Hey guys! If you know me well enough, you may know that a long time ago, I actually went to university – and quit. I did end up graduating in the end, but under completely different circumstances.
There was a lot of things that I didn’t know at the time, that nobody really touched upon. But I’m going to give you the run-down of what to know when quitting a UK university. Of course, this is more relative for English universities – Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish universities will have their differences.
Consider your options
Of course, the choice comes down to what is wrong with your current situation? If you’re homesick, maybe commuting is a solution if your university is close to home. If it’s the course that’s the problem, you can just go for a new course in September. If it’s the accommodation, then consider alternative living arrangements. Unlike in the US, most university courses are a one-at-a-time only, and you’re only able to study for a total of four years maximum – this takes into account a grace year just in case you do leave the course. So unlike the American university system, you’re usually stuck with one course. I think that’s where the American system is actually better than ours here in the UK. Many people also suffer from mental health issues while at universities, and it’s sad to say it’s pretty common.
For me personally, I had a combination of both the course, mental health and the accommodation. The course wasn’t what I envisioned it to be (it was supposed to be a split of film and photography, but it was mostly photography, which I only wanted to go into as a hobby). I also had a problematic flatmate, and a friend lost her battle with cancer shortly after I enrolled. I can’t say it’s the exact cause, but it kinda started a domino effect. My sleep pattern was awful, I was always told I looked ill or exhausted, or both, and I kept having breakdowns. I felt like a weight had been lifted as soon as I realised that I could leave and consolidate my options.
So I went back to a college for a year to do a different course, then went and got my degree in Business Studies.
I am only starting to use it for the first time since I graduated 3.5 years ago so…
I could have done an apprenticeship, and that’s the best way to gain experience in a world that requires you to have so much experience at a young age. Of course, if you want to go into an industry where you need the degree, you don’t exactly get a choice…
I mean, you may decide to stick it out until the end of the year, or even for a little while longer, and that’s completely okay.
Talk to someone
It’s always recommended to speak to a teacher about your issues. It’s something I never did, because I didn’t feel that I could trust them or talk to them about it – and that’s completely fine. Hopefully you have friends or family to talk to about it. I definitely was faced with friction from family, claiming I was leaving because I was missing my boyfriend (nope). My mum wanted me to think about it, even though she knew I’d already made up my mind. Connor just wanted to make sure that I was sure about it. My father-in-law wasn’t hostile, but wanted to make sure I was making the right choice for myself.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to people, it’s possible to seek advice from a forum such as The Student Room.
Consider the overpayments
This wasn’t something that I was made aware of at the time, but then I got a letter saying that I owed money as grant overpayments to the Student Loans Company. This was because obviously I was awarded the grant, but obviously wasn’t entitled to all of it. I had a breakdown, due to other issues that I’ll discuss soon, and this kinda made things worse.
But the worst thing is how the notices are spread out. So let’s say I got the grant overpayment notice in January 2013, then the maintenance loan overpayment notice in September 2013, and finally the tuition loan overpayment notice in May 2015. Yes, there was a huge gap between all of them.
Fortunately, if you can’t pay the full sum at the time of notice, they’re more than happy to arrange a payment plan for you, so it’s not the end of the world – even if it does feel like it at the time.
If you’re leaving university you definitely need to consider doing what you can to cancel your accommodation contract. Normally if you’re leaving because you’re leaving you would normally have to continue the contract through to the end. However, if you have a medical reason for leaving, then you can campaign to get the contract waived. I was diagnosed with moderate depression and severe anxiety at the time of leaving, and I was able to get that contract finished on that basis.
How it affected me
Of course, I can never impress my grandparents anyway, and I haven’t spoken to my grandad since that issue. I never liked his attitude anyway, so it was kinda like cutting out an infected piece of flesh, really. While I had issues post-leaving, the act of leaving made me so happy. I remember walking away from the student support office and the accommodation office with relief.
All you have to remember is that it’s entirely your choice, and my experiences aren’t shared with everyone else in the world. And, you know, that’s okay. I probably wouldn’t be writing if I stayed on the course. I’d probably be five years unemployed with a lens media degree that I hate if I did stay on.