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First year regrets: dropping out of university can cost more than £20K

Which? University urges students to research their options thoroughly before going to uni, to avoid making a costly mistake

Undergraduates in England who drop out in their first year at university can lose tens of thousands of pounds in tuition fees and student loan payments, Which? University warns.

For first-year students outside of London, the worst-case scenario could mean repaying the full £9,250 tuition fee and the £8,944 maximum maintenance loan repayment.

This results in a total cost of £18,194, and rises to £20,992 for students studying in the capital. Plus, these repayment figures are subject to interest rate increases.

Students don’t need to pay this back immediately in one lump sum. Instead, you pay back 9% of everything you earn over £25,000 per year – and whatever remains is written off after 30 years.

Which? University is urging prospective students to thoroughly research their options before accepting a university offer, to avoid making quick decisions that they may regret.

Which? University – free advice on everything to do with higher education choices, including our course search tool to help you discover your dream course.

How much will I actually need to repay?

The cost of dropping out depends on when you drop out, where you study, your living situation, and any bursaries or grants that demand repayment if you don’t complete your course.

The full Which? University article on the cost of dropping out of uni explores all of this to help you work out the full cost for you. Here are some examples of how these factors can play out:

Do many students drop out of university?

More students than you may think decide to leave university. In fact, the most recent data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) indicates that 6.4% of undergraduate students in the UK withdraw from their course.

What’s more, nearly one in four (23%) graduates in Which? University’s most recent graduate survey said that they wouldn’t take the same course again if they could go back in time, further highlighting the importance of researching your options.

Reflecting on our findings, Which? managing director of public markets Alex Hayman says: ‘Striking out on your own for the first time is as scary as it is exciting, and securing a place at university is a huge achievement – so coming to terms with your university choices not living up to your expectations after enrolling is difficult enough, even before considering the financial burden that comes with dropping out of university.

‘While not every situation that leads to dropping out from university can be avoided, there are steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood of regretting your university choices. Research your options thoroughly, take your time making your decision, and don’t be swayed by external pressures or influences – so you choose the path that’s right for you.’

Five tips for students researching their university options

  • Review the course content to find out whether you’re excited about what’s on offer.
  • Go to open days to get a feel for the university.
  • Consider whether your university offers are achievable – and ensure you’ll be happy with your insurance choice if you don’t manage the grades for your first preference.
  • Look at contact hours and the expected level of independent study to make sure these are feasible with other commitments you may have have.
  • Get in touch with the university to ask any unanswered questions.

For more information from Which? University, start with What degree, subject or course should I study at university?

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