Thinking about ‘dropping out’? If you’ve had a change of heart, decided that you’re not cut out for academic study or realised you desperately need a break, you’re not alone. But before you make your decision, consider the alternatives and ensure you’ve done your research. We’ve provided five questions to get you thinking.
Can you defer or change your study load instead?
If you still want to complete your course but just need a break, look into deferral options or cutting back your study load. Taking time out can make all the difference — whether you take a holiday, put your efforts into full-time work or pursue a short course in a hobby area. Check with your institution to determine its specific deferral and study load policies, as these vary between providers.
You also need to be mindful of the ‘census date’, usually a few weeks into each semester. Beating the census date means that you won’t be liable for that semester’s tuition fees. Even if you have a HELP loan, you don’t want to pay for subjects down the track that you didn’t complete (or pay twice for those you came back to!).
Have you looked into transferring into another course?
Ask yourself why you aren’t enjoying your course. Is it that you aren’t engaging with the subject matter or don’t like the way it’s taught? Alternatively, have you found yourself in the wrong course for your skills and interests?
Whatever the case, it’s worth looking into your options to transfer into another course. There are two types of transfers: internal and external. Internal transfers refer to moving within your own institution and typically require a quick meeting with your course coordinator and submission of an enrolment amendment form. External transfers — moving to another institution, as you’ve probably assumed — can be more complex. Chat to institution advisers for details of processes, such as minimum entry requirements and credit arrangements.
Before selecting a new course, ensure it meets your needs and provides what your original choice didn’t. If you found the focus too theoretical, does the new course or institution offer a more hands-on curriculum? For those changing track entirely, be sure to research the new field of study and relevant courses to ensure they are the right choice — both in terms of preparation for industry and the particular subject areas you’d like to explore. Remember that courses can vary a great deal, particularly in generalist areas such as arts, business and science, with different teaching styles, content and graduate opportunities. Get started in our Fields of Study section.
Have you considered studying at a lower level or in a different environment?
If it’s the study level or environment that’s causing difficulties, why not switch it up? You may benefit from studying at a lower level or in a less formal environment. Particularly at higher education level, it’s not uncommon to commence a degree and find that you’re not cut out for the academic teaching style. This can be especially difficult in areas that you’d expect to be more practical, making the typically hands-on VET sector a great option. Alternatively, you might look at moving institutions (scroll up to our previous answer) to find an environment more suited to your needs — whether it’s because you want to study in a new location, collaborate with different people or enjoy closer ties to industry.
Can you see yourself pursuing a career in the field?
This is the most important consideration. If you’re thinking about dropping out, is it because you aren’t enjoying the assessments or teaching style — or because you genuinely can’t see yourself working in the area? Although your course will provide a range of generic skills, which will be transferable across industries and professions, it can be difficult to get through your studies if you know you won’t use your qualification — and there’s absolutely no reason why you should push through. If you can’t see yourself working in the particular field, go back to the drawing board — what type of work would you like to do and which courses will get you there? You can check out our Careers section to determine which occupation is the best fit for you.
Have you reached out to support services on campus?
Before making your decision, it’s best to speak to someone about your concerns and, if needed, the next steps. There are many reasons why you may leave your course, and not all of these relate to the course itself. Support services are available to assist with personal, health-related, financial and housing issues, as well as a wide range of resources for academic assistance.
If you are struggling with the content of your course (or a single subject), start by reaching out to your lecturer, tutor or course coordinator. They will be able to point you in the right direction — whether it’s suggesting additional study resources, providing an extension on assessments or referring you to tutoring services.