Thinking of quitting your degree? Read this first

(Cross-posted at Support Disabled Students)
Hello, I’m Liam and I usually blog over at YetAnotherLefty. What you might not know about me is that I’ve seriously considered quitting my degree – and not just once. I’ve got to the point where I’ve gone to my Supervisor and said “I don’t think I can do this any more”. So, I have an idea of what you might be thinking and how you might be feeling if you’re considering quitting your degree.

Lots of people decide not to finish their degrees. Whatever it is that means you’re considering this choice, it’s highly unlikely that your University hasn’t already dealt with someone in a similar situation.

Why do people end their degrees before completion:

  • They become parents and want to spend time with their baby
  • They become very ill and cannot study
  • They begin caring for a sick / disabled relative or their relatives care needs increase
  • They get a job offer that’s too good to miss
  • They have financial problems and cannot afford to continue their studies
  • They need to go into hospital
  • They don’t enjoy the degree any more
  • They don’t feel able to keep up with a degree
  • Many other reasons!

What you may not know is that, whatever you’re circumstances, continuing your degree as it is or dropping it completely are NOT your only options.

You could also consider:

  • Changing course
  • Taking time out and then deciding whether or not to return
  • Retaking some or all of a year
  • Going from full time study to part time study (or vice versa)
  • Extending some or all of your deadlines
  • Having your circumstances taken into account when your mark or grade is decided (this is sometimes called mitigating circumstances or extenuating circumstances)
  • Getting financial help from your University
  • Getting disability, physical health support or mental health support to enable you to continue studying
  • A combination of the above.

There are pros and cons to all of these options. You’ll need to talk to someone at your University to work out the best way forward for you.

How to find help:
Your supervisor should be able to point you at the resources and University staff you need should you want to change course, take time out, go part time, get deadline extensions, get mitigating circumstances or finish your course early. Your supervisor may be there primarily to guide you academically but they are usually also trained to help make sure your welfare is looked after while at University. If you’re not wholly comfortable talking to your supervisor, another member of academic staff in your department might be a good first person to talk to. Go to someone’s office hour. Talk about why you’re struggling. Ask what the University can do to help you.
If you’re not sure what you want to do, try to find a University Welfare AdviserSearch your student home page for “welfare” “advice” and “support” and email anyone who looks like they might be the right person. Try to get an in-person appointment to talk through your options. You also might like to search for “Academic Support”, “Financial Support” and “Mental health” or “counselling”.

If you feel very stressed, anxious, panicky and distressed or if you feel depressed, lethargic, hopeless or upset, please, please find out what mental health support may be available to you. Most Universities have some kind of counselling available on campus for free. You might also be able to access counselling or therapy via your GP, through a local youth group or charitable organisation such as MIND or by paying for therapy with your own money (I have used all of these options myself at least once). It’s also possible that you have an underlying physical illness that may or may not be treatable – get it checked out, don’t just write it off as “Fresher’s flu”.
Your Student Union may also have staff trained to assist students in difficulty. The ones at my SU are called “Advice and Support”. Check your Union’s website.

Things to Consider:

  • Changing the length of your course, whether by ending it early, extending it with time out, retaking parts or considerably extending deadlines can affect your eligibility for student loans. GET ADVICE from someone more qualified than me. Leaving Uni can result in the student loan company asking you to give back money they’d already given you. Too many extensions to your end date could mean having to find your own tuition fees for later years / terms.
  • Going part-time or quitting your course would mean you’d have to pay council tax. It might also mean you wouldn’t be able to live in student housing.
  • Leaving your course either temporarily for some time out or permanently usually means leaving University owned/run accommodation.
  • Whilst taking time out from an otherwise full time course, you wouldn’t have to pay council tax – but you also wouldn’t be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or many other benefits. GET ADVICE.
  • Changing courses after the first term will often involve mandatory time out of Uni so you can start again the next year.
  • Changing the end date of your course and/or your final deadline(s) can change your graduation date.
  • Students on time out of their course can access some but not all University services (e.g. I can still use the Welfare Advisers but I can’t use the counselling service, I can use the library for reference but can’t take out books etc etc) Make sure you know which services you will and won’t be able to use.
  • Part time students are not usually eligible for student loans but are eligible for more benefits than full time students are. Check here http://www.nus.org.uk/en/advice/money-and-funding/other-sources-of-funding/can-i-claim-government-benefits-as-a-student/ and GET ADVICE.
  • Sometimes the best thing to do is work out what you want as a best case scenario and then ask how to make it possible. There might be a way to do it! (For example, I wanted to take time off and come back the next year with a much-reduced time table and to retake the class I was failing. I wanted to pay my tuition fees by module so I wasn’t paying for classes I wasn’t taking. I asked for this and my department worked out how to make the paperwork do that).

Finally, a few things to remember:

  • Lots of people have been in your position. This will not be something the University hasn’t seen before.
  • You are much, much more important than any degree. If quitting is the best option for you, there’s no shame in taking it.
  • Though it doesn’t always seem like it, your University wants you to succeed and flourish and wants to help you. Find those support services and make use of them – they’re there for you.
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One thought on “Thinking of quitting your degree? Read this first

  1. Pingback: Second Blog-iversary! | yetanotherlefty

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