Going to university is a big step for anyone. There are countless changes to get used to, from the way you are being taught, to managing everything from finances to laundry on your own, to meeting so many new faces each day. Almost everyone will feel overwhelmed at some point. For some, this feeling is more severe, and can lead to students considering dropping out.
If this is you, you’re in the right place. This article has plenty of information about some of the most frequently asked questions about dropping out of university, including advice on whether it is the right choice for you, as well as the process itself.
Table of Contents
Can you drop out of university?
This is the first thing to clear up – and the answer is yes, you are certainly allowed to drop out of university. It is not a requirement in the UK to go to university, which you can read more about in this Think Student article. You are not bound to stay and finish your course, and you can legally leave at any time.
Of course, there is a little more to the process than simply not going to your lectures anymore. You will have to officially withdraw, in agreement with your university, as well as sort out admin like student finance arrangements. There’s plenty more information on this later in the article!
Should you drop out of university?
Deciding whether or not to drop out of university is a major decision, and a big part of the process is making sure it is definitely the right move for you.
Talking to family, friends and university tutors is really important. They will know you the best, and can thoroughly discuss the pros and cons with you, as well as help you through the process should you ultimately decide to drop out.
That being said, there are a few commonly asked questions it is helpful to research yourself – keep reading for answers to some of the most important ones! Additionally, you can check out this article from Think Student, which has a full guide about whether or not dropping out of university might be right for you.
Can you go back to university after dropping out?
Ideally, before dropping out, you will have thoroughly thought through the decision, and are sure you do not want to continue in university. However, it is nice to have a back up plan of returning if you do end up changing your mind. Is this a possibility?
You are allowed to go to university again after dropping out, but you will have to go through the application process again. Dropping out of university should not disadvantage your application, but there are some things to consider that make it different from applying the first time.
You have to put any education on your UCAS application, including unfinished degree courses. It may be helpful to discuss, in your personal statement, what you have learned from your first university experience. Universities are less likely to accept you if they think you will drop out again.
The point you start the course may also be different. If you are applying for the same course, the university may let you start from where you dropped out of your first course – but they also have the right to make you start from the beginning of first year.
Essentially, what you need to know before dropping out is that you can return to university later on, but it is not as simple as just rejoining where you left off. For more guidance on reapplying to university after dropping out, have a look at this helpful article from Apply to Uni.
Is it better to have a degree than to drop out of university?
Although it is important to prioritise your own mental health and whether or not university is right for you, people are often concerned about the implications on their future career if they drop out of university.
Whether or not you will be disadvantaged by not having a degree depends heavily on what career path you want to follow. Some jobs, such as a doctor, will absolutely require you to have a specific degree. However, there are plenty of other jobs that don’t ask for any prior experience, let alone a whole degree in the subject.
This is individual to you – you will need to think carefully about what career options you are still considering, and research whether a degree will improve your chances of getting there.
If you are open to a range of career paths – or just want to see what options there are – this article from Future Fit has information on some of the highest paying jobs in the UK that do not require you to have a degree.
What do you need to do before dropping out of university?
Planning ahead always helps, and this is true for dropping out of university. Before you drop out, there are a few things you need to sort out. It is always better to know about these earlier, rather than dropping out and then being surprised by all the administration work involved!
Keep reading for a guide to the main things you need to be aware of, as well as information about the options available to you. Additionally, you can check out this article from Prospects which has lots of information about leaving your course.
1. Talk to family, friends and university tutors about dropping out of university
This has been mentioned already, but the most important thing to do before dropping out is talking to the people who know you the best and can offer you support – your family, friends and university advisors.
It is important to keep communication open, so these key people know you are thinking about dropping out, and that you may be feeling overwhelmed or struggling with university life. They can also help you weigh up the decision to drop out.
For example, if you are feeling overwhelmed with all the changes that come with starting university, it is likely that a lot of your fellow students are in the same boat! It can be hugely beneficial to talk to them about this, and adjust to the changes together, rather than assuming you are the only one who feels like this, and it is a sign that university isn’t for you.
There is more information later on in the article about this, but university tutors are also the ones in the best position to show you how to go about dropping out. This can include signposting the appropriate forms on the website, and the members of staff who will help you coordinate your withdrawal.
2. Fully explore the alternative options to dropping out of university
While talking to friends in the same boat may be really useful for some people who are considering dropping out, it may not help everyone. However, there are lots of other avenues of support to consider.
You have likely worked hard to earn your place at university, investing a lot of time and effort. Dropping out should be the very last stage if you are struggling with university, and there are more alternative solutions that you may not be aware of.
For example, if financial worries are making you consider dropping out, all universities should have aid available to those who really need it. Talk to the financial advisor at your university, who will be able to signpost relevant bursaries and hardship funds that you can apply to.
Alternatively, for a general guide to grants and bursaries, have a look at this article from Save the Student.
University websites are actually a great way to search through their support services. For instance, this page from the University of Birmingham’s website has resources to help with everything from academics, to disabilities, to wellbeing.
This can be a great place to start comparing the pros and cons of seeking out support and staying in university, or dropping out and starting something else afresh.
Alternatively, depending on your individual circumstances, you may be able to temporarily withdraw from university rather than dropping out altogether. This can be ideal as you should be able to return to the same course without reapplying after this time off.
However, this is only really a route for students with extenuating circumstances, such as sudden health changes, rather than if you simply don’t feel university is right for you at that time. For more on temporary withdrawal, check out this page from the University of Warwick.
3. Research and plan your next steps after dropping out of university
A common question students have is what options they have after dropping out. There are actually a huge number of routes you could choose, and it’s worth researching these to see which ones might be best for you.
It’s always a good idea to come up with a plan as to what you are going to do after dropping out. This doesn’t have to be a fully thought out 10 year career plan!
It’s fine if your plan is just to take some time away from full time education or work and focus on your mental health. But knowing this is what you want to do is better than dropping out and realising you don’t like any of your alternate options.
This page about alternatives to higher education, from the official UCAS website, can be a useful place to start exploring the other routes available to you. It isn’t an exhaustive list – there are countless paths possible! Talking to careers advisors at your university is also a great way to get useful, personalised information about what to do next.
You may still want to achieve your degree, just not in the setting of university. This is certainly possible – from part-time study, to degree apprenticeships, to online courses, there are more ways to get a degree than ever. Check out this Think Student article for more.
4. Decide when you are going to drop out of university
Officially, you can drop out of university at any point in the year. Nevertheless, many students wonder – is there a recommended time to drop out?
There isn’t necessarily a ‘best’ time to drop out, but there are a couple of things you may want to think about when deciding when to drop out.
Firstly, it’s worth considering what will happen to your student finance. There is more detail about this later on in the article, but the important bit for deciding the best time to drop out is how much you will repay.
This page of the government website has information about tuition fee loans if you drop out part way through the year. If you leave in the first term, you pay 25%, the second term, 50%, and the third term, 100% of the fees for that year (most likely £9,250 as of 2023).
So if, for example, you start thinking about dropping out at the start of the second term, you may want to see the term through, given that you will have to pay the same amount of tuition fees.
Additionally, think about any next steps you have planned. You may have an apprenticeship lined up for when you drop out. In this case, you do not want to leave dropping out until very near your apprenticeship start date, in case there is any sort of paperwork delay.
How do you drop out of university?
So, you have done your research, explored your options, and decided that dropping out of university is the right move for you. How do you actually go about doing this?
The key points are all covered in detail here – but for a dedicated guide, check out this article from Think Student.
1. Talk to university advisors about dropping out
This step will likely be familiar by now – we’ve already talked about how important this is if you are considering dropping out. Even once you’ve made the decision, university advisors are the first place to go. They will be able to tell you everything you need to know about the withdrawal process.
Most university websites will have a page with the necessary forms to fill in if you want to drop out, such as this page from the University of Reading. It is a good idea to have a look through this page or your specific university before meeting with your advisor, so you have an idea of what to expect.
It’s also a good idea to let friends and family know about your decision – they will have likely supported you through the journey, and will continue to support you, whatever you end up doing next.
2. Fill in, send and finalise the necessary forms for dropping out of university
The actual bulk of the process is surprisingly simple – filling out the withdrawal forms, and waiting for your university to confirm them.
The information asked for on these forms shouldn’t be difficult to fill out. It will include things like your course details, why you are asking to drop out, and when you intend to stop.
It is then up to your university to get back to you and finalise your withdrawal. They may arrange a meeting to talk through the details in person, including the administrative things to sort out – which we’ll cover next!
3. Sort out administration work such as student finance arrangements
It makes sense that if you are no longer a student, you should no longer be receiving student finance. This includes both tuition and maintenance loans – you are no longer eligible for that support, but you also don’t want to be paying the university you are no longer attending!
You will, however, need to repay any student finance you have already made use of, in the same way as any other student. Have a look at this guide from Save the Student, which has all the information you need about what happens to your student finance if you drop out.
Another thing you will need to sort out is your accommodation. This is dependent on your individual living situation.
If you are living in halls, you will have to contact university accommodation services to stop your rental agreement, and move out. You will not be able to live in halls if you are not a student there. The advantage here is that you should be able to end your agreement at any time (although this can vary depending on university).
In contrast, if you are renting privately, you will likely have to continue paying rent until your agreement expires, usually at the end of the year. This can be an unnecessary expense – or it may be a good thing, as you do not immediately have to find other accommodation after dropping out.
Finally, if you are an international student, you will have to think about your visa. If you are no longer a student, your student visa will no longer be suitable. If this applies to you, there is more information on this page from the University of Greenwich.
Once all the paperwork has gone through, you have officially dropped out of university, and are free to take whatever next steps you choose!