Restarting on a Different Course: My Experience (Part 1)
This is going to be the first of a few blogs about my quite unusual experience in my first year of university: I chose the wrong course for me, was very homesick and, eventually decided to drop out and restart on a completely different course at Warwick.
I’m hoping not to scare you if you’re a prospective student – it’s not like this for the vast majority. At the same time, university is a big change for everyone, and a few will inevitably find it difficult. If you are in the minority who do decide to drop out, you can feel very alone and like you’ve somehow failed. Hopefully this might reassure you that it’s not actually the end of the world and might even be the best decision you’ve ever made.
I’m going to try to write what I wish I’d heard at the time, starting with how I ended up on the ‘wrong course’ and how I decided to drop out. (I’m really awkwardly not going to mention which course it was, because it wasn’t a problem with that course, it just wasn’t right for me.)
Part 2 of this blog will be about some of the questions that helped me decide dropping out was the right decision, how I chose a new course and the practicalities of restarting.
Why did I choose the ‘wrong course’?
Casting my mind back two years to when I was trying to sort out university applications in the midst of A level stress, it’s difficult to work out how I could have known what course to take. Some people seem to just know what they enjoy and what they want to do with their life, but not me. I don’t think most people do at 18, and for many, choosing a course and university is something of a gamble.
However, with hindsight I can see that I could have made a better decision. I didn’t really think about, or know (you can’t always know these things before you actually start), what’s actually important to me in a university and a course.
If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself what the important questions actually are for me: is the course fun and exciting? Does it have enough variety? How’s the social aspect? How often can I go home? How much academic support will I get? Does the course feel supportive or competitive? Is it a subject I really enjoyed at school?
…and not: What do I feel my teachers/parents/friends expect me to do? What’s the most difficult thing I can do with my grades? What’s the subject I’m best at?
Basically, make sure you have a really honest conversation with yourself (preferably just yourself) about what you want out of university.
This does all seem pretty obvious in hindsight; however, I think even if you are asking yourself the right questions, you can still make the wrong decision – you don’t really know what university will be like until you’ve started. So there’s no point beating yourself up about it — it’s not the end of the world if you get it wrong.
Anyway, I got it wrong. So, how did I work out the course was wrong for me once I’d started?
Deciding to Stop
As soon as my course started, I think I knew deep down I wasn’t enjoying it. I felt bored and stressed and was struggling to make friends. I didn’t feel like I was getting anything out of my lectures.
About six weeks into my first term, it was really starting to affect my mental health. I talked to my 4 year supervisor and he recommended I see how I feel at the end of the 2 term – any teething problems should be sorted by then. I think this was good advice – if you aren’t really sure what to do, waiting a while (but not too long) and seeing if you still feel the same is a decent plan.
At this point, I found the idea of having to restart unthinkable; it felt like it would be a waste of a lot of time, money and effort.
I had some ups and downs after that but by the middle of term 2, I was really feeling the effects being both stressed and bored by my course, and really homesick.
Then (this sounds incredibly clichéd but really did happen) I woke up one morning thinking “I’m going to quit”. This was accompanied by an enormous sense of relief which reassured me it was probably the right decision.