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How to Switch University Courses

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You’ve decided your university course isn’t right for you, and you’ve found another one you like the sound of – but how do you go about changing courses?

If you’re thinking about changing your degree program, know it isn’t likely to be an easy process, and you need to be completely sure that it’s what you want. Not only can it be extremely costly and time consuming, often you will have to take some time out before commencing your new course, and sometimes you won’t be able to get onto your course of choice at all.

However, if you’re really unhappy in your current course, switching courses can help you achieve more, and help you towards your career aspirations.

Read on to discover everything you need to know about changing university courses.

What to consider

Once you know that changing university course is the right thing for you, bear in mind that there are several practical aspects you need to consider before you commit to switching university courses.

Firstly, ask yourself why you want to change to this course. Be brutally honest about your reasoning – there’s no guarantee you will enjoy this new course better than the first one, and there is a lot of time and money at risk if you make the wrong decision. Alternatively, if you’re not 100 percent sure that university is right for you, jumping straight into a new course is probably the worst thing you can do.

If you’re changing course in order to get onto a more competitive course, we hate to be the ones to tell you, but this probably won’t work – universities are well aware of students attempting this, and will, more than likely, reject your application straight away.

Secondly, be aware that if you don’t meet the basic entry requirements for the course you want to change to, unfortunately, it’s unlikely the course will accept you.

Thirdly, there is no guarantee you’ll be able to transfer courses in the year you wanted – particularly if you submit your application after the deadline. This is especially true in competitive courses in high ranking universities, where spaces may be scarce.

If, after considering all of this, you are still set on changing courses, read on to find out how.

Changing courses in your current year

If you’ve just started your course, and realized immediately it just isn’t right for you, then you’re (slightly) in luck – you may be able to change without too many issues if you can get your application submitted before the deadline.

This deadline is usually around the second or third week of your first term. Beware though: once this deadline has passed, it’s a lot harder to change courses without incurring complications.

To change in your first year, in the first couple of weeks of term, follow these steps:

  1. Decide what course you’re changing to and why
  2. Consult your personal academic advisor

The first thing to do is to speak to your personal tutor or program leader to talk about your decision. They will provide you with information on how to proceed. Do this at your earliest opportunity

  1. Talk to the student services office

Every university’s admin system works slightly differently, so you will need to find out how your university’s system works. To do this, seek the help of your student services office,. They will provide assistance on how to change your course, direct you to the correct departments and tell you who you need to talk to at uni

  1. Fill in a form asking you which course you’d like to switch to and why

This will be available from your student support center or online. Consult your academic advisor or student support office if you’re unsure where to get the form

  1. Your application will be considered by your current department and the department of the course you’re looking to change to

You will need to already have the required entry requirements for this course to get accepted

  1. You will receive an email once your application has been approved

Changing next year

You will use this option if you’ve already completed your current academic year or have decided to stick it out until the end of the year before changing.

If you’ve missed the deadline for transferring during your first year, you may have to wait until the following September.

If this is the case, follow these steps to change courses next year:

  1. Consult your academic advisor and student services
  2. Fill in the form to say that you wish to change courses

In the UK, this should be before the UCAS closing date (15th January) and applications submitted on time will be treated like any other UCAS application.  After the UCAS deadline, your application will be treated the same way as a late UCAS application.

Your academic advisor/personal tutor will be able to advise you on when this deadline will be 

  1. Your application will be considered, taking into account whether you’ve studied the required modules to progress into the next year of your new course

If so, you may be able to transfer straight into your second year. If not, you will have to repeat first year, and start the new course from scratch in September.

It’s also worth noting that you’re more likely to be able to switch to a different program within a department, as there will often be some common modules  

  1. Receive confirmation that your application has been approved

How will changing course affect tuition fees

The extent to which changing course will affect how much you pay in tuition really depends on what time of the year you decide to change courses. Generally, if you leave at any point during your third term, you will have to pay 100 percent of your fees for the year. If you leave earlier than that, you will only have to pay a percentage of your total annual tuition.

For further information on this, see the table below:

Tuition fees you will pay if you change courses or leave university

Time in academic year you leave your current course

How much of your annual tuition you will be required to pay

Before registering for your course

0 percent

Before the end of your first term

25 percent

Before the end of your second term

50 percent

Before the end of your third term

100 percent

When you transfer courses, you should be entitled to funding on the new course, but this depends on who provides your funding. Check with your funding provider about their procedure on changing courses.

If you get your funding via Student Finance England, for example, you should still be entitled to funding, including a maintenance loan and tuition fees. However, you must contact student finance to notify them of the change, and your institution also needs to notify them.

How will it affect international students?

As soon as you know you are changing course, contact the relevant department in charge of international studies to ask them how to proceed with your student visa. Bear in mind, the procedures vary across countries.

In the UK, you will need to inform the UK Home Office and there may be complications for your Tier 4 visa, and you may need to reapply. Talk to your university’s international studies office for more information on how to proceed.

In the US, you will need to make arrangements with your university’s international studies office, who will let you know how to approach the situation. If you don’t do this your institution will notify USCIS, and you may have complications with your visa.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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