Having Second Thoughts about your Programme?

If you landed on this page, you’re probably feeling uncertain about your choice of programme and may be considering switching programmes or withdrawing. You may not want to change or leave, but just want to take some time out to consider your options. Whatever your situation, the information on this webpage will provide you with practical, easy to follow advice to help guide you in the right direction.

Unsure about your Programme?

It may help you to know that you’re not alone in the way you are thinking or feeling. Other students have experienced similar thoughts and/or emotions. There are many reasons why a student may want to change or leave their programme, listed below are a few:

Degree Programme - Modules/Structure

It’s not what you thought it would be like; the work is too easy/difficult; you find it’s very like school; you find the content boring; you’re just not interested in the topic any longer; it wasn’t your first choice of programme.

The structure of lectures doesn’t suit you; the assessment style is difficult for you to adjust to; you feel overwhelmed; the programme is not what you expected; you feel that you don’t have the same level of understanding as your classmates. 


You feel out of your depth; you find it difficult to manage your time because of other commitments such as part-time work, travel to and from college; your accommodation may not be ideal.


You were not successful in securing a grant; your accommodation is too expensive; you may have childcare expenses; you are worried about getting into debt.

Disability or Health Issues

You may find that you are not ready to adapt to your new lifestyle just now; you feel unable to cope emotionally; you find it difficult to engage with other students; you feel overwhelmed and need more time to adjust.

Maturity v Youth

You feel unsuited to the programme as you feel your classmates are older/younger; you find it difficult to balance studies with family/work/home commitments; you feel out-of-place in the programme/university; you find change difficult to deal with; you feel that you are not ready to make this transition.

There are so many other reasons, but you may identify with some of the reasons given here. Only you will know the reason for wanting to change your current situation. Staff are available to support and guide you through the process so get in touch with one of the relevant personnel listed below. Reaching out and talking about your situation will enable you to make a better decision regarding your future.

If you’re going to change programme or leave the university it is best to do this as early as possible. To defer a semester or exams you must notify the relevant personnel to meet the approval deadline.

Changing programme is only possible in the first three weeks of Semester 1. If you withdraw from a programme late in the academic year, you may be liable for tuition fees when you return to higher education. Addressing your situation early on will prevent you from being charged unnecessary fees.

Before Deciding

Consider your Actions

Making a hasty decision may be something you might regret, so please think carefully before you change or leave your programme. There are so many options open to you – for example, taking a leave of absence, deferring a semester or deferring examinations. By speaking to the appropriate person, you will be able to get the advice that you need to make an informed decision. 

Help is at hand! All support services available to you can be found on the Student Supports webpage.

If you are a First Year Student who is considering withdrawing, please book an appointment to speak with Nóirín Deady or email: n.deady@ucc.ie before completing the Withdrawal Form.

If you are an International Student from outside the EU, please contact Ms. Natalie O'Byrne on: natalie.obyrne@ucc.ie who will provide support to you.

If you are beyond first year, please contact the relevant staff in your college.

Checklist before Taking Action

There are several steps to take before making a final decision. The following will help guide you:

Case Studies

There are many pathways you can take after reaching your decision. Here are some examples:

What if the Programme is too difficult for me?

If you have failed some modules or the end of year exams, or you feel that the work/study required is too much for you, then you may want to consider your options:

  • Are things as bad as you fear? Talk to your lecturers as you may be able to get an extension on your assignment(s).
  • You can prepare for assignments and exams by contacting the Skills Centre where you will find specialists who will help you with study skills and exam preparation.
  • You can request to defer a semester/exam until you are more prepared.
  • If you have failed modules in the first semester, all is not lost. Your results are provisional until the end of the year.  You still have time to catch up. Seek out the supports available to you.

Taking a Break from Study

You may not want to change or leave your programme, but just need some time out to consider your options. Reasons for taking a break may be:


If you have been ill or other personal circumstances are affecting your studies, you want to take some time out to recover and regain your strength. You can avail of the supports services in UCC to help you through this time.

Seek additional support if you need it once you’re out of the university environment.

Not the Right Programme/Not the Right Time

It’s often difficult to decide on the right programme because there are so many! If you’re not enjoying your programme or it’s not meeting your expectations, the programme may not be suited to you. If you are not motivated to attend lectures and are not submitting assignments, we recommend talking to a member of staff. In some cases, students withdraw and if you feel that is the right decision for you contact the First Year Experience Coordinator or a member of staff in your college to discuss the withdrawal process.

Going from school into university is a major transition. You may have moved away from family and friends. You may feel that you are not ready to leave home and that you are not equipped to share accommodation or manage your time well. You may not have received your first choice of programme and are finding it hard to get motivated. Taking a year out to try something different or develop new skills will help you to make an more informed decision when you decide to return to higher education.

Splitting Semesters/Deferring Exams

If you feel that you are not reaching your full potential and that you have missed assignment deadlines due to personal reasons, then it might be time to consider deferring exams and/or a semester. Before you decide, make sure you talk to your programme coordinator, or a student support staff in your college. 


Studying full time is a big financial commitment. It may be that financial pressures is affecting your studies because you are working long hours.  Time out may be necessary to put yourself in a more stable financial situation before your resume your studies. If you want to take time out, you can apply to defer entry (only for first year students who have just received an offer), defer a semester or take a Leave of Absence. In all cases, please contact staff in the university to ensure you meet the application deadline.

Financial rules in relation to taking a break from study or withdrawing from a programme vary so it is best to speak to a member of staff in your college or the Student Budgetary Advisor to find out the associated costs before deciding.

If you wish to defer your place, do not accept your CAO offer. Apply for a deferral through our Admissions Office.

Withdrawing from your Programme

Leaving your programme early may leave you feeling disappointed, annoyed, or lacking in confidence. You may be worried about what your family and friends will think of your decision. You might feel that you’ve wasted time and money and missed other opportunities. These feelings are understandable but there are not necessarily true. It often takes more courage to admit that you’ve made a mistake and to move on than to continue studying on a programme that is not right for you. Withdrawing from your programme can be a positive step. This is your opportunity to step back, consider other options and put a plan in place for the future. Withdrawing from you programme does not mean that you are giving up – it means that you are stepping out for a period of time only.

Remember, there are many different study options and programmes available to suit your interests.

You can also make a retrospective withdrawal, but you must include supporting evidence from one or more of the following professionals with your application:

  • Medical Practitioner
  • Other health professionals
  • UCC Student Support professionals
  • Garda
  • Other (must be specified)

Withdrawing and Eligibility for Honours

(i) For students withdrawing up to 31st January

Registration and eligibility for honours in the following academic year will be treated as if it were the first registration for that programme year.

(ii) For students withdrawing after 31st January

Such students will be required to attend the full programme the following year, which will be treated as repeat registration (with respect to examinations and eligibility for honours) for that programme year. Full terms and conditions can be found in the Marks and Standards.

Leave of Absence

Students wishing to take leave of absence of a year or more from a programme of study are advised that they must obtain advance approval from the relevant College.

Applications to the relevant College for a leave of absence must be made within four working weeks of the formal start date of Semester 1. Applications will not be accepted after this time.

Medical students intending to take leave of absence of a year or more must make an application to the Dean of the School of Medicine and to the Deputy President and Registrar not later than March of the preceding academic year. Permission will only be granted for specific reasons which will be considered in each case by the School's Executive/Heads of Department.


To view contact details for support staff in your college choose from one of the following options:

Student Records and Examinations Office

Taifid na Mac Léinn agus Scrúduithe

First Floor West Wing, University College Cork, Co. Cork, T12 YN60

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