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Five tips if you're planning to drop out of your course

While there is a stigma attached to dropping out, sometimes it is unavoidable. No matter how much research was conducted prior to making your selection, it is more than likely that a few of you may regret your choice of course or institution.

Drop-out rates are high at the moment — recent research conducted in Australia and New Zealand found that 27 per cent of first year university students and 34 per cent of later year students planned to drop out in 2010, citing boredom as their main motivation. Other factors included stress, workload difficulties and a preference of employment over study.

If you’re feeling sick in the stomach at the thought of returning to your studies after the winter break then perhaps you’re in the same boat. If this is the case then it might be time to explore your options and make a difficult decision. Dropping out of your course may have a domino effect: having to start a course over again, paying more fees in the long run and delaying your career, just to name a few. But in some cases it is worth it, so read on for our tips on making the right decision.

  1. Explore student assistance services
    If you are struggling academically in your course or are not sure whether it is taking you in the right direction then it is worth exploring the student support services offered at your institution. Simply changing your subjects (before the census date) after a chat with a course adviser may make all the difference. Academic support can help you make sense of the course material and improve your grades, while careers counselling allows you to talk about your future career goals with an experienced staff member who is then able to help you map out your available pathways and make a decision. If your motivations are financial then it’s best to talk to financial services.
  2. Drop back to part time or defer for a semester
    If it’s university itself that you’re struggling with, it might be a good idea to take some time out. Dropping back to part-time study or deferring for a year (or a semester) may help you to clear your mind and will give you some extra time to explore your options outside of university. Try working full time for a bit to explore career options that don’t require higher education. If you find that you miss the university lifestyle — or discover that you do need a degree for the career you want — then you will at least be able to return to studies with a full bank account. You might even be able to go travelling and come back feeling more motivated to study and with a clearer idea of what you want to do in the future.
  3. Do your research
    If things are looking really bleak and you have made up your mind to drop out or switch courses, then it’s worth conducting your research before acting so you don’t ‘jump out of the frying pan and into the fire’. Always talk to a course adviser to check whether changes to your enrolment will cost you more money or jeopardise your academic future. If you are considering changing courses you also need to find out whether your marks are high enough to gain entry into the new course. Another question to ask is whether you will able to take your credit points with you or whether you have to start again from first year. Perhaps more importantly is whether you can be sure that you will be happier than you were in the course you are leaving. Will this decision benefit your future career? Talk to students in the years above, tutors, lecturers and course coordinators to find out where your current course is headed. If you are thinking of changing to a new course, consider all institution and course options and make sure you attend open days. Talk to course coordinators and current students if possible.
  4. Talk to your course coordinator
    If you are determined to follow through with your decision then you need to book an appointment with the coordinator (or the equivalent) of your course. They will talk you through the steps you need to take and put you in touch with the correct administrative bodies. You do, however, need to be prepared to justify your decision. Keep an open mind because they will most likely present you with new solutions to steer you in the right direction — or make you reconsider.
  5. Beat the census date
    When the decision is made it is important to make your move before the institution census date so that you don’t get charged for the subjects you are dropping out of and receive a fail grade. For this reason it is important to be organised and ensure that all paperwork is filled out and returned on time. If you are changing courses then you will also need to enrol in the new course and provide documentation from your previous studies, such as academic transcripts. Don’t forget to apply for recognition of prior learning or transfer your credits if you are able.