What to do when you hate your course and want to quit

You DO have a choice.

Confused student

You've survived your first term and you're having a whale of a time living the student life, doing the course you love… Right?

Well maybe not. Instead you're suck in halls living the student life of never having enough loo roll, and paying £9000+ a year for a course you absolutely can't stand, feeling as if you don't have any control over your life.

But it's not too late to change your mind.

The first step is working out exactly what it is you're unhappy with. Maybe the content isn't focusing enough on things you're specifically interested in. Or maybe it’s deeper than that and you’ve realised that maybe this isn’t the topic you want to spend the rest of your University time, and perhaps life, dedicated to.

The Problem: It's the course

What exactly is it that you don’t like? The course materials or topics, your teachers and their teaching styles or even just your classmates? Think carefully and write down what it is that’s making you dissatisfied. Once you can answer that, you’ll have a better idea how to tackle the issue.

If you're stressed because the course is full on:

This is pretty normal if you're in first year because the jump between A-Levels and uni degrees is pretty big. Especially if you're going back to education after a year or more out of it.

The good news is most uni courses don't count your first year towards your degree, which means everyone has the chance to adjust to the new pace of study.

Talk to your tutors sooner rather than later so you can work out a plan of action to get a handle on things.

The NUS has got some good advice on making the jump from further to higher education here.

If you don't like your course modules:

Depending on which course you're doing, and how far through the academic year you are, you should have the opportunity to "swap" modules if you want to.

Lots of unis have a preliminary stage at the beginning of each term - so you can try out the modules you've chosen, but also have the option to change within the first few weeks if you decide they're not for you.

If you don't like the course itself:

This can be a little more difficult depending on what course you signed up for. It all depends on your new chosen course entry requirements and how seamlessly you can join the classes.

If you took on a joint honours degree, you can probably drop one half and start up another, providing it doesn't clash with your other time table. Some people even opt to drop one half altogether and turn their joint honours into a single subject by second year.

Contact your course administrator. Your tutor will then speak to them on your behalf explaining why this is the best course of action.

If your course change is granted there is the possibility you might have to re-start the year again the following September/October.

If you don't like the course at your uni:

Leeds Beckett University and Kings College London
Source: Leeds Beckett University/Kings College London

If you like the actual subject but not the modules covered in your uni, you could always opt to move to a different one.

Since there is a lot of crossover in subjects between different universities, it's actually possible to study the same subject but with different content depending on where you go.

Head to UCAS to find a list of all the universities in the UK which do the subject you want to study.

The Problem: It's more than just the course

You've had an epiphany and are wondering, why are you studying this? It's not enjoyable and it isn't what you expected it to be.

First of all: DO NOT PANIC. There are options even in this scenario.

You need to talk to your tutor

Talking to tutor
Source: University of Edinburgh

Explain honestly how you feel. Your tutor has probably already experienced this issue with other past students at some point, so they're going to be your fountain of knowledge when it comes to deciding what you should do.

Work out what it is you really want to do


Do a backwards brainstorm. So start at the end (aka your first job in your chosen career), and work backwards, and list all the things you need to do/achieve in order to get there.

Even if you don't know what you want to do, you can still brainstorm.

Write down all the things you enjoy doing. See if you can spot any links between the different points you've written. Then try to work out if any of these points are within a similar/the same industry.

You can always take this quiz on the Guardian, which will give you an idea what job would make you happiest. The answers are based on your likes and dislikes to form suggestions of what sort of careers would suit you best.

Or sign up to Prospects and use its Career Planner.

Ask to defer your course/take a break

This requires a serious conversation with your tutor, telling them that you want to defer the rest of the year/course. There are two types of university deferrals:

Intermitting: Once the agreement has been authorised, you will be able to take up your course again at a later date.

Withdrawing: You will no longer be accepted back onto your course at a later date. You'll no longer be elligible for student loans/grants.

Find out if there are other ways to get into your chosen career without uni

Remember, lots of careers don't even require degrees, so there might be an entirely different route to get where you want.

Some of these could include:

All of these options offer a variety of ways for you to get real industry experience, while allowing you to build up your portfolio and make some great industry contacts. With some internships and apprenticeships you can even get paid while doing it too.

It's worth doing some digging around companies you're interested in and seeing what ones would be willing to offer paying for your studies.

Just remember, whether you choose to stay on your course or scrap it altogether, hard work and a lot of determination can get you wherever you want to be.

Feature image: iStock