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How to change your university course during your first year

After all the excitement of starting uni has died down, it suddenly dawns on you that you actually hate your course. Now what?

Michelle Roberts
by Michelle Roberts
Last Updated:
20 Dec 2021

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CONTENTS

Steps to changing your university course


If you're still in your first year and you realise that the course you're on isn't the one for you, there are steps you can take to change that and study a degree that you're passionate about. 

  1. Research alternative courses thoroughly and make sure you meet the entry requirements – check out available courses here on Whatuni
     
  2. Speak to your course tutor and initiate the transfer, checking that you can switch and that there is a space for you
     
  3. Attend any interviews you might need to have with your new tutor
     
  4. Start your new course and work hard on catching up!

Exploring your course options? Check out some of the most popular subjects undergraduate students are searching for:

Reasons for wanting to change your university course


You accepted your university offer, excitedly packed your bags and went off to enjoy your newfound freedom at university. Yet, after a few weeks of studying you’ve come to the terrifying conclusion: you don't like your course. 

There are several reasons why this might be the case, and in some circumstances, there might be ways in which you can make the situation better. Leaving your course is a big decision to make and might not always be easy, so if you can find a way of avoiding it you should try.

The course experience isn’t good


It could be that you still love the subject but aren't enjoying the course experience. Perhaps you hate a particular module, or you feel that the lecturers don’t help you as much as you hoped they would, or that the course delivery could be more stimulating.

How to make it better


Ask for more academic support: if there's a specific element of the course you’re struggling with or don’t understand, speak to your tutor or lecturers. Tell them what issues you're facing and that you're considering changing courses and they’ll be able to advise and support you. Don’t feel embarrassed and don’t feel like you're the only one who's struggling, as it’s highly likely others are too.

Change your modules: if it’s a specific module making you want to quit, then you have two options: grin and bear it, reminding yourself that this is only one small element of the course and you won’t be doing it for the whole three years; or ask to change to another module. 

Changing modules is fairly easy. Speak to your tutor and they should be able to help you arrange it, so long as the module is not oversubscribed. Bear in mind that some unis have set cut-off dates for changing modules, so if you want to change, you may need to be quick.

If it’s a mandatory module that everyone on your course has to study, once again remind yourself that it won’t last forever. Don't forget to reach out for extra help from your tutors to cope with it.

You’re struggling to adjust to uni life


It could be that you don’t actually hate your course but aren’t enjoying other aspects of uni life (accommodation; social aspects etc.) and that's impacting your view of the course. Many students think they hate their course and want to change unis but in reality, are just struggling to adjust to uni life or just feeling a bit homesick.

How to make it better


If your issues with your course are really the result of wider issues with adjusting to uni life, speak with the dedicated student support team at your university. They'll listen to your problems and give you practical advice on how to cope with feelings of isolation, homesickness, stress, and anxiety.

Your career aspirations have changed


You may have decided to do the course when you weren’t sure about what you wanted to do with your life, but now you have a clearer idea of what career would make you happy and this course doesn’t support your new career choice.

How to make it better


If you have simply changed your mind about what career you want and your course no longer supports that career choice (i.e. you wanted to be a nurse and now want to be an architect), then there's no real point in sticking with your course.

Just make sure you think long and hard about whether your new career choice is something you really want to do. It’s not something you want to rush into as changing isn’t a decision you can go back on once you’ve committed to it, so make sure it’s the right one.

That said, the earlier you decide you want to change course and act, the better. Most universities will allow you to switch in the first term and you can just catch up on work but leave it longer and you might have to apply to start again from scratch next year.

If your heart is dead set on something new, then the next decision you need to make is:

Do you want to change course, but stay at the same uni?

OR

Do you want to transfer to a course at a completely different uni?

The latter is a more complicated process and therefore is a bigger decision to commit to. Here’s more information on each option.

Changing course at the same university


If you love the uni you’re at but want to change your course, then here are the steps you need to follow to make it happen:

  • The first step is to make sure you’re committed to the course you’re moving on to. So, the first step you must take is to research your alternatives thoroughly, reading module descriptions, looking at what other graduates have gone on to do after their studies and whether this aligns with your long-term plans. You’ll also need to make sure you meet the entry requirements for the course you wish to change to.

    Just because you’re on a course at that university doesn’t mean the transition is always seamless and smooth. You may need to have certain grades or A-Levels in a specific subject, so make sure you’re aware of this and that you meet as many of these requirements.
     
  • Your next step is to speak with your course tutor, telling them you want to make the switch and your reasons why. They will help you in initiating the transfer with the university’s support services. One thing they'll help you check is whether there’s space on the course you decide to change over to. Remember, popular courses may be over-subscribed.
     
  • If you’re moving to a different department or moving from a single to a joint honours course you may need to write a new personal statement or attend a formal interview in order for the admissions tutors to assess if you're committed to the new course and have what it takes to succeed.

    The admissions team might be wary that as you have dropped out of your current course, you may drop out again, which will harm their graduate statistics. Sounds tough, but you’ve just got to win them over! Make sure you prepare just as you did for your first interview and think about how this change would tie in with your interests and post-graduation plans.
     
  • If the university is happy to allow you to change course during your first year – and isn’t going to make you re-apply for next year – they’ll get the paperwork sorted and soon you’ll be enjoying your new course!   

How to change your university course and/or transfer to a new university


There are times when students realise that not only do they want to change their degree course, they also want to change the uni they’re attending altogether. For others, they may want to continue studying this subject but in a different location.

This could be because they want to be closer to home, there’s a better course at another university that best suits their interests, or their research has shown that there are better graduate prospects from a different institution.

The considerations you’ll need to think about are similar, but processes will be slightly different and more complicated to transfer to a course within the same university.

If you're thinking about changing university but not sure where to look, you can browse all the universities in the UK here on Whatuni.

As with changing courses at the same university, you’ll need to make sure you're committed to the move and do thorough research before you decide which course and university you wish to move to. It’s best to shortlist a couple of backup options too, just in case. 

That’s because each university has a different policy when it comes to accepting transfers.

Some universities will accept in-year transfers, though may have a deadline on this (end of the first term is usually the case). So, the earlier you initiate the transfer the better. 

​Others will ask you to go through the UCAS application process again and apply to start in the next academic year. This isn’t the end of the world as in some cases (if you finish the year at your current uni and are switching to a very similar course) you can transfer your credits and start in year 2 at your new uni. Just remember to state on your UCAS application you want to join the second year.

In other cases (if the uni is strict or you are switching to a completely unrelated course at the new uni), you might have to restart from the beginning of year one.

It’s very important to do your research and find out what the policy is at the university you're looking to transfer to. In most cases, you can find this information on the university’s website or you can email their admissions team to ask.

If you're lucky enough to find a uni that will accept in-year transfers, then the process is pretty simple: contact your tutor and the student services team at your uni to let them know you want to leave and they'll then liaise with you and the new university to do all the paperwork. You might need to attend an interview and/or update your personal statement to get in.

If you have to re-apply via UCAS but have the option to transfer credits over then it’s up to you to decide if you can stick it out at your current uni for the rest of the year, or whether you want to leave and just start again from scratch somewhere new.

Finding accommodation when transferring universities


If you're looking to transfer to another university, then a big thing you need to consider is where you're going to live.

If your transfer is during mid-term or mid-year, there might not be a place in university halls for you. You’ll likely need to find accommodation in private halls or in private rental accommodation in your new location.

Make sure you factor this into your decision and do research into potential places to live before you make the move. Speak to the accommodation team in the Students’ Union or Student Support department at your new uni as soon as you know you're transferring as they'll be able to help you find somewhere to live.

How does changing your course affect your student loan?


If you change courses during your first year and it’s a simple swap (i.e. you don’t have to restart the year again from scratch) then it should just be a matter of updating your details on your Student Finance account.

Student Finance calculates the Tuition Fee Loan for the full length of your course, plus one extra year if needed. The number of years you can get funding for is usually calculated as the length of the current course + one year – years of the previous study.

So, if you start the first year again you should be ok (provided you haven’t had any previous years of study before this one). But if you decide to put up with the course, but then decide to leave it during your second or third year and aren’t able to transfer credits, meaning you have to start again, then you might not be able to get full funding to cover the entire cost of your new degree.

It’s something to be aware of for sure.

Final thoughts


There isn’t one set rule for everybody who wishes to change their course – the outcomes will vary and is dependent on availability, the universities involved and your academic performance.

Changing your course isn’t an impossible feat, but it’s important that you’re 100% sure that the change you want to make is right for you and your future.

NEXT:

- Thinking of changing? Search alternative courses

- Tips for Coping with Homesickness at Uni

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