Dropping out of university: should I stay or should I go?

Dropping out of university: should I stay or should I go?

Author: Ruth Mulcare


If you're unhappy at university and thinking of dropping out, here's our guide to identifying your strengths, working things out and considering the alternatives.

If everyone around you seems to be having the time of their life, while you’re feeling unhappy at university, you may be thinking of dropping out. This is an important, life-changing decision, so make sure you think it through properly.

Here’s our guide to finding your way.

Don’t act on impulse

Try and identify why you’re thinking about leaving.

If you don’t like the course, it might be possible to change courses so talk to your tutor. If you are having accommodation, financial or personal worries talk to friends and family, or your student support service.

You’ve worked hard to get where you are so at least try talking it through and getting help before making a decision.

Mandi Barron, Head of Student Services at Bournemouth University advises, “It may seem like a really difficult time, but it’s not unusual to face problems at the start of university and there is help available. The thing to remember is that you’re not alone, there are people to support you, and the best way to make your decision is to talk about your concerns.”

Need help understanding what makes you tick? Try our Buzz Quiz to uncover your strengths.


It can take a while to adjust to a new situation and, if you have moved away from home, the contrast in lifestyle can be a bit of a shock. Making new friends takes time. The National Union of Students believes that between half and three quarters of all university students experience homesickness.

Join a club or society, or try volunteering. Some students find it helps to do something outside the university bubble, so don’t forget to explore community-based opportunities too. It’s worth speaking to student support services for ideas about how to adjust.

Revisit your choices

If you have spent a long time working towards university and thought a lot about what it will be like, the experience may not be living up to your expectations. It may help to go back to your original reasons for choosing your university and course.  Reminding yourself why you’re there may help you rediscover the motivation to stay on, or clarify your next steps.

Work pressures

Many students work to meet the costs of university, but working and studying at the same time can put you under a lot of pressure. Money worries can be hard to cope with. Many students say they don’t feel competent in managing their money, and dropping out of studies can be seen as a financial solution. There are bursaries available, and advice about managing money – your student support services should be able to point you in the right direction.

Helen’s story: After two years at university Helen seriously considered dropping out because she wasn’t enjoying it and the pressure of trying to work and study at the same time was hard to cope with. WATCH VIDEO

Dropping out

It’s not the end of the world if you decide you want to drop out and you won’t be alone. Around six percent of students in higher education in 2012/13, dropped out of their course. A third of them applied for courses elsewhere.

You may be happier getting a job. Perhaps you only went to university because you felt under pressure from family or friends. But if your character is more suited to being in the workplace, there are lots of opportunities.

Bola’s story: Bola’s father insisted that he was going to university. He started on a degree course but his heart wasn’t in it. WATCH VIDEO

Jade’s story: Before Jade made a decision about her future she had already watched her brother go to university but later drop out of his course. WATCH VIDEO

If you need to take some time out to think about your future, a gap year can enhance your CV, especially if your experiences help you learn new skills.

The reality check

Don’t forget that if most of your friends are still at university you could end up feeling isolated and depressed. You might feel free at last, but you still need to find a job and start earning money.

If you decide that university isn’t for you then don’t feel like you’ve failed. As long as you’ve spent plenty of time thinking it over, it’s important to do what feels right for you.

Another way: alternative routes in higher education

Dropping out of your course doesn’t have to mean an end to higher education.  You can always apply for a different course or university later if you change your mind or consider more flexible options such as a part-time degree or an Open University distance-learning course.


Published: 18th December 2015