Changing Universities and Courses: Transfer (Deadline Day) Explained

Switching courses occasionally becomes necessary – moving to university and starting a course is a huge commitment, and, understandably, people can change their minds close to the deadline day. This is fair enough – as we said, it’s a huge step – and starting university is a very stressful time. You need to be certain that the course you’re starting is absolutely what you want to do, and if it isn’t, you should think about changing whilst you still have the opportunity to do so.

Changing can be an enormously difficult thing to do – there’s paperwork to complete, academics to convince, and UCAS and student finance need to be informed, both of which, in our experience, are far from hasty with this sort of thing. As such, wherever or however you’re changing, try to do it as quickly and as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to sort out.

This is our guide on how to change your course and possibly your university, and when it needs to be done by. There’s plenty of good reasons for someone to switch courses and move to another university, but you should really be sure about this before you go through the process of switching or moving – you don’t get a second go, generally. So be sure this is what you want to do, and that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Right, now our lecture is over, you can start thinking about where you’ll be attending other lectures in the future.

Can I change my university course before I start?

Changing a course before starting university is relatively easy. Relatively. It’s still not exactly a piece of cake. The first thing you should think about is changing your personal statement so it fits in with the new choice. Make sure your reasons for changing courses are convincing – all the old rules still apply, you need to sound like this is really, really what you want to do.

One option if you’ve decided early on that you want to switch course is simply substituting a course in your UCAS application. You can only do this if the universities you’ve contacted haven’t contacted you back yet and your AS2 welcome letter is dated less than 7 days ago. If you haven’t received a welcome letter, even better.

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If that isn’t the case, you can contact the universities separately and try to arrange something with them. Don’t be overly intimidated; remember that universities want students, and that’s, frankly, how they make their money. So they really should want to accommodate you however they can. That said, your grades need to be good (of course). Give the university you’re interested in a call, particularly the ones that have already made you an offer, and ask them if they’d be interested in accepting you for a different course. Most of the time, the answer will be “yes”, and they’ll give you some sort of offer if you’re convincing enough.

Another plausible option is working through clearing and UCAS to find a course that is better sorted to you. This isn’t an option we’d wholeheartedly suggest, as generally it will take a long time and there’s every possibility you won’t find yourself on a course at all. Then again, it’s worth a try if all else fails…

Read our guide to clearing

How Late Can You Change Your Uni Course?

Changing your course after starting it is not something we’d suggest, but occasionally it happens for whatever reason. Changing courses will be done entirely internally by your university, so you should talk to them – go and see your personal tutor or supervisor and they should advise you on the best steps to take from there. Make sure you’re charming, confident and you know a fair bit about the subject you’re hoping to switch to before seeing anyone about changing – there’s a possibility you’ll have to go through an interview process and you need to be on the ball to get everything done.

Depending on the university (and how much your tutors want to help you!) you could get transferred to a new course at the same university up to 3 months of starting the course. It has also been possible for students to switch courses after one year of study, by abandoning their current course and starting a new course entirely. Remember though, you’ll still have the fees to pay for the first year of study you completed on the course you didn’t enjoy…

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And when you’ve managed to switch course, stay on top of the workload! Visit all your lecturers for anything you’ve missed and make sure you do well in your first exams – they’ll be paying close attention to you. Also make sure you inform student finance and the university has confirmed it. That’s just as important or you could find yourself penniless come the next term.

Can I transfer University After First Year?

Switching universities is more difficult – your university won’t want to lose you but occasionally circumstances change. If you’re looking to switch universities because you feel as though you’re struggling to fit in, then you should take a look at our advice article which explores ways to conquer this other than switching universities.

If you’re sure that you want to switch universities, the first thing you should do is contact the university you’re interested in switching to and see what they say. Everything else will be a waste of time if they’re not interested. If you do get confirmation, make sure to pin them down on what they think your next steps should be. You should prepare a full academic application, like the one you had to do through UCAS, along with a list of the modules you’ve studied so far and why you want to change (it can just be “personal reasons”, if you like, but more detail is better as long as it doesn’t leave you in a bad light).

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Then contact your university and tell them you intend to switch courses. They will, understandably, be upset, but they will have a process for you and can’t make you stay, after all. Make sure you’ve sorted a change in accommodation and are all set up for moving. Similarly, inform all the relevant bodies, UCAS, etc. This is not an easy process and we suggest you try to avoid it, but if you have to, make sure to stay on the ball, work hard when you’re there, and do some background reading on the modules your university is teaching.

You might also want to think really hard about whether you’ve chosen the right path for you, and we have made this much easier by putting together an advice article: Is university right for me?

Changing University Before Starting Your Course

This is slightly easier than changing after starting the course, but still can be quite difficult. If you’re passed the deadline mentioned above in changing a course before university (universities haven’t contacted you back yet, less than 7 days since AS2 welcome letter), then you can go through the same process of changing your application and working from there. If you have received the welcome letter or universities have already replied, you’ll have to go at it outside the UCAS system. This means emailing the universities you’re interested in changing to and working out their policy and whether or not they’ll have you.

The universities will ask for more or less everything you gave to the other places through UCAS, and quite possibly more than that. Make sure you’re glowing – you need to look good to get away with changing universities at this point – and have a good reason for switching at this point. Remember that the universities do want to have you, but they need to be convinced you’ll do well there. If you do get offered a place, make sure to stay on top of accommodation and all the other parts of moving – make sure everything’s in place and where it should be. Then congratulate yourself on having managed it.

Changing Universities After First Year

If you change your mind a good way through your course, it’s a bad idea to switch when you’ve missed a lot of the content taught on another course or at a different university. Wait until you’ve finished your year and do the best you can and then switch, if you’re sure you want to. That way you’ll have a proper, real fresh start, and won’t spend the next three years playing catch-up on your new course content.

Make sure to always do as well as you can in every aspect of your course – it doesn’t matter if you don’t intend to stay there for another year, the university or alternative department you’re interested in will be very interested in seeing your grades, and if you do badly, they’ll assume it’s because you’re not cut out for university and will do the same thing with their course. This, obviously, is very far from ideal. So even if you don’t intend to stay on, work hard and keep at it. The better grades you get, the better you’ll look to the other universities and courses you’re applying to.

Final Thoughts

Whatever you do, make sure you’re certain about moving before you start – is it really your course you don’t like or is it just because you’re not enjoying university? Be honest with yourself and make the right decision based on that – you’ll just end up wasting more of your own time and money if you’re not honest with yourself about what you want to do.

The majority of students think about switching courses and universities when they are going through tough times, and sometimes all you need to do is take a step back and take in some advice. If you’re feeling lonely and like you want to move to a university closer to home, you could read our advice article that looks at ways to conquer the loneliness. Alternatively, you may have a loved one back at home that is making you feel as though you want to quit your course or move closer to home so we have put together an advice article for how you can make your relationship work whilst you’re away at university.

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