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Five tips for changing subjects

Five tips for changing subjects

The 2019 university year has just arrived and while you may only be a week or two into the semester one, you’ve already realised that one or some of your subjects are not what you thought they would be. There may be some subjects that you’re willing to tough out, while the prospect of studying others for three months fills you with dread. Is there a way out?

It depends on a number of circumstances, but generally the answer is yes. It is possible to swap or withdraw from subjects after the university semester has begun, but there are a few key steps you have to consider before doing so.

Double check course requirements

Some courses have prerequisite subjects that are a bore to study but essential when it comes to you being able to graduate from your course. If the subject you want to withdraw from is a prerequisite, it is a case of gritting your teeth and hanging in there, regardless of however much you don’t like it! Withdrawing from a compulsory subject will delay your graduation and add extra time and HECS debt onto your studies.   

Get your head around important dates

Universities generally require you to change or withdraw from subjects within the first few weeks of semester, and you often face financial and academic penalties if you’re still tinkering with your study plan outside these dates. The census date is your first deadline – if you fail to swap and drop subjects by the census, which is usually at the end of the starting month of semester, you will record a ‘withdrawn’ for any affected subjects on your academic transcript. You’ll also have to pay for the costs of those subjects too!

At most universities, you won’t be able to change your enrolment after the last date to withdraw without fail and last date to self-enrol deadlines. If you do decide to swap and drop after these dates, you will record a fail on your transcript AND you will also have to pay for the subject, even though you did not complete it.

On the brightside, if you do withdraw and re-enrol from subjects before the census date, you will have the subject removed from your academic transcript and better yet, you won’t have to pay the subject fee. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Calculate the costs

Changing from one subject to another can be a costly exercise, especially if you decide to do so after the census date. Different subjects also have different costs, so you may end up paying more or less depending on the fee discrepancies between the subject you withdrew from and the one you’re re-enrolling in. If the new subject costs more than your original choice, the additional amount will be added to your fee statement. If your change of subject means the costs will go in your favour, universities often credit the difference to your fee statement and allow you to put it towards future tuition costs.

It is also important to look beyond subject costs when you are considering a swap and drop on your study plan. If you have already bought textbooks, course readers and equipment for a subject that you are considering changing out of, make sure that you will be able to sell them or at least utilise these materials in another subject.  

Consider your study load

It is possible to withdraw from a subject and not re-enrol in another – this is called reducing your study load. If you do choose to lighten your load, it will extend the time it takes to complete degree if you don’t increase your study plan and take on extra subjects in subsequent semesters. Universities have restrictions on how many units or credit points you can complete in a single semester, so make sure you fall within this limit whenever you adjust your study load. Do be aware that reducing your load can have implications on your future study options, and domestic students should check their eligibility for Centrelink benefits before dropping subjects. International students need to be weary of any visa restrictions that permit them to undertake a certain number of units or credits as part of their conditions for study in Australia.

How do I swap and drop subjects?

Each university is different, but generally your institution will have an online student portal that you can access through your email account. This portal will have a number of different functions, including a Student Administration or Enrolment tab that will allow you to access and edit your study plan where possible.

Your portal tends to display the subjects you are currently enrolled in, and will show you a list of subjects that you are eligible to swap into when you go to enrol in a new unit. Some universities may require you to submit a change request to swap and drop subjects, so it is best to check with your university to find out what the exact procedure is. If you are having any difficulties navigating your student portal, consult with the student services or course advice facilities at your institution for assistance.