Going to university, making new friends, studying something you love, is a very exciting phase in many people’s lives. But sometimes the excitement fades and students discover that they are not as in love with their course as they imagined they would be. If this happens early, it may be possible to swap onto another course or move from joint to single honours. But what if you are a year or two into the course and the only option, unless you want to drop out completely, is to stick with it? How can you get through the final year or so?
Here are some ‘survival’ tips:
- Talk to your tutor – if your course is modular, is it possible to swap one of your modules for one where the content is more interesting to you? This might mean that you give yourself some additional work catching up, so you would have to weigh up the pros and cons of this option. You would also want to make sure that the new module is more suitable for you, so talk to staff in the department or students who have taken the module beforehand. However, you might find that a small change, such as one module makes a big difference to how you feel.
- If your course includes a dissertation or final year project, find out if you can tailor this to something that you would enjoy. Or can it be linked to your future career ideas? This would look great on your CV and it may help you to feel that you are doing something that has wider meaning to you.
- If you are finding the work too hard, again, you should talk to your tutor to see if there is additional support that you could get. It may be that you could be given additional help by the relevant lecturer or maybe a mentor. Some universities employ PhD students to mentor undergraduates. You won’t be the first person to have asked, so don’t feel embarrassed – your tutor will probably be pleased that you are proactively doing something about your situation.
- Can you do anything outside of your degree course that would give you additional interest for your remaining time at university, rather than sitting and worrying about your course choice? For example, joining clubs and societies through the student union that are more aligned to your interests, or trying something completely new might give you an alternative focus. This may help you put things into perspective.
- Do any of your friends feel the same way? If so, acting as mutual support for each other may help. It might be that you can work through academic problems that you are finding hard together. Or if the issue is not that the work is too hard, just that you don’t enjoy it, working with someone who feels the same may make it less painful. You could plan time out together once a certain amount of the work is done.
- Finally don’t worry that doing a course you don’t enjoy will mean your career prospects will be limited to areas that don’t interest you. About 70% of graduate roles do not ask for a specific degree subject. You should visit your careers service as soon as possible and talk to them about your options. Having an end goal may also help you look beyond the relatively short period of your degree and will give you the boost you need to get through it!
Many people look back on their university years with great fondness and this may be because of their course and the knowledge they gained. But university is more than that –the social life and friends that are made. Try to look at the big picture and even if you don’t like your course, you can still have a good time for the remaining stages of university.
Director of UCL Careers, part of The Careers Group, University of London