The Freshers Already Thinking About Dropping Out of Uni

It's been less than a month since freshers week, but some students already think they've made a mistake.

by Lily Carr-Gomm
23 October 2017, 1:59pm

Ever since tuition fees were introduced, many students have started to see university more as a product and themselves as consumers – something that's been encouraged by successive governments – rather than a period of education. Products let people down, they disappoint; you think about getting something better.

So it's no surprise that, in the last couple of years, the first-year dropout rate has been rising. In 2014-15, the last year for which figures are available, it was 6.2 percent on average, but at some universities it's much higher; at the University of Bolton, for example, it was 18.3 percent.

We spoke to some freshers from this year's intake who have already been thinking about quitting.

Daniela, City & Guilds

VICE: What were your expectations of university?
Daniela: My expectations for my art foundation course were quite high. I thought I'd have a lot more free time, get to sleep in, the social scene would be big. I think not having dorms at my uni makes the social side a little trickier. I haven't really gotten to know that many people, especially since we are constantly working and divided into small groups. I don't get to see others often. I love the tasks they set, but they are so much work. Plus, we have like five different sketch and notebooks to fill, and we have to do that independently. I'm really lost and we're getting assessed next week. I haven't started any of my sketchbooks. Pray for me.

How serious are you about dropping out?
I thought about it every day for two weeks straight, but I haven't worked up the courage to tell my parents. I don't really want to drop out because I can't cope, but rather I want to retake two of my A-levels, and I've since heard about this really cool internship that I would love to do instead.

What would be the final straw that made you pack up your bags and immediately drop out?
One hundred percent, losing all the work that's meant to be in my sketch and notebooks.

What would you do instead of uni if you dropped out?
I've always seen myself as a working gal, so I'd probably try to get as much work experience or internships as possible in what I'm interested in. I really want to try being a personal shopper. I also have a business idea I'd love to try and set up.

Owen, Exeter University

VICE: What were your expectations going into uni?
I only really thought about the social aspect before arriving. Everyone was chatting about freshers week and going out, etc, but this meant I almost forgot that the most important thing about university is work.

How were those expectations not met?
University is fundamentally about the work, and while going out and socialising is fun and important, what I learnt in my first few weeks is that the work is harder, and there is much more of it than I expected. It's also the little things that you don't expect to be so bad. Waking up for an 8.30AM seminar when you haven't done the reading and you've had two hours of sleep is not the one. I expected to be tempted into a hole of drugs and alcohol abuse; instead, the worst temptation I face is sleep. I haven't felt fully awake in a month.

How serious are you about dropping out?
It depends: some days, when I'm stuck in my little room with no motivation to do anything with my life, the thought crosses my mind that I could be doing that in my room at home. I do enjoy uni, but also can understand why people would feel as if they want to drop out.

What would be the final straw and make you drop out immediately?
If they stopped recording lectures.

Why did you want to go to uni in the first place?
To have a lit three years while finding out some interesting stuff about history.

What would you do instead?
Truthfully… sleep.

Jago, Manchester University

VICE: What were your expectations going into university?
: My expectations going into university were that everything and everyone would be terrifying. I definitely set myself up for a massive fall, going into it

Right, and did reality match up with that?
Yeah, initially I was absolutely shit-scared, to the point of wanting to leave within a few hours. I assumed I would never be able to fit in and that I would sit alone and cry for a full year.

Oh shit, so you wanted to drop out from pretty much the moment you arrived?
For the first 24 hours I was very serious about dropping out. I couldn't picture myself being happy here or even getting by.

Do you still feel that way now?
After getting through the initial shock of not knowing anyone around me, I realised that everyone else is actually feeling the same way. The next day I bucked the fuck up and spoke to all my neighbours, and have just had the best experiences since then.

A real turnaround.
Every place you go, you meet new people and can decide whether you want to be their friend or not. It sounds weird, but it feels like you're really in control of your own experiences, which is very reassuring.

Reni, Bristol University

VICE: What were your expectations going into university and how were they not met?
Reni: I definitely knew doing Law would be hard and time-consuming. I think I expected making friends to be really easy and I wouldn't miss home or anything. But no. I cry every day over my degree. I had proper 9AM lectures during freshers week, whereas other people didn't start their introduction lectures until the week after, which was a massive shock. Also, I've met loads of lovely people, but it's so hard for friendship groups to solidify. To be fair, it's only been a month, but when you're at school for seven years and you have best friends it's suddenly very weird to not just have a group of people you can spend loads of time with.

How serious are you about dropping out?
I'm a bit of a drama queen, so I say I'm going to drop out every other day. But there have been times when I've felt ridiculously overwhelmed and I've just felt like it won't get better and I would probably benefit from a year out.

Why did you initially want to go to university?
I guess there just wasn't really any other option in my head. I want to be a solicitor, so, for me, I just felt like I go to uni and then start working. I definitely think it's going to be a good experience, but it's not for everyone

What would you do if you dropped out?
I think I would take a year out to get some work experience and then re-apply. Probably to a different degree. Or just move to the Caribbean and never come back.

Milla, Bristol University

VICE: What were your expectations of university and how were they not met?
Milla: I came to university feeling really comfortable with the idea of living away from home. I'm not a homesick person at all, so I honestly had no fears about leaving family behind. I really didn't expect to feel so anxious when I first arrived. When my mum left me on the first day I literally felt so, so sick with nervousness. I also ended up getting so anxious within the first two weeks that I had to go back home – I didn't expect to be back until at least after a month. When I was in that anxious headspace, I really didn't think that I was going to be able to go through with uni, and couldn't imagine doing a whole year of it, and that's when I was like, 'Maybe I'll drop out.'

Do you still feel that way?
Now that the first few weeks of nerves are over, I would never want to drop out of university. I think that's important to know for people who feel the same anxiety at first; you just have to push through with it, and it gets so, so much better.

What would make you go back to consider dropping out?
The workload being unbearable – which it already is. First year is definitely not as easy as everyone says.

Why did you want to go to university in the first place?
To leave the London bubble I'd been in at school. I was so excited about all the new people to meet, and that expectation has definitely been met.

Jake, Sussex University

VICE: What were your expectations going into university?
Jake: My main expectation was that university was going to allow me to specialise in what I'm interested in. In sixth form I had to do four subjects, but was only interested in one of them, so was looking forward to just focusing on Business Studies.

And has it worked out that way?
No. Aside from my course, I have to do three other modules, and one of them is completely irrelevant to anything to do with my course. Having to do Economics and Business Law when I'm shit at maths and find law really boring is awful, and it's made me lose so much motivation, to the point where I will wake up for lectures with plenty of time and just think, 'Fuck it,' and miss it.

How serious are you about dropping out?
I have days where I feel very, very serious about it. The other day, I was walking to the students' office to end my contract, but then a sudden change of heart occurred and I didn't. However, I made a meeting with my academic advisor to discuss how I don't think university is for me at all. The only thing that's stopped me from dropping out so far is that I have no idea what I would do after.

No idea at all?
Nope. If I knew what I wanted to do I probably would've dropped out about two weeks ago. I've thought about potential apprenticeships, but I would have to make sure it's a really good one.

What was your main reason to go to university initially?
It was never a goal of mine, it just sort of happened. I've always just got by in school by doing the bare minimum, so I thought I'd be able to do that at university. Obviously, coming here has shown me that I actually need to work instead of just sitting there in class and doing the work the night before it's due.

Andrea, Sussex University

VICE: What were your expectations going into uni and how were they not met?
Andrea: I don't really know what I expected – I thought it would be like another three years of sixth form. I knew it would be fun, but I guess I expected more. You hear all these wild stories about nights out during freshers and you think you're going to do the same. But, to be honest, it's similar to nights out back in London – just a bit cheaper.

How serious are you now about dropping out?
For my whole first week I was literally like "get me out of this hell hole", as they tried to give me off-campus accommodation and then the room I did get was freezing and half the wall was peeling off. But when I secured a friendship group and started getting into the swing of seminars and lectures it got a lot better. There are obviously still times where I wonder if Sussex was the right place for me, but I guess everyone who doesn't automatically fit into university would feel the same.

What would make you drop out at this stage?
To be honest, it wouldn't take all that much. Like, don't get me wrong: Sussex is a fab uni, but I can't help feeling like maybe somewhere else would've been better? If things don't get more exciting I guess it would be easy enough just to defer or reapply for next year, but it just seems like a lot of hassle.

What would you do instead?
I would have loved to do a gap year. I wish I had considered it as a serious option. Work during the days and just enjoy a year off. All my friends who are doing a gap seem to be having such a great time.

Why did you go in the first place?
I'm not really too sure – it just seemed like something to do. It is kind of just an expected thing nowadays. It's annoying, though – if I'm going to be in thousands of pounds of debt, then I at least want to enjoy myself.


dropping out
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