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Can I change my course at university?

Medical dictionary and law textbookIf your course isn’t what you expected, it is possible to change - but you need to think carefully and move quickly.

Are you sure?

Changing course won’t be totally painless, and switching back if you decide it was a mistake could be even tougher, so it’s important to be certain you want to change before you do it. This doesn’t mean hanging about, as transferring early is much simpler. It does mean:

  • Researching the course you want to switch to so you’re sure it’s what you want. Talk to tutors and current students to find out what it involves and whether you’ll be able to do it.
  • Thinking carefully about your current course: if you change because of one bad module and then realise that the rest of the course was perfect, you’ll be kicking yourself.
  • Thinking about why you want to change: there might be other ways to tackle the problems your having. For example, if you’re not doing as well as you expected, improving your study skills might be better than jumping ship.
  • Checking you’ll qualify for student finance: changing course can affect your entitlements, especially if you have to do an extra years’ study, so contact the Student Finance company for your country to check your situation.

How to make the change

Different universities will have different processes for changing course. Your tutor or student services department should be able to talk you through how it works. But it will often look something like this:

  • Talk to your current tutor/head of department about why you want to change course.
  • Talk to the head of the course you want to switch to to find out whether they’ll accept a transfer and whether you meet the entry requirements for the course.
  • Complete some paperwork to make the change official.

Don’t expect the heads of your current course or the new one to nod you through without some serious questions - they’ll want to be sure you’re making the right decision before they let you change.

When you change makes a big difference

How far through your course you are when you decide to change will have a big effect on what it means for you. Some universities might only allow you to change at the very start of your course.

If it’s the first few weeks of your first year, you might have a little catching up to do but it won’t be too difficult. It’s also much more likely you’ll be allowed to change.

If you’re partway through a year already, you might have to start your new course at the start of the next academic year. This might affect your student finance, as you’re only entitled to support for a certain number of years, so check before you change.

If you’ve already completed a year or more of your course, your finance is more likely to be affected. It’s also less likely that you’ll be allowed to change in the first place.

Making the change as smooth as possible

  • Don’t start slacking: you might start to think your current course doesn’t matter, but keep working and handing in your work on time. Letting it slip will give a bad impression to the people who decide whether you can transfer, and will also cause problems if you end up staying on the same course after all.
  • Keep everyone informed: your current department, new department and tutor all need to know what’s going on to be able to help you, so make sure they’re all up to speed.
  • Avoid flip-flopping: if you keep changing your mind, you’ll stress yourself out frustrate everyone involved. This doesn’t mean sticking with a decision you’ve realised is a mistake - it means thinking carefully and being prepared before you make the decision.

I want to change university, too

If you want to transfer to a different university - whether it’s because they offer a course you want or because you’re not happy at your current uni - things are more complicated. You’ll have to reapply to the university you want to transfer to, and you might not be able to get student finance for the whole course.

Find out more about transferring to a new uni.

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