Going to university is very exciting. Finally we can leave school and pursue studies in a subject that actually interests us! But choosing the course we want to do is hard. And sometimes, although we think we made the right choice, we realise that maybe we should have went with something else.
I started studying Fashion Design in September 2017, a couple of months after graduating high school. I was scared, happy, nervous, ecstatic, but most of all, I felt like I was finally where I was meant to be. For a couple of weeks, I would genuinely catch myself smiling while walking around campus. But soon enough, I became aware of a feeling I had in the pit of my stomach, a feeling that I tried to ignore and bury as deep as I could but that ended up taking over: I was not happy here.
If you feel like this could apply to you or to someone you know, I hope this post can help anyone who’s thinking of changing course or even career path.
How I knew I wanted to change course
For months, I was unhappy with my life. I felt like I did not have anything in common with the people on my course, like I wasn’t up to the challenge when I saw what they were capable of. Finishing these hand-ins took so much from me that I did not feel like my good grades were worth it. I had many breakdowns trying to fight past this feeling of worthlessness that built inside me. I could not find the motivation to do things and always ended up pulling all-nighters to finish my course work. What I was doing was not healthy, and I realise now how bad it actually was. This is a very good example of grades not being the most important. Just because I got good grades did not mean I was doing well.
With every semester, the workload increased while my mental health depleted. I was just not able to do it. Anyone who studied fashion knows how much work there is. Whatever course you choose, university is tough. I know very few people that haven’t had a cry because of stress or the workload. I think it’s important to let ourselves feel those feelings. But if you think that the course you are doing is taking too much of a toll on your health, it might be time to consider other options: taking a year off by deferring, changing course or finding a different alternative (going to college or doing a seminar instead).
What was so hard for months was trying to figure out what had gone wrong. I have had this vision of being a fashion designer in my head since I was young. But when I was reflecting on myself and my life, I realised that I didn’t see myself designing and making garments, I saw myself organising my fashion show. Looking back on my school career, I was class and school representative, a member of the school board and student association, and the head organiser of my school prom.
What I’m trying to get at is that, in spite of having this idea in your head, there might actually be signs of something else you’re good at or passionate about. It might seem impossible to figure out what you want to do. But I can promise you that one day you will know. If there aren’t already some signs, there will be an opportunity or an event that will spark a new dream in you.
Paying for this change
As an EU student attending university in Scotland, I am lucky enough to have SAAS fund my course: so far, my two years at Heriot-Watt University. I emailed them about changing course and they will pay for the duration of the new course but only from 2nd year on. This means I have to pay the £1,820 tuition fees for 1st year. I am lucky enough that my mum can afford to pay for it. If that hadn’t been an option, I would have tried to earn as much money as possible over the summer doing one or multiple jobs. I also would have tapped into my savings account. If you can afford to, even if it’s just tiny sums, putting a bit of money aside weekly or monthly can be very helpful if one day you have an emergency or want to make an investment.
Because my new university is not too far away, I’ve decided to stay in my current flat for 1st year and commute. A monthly train ticket will cost me just over £200 per month. Why don’t I just move up? First, I’ve just moved into my flat and I love it. It’s cosy, central and very close to the train station. Second, because Queen Margaret University is closer to Edinburgh than where I currently live, rent is twice as high. Sometimes, adding up the cost of rent, bills and transportation would still come out cheaper than moving, which can also be quite expensive. So weigh your options and choose what works best for you.
What to keep in mind when you’re wanting to change to a different course is, if you are getting a student loan or your tuition fees paid, you might lose that financial help (for a while). So, depending on your situation, you might want to consider taking a year off to work full-time and save up. Based on where the new course is located, you might have to move to a different town, live somewhere that’s more expensive or there might be transportation costs if you decide to commute. It’s important not to forget these things when you are looking into changing course.
Talking to friends and family
It can be hard to have this conversation with the people that are closest to you. I know I felt like a disappointment when I realised that I didn’t choose the right path. But people change career paths all the time, it is nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, I think it’s brave when people leave their comfort zone to go after their dreams.
I made the decision to change course alone, without anyone’s influence. Remember that this is your life, so you get to make the decisions. A few people I talked to were very supportive and accepting of my choice. Others however, were not as keen on it, thinking that I was making a mistake or just being dramatic. Because of people like that, it’s important to know what your reasons are for making this choice. Thinking about changing course without the input of outside voices can enable you to figure out what you want to change and for what reasons: are you not enjoying the course? Will this course not enable you to pursue a career you want? Are you unhappy in the place you are living? Is the type of education (e.g. college or university) not working for you?
Once you’ve figured out why you want to make this change, talking to your friends and family will be easier. By taking the time you need to make this decision, it shows that it wasn’t made on a whim and that you are serious about it. Sometimes though, people aren’t supportive from the start because they are scared of change. But if they truly care about you, they will come around and stand by your side. And if they don’t, then they are not worth your time. It’s important to not bottle your feelings up but instead discuss things with others. Their opinions can be very helpful as long as they are not influencing you to do things you don’t want to, like not changing course. And remember, if you are unsure or have made a decision but need help executing it, you will need a support network, whether that be family, friends, colleagues, teachers, etc.
University certificates and direct entry
When doing a university course, each module has a certain credit (mine were 15,30 or 45) and after collecting a certain amount, you can get a degree. For instance, you would need 360 credits to receive a Bachelor’s degree. But before reaching that stage, there are other certificates. If you decide to leave after 1st year, with 120 credits, you can get a Certificate of Higher Education. Or, in my case, after 2nd year with 240 credits, I can receive a Diploma of Higher Education. These are the guidelines for my course and are subject to minimum grades, so double check what your requirements are. But do keep in mind that even if you don’t finish your degree, you can still receive an official certificate.
Applying to university after having already studied for one or two years gives you two options: apply for 1st year entry and start the course from the beginning, or apply for direct entry (usually 2nd or 3rd year) with the credits you have already earned. If you apply to a course that is similar enough to what you have already been studying, I think it makes sense to apply for direct entry. However, such as in my case, if the course you are applying to is quite different to your current one, you might want to go into 1st year. Although there are things I will be able to use from what I have learned so far, there are some modules in 1st year that I don’t think I should skip so as not to put me at a disadvantage. I’d rather do an extra year than have to try to catch up if I entered 2nd year instead.
Once I had realised that the cause of my unhappiness was what I was studying, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. I knew that I couldn’t finish this course so one morning, during my last week of classes, I registered on UCAS – again. I applied to a BSc in Event Management, and I recently found out I was accepted! Go with your gut feeling and even though things don’t always work out from the start, they will eventually if you keep trying.
Leave me a comment if you have been in this situation before and have tips of your own. And thank you so much if you’ve read this far!