What if I make the wrong choice of university or course?

Wrong university choice

By Pamela Head,

It’s nearly A-Level results day again and for a lot of students, the nerves are beginning to mount. What if I’ve made the wrong choice? What if I don’t like my university or course? What if I want to change?

This is a worry that increases when Clearing is brought into the mix. What if I don’t get anything? What if my decision is rushed? A typical university course is three or four years and this is a long time to stay at a university you may dislike, studying a course you don’t enjoy.

Changing your university course

If you like your university and you’ve settled in well, but hate your course, then this is relatively simple. The first thing to consider is the reason why you want to change courses. If it is because you aren’t performing as well academically as you thought you would, then you must think long and hard about whether changing courses would be a good idea. In this situation, it is often better to first speak to your tutor and discuss any potential problems, like poor time management, which can be resolved.

If you accepted an offer for a course you weren’t interested in just to get to the university you wanted in the hopes of switching on to exceptionally popular courses, like medicine, then STOP. This is something universities know all about so don’t waste your time.

First year panics are all too common, and it’s important to take a step back and make sure you have thought everything through properly, and talked it through with family and friends.

If you are sure you want to change course, then there are other issues you will need to think about. Unless you are in the first few weeks of your course or want to change to one similar to the course you are already studying, you will have to restart from year one if you change degree. This means you’ll be studying for an extra year, with another year’s worth of fees.

You can’t know that your new course will be better than your old one until you’ve started so you could be faced with a ‘grass is greener’ problem too. Some universities also take into account a course change if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of failing a year.

If you are sure that all these problems don’t apply or are things you can cope with, then you’ll need to speak to your tutor and, if appropriate, your department administrator to set the wheels in motion. You’ll need to move quickly if you’re sure this is what you want, as the later you leave it the more problems you could face catching up.

You’ll also need to be prepared to defend your decision to your tutor and the head of the department you’re looking to join, as they’ll want to know whether you have a valid reason and won’t just change again if you dislike the new course.

Even after going through this process, you will likely still be considered against the following year’s UCAS applicants. This is standard procedure for universities like University College London to ensure the best applicants for each course.

Switching courses at the same university is possible and is allowed by the majority of universities, but ultimately it is down to what course you want to switch to, which university you’re studying at, whether the new course is similar to the one you’re on and how much time has passed.

For instance, if you are a Cambridge student and you want to switch from English Literature to Medicine after six weeks at university, then your chances are slim to none. If you’re a Computer Science student and you want to change to Electronic Engineering at University of Kent and you’re only two weeks into your course, then you’ve got a much better chance.

Changing university

Changing universities entirely is a bit more complicated but is also possible in theory.

If you want to go straight into second year at the new university, then you should try talking to your tutor as they may have some good advice for you or have contacts to help you out.

You should then contact the admissions tutor for the university you want to transfer to and explain the situation. They will want to know your A-Level grades, why you want to transfer, why you want to study that particular course and any marks you’ve achieved on your current course.

They will usually want you to apply formally through UCAS, so you’ll need to send in your UCAS form and personal statement, as well as a statement from your tutor if they are willing to help out.

If the university makes you an offer and agrees to allow you to transfer into second year, it may come with conditions such as achieving a certain grade in your first year. You will need to work hard to achieve these grades and remember that the students on your new course may have done different work to you in their first year, so you may need to catch up.

If a university is registered with the Credit Accumulation Transfer Scheme, the process is made easier in theory as your credits will be carried over to another course.

Applying through Clearing

When applying to university through Clearing, you may feel under pressure to accept an offer at a university you hadn’t considered because you’re worried you’ll be left with nothing. This is not the case. Our guide to UCAS Clearing 2013 will help you to make a considered choice.

There are always options for you to look into, whether you’re changing course or changing university so try not to panic. The worst-case scenario is that you will have to start from year one or be flexible with which university or course you transfer to.

Make sure to do your research into the new university and course so you’re clued up on what you’ll be studying. If you didn’t get along with the academic structure of a course, choose one that is more practical. If you didn’t enjoy the roudy parties and wild nightlife, pick a university that is quieter. You’ve had the benefit of experiencing university now so you’ll know more clearly what you want from it.

Hundreds of students before you have been in the same situation and have come out with good degrees from a course they enjoyed. If you’re really unhappy, then there are always options for you. Try not to worry too much.

Finally, if you do manage to change university/course, make sure you let Student Finance know so they can get your loan payments to you and look into your student accommodation – you’ll always need somewhere to live!