Every year in the UK, millions of students pack their bags and head to university. It is an exciting time for many, full of new social and academic opportunities – not to mention the fact that most students enjoy the independence that moving away from home can bring. Despite this, there are some young people who get to university and realise that it’s not for them – whether it be because of the pressure they feel in terms of study, they feel that they have made the wrong course choice, or perhaps again the independence factor of going off to study. Because of this, lots of people drop out of university, this article will discuss whether it is this a good idea, and what the alternatives to University are, if you feel as though you should drop out.
The short answer is that each student is different, so it is difficult to give a broad response to whether you should drop out or not. Different people have different reasons for wanting to drop out, and that’s ok – it’s a personal choice which only you can make. There are, however, ways to determine if you should drop out for the right reasons. Only you can decide whether or not to drop out, and you shouldn’t let your family or friends force you into doing so. If you do decide to drop out, you have a range of other options available to you if you still want to further your education or start working.
If you are thinking of dropping out of University, want to know whether it is the right choice, and explore the other options available to you, this article is certainly worth a read.
Should You Drop Out of University?
Once again, only you can decide whether you should drop out or not. It’s best to consider what it is that is making you feel as though university is not for you before you leave. If the problems you are having are solvable, it may be an idea to carry on. However, if you truly feel like your life would improve by dropping out of university and have no desire to earn the degree you signed up for, then it’s probably best for you to drop out.
If you want to continue with university, but other factors in your life are preventing you from doing so, then you should contact your university and seek help whether it be through bursaries, scholarships or other methods of earning your degree despite what is going on in your life. For more information about scholarships, grants and bursaries, check out the UCAS website. Your university will also have a wellbeing team who are there to help you deal with personal issues that may be getting in the way of your enjoyment of your degree.
Why Might You Want to Drop Out of University?
Every student is unique – different people may decide to drop out of university for different reasons. These reasons could range from family life to not enjoying the course you have chosen, and anything in between.
Perhaps once you got to university, you realised that you would prefer to spend a year or two out of education to do your own thing – many students do this every year as gap years are extremely popular. However, it is important to start thinking about whether you want to take a gap year before you are at university, otherwise, you will have to deal with sorting out how to drop out. It is not really a good idea to do all of the work to get to university, just to drop it for something you could have planned for previously, so make sure that you go over all of your options beforehand.
Another very common reason for students dropping out is because the work has become too stressful for them. If you truly feel that you’re in a bad state mentally, and the only way to feel better is to drop out, then you should do it, absolutely. Your mental wellbeing is just as important as your physical wellbeing, and you shouldn’t put yourself through an incredibly stressful time which will have a detrimental effect on your mental health if you can help it. Going to university is stressful in itself for pretty much everyone, but if you’re feeling particularly anxious, stressed or even depressed, then you may want to seek out some advice online from websites such as The Calm Zone, Kooth or On My Mind. Many universities even have their own counsellors to help students who are feeling this way, so it is worth having a look to see if they can help you too.
Many students end up dropping out of their university course as they feel that it isn’t the right one for them – you may have had a change of heart about the career path you want to take, or simply do not enjoy the content you are studying. This is understandable, as if you don’t enjoy what you’re studying or think it’s pointless to you, then university will end up being pretty useless and a waste of time. Plenty of students switch their course during university, the majority of them doing it before their course has fully started or only a few weeks in so that they don’t miss out on loads of content.
Something to bear in mind, though, is that switching courses like this is only really a good idea in the early weeks of your first year at university. If you have decided that you want to change courses two or three years into university, then you will most likely have to drop out and apply from scratch for the course you want to take. The best thing to do if you want to quickly switch your course in first year is to contact your course provider who will take you through the options of switching. Obviously, you’ll have to be realistic about which course you want to take instead, and make sure you remember that simply changing courses just like that may not be possible, particularly if you do not meet the grade requirements or pass the entrance exam for the course (if there is one), and you can’t expect to immediately change from one course to another if you are choosing another subject entirely.
The majority of universities will allow you to switch your course once the year has started, provided you give specific reasons, are willing to catch up on your work and fit the course requirements but it’s worth checking with your university specifically, in case it doesn’t. If you want to avoid this problem entirely, then you should really research what each university course entails in depth before you apply to weigh up your options.
Another reason for students dropping out of university early is family problems. Maybe you’re dealing with a family bereavement or need to provide care for someone in your family, which isn’t possible to do while you’re at university. There are lots of places you can contact for support if this is what you are dealing with, for example, it might be a good idea to contact your university and let them know about your situation as they may be able to help you. No one should have to drop out of university if they have put in the work for years to get there.
Thinking It Through
Dropping out of university is a big decision to make, and there are lots of important things to think about before you settle on a decision.
The first thing to think about is whether you have a plan for after you drop out or not. Do you want to continue with a different choice such as a degree apprenticeship or an entry-level job? It is always best to plan ahead, that way you can save yourself the stress and time of not knowing what to do with yourself after you drop out.
The most important thing to think about when deciding on dropping out is whether you truly do want to drop out. Only you should be the one deciding this – you did the work to get to university, so you should choose what to do. Talking to family, friends and teachers/professors may be a good way to figure out if it’s the choice for you or not, but don’t let them force you either way.
If you are struggling with your course as soon as it starts, make sure that you consider that the transition to university is tricky for everyone, and it may take you some time to settle in. If you have given it some time, and decided that you don’t enjoy your course, dropping out could be a good option for you. If you’re thinking of dropping out near the end of your course, you might want to spend some more time thinking about it – how much of the course is left, and are you willing to give up this late after all of the work you have done? Remember, you can go back to university after you have completed your degree if you want to take another course, and it will most likely be possible for you to do a postgraduate degree in a different subject upon the completion of your degree. This is a perfectly valid path to take, as you may have found that your degree subject is not something you are passionate about. Just make sure that you know your options before you give up all of the progress you have made.
Think Before Applying
If you’re a student who is applying for university, despite not thinking it’s the right option for you, then stop right there. There’s no point in applying for university if you are going to find it extremely difficult (note that university is meant to be challenging, but not so much that you cannot cope), uninteresting or pointless. Do some research online as to what other options you have before signing up to something you are going to drop out of – it will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. If you are interested in alternatives, I would suggest that you read on to find out some of the other options you could take instead of university. You may also want to have a look at What Are The Alternatives To University? to find out some more information after you have read this article.
Remember – you do not have to go to university! Although it may seem like the popular choice, there are plenty of other choices for you that are just as fulfilling!
How Much Does it Cost to Drop out of University?
Once you have dropped out of university, you immediately lose your eligibility for government student loans. Unfortunately, this does not mean that the loans are cancelled – you will still have to pay them back (at least to some extent depending on the circumstances). Each case will be individually assessed, but the general rules are that:
- If you leave in your first term (between September – December), you will have to pay back 25% of your student loan for that year (around £2,312.50).
- If you leave in your second term (between January – March), you will have to pay back 50% of your student loan for that year (around £4,625).
- If you leave in your third term (between March – July), you will have to pay back 100% of your student loan for that year (£9,250).
In terms of your maintenance loan, you will need to pay back the amount that you have borrowed. This is the money that you get directly from the government to cover the costs of essentials, such as accommodation or food, and the amount differs for each person (though you are payed in 3 instalments across the year).
It is also important to keep in mind the accommodation that you have arranged for your year at university. If you are in your first year, chances are you will be living in university-owned flats, and the contract that you have signed will still apply (though it is unlikely that you will be able to live on campus). This means that you may have to continue paying for your accommodation, despite not being at university any more.
If you have rented student accommodation privately, you will most likely have a contract that means that you pay for your accommodation regardless of the fact that you no longer have your loan, and are not studying at university. Make sure you get in touch with your letting agent to find out what your contract is, and whether or not you can continue to live in the accommodation you are paying for.
The same rules apply to you as they would to university graduates in terms of paying loans back. You will have to start paying your loan back when you are earning more than £25,725 annually, starting from the April after you leave university.
Make sure that you also consider that although you can still apply for a student or maintenance loan from the government for another course after you have dropped out, the amount that you have already borrowed may be deducted from this.
What Can You Do Instead of University?
If you are a student who got to university and figured that it wasn’t for you, then there are plenty of options for you to consider in order to further your education in an alternate way. You may even want to jump straight into the world of work with an entry-level job to start earning money immediately. Whatever you want to do, it must be something that you definitely want to stick to – if you keep dropping out of your choices, then you’ll only be wasting your own time.
Here are a just a of the few options you might want to take.
1. Do a Degree Apprenticeship
This is a great option for students who want to earn their degree without spending all of their time on purely academic study. Degree apprenticeships tend to only be available for subjects listed under the STEM title, but once you have the degree, you can use it for a whole range of other career paths – your employer may even decide to take you on as a full-time worker.
A degree apprenticeship allows you to combine your study with some hands-on, practical work too. This option can last from three to six years, depending on what it is you are studying, and your employer. The best thing about this option is that both your training and tuition is paid for, which means that you won’t have to deal with student debt like you would after university! Also, because you are being employed by whoever you are doing the apprenticeship with, you will be given a salary, which makes this option a good idea if you are looking to save up money. You will be required to pay for your accommodation while you complete your degree, so this salary may help you cover the expenses.
A degree apprenticeship is just as challenging as a university degree, so if you don’t see yourself as an academic person, this may not be the option for you.
For more information about degree apprenticeships, check out the UCAS website.
2. Get an Entry-Level Job
You may have decided that you want to jump straight into the world of work by getting an entry-level job. Depending on what the job entails, qualification requirements vary for each one, and they are an excellent way to start earning money after your A-Levels. If you are looking to get a job immediately after dropping out from university, it’s a good idea to have at least some work experience on your CV – this will make you look more appealing to potential employers and give you a real insight into how jobs work. Work experience is mostly gained from putting yourself out there and volunteering. For ideas about gaining work experience, check out 40+ Ideas For Work Experience. You could even combine getting an entry-level job and taking a gap year by gaining your experience abroad.
The benefit of getting an entry level job so early is that it will give you time to work your way up in your job, and subsequently get paid more. For example, you will have more of a chance of working your way up to management than someone who was employed later than you.
The best place to look for entry-level job opportunities in your area is online, so get searching! Search ‘entry level jobs near me’ to get started.
3. Take a Gap Year
If you are not sure as to what to do after dropping out of university, you might want to take a gap year. Many students travel abroad to gain work experience, do volunteering, or simply just to take a break after their A-Levels and get away from studying for a while. Money is an extremely important factor in taking a gap year. It’s definitely best to sort out where you’re going, for how long and where you will be staying before setting off on your adventure, as you may end up stuck somewhere you are not familiar with, and this could even be dangerous.
Gap years are particularly popular with students looking to improve their language skills – teaching English as a foreign language is a popular option and traveling to countries which speak the language you are looking to get better at will only improve your skills.
There is no specific age requirement for going to university, so you can always take a gap year before deciding to go. A gap year may give you the time to fully process what each option entails, and the understanding to make an informed decision.
For some interesting ideas as to what to do and where to go in your gap year, have a look at UCAS’s Gap Year page. You may also be interested in this useful article, which discusses whether you should take a gap year, and this helpful article, which guides you through the process of taking a gap year.
4. Start Your Own Business
If you think you are an entrepreneurial young person, maybe starting your very own business is the path for you. This option allows you to be self-employed and gives you the chance to explore your passions in order to make a living. Small businesses are being created all of the time; providing hundreds of different services and catering to all types of people and businesses. You could begin a business for dog-walking, crafts, website design and many, many other things. If you’re looking for ideas for a business that can be run from your own home, check out 54 Small Business Ideas For Anyone Who Wants To Run Their Own Business.
You have to bear in mind, however, that starting a business requires resilience and determination – you must be totally passionate about what you’re doing and willing to carry on, even if something doesn’t go the way it was planned.
This option is probably the riskiest one you could take, as there is quite a small chance that you will find success and fortune, but if you are lucky, you could make lots of money without having to earn a degree!
Many young people tend to have a backup plan if they are starting their own business – usually a degree apprenticeship or part-time/full-time job, as stated above. This is a great idea, because it gives you something to fall back on if the business doesn’t work for you.
5. Do a Traineeship
Traineeships are often taken by people who need the experience in order to go on to a complete apprenticeship or get a full-time job. They are much shorter than apprenticeships are, but they can take as short as six week or as long as six months. A traineeship is probably the best option if you are lacking in qualifications or need some work experience – the whole point of a traineeship is to make sure that you know skills that are important in a workplace, and to give you the skills to go on to further things. You will be given help with writing a CV, if that is something you struggle with, and also practice interviews to help you really prepare for the world of work.
Something to note is that you do not get paid for a traineeship like you would with an apprenticeship, but you will have resources available to you to boost your skills in Maths or English if you require them to pursue your career. Although you will not be paid a salary, necessary expenses such as meals and travel will most likely be paid for, for you.