

I started at Manchester Univ in 07 with high hopes (and an idea of doing PG medicine) This time though, I wasn't as close to my flatmates and I started to miss home terribly. Motivation for my course was at an all time zero, I was lonely and I started to feel that Biomed and indeed the actual university wasn't for me. This was also when I finally went to the Doctor's Surgery at uni and told them how unhappy I was with everything. Not just university but with life. The full impact of my bereavement had reared it's ugly head. This lead to me being diagnosed as clinically depressed. I was referred for counselling and although this helped a bit, I couldn't get my motivation back no matter how hard I tried. I was also having meetings with the student support people at this time too. I was sleeping a lot and found it hard to get down to work. My family back at home knew I wasn't very happy but I didn't let on as to how difficult things were. In fact, I stayed the whole year and although I was at the library constantly studying (leading up to my exams.. I found it hard to do work at other times), I didn't do very well in my exams so my mind was made for me and I did not return after Summer. I had already agreed to share a house (didn't want to face up to the fact that I might not be returning) so that was a lot of hassle, nevermind the payment difficulties, I found telling my prospective housemates that they needed to find a new person very very difficult and I took ages to finally pluck up the courage. At home I dreaded telling my family that I wasn't going back and felt like a complete failure.

I went back to my part-time job and asked for as many hours as possible (for the money and to take my mind off things). They gave me a full-time position and so, I got stuck into that. These times really were rubbish, I still felt like a failure and that I'd let everyone down. I got AAC in my A-levels and had always been expected to go to university so to be in full-time employment, in what was meant to be just a part-time job, felt like a backwards step. A few months later, I started to entertain the idea of going back to university again. Friends convinced me that universities would understand what happened and that I still had a chance of studying for a degree.

So here I am, hoping to go back to university in 2010. I'm hoping with every fibre of my being, that dropping out twice hasn't harmed my univ chances too much I'm a very indecisive person but I'm thinking about podiatry (as i love helping people and feel that health-care would suit me) Nursing is also an option. The hands-on, love of fixing things and working things out person inside me thinks maybe I should give engineering a go (I'd have to do a foundation year) but I dunno! Cabin crew and maybe something in the police are ideas aswell. Having had a bit of experience in a podiatry clinic and more planned, it is looking a tiny bit more promising

I really feel that I don't have enough time to consider all my options before applying again and I'm getting all stressed out again. I just hope something works out.

To potential drop-outs, please don't be discouraged after reading all of that (I've just realised how doom and gloom that all sounds). I don't regret dropping out as such, just wish it didn't have to come to that. I still feel like it's better to be out than on a course that you don't like!


I went to Cambridge Uni in 2009, but from the first I found it really wasn’t the place for me. From fresher’s week onwards it was making me quite unhappy and I became convinced that I had made a mistake going there. I only applied as I couldn’t choose a fifth place on UCAS and my school wanted me to, but when I got in I felt I had to go. I’m now on a gap year reapplying to Uni’s I actually want to be at for 2010 entry.

I see Uni as having two sides, the work and the social. If either one of those had been right at Cambridge I wouldn’t have dropped out, but the workload was far too high, and I wasn’t enjoying the course at all really, and the social side did not live up to what I had hoped Uni would be like. Partly because Cambridge wasn’t the type of city I had wanted to be in (large, metropolitan one) and partly because Oxbridge is so different to other places.

From my experience, my advice to people not enjoying Uni for whatever reason would be that dropping out is always a realistic option, and is not you failing, but rather you realising that you have made a mistake in doing that particular degree, and taking steps to correct it. A year waiting to go somewhere might seem like a long time, but it really isn’t, and it lets you gain experience and money. That said, you should be always be sure you have made the right decision before you do drop out, as you wouldn’t want to look back and regret it. (If you do drop out, when people say that to you, point out that you could equally get to 40 and regret staying in a place you hated, on a course you hated, and not enjoying the 3-4 years that are supposed to be the best ones in your life, as you could get to 40 and regret leaving Uni.)


I am one of the most indeceisive people I know. However I think I've always known I wanted to work in a creative field. Last year I went on an art foundation course and chose illustration to specialise in. I loved it, it was with no exaggeration the happiest year of my life. I thought i'd be happy if i could do this forever and there were Universities I wanted to go to but I had doubts about a career in illustration, thinking that "perhaps a course in primary teaching would be more likely to lead to a good job" and so I didn't apply. I regretted this when the time came for everyone else to go to interviews, and even more so when they heard back from their chosen Universities. It was a main topic of conversation for alot of the time. I felt so left out. I wanted nothing more than to be one of them and was determined not to be left behind and so when clearing came about, I applied for two courses, one in Graphic arts and one in Illustration and animation. I was accepted onto both but chose Graphic Arts as the Uni was in a more lively city and I though that going there would lead to a better social life.

Everything felt so rushed and I suppose I never properly adjusted to the idea that I was leaving. My flatmates were nice people but i never really fitted in with them. This may have been down to the fact that they had all moved in a week before me, or that they were all doing the same type of course (sport). God knows they tried to be inclusive and I tried to be included but I never did click with any of them. This wasn't a huge problem, at least I was on good terms with them all and was able to have a laugh with them when we went out or make conversation with them during the day, although admittedly this was mainly just in passing, but I still felt very lonely. Not loving your flatmates is never a reason alone to leave but the loneliness did contribute to my decision, especially when comparing my situation to friends who adored their flatmates and were having the time of their lives making new friends. I was optomistic about my course though, looking forward to being taught and getting stuck in with some projects and meeting some more like minded people. I did start to make friends on my course but unfortunately left before these friendships grew to anything of value.

I can't think of a time while I was there where I ever felt...happy. I was always putting things off and spending as little money as possible, because in the back of my mind, I knew I wasn't going to stay there. But the real decision maker (as it should be) was the course. I just felt like I wasn't learning anything and that I could probably do the same thing for free at home. I decided I was going to apply to other universities that year and the initial plan was to stick it out until I'd heard from them, both in case the course picked up and in case I was rejected from the other universities, but not long after that I'd had enough. It didn't matter whether or not I was rejected elsewhere, there was no way I wanted to stay there for three years!

I don't regret my decision at all. This year I'm working full time (part time, two jobs) with the intention of maybe going travelling later on in the year (although I've got nothing in place yet) and spending the rest on having fun next year at uni! I've still gotta pay off accommodation fees though as I'm contracted for the whole year. My lovely parants have agreed to loan me the money for that and I'm paying them back £100 a month to begin with, but fingers crossed I'll find someone to move in to my old room!


I just found it wasn't for me. I spent the first few weeks sitting in lectures, bored out of my mind. I had no interest in Psychology any more and I knew I didn't want a career in it.

My problem was I allowed myself to be shepherded like so many of my peers into university. Yes, some of them love the social life enough not to care about whether they like the course or not but I didn't. Once I'd realised it wasn't for me and that I had no goal at the end of it I quickly decided that it was an expensive waste of time for me.

I went to speak to my tutor who told me that many people didn't know what they wanted to do when they started university, but I found the stress of no ultimate goal unbearable, plus commuting for two hours everyday was exhausting. Most of my lectures were in the evenings meaning I was often getting on the bus to go home at 9pm. It just wasn't working for me, I know NOW what I would be able to study - art, but I see no career prospects with it so I'm chasing that ambition as a sideline.

I've also been to speak to older graduates, many of which wished they hadn't taken their degree because they ended up in a field TOTALLY unrelated to it and it fairly well paying jobs that don't need a degree. And these are people who didn't have to pay for their courses.

Someone else put it rather well; University is now a factory. That's certainly what it felt like to me, suddenly I was a faceless individual amidst a mass of people all doing the same course. For what? I don't know, there are too many graduates for graduate level jobs but I haven't frozen myself out of the system completely. I have GOOD A Levels meaning I can go back in when I want and when I have some reason to. And if I have a few years of work experience behind me I can probably get into a better university too.

Since leaving I've been looking into other options that the school didn't offer me, because I was "academic" my teachers all assumed university would be the place for me. One of them told my sister recently that I was the LAST person he ever expected to drop out of university, but there we go. Now I'm looking at apprenticeships and entry level jobs in places like banking or real estate. True they may not be my passion but I have far more interest in them than I did my course. I went because I thought I had to but I'm not sure I could cope with a high flying graduate job anyway, even if I COULD get one. I've realised I'm more of a family-oriented girl than a career woman.

My main problem I think is the lack of support and preparation I got for university. I drifted into it because I didn't know what else to do, I became one of 600 or so students in my year of my course alone and completely lost all sense of identity. I may reapply in the future to do graphic design or art but for now I think I need this time out. I'm only 18 and to commit to a course now I feel would be stupid, I'm too young to really know who I am or what I'm capable of and I'm not mature enough to deal with university. Though I could do the work I was in tears every night because it was just too much for me. I was working from 8 in the morning to about 10 at night reading and trying to make sense of my notes, and I did this 7 days a week, so I'm not lazy and it wasn't a lack of commitment – it was just the wrong course.

ATM I work part time as a waitress. I don't want to be here forever but I enjoy some parts of my job, now I'm just looking for something a little more challenging as intellectually I'm bored. Working as a waitress is a good start, I've spoken to numerous people in banks all who say they think I'd do fine in an institute like that which doesn't require a degree and offers good options for advancement and training.

I made the mistake of doing a subject I was good at in A Level at university, thinking I must enjoy it. Yes I'm interested in Psychology but I'm not a scientist, despite good science GCSE results. -shrug- I'm just one of those people that can do things if they put their mind to it but can't find where they want to go. At heart I'm an artist. I love decorating and working with my hands but I have no idea what career to go into. I'd probably make a good electrician or engineer as I'm creative, logical and good with my hands but I haven't been able to find any local apprenticeships.

I went to university to avoid tackling the real world because I was scared of it. Scared of no longer having set school holidays. I'm still scared now of finding a job different to the one I'm in and suffer the occasional pang of guilt for dropping out, (teachers DON'T help) but I hope I'll get over it as I get used to the idea of no more school holidays and working 9-5.

I am SO tempted to go back to university and do an art degree, but I can't think where I'd go with it afterwards, so for now I'm going to continue to hunt for full time work (though I may take a gap year and just work part time) and see if I can't get a deal as an artist with Washington Green or some other publisher.

Also I went to an old Polytechnic which had a GOOD reputation when it was one, now it's known as a fairly crap university. It'd be a brilliant place for an art or a design course but because it's not a redbrick "university" any degree I get is likely to be devalued.


I recently dropped out of uni and am in the process of reapplying for next year. On reflection it was obvious from the start that I wasn't going to be happy, I had chosen to go to a university in London, nearly 3 hours away from where I live. All my friends and my boyfriend were still up in Manchester, either at university there or working. I found myself coming home nearly every weekend which was expensive and didn't help me make friends in halls but I missed my boyfriend so much, the only time I was happy was when I wasn't at uni.

I also hated the course I was doing, because I did well at history A level I presumed I'd enjoy it at university, after a few weeks I found it incrediably boring and lacked any motivation to actually do any reading/essay writing.

The social side wasn't great either, I made a couple of friends but wasn't really close to any of them, also being a campus uni in London it became incredibly claustrophobic. Being a bit of a wimp I didn't feel confident walking of campus in the dark and at this time of year thats pretty much all the time! The generally atmosphere of the uni was also not what I expected, at the risk of sounding like a spoiled middle class brat I felt like I was at a boarding school somewhere in Asia. For many people I'm sure thats perfect but I just didn't feel like I fitted in anywhere.

I'm now home, looking for a job and reapplying to unis nearer home.


Started at Leeds uni last year (Sept 08) straight from school but after only 3 weeks dropped out. There were lots of reasons for this but overwhelmingly I felt I'd been rushed into going to uni/making a course choice. I'd always been one of the highest achievers at my school and regarded as an "academic" type of person, so uni just seemed to be the obvious route. Neither I nor my teachers really seemed to consider any other options, even a gap year.

I knew before I went that I didn't really want to go (there was quite a lot of difficulties in my home life at the time which made me very reluctant to go so far away from home, and I just didn't feel ready in myself), to the point of feeling very depressed on results fay when I realised I'd got in, much to the confusion of my teachers. However, stupidly, I honestly couldn't see any other option - I wasn't "the sort of person" who pulled out of a decision or dropped out.

Once I was actually in Leeds though, it was very immediately apparent that there was no way I could spend 3 years there (or, to be honest, at any uni at the time - nothing against Leeds or the uni itself, its a great place!). I spent most of my time in tears and can honestly say I have never felt so depressed or hopeless in my life - I was still clinging to the notion that there was no way I could leave! I couldn't even speak to my mum on the phone without breaking down.

However it was emailing my old RE teacher that made my mind up - I told him everything, expecting him to tell me to wait it out, like everyone else had, but he was extremely supportive and said that perhaps a gap year would be the best idea for me. He even offered to write my reference for UCAS!

After that it was like something had changed me completely and I wasn't worried about leaving. I can honestly say the support system at Leeds was nothing short of excellent - I had a peer mentor that I contacted, and who sat with me and went through everything, then came to see my personal tutor with me, who was likewise very understanding. I had to pay rent for the time I'd been in accomodation but not tuition fees. I paid back my grant but kept the first terms loan (mostly because the SLC wouldn't tell me what to do with it, or how to repay it!)

I think my year out was the best thing that could have happened to me - I worked part time in retail and actually really enjoyed it, met some great friends and had more time to consider what I really wanted. I'm now at Cardiff uni, and although I've still been homesick I've been much better prepared for it and how to deal with it when it arises. It still hasn't been easy - I think I'm just a very home-orientated person - but I'm confident that I'll stick it out now, and have found the right group of friends for me, and made the most of the experiences and independence uni life can bring.


I dropped out of university about 3 weeks into it. I'd always put off thinking about what i wanted to do after college, I figured that i'd probably apply to university but couldn't imagine myself ever actually going... When it got to the time to apply to UCAS, I just found myself going along with it, thinking that I could back out at any time. I didn't go to any open days, the only reason I chose Southampton Solent is because the interview left a positive impression on me.

The course that I made my firm choice was basically removed due to lack of interest in it. I had to convince them to let me interview for a similar course, by this stage I had my heart set on Southampton Solent as I didn't have any knowledge of any of the other universities apart from a really negative interview experience for UCA.

The career ambition is screenwriter. The course i'd ended up doing had options to do screenwriting, but it just wasn't enough. To do any screenwriting it would have to be in preparation for a film. I'd always thought that practical knowledge would help inform my screenwriting, but the practical content of the course was far too much. I had almost no enthusiasm for the syllabus, when I thought of making films, it just felt irrelevant.

I never thought that I could get into Bournemouth because of their high grade boundaries, so I didnt bother applying for their screenwriting course. I didn't really know what to expect for myself, grades-wise. In the first year I'd got BBBC, which I was happy with and figured I should limit myself to universities that would accept similar grades. Well, it turned out that i'd got AAB for my final a-level grades... The course at Southampton Solent required a 240 UCAS score. I'd managed to get over 300 including my AS course. So I could have applied to Bournemouth.

The social side of university was fine, I felt like I didn't have that much in common with my flatmates, but they were all lovely and would have been very easy to live with - everyone was very respectful of each other and each others property. The people on my course were great, it was a real pain in the bum that the course wasn't right, because it seemed like everything else was. I admit I was homesick, and that probably pushed me to make the decision I did about dropping out. I'm very close to my family and I felt like I was missing out on everything at home. Every time I went out at night, I wished my friends were there with me. I felt like 'why should I be here when i can be at home, having a better time'.

I had to think what I would do if I did drop out. More than anything I just wanted time to think, about whether university was for me, I had to think realistically about my chances of becoming a screenwriter: degree or no degree.

More than anything I was aware of how little life experience I had. If I wanted to have a career where I had to draw upon my own life experience for ideas, I needed life experience. I knew I wanted to travel. I knew I wanted to try working, I wanted money.

So I dropped out. I'm still not sure where I stand when it comes to tuition fees, the university say I owe them 10% but havent contacted me further to inform me of how I pay them. They've charged me accommodation rent for the time I was there.

Dropping out is a horrible thing; it doesn't matter how positively you can think of it in your own head and heart, as soon as you tell someone - they don't understand at all, they see it as running away because you were scared. But thats ridiculous, University is probably the safest place to be in a recession. I try not to mention it to people. Or if I do I tell them that i'm probably going back at some point. But I dont know how true that is.

I have a full time job in a deli now. 39 hours a week. Its an eye opener. I cant see myself ever settling for a humdrum job for years and years on end. But I have no desire to go back to university. I think my studying days are over. I love learning new things, but I don't like having to prove myself, prove that I have learned it. I find the idea of coursework and assignments exhausting at this moment. I think I want to educate myself, teach myself some life lessons. I'm saving up to go travelling, probably America. Hopefully I have some sort of revelation during this time, I call it my 'room to breathe' time. Maybe I'll have experiences that will make me want to write, give me the motivation to make my ideas heard.

I don't know whether my decision was right or not... not yet. I think degrees aren't magic tickets to the career you want. There are other factors involved.