You’re halfway through term one of your first year of university and something doesn’t feel right about your course. We can all agree, an 8.30am lecture on a Friday is never the most exciting prospect, but what if the thought of going to yours for three years (or more depending on your degree) fills your stomach with an abnormal number of butterflies?
Maybe, you think, university just isn’t for you? It can be tricky to locate the source of these butterflies. Starting university is a turbulent time for most of us, and it’s not for everyone. The pressure to enjoy university life just because everybody else is can feel overwhelming from friends and social media.
There are so many other paths that don’t involve taking a degree. It’s never too late to change your mind about your course or university, even if you feel like you have to commit to your decision.
Here are 5 possible solutions if you find you don’t like your course:
- This depends on your university and space on other courses, as well as how far along your degree you are.
- It can often be easier to change to a course that is in a similar field or the same department as your current course, sometimes you can change without having to repeat a year if the course is very similar, sometimes you may need to do an extra year or term.
- Before changing courses, it’s a good idea to fully research what you’re changing to by speaking to people on that course if possible, as well as the course leader, who will need to accept you onto your new course. If they agree to accept you, the course leader for the course you want to change to will often help you through the process of changing.
Transferring to another university that offers a more suitable course
- You might find that despite courses having similar names they can be quite different. For example, you can study BA geography at Oxford Brookes or at Edinburgh, but these two courses are very different. The same course at a different uni might be better suited to you.
Withdrawing from university to rethink your options and enter into work or an apprenticeship
- If there are other aspects to your university experience that might be making you unhappy, consider the possibility that university isn’t the right option for you. This is completely OK, and loads of successful people say that Uni just wasn’t right for them, or the timing wasn’t right. Even if it feels daunting, there are thousands of other options out there, including entering straight into a job, or looking at apprenticeships.
Interruption of studies
- Interruption of studies or suspension of studies involves taking a temporary break from studying at university, with the intention of returning. It’s dependent on your university - some will allow you to take a year or just a term out.
- There are many ways to make this more than just a year out, to clear your head and find the time to discover what it is you really want.
- Ask your course leader or personal tutor for details on how this works at your Uni if you think this is the right option for you.
Simply sticking with it
- This might seem like a better option if you are further down the line of your degree, and want to stick it out to the end. There can be benefits to doing this, even if it feels wrong (especially as many of the skills you learn during a degree can be transferred into a whole range of different career options), but if you’re really unhappy and it’s affecting your health and wellbeing, you should always seek help.
We spoke to two current students, Sophia and Connor, about their experiences of not enjoying their courses.
Sophia, 21, started studying law at the University of Exeter, and it wasn’t until February that she realised she was in the wrong degree and that it wasn’t allowing her to fulfil her passion for art and music.
“I felt so sad as deep down I knew that it was not right but I was scared of leaving Exeter, leaving my course, leaving these amazing friends that I’d made.”
Following discussions with her mum, friends and the university, Sophia made the decision to interrupt her studies at the end of her first year to take the time to decide what she really wanted to study, or even if going to university was right for her.
Sophia’s advice is to talk to people who support you and have your best interests at heart, as well as staying true to what interests you and not succumbing to too much external pressure.
“At that age we were so impressionable, I was willing to do anything to make friends and feel like I fitted in that I lost all sense of what was important and why I wanted to go to uni (to study and enjoy what I study)”
It’s easy to feel rushed into further education and that the decision of which career path to pick is a ticking time-bomb, when in Sophia’s case, she needed this time to realise where her true interests were. After taking a year out from Exeter, Sophia decided to withdraw her place, and is now studying Liberal Arts at the University of Nottingham.
The degree you choose is the most significant part of your university experience, and picking the wrong one can make life more difficult than it needs to be. It’s easy to become wrapped up in the university social scene and lose sight of why you’re really there, so taking some time and space to gain perspective is essential - be that during the holiday periods or visiting home.
Connor, 22, a fourth-year student at the University of Manchester, had a very different experience with his course.
He started studying medicine with the intention of becoming a doctor, however from his experience working and studying in hospitals during his degree, he came to the realisation in his second year that he no longer wanted this career path.
Should he drop out and start over with a subject better suited to him, or stick with it and complete his degree?
Connor decided to make a list of the reasons why he chose the course in the first place. Medicine still interested him despite not wanting a career in it, and being such a competitive subject to get into, it would give him good career prospects.
“Once you graduate you’re not limited to that degree, and sometimes sticking it out and getting something for it is rewarding in itself.”
Connor made the decision to continue on his course for the long haul of five years in total, and now wants to go on to take a master’s in health law and ethics.
His advice is similar to Sophia’s:
“if you don’t enjoy your course but decide to stick it out anyway, try to make sure you surround yourself with a support network as best you can.”
If you feel your mental health is being affected by some of the issues raised, seek help through university support services, voluntary services such as Nightline, and careers staff, who are always on hand to either just listen or to advise you the best they can.
Our final piece of advice would be to speak up and make sure you are talking to the right people, if that’s university support staff, friends, or family. It’s never too late to take the time for yourself and make a change.