What to do if you're thinking about dropping out of university

bored student in lecture

Not sure uni is for you? Read this first

Hundreds of students consider dropping out of uni every year. Some aren’t getting on with their course, some will be missing home. For others, it will simply be the realisation that uni was never for them. 

Whatever the reason, it’s important to explore all the options before making the big decision. 

Some students turn it around by working with the faculty staff to find ways to manage their workload. Some try counselling to reflect on the cause of their anxiety or homesickness.

Others throw themselves into socialising, joining a variety of clubs and societies to meet like-minded people. 

Sometimes it’s as simple as realising what brings you happiness and finding a way to apply this to your new life at uni. 

Positive choice

Dropping out doesn’t have to be a negative decision. For TSR member starkbe, it was a chance to choose a new direction. “Dropping out of university was the best thing I've ever done, although at the time it felt like the absolute worst,” she says. 

“It gave me time to re-evaluate my life, and to figure out exactly what I wanted to do without the excitement of Freshers’ Week impairing my judgement.” 

Starkbe is now studying politics and commutes to university and feels a whole lot happier and keen to advise students finding themselves in a similar situation. 

Switching uni was also a positive experience for TSR member Ethereal World. After withdrawing from Oxford, she took a year out and applied to study biology. She describes writing her personal statement for her new course as ‘effortless’ and began at the University of Bath the following year. You can read more about her experience here.

For Noreena123, the realisation that she’d picked the wrong uni was immediate. “I dropped out of university in October; I lasted three weeks,” she says. “It was my insurance university which I had put down because of the placement year on offer, but it wasn't a rational decision. 

“From the moment I arrived I knew the place wasn't for me and by the second day I was already asking about moving out.” 

Since then she has researched law and psychology courses thoroughly, re-sat an A-level module and currently has one unconditional offer. 

Dropping out can sometimes be the right decision, but it’s a big one. If you know in your heart that something isn’t right, here are six important things to do before withdrawing from uni. 

student working in halls room

1.Speak to the people that know you best

When you’ve worked so hard to get somewhere, opening up to tell people that your uni isn’t meeting your expectations feels almost impossible. Be brave and tell someone who knows you. Saying it out loud will clarify your thoughts and create some much-needed head space. 

By talking to people you trust, you can explore possible solutions: whether that’s persevering with your current situation, changing course or uni or choosing a vocational course, apprenticeship or job. 

2. Speak to the course leader

If you’re unhappy with your course, book an appointment with your personal tutor or course leader.

You can discuss why you’re unhappy and, if you’re struggling with the course, explore options for increased support.

You can also get help with your options around potentially switching course.

3. Student advice

Universities and student unions will have advice centres on campus. If you’re nervous about contacting your personal tutor or course leader, head there for support.

These advice centres are run by trained advisers, who have huge amounts of experience in helping students in your situation. You’ll get advice and help with who to contact next. 

These guys are also the right people to speak to if you’re concerned about your general mental health, and they’ll be able to refer you to your uni’s counselling service if you want. 

4. Tuition fees

Don’t forget; if you withdraw from uni, you may still have to pay some fees.

Depending on when you finish, your tuition fees may be pro-rated which means you’ll have to pay up even though you’re no longer studying.

Your uni’s finance team will be able to help you with all the advice you need on outstanding fees. 

If there are fees outstanding, you’ll need to arrange payment yourself. This isn’t something Student Finance England or another national loan provider will organise on your behalf. 

Once you’ve withdrawn from uni, you will need to contact Student Finance England and confirm that you’re no longer at university.

If you have an NHS bursary you’ll also need to make sure you let them know promptly. Any money paid to you once you’ve withdrawn will need to be repaid. 

5. Accommodation contract

Whether you’re in uni accommodation or renting through a private landlord, you’ll need to check the terms and conditions of your contract. 

Most rental contracts will be based on the academic year so although you might chose to withdraw part way through the year, you’ll be expected to pay a full year’s rent. 

If you’re unsure, speak to the accommodation services at your uni or, if you’re in a private rental, chat to the student advice centre. Some landlords might release you from the contract if you can find someone to take it over.

6. Student finance in the future

Before you withdraw, check with your loan provider how this might affect any future application for student finance.

This is especially important if you’re thinking of applying for a different course at a different uni in the next year or so.

They’ll also need to advise you on repayments and when these will begin based on your withdrawal.

What to do next

If you have taken all of these steps and have decided that you’re going to withdraw from uni, you’ll need to confirm everything with a university student adviser who will guide you through the process. 

Although every uni is different, the general process will be that you meet with a member of the university and sign a declaration of withdrawal and confirm any outstanding fees or payments. 

You’ll then receive a letter confirming your withdrawal which you’ll need to send to your student loan provider to confirm that you are no longer at university.

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