It’s perfectly normal to wonder whether or not it’s right for you to stay in college. Course choices made at 17 might not make sense; college might not be what you thought it would be; or maybe your circumstances have made it difficult. Below are some important tips to keep in mind when considering what to do:
Be aware of fee and grant issues
Your decision to withdraw from college might create consequences for fees and financial supports, if you decide to come back to college at a later point. This sounds a little daunting, but a bit of planning will put you in a great position to minimise and account for any financial issues.
Your college fees are composed of two parts: your annual €3,000 “contribution charge”, and a larger payment to the college, on your behalf, by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). This second portion is known as the “tuition fee”. The HEA will, in ordinary circumstances, only pay for you to do each semester once.
The HEA pays your college your tuition fee twice a year, on the basis of student registrations reported by the college on November 1st and February 1st. If you are still registered on these dates, the college will be paid for your tuition.
However, the payment and refund of your Student Contribution Charge does not necessarily follow the same format. If you are thinking of withdrawing you should immediately check the policy of your own college. If withdrawing you may not receive a full refund.
Withdraw before October 31st: No payment made to college for that year by HEA. If you come back to college you won’t have to contribute to the tuition cost for a repeat of the year you’ve withdrawn from. However, you may be liable for a portion (or all) of the Student Contribution Charge, so you may only be able to get a partial refund.
Withdraw after October 31st, before January 31st: The HEA has paid the first half of your tuition fee, but not the second. You will have to pay the first half, in addition to (a portion of or all of) the contribution charge, if you want to do a repeat year of the year you’ve withdrawn from.
Withdraw after January 31st: For a second go at the year you’ve withdrawn from, you’ll be liable for the full tuition cost of a year of your course, in addition to the student contribution charge.
For grants, it’s a little more straightforward – in ordinary circumstances, you can’t get a second payment of any payment you’ve already received. So, if by the time you’ve withdrawn SUSI has given you two payments, you won’t get the first two payments if you come back to college.
You can find out more by discussing SUSI with your Students’ Union, or by directly contacting SUSI.
Talk to your Students’ Union
Your Students’ Union officers are fully trained on supporting students who are in your situation. They bring a student perspective to the process of exploring your options, and know the ins and outs of college administration as well as anyone. They are a hugely valuable, unbiased resource in helping you get a full picture of the process, your options, and the consequences for grants and fees.
Discuss the subject with someone close to you
The decision to withdraw from college is most often a deeply personal one, and usually not taken lightly. All the same, you may find it beneficial to share your thoughts with trusted friends or family. If your family, guardian, or someone else contributes towards the cost of your education, you might also consider discussing the matter with them. As outlined above, there can be funding concerns to navigate, so best to keep them in the loop if possible.
Get the full picture from course staff
If your dissatisfaction is with the academic content of the course, have you checked that things don’t change? Might you like the look of greater choice, a broader range of modules, or opportunities for specialisation that await in later years, or later in the semester? Can you transfer out of problematic modules, or continue the course on a part-time basis? In the interest of making a fully informed decision, it is worth at least exploring the answers to these questions.
Be confident in your decision
Given the fuss that typically surrounds admission to and participation in third-level, it’s natural to be reluctant to withdraw before completing the course. There is absolutely no shame in deciding that your particular course, your college, or even third-level education just aren’t for you. This is a decision that people make every single day, and the circumstances that trigger it are very often beyond their control.
Look at what comes next
- Many students who withdraw from college throughout the year assume full-time work. If you rely on a grant and intend to return to college, full-time work will probably affect your reckonable income, which is used to determine your grant eligibility. Be sure to explore the consequences with your SU Education Officer.
- You can register with the CAO from Nov 5th until Feb 1st, using your points from a previous year. This gets you back in the application system if you want to do a different course.
- Other education provisions might suit you better, if you want to come back to education – make sure to explore part-time, further education, PLC and other offerings.
- You may decide that third-level education is not for you, or not for you right now. After four years of an absence from education, you can choose to return without being affected by the fee consequences as outlined above.