Withdrawing from University: Should I stay or Should I go?

I know that the thought of dropping out of the exact place you worked your a** off for the best part of two years to get into is a terrifying, anxiety-inducing thought to consider, but….

I’m here to get you through it. And I know I can, because I am in the process of doing it myself.

Before you make your final decision, it’s very important that you are 100% certain it’s the right decision for your happiness and well-being. Now, if you are anywhere near as anxious and indecisive as myself, deciding this is JUST as stressful as the final decision.

Don’t worry – I’m here to get you through this as well!
Here is a little checklist I whipped up that will help you figure out whether to withdraw from university or stick it out…

You haven’t managed to make many friends

For most people, university is our first experience of living away from the comforts of home. On top of the homesickness, all at once, we are suddenly thrown into adulthood; learning how to budget, using public transport, doing your own laundry (without shrinking your favourite top or turning every single item of white clothing that interesting shade of grey-pink), feeding yourself, et cetera.

If you haven’t made many (or any) close friends, as was the case in my experience, dealing with these extra challenges of life becomes an extremely lonely and stressful task to undertake. This, in turn, highly affects your ‘uni experience’. It also makes lectures, seminars and studying (something that occupies a lot of time at university), and any clubs, a solitary endeavour; this can make you feel rather depressed and lonely, especially when surrounded by a large crowd of people all having fun and laughing together. You’re probably feeling anxious about going to the societies and clubs you signed up to, or perhaps you have stopped going all together. You probably end up doing a lot of activities by yourself and questioning, is this what university is really supposed to be like? If this is the case, despite your best efforts to make friends and do fun things, something clearly isn’t right.

BUT…

Before you check this reason off, think carefully. If you think you could have tried harder to make friends or that you became quite antisocial when you decided you didn’t like the university (as can often happen) – maybe you could try making a few more friends before making your final decision. It could change your entire perspective.

For me, I had tried desperately to make close friends, but not much came of it. This may not necessarily be the case for you 🙂

You hate doing your work, or even worse: you don’t care about your work at all.

Be aware, this doesn’t mean your grades are necessarily suffering. You can still work hard but hate it at the same time, or have no care about the final result. This is an important thing to consider in your decision. At university, depending on where you go and what type of person you are, life is ultimately centred around your degree, particularly in a small city or town with not much else to do. The more complex the degree, the more work you will be expected to do and the more contact hours you will have. If you hate this, or you don’t care about any of it, your mental health can deteriorate rapidly as you fall into a sort of mindless routine. Degrees are expensive things to undertake, it’s important to make sure you are studying the right one. If you’re not, then it may be time for a change. Do what makes you happy and what interests you, not what other people want or expect you to do.

Remember! If it is only the course that is making you wobble, consider transferring to a different course at the same university. Similarly, if it is only the university and not the course that is making you unhappy, consider transferring to a different university for second year 🙂

Is university badly affecting your mental health?

I considered the option of leaving university for months, and before opening up to my family about how I was feeling, I spoke to my friends. I told one friend that I had been feeling extremely depressed and lonely at the university and was thinking of dropping out. This friend simply replied no one is meant to be happy all the time, so consider whether it could get better with time. This advice convinced me to give it another term to see whether things could look up with time. Unfortunately this did not happen and I realised that I need to start putting myself and my happiness first.

At the end of the day, no one is more responsible for your happiness than you – you have to create and nurture it yourself.

At the end of the second term, I finally understood that staying at university and studying a degree I had no interest in would do nothing for my happiness. I was suffering a great deal, and found myself crying and feeling helpless a lot of the time. To get out of being unhappy, I had to get out of uni – plain and simple. And as I move through the process, the anxiety and unhappiness is slowly lifting and I feel my old personality returning to me – a relieving feeling after months of feeling sad and overwhelmed.

However, if you are having more serious mental health problems, consider whether leaving university would change it at all. You may have a more serious case of depression or anxiety that would benefit more from professional help or a councillor. Universities often have mental health and well-being services that could help you overcome this. If you are uncomfortable going to your university, there are several alternative options:

Visit your GP
NHS mental health helplines:
http://www.anxietyuk.org.uk
http://www.bipolaruk.org.uk
http://www.thecalmzone.net
(for men aged 15 – 35)
http://www.menshealthforum.org.uk
http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk
http://www.mind.org.uk
http://www.nopanic.org.uk
http://www.papyrus-uk.org
http://www.rethink.org
http://www.samaritans.org.uk
http://www.sane.org.uk/textcare
– if you don’t like phone calls 🙂
http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Remember that being happy is more important than anything else and that people are here to help you!

I could list 100 more reasons to consider, but I think these three broad reasons pretty much cover it.

The most important thing to remember is that actually making the decision, whatever it may be, is always the hardest part in any situation. It may seem scary at first but trust me, the relief is worth it, no matter what you decide is best. A degree is a very expensive endeavour that will take up a minimum of three years of your life – you want to enjoy it! Degrees are meant to be fun, and are supposed to open doors to your future career. Realising you made a mistake in first year, even two terms in like me, is not the end of the world. Any problem, no matter how large, is not insurmountable. Count it as an experience and move on – life is never a smooth ride, but it’s supposed to be fun, so do what makes you happy!

Until next time,
Clare x

3 thoughts on “Withdrawing from University: Should I stay or Should I go?

  1. My humble contribution would be to really know your PURPOSE for being at Uni. Is it an essential path to where you want to be or are there other ways to get there? In many industries a Uni education is becoming devalued. SOME evidence of recent post school study is really good alongside work or volunteer work. https://markward.today

    Liked by 1 person

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