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What Students Should Consider Before Dropping Out of University

Updated: May 7

What to do if you want to drop out of university

Close-up of a sad female student's face considering dropping out of university

Are you considering dropping out of university or abandoning your course of study?

If you are considering leaving your course, it is important to pause and take the time to assess your situation carefully to make an informed decision after considering all your options.

Dropping out of university is not your only option!


Exploring University Dropout Rates and Why It Matters

According to statistics from the Education Data Initiative in October 2023:

  • The majority of students who drop out of university do so in their first year.

  • University dropout rates show that up to 32.9% of students do not complete their studies.

  • For first-time undergraduate students, the 12-month dropout rate is 24.1%.

  • Among first-time undergraduates, 25.7% eventually drop out; and among all undergraduates, up to 40% drop out.


Clearly, dropping out of university is more common than you might think.


What are some reasons for dropping out of university?

If you're feeling overwhelmed or struggling with your studies, it's important to know that you're not alone and help is available to support you.

Let’s explore the reasons why students consider dropping out of university; the steps you can take to start thinking about your options; and the support systems available to help you through any difficulties you may be facing.


Student in amphitheater reflecting on whether to drop out of university

Reasons why students consider dropping out of university


There are many reasons why you might consider dropping out of university:

Some of the most common reasons include struggling to manage your finances, homesickness, illness, bereavement, mental health issues, or feeling that you have made the wrong choice of studies.

Many students find university challenging, especially after the initial excitement has worn off and work starts getting serious after the fun of Freshers Week is over. 

You may have had a long break at home over Christmas and found that you really miss your safe environment with your family around you. Or you may not have made any friends yet at university and feel lonely and isolated.

It’s a common feeling among university students and dropping out of your course may be the knee-jerk reaction to resolve these issues.

It is important to identify what is causing you to want to leave and assess whether it is a compelling personal reason to do so. There are support systems in place to help you overcome any difficulties you may be experiencing.


How to decide if dropping out of university is right for you


Before making the decision to withdraw from your course, it's important to speak to your Academic Advisor or Student Support Services to discuss your options and get advice before taking any drastic steps.

Withdrawing from your course or giving up your studies can have long-term consequences, both financially and personally, so it's important to consider your options carefully and make an informed decision.


Seek advice before making emotional decisions

Before making any hasty or emotional decisions, you should first seek advice from your personal tutor or Student Support Services. They can offer guidance, not judgement, and once they have identified the reason for your DECISION, they can advise you on your eligibility for student finance, the financial implications of withdrawing from your course and any tuition fee liability you may have.

If your reasons are personal or medical, you will be referred to another professional who may be more qualified to advise you.


Support staff helping a student with inquiries

Take your time to consider all your options

If you are considering leaving your course, just take a beat and consider all the options and consequences of your decision. It is important to assess all options before making a decision.

  1. You may be able to suspend your studies for a period of time. (This pause could be a good starting point).

  2. You may be able to repeat the year if you have been absent for a long time or have struggled to understand the coursework.

  3. You may be able to transfer to another course or institution – perhaps on a topic you discover you’re more passionate about.  

  4. You could take a year off and come back next year when you are mentally ready.

  5. You may prefer to pursue a career based on your interests.


Consequences of Dropping Out of University

Remember that leaving your course may have financial implications, such as overpayments of student finance that may need to be repaid. If you have a student loan, you may also have to repay it if you leave your course, depending on your repayment threshold.

If you are an international student, leaving your course may also affect your student visa or your right to remain in the country in which you’re currently studying. It is essential to speak to the institution's student support services before leaving the university.

Withdrawing from your course is a big decision that should not be taken lightly.

Seek advice, reassess your situation, and take your time to consider all your options before making a decision.


Understanding the Process of Leaving University

Leaving university can be a difficult decision, but sometimes it is the best choice for you. Before you make the decision to leave your course, it is important to assess your situation and consider the implications of your decision. In this section, we will discuss some of the key factors to consider when leaving university.

Financial Implications of Dropping Out of University

Withdrawing from your course can have significant financial implications, so it is important to understand your eligibility for student funding and your tuition fee liability. If you withdraw from your course, you may have to repay some or all of your student loan. You may also have to repay any grants or bursaries you have received. Make sure you understand the repayment threshold and how much you will have to repay.

Academic and Visa Considerations

Dropping out of university or withdrawing from your course may also have academic and visa implications, particularly if you are an international student. If you withdraw from your course, you may be required to leave the country and your student visa may be cancelled. If you are considering leaving your course for health reasons, you may be able to suspend your studies rather than withdraw. Talk to your college or Student Finance counsellors to discuss your options.

Remember that leaving your course is a big decision, and it is important to consider all the implications before taking that important decision. Talk to your personal tutor or student support officer for advice and support.


Consider the Benefits of Staying at College or University


Higher levels of education are known to improve life expectancy in different ways, including soft benefits such as building social networks, learning to access and process information to help you make choices on finance, personal endeavours or career plans. A student’s newfound independence, while daunting at first, can help them feel empowered and valued, which is important to young adults.

The Guardian, January 2024

“Every year spent in school or university improves our life expectancy, while not attending school is as deadly as smoking or heavy drinking, according to the first systematic study directly linking education to gains in longevity. “


What Steps Should be Taken after Dropping Out of University?

Dropping out of university can be a difficult decision to make, but it's important to remember that it's not the end of the road. There are several steps you can take to manage your finances, explore alternative routes, and access support and resources.

There are also several administrative obligations to follow once your request to withdrawn has been confirmed by the university.



Managing Your Finances After Leaving

Withdrawing from university is likely to have financial implications, especially if you have a student loan for tuition fees or a maintenance loan.

You will need to contact the Student Loans Company to inform them of your decision and discuss repayment options.


If you have already paid tuition fees for the academic year, you may be entitled to a partial refund, depending on the percentage of the academic year you have completed.


Move out of your Student Accommodation

Our book FromHighSchooltoUni gives great tips on moving out, and if you're a member on our website, you can download the Moving Out checklist which walks you through the steps to a smooth move-out process.

Student on a subway station

Explore Alternative Routes to University

Dropping out of university doesn't mean you have to give up on your educational goals.

There are many alternative routes to explore, such as changing your course to another subject that you may be more passionate about.  You may wish to transfer to another university. You could also consider taking a break from education to pursue other opportunities, such as work or travel.

It's important to take the time to think about your goals and aspirations and make a plan for your future. You can speak to a careers advisor or use online resources to explore your options such as the following:


Seek Support and Check all Available Resources

Withdrawing from university can be a challenging experience, and it's important to have access to support and resources to help you through this time.

Your university should offer mental health support or counselling services, which can be a valuable source of support.

You can also access information and support from the Student Loans Company and other organizations through their websites and social media channels.

It's important to remember that you’re not alone, this is a common occurrence, and that there are people and resources available to help you through this transition.




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