Thinking about dropping out or transferring university?
You won’t know if your choice of university was right until you’re there. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and the reality falls short of your expectations. So, you start thinking about other options. This isn’t an easy position to be in – but don’t worry, you’re not the only one!
- Dislike the course – Maybe it is too difficult, not enjoyable, or you have decided that it isn’t the right route to go down for your future.
- Be unhappy with the location – Homesickness is fairly common. Maybe your university is too far away from home, or not far away enough. Perhaps the city or university is too big or small for you to enjoy living there.
- Feel lonely – If not homesick, then maybe you find that you haven’t made enough good friends yet. Or, a boyfriend/girlfriend could be living far away and you miss them – it isn’t easy!
- Have personal issues – Whether it be a disability, bereavement, mental health reasons, or other happiness and health-related issues.
It isn’t uncommon, but it can be difficult and stressful, especially if it feels as if everyone else is having a great time. In 2014-15, 8,890 students transferred university (2.3% of all first-time undergraduates). 29,140 students dropped out of university altogether (7.4%) HESA 2014-15. Compared to other countries, this is a low dropout rate, but for the UK, they are very large.
If you are considering transferring or dropping out
We advise everyone to:
Firstly, pinpoint exactly what you’re struggling with – Can you address these issues before considering leaving?
Talk to someone – You can speak to teachers, university services, friends and family. The internal student welfare support is there to help you through times like these (support centres, support groups, counselling, chaplaincy and faith support, Students’ Union – welfare officer, etc). Talking through something may help you realise things that you may not be able to on your own. They also may have some good ideas of what you could do to make the situation better.
Stick it out – Could it get better over time? Nothing is going to be 100% perfect, and many people in the same situation feel better later on.
Always be honest – With yourself and those who support you (including your friends). Acknowledge the warning signs and don’t push things aside. It is nothing to be ashamed of, just take the initiative, as it will work out for the better.
Ask yourself questions – Would dropping out of or transferring university solve your issues? Are you really making the most of the opportunities available to you? You have to actively go and find them. If you are feeling lonely, for example, and struggling to make friends, there are plenty of university societies and sports teams to join. There will be many people in these groups ready to make friends and welcome you in. These do not have to be high profile, alcohol-fuelled or require significant commitment.
Don’t make any hasty decisions – Think things through properly!
If you are unhappy with your course, and see that there is a better alternative at your current university, you may be able to transfer onto it.
What to do
Identify the problem – How is the course wrong for you? What would make it better? Is it the course content, or the people? Decide what your issues are, so you can make an informed decision of what to do next.
Think about the consequences – If you transfer course and start a new one part-way through the year, you may not know anyone in your course and may feel behind. If you decide to switch course and it is too late to transfer in your current year, you may have to repeat the first year.
Think about it at the right time – Think it through either as soon as possible so that you can change and not miss out on much. Or, during the second half of the first year, in order to switch when you go into the next academic year.
Figure out what you would have to do – How easy would it be? Would it be possible and worth it for where you currently are in the academic year? Speak to tutors, lecturers, department staff and other university staff who may be able to assist. Work out what your steps are to make the transfer happen.
Think about what would be the solution to your problem – What would be best for what you want? Consider, for example, if you get a good mark in your first year, you may be able to transfer into another course straight into the second year (if it is a similar course).
Sort out student finance – Changing course partway through a year may not have much financial impact, unless your new course is a different length to your current one. Speak to your student loans company and tell them your situation. If you won’t be starting the course until the next academic year, take a look at our information below.
Transferring university could be a great idea – it could bring more opportunities and happiness. Universities are ready to accept transfer students, and the government is making it easier for students to transfer credits. You could transfer to a similar or different course at a different university.
But, try and complete the year if you can. It is better to leave with good results than nothing at all. Many students in similar positions have found that things can drastically improve with time, and those who thought they were going to drop out but finished their whole first year, ended up staying at that university and finishing the entire course.
What to do
Identify your problems – Is it the size of your university or classes? Is the location unsuitable for you? Should you consider something closer to home? Do you dislike the course content? Is university right for you now? Should you take some time out? If you take time out, you could gain some work experience, travel or volunteer and make your CV better than if you just had a large gap.
When you have determined what you think might be the main issues, you should be able to understand the situation better in order to make the right move.
Consider the consequences –
- You may have to repeat the first year.
- It may be difficult to find decent accommodation at your new university.
- You may not settle in as easily, or feel integrated with the student body if joining the university later on.
- Re-applying through UCAS could be hard if you have not passed your first year.
Sometimes, transferring is not an option, and you will have to reapply to university through UCAS afresh. If you leave university without transferring straight away, it could:
- Create a gap in your CV. This will make future employers ask questions, which you will need a good answer for.
- Make you liable for fees for the whole year.
- Mean you also have to pay for the remainder of your accommodation costs that you signed a contract for, unless you can find someone else to take your place.
Think about it at the right time – In some cases, the earlier you transfer, the better. You may be able to catch the final days of UCAS applications, and go through Clearing. But if you only have minor doubts, do try and stick it out for as long as possible.
December to January is a crucial time when students decide whether they’ve made the right the choice. The Christmas period may help you take a step back and think things through objectively, especially if you haven’t been home for the whole of the first term.
There is the opportunity to start a new course in the new year as some universities have January intakes, two-year accelerated or fast-track degrees. This could mean that you still graduate at the same time as your friends. A longer route could be to change your full-time study plans to a part-time route, so you are still on track to complete a degree but alongside work or training.
But, if possible, stick out your first year and perform your best. After January, you can start to look at what is available to transfer to with the credits you’ll have at the end of the year. You will have something to offer regardless what you do next. Always think about the long-term.
Figure out what you would have to do – Sit down and work out a timeline. Remember you will need to drop out of your current course before starting a new one. Ensure you allow enough time to do proper research. Think about what you will need to do before applying for a new course, and what you will have to do after you have accepted. What are the requirements? Do you need a certain amount of credits?
It will depend on what time you drop out of your course, and when you are planning on reapplying. Also consider the pros and cons for transferring or restarting in September or January, and for a full-time course, two-year accelerated degree or part-time study route.
Do enough research – Make sure you choose the right university and course – if you are currently on a course unsuitable for you, could you ask to transfer to a different course at your current university? If you get a good mark in your first year, you may be able to transfer into another course straight into the second year (if it is a similar course).
If you’re looking elsewhere, find out what courses are available that have similar modules to the one you’re currently in. But take care and think – will the same course elsewhere be making the same mistake again?
Speak to the right people – When you have identified a course (either at your current or new university), approach the admissions team and talk it through with them. Find out how you will need to apply. Do you need to drop out of your current university before you transfer?
You can expect the admissions team to ask you to send your transcript for your first-year credits, and information about what subjects you are studying. They may call you in for an interview. Some universities have online application forms called APLs (Accreditation of Prior Learning).
It’s also really important to talk through plans with your family and friends, and even former teachers and advisers.
Sort out student finance – You will need to speak to your student finance company. Make sure to explain your situation. Regardless of what point in the term you leave your course, you will have to pay for the full term of tuition fees. If you leave midway through a term you will have to pay for the full term of tuition fees. If you leave university in your third term, you will have to pay for the full year of fees. See the University of Nottingham as an example of what you might have to pay back and when.
If you are starting at a different university in the next academic year, be aware that in most cases, you can only receive student loan for four years in total.
Think about the whole picture – When would you start? What do you need to do about accommodation? Think back to when you applied to university before, and prepare in a similar way.
University isn’t for everyone. Sometimes the best option could be leaving, and pursuing a different route. This could be entering into full-time employment, undertaking an apprenticeship, volunteering or travelling.
What to do
Consider the consequences –
- Leaving university could create a gap in your CV. This will make future employers ask questions, which you will need a good answer for.
- If you leave after the first term, you may be liable for fees for the whole year.
- You also have to pay for the remainder of your accommodation costs that you signed a contract for, unless you can find someone else to take your place.
- You will stop receiving any loan payments and student benefits immediately.
- If you stay in your accommodation and you’re not a student, you will have to pay council tax.
We advise you to try and complete the year, if you can. It is better to leave with good exams results than nothing at all. Many students in similar positions have found that things can drastically improve with time, and those who thought they were going to drop out but finished their whole first year, ended up staying at that university and finishing the whole course.
When to think about it – If you are adamant on leaving university and not returning (at the least not just yet), either leave as soon as possible, to avoid paying fees and/or accommodation for the entire year.
Or, leave at the end of the first year. In this case, you have something to offer if you decide to reapply to university in the future, and future employers will see that you worked hard at something before giving it up.
Sort out student finance – You will be required to pay back the student loans you have received. How much you will have to pay back will depend on when you leave university – if you leave midway through a term you will have to pay for the full term of tuition fees. If you leave university in your third term, you will have to pay for the full year of fees. Get in touch with your student finance company and talk through what will happen with them. See the University of Nottingham as an example of what you might have to pay back and when.
You will begin repaying your loan in the same way as if you had finished your entire degree. This is from the April following your departure from university, and when you have started earning £25,000 and above.
You may also receive limited funds if you decide to go back to university in the future, regardless of what point in the year you dropped out.