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A Big Sister’s Guide to Dropping Out of University

by in Money & Careers on 28th May, 2024

Please Note: In this context, ‘dropping out’ refers to making the decision to leave university. However, we acknowledge that the decision to leave university may not always be the individual’s own decision, but rather an outcome chosen by the institution or due to extenuating circumstances. That being said, the article is just as useful in applying to these individuals as well, and we hope it will be beneficial to all readers.

Be sure to check out the previous article, A Big Sister’s Guide to Higher Education in the UK, where we explored finding your path in higher education. In this instalment, we delve into a different journey – navigating the decision to leave university. 

For most people, their journey at university involves studying over 3 – 5 years and then graduating. However, for some individuals, the journey at the university might be shorter than what they had intended. 

There can be several reasons why someone cannot continue higher education such as illness, financial worry, family situations, and incomplete exams and assessments. Perhaps, after attending it, you may realise that university life is not the right path for you. Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that you are not alone. 

In fact, when I left higher education, I struggled to find resources for navigating life outside of the academic path I had been on for so long. Having now experienced and researched this, I want to  share my thoughts and recommendations on what worked. Many of these steps can also be useful for sisters who have recently graduated but are unsure of what to do next. 

Appealing A Decision

If you are leaving higher education because of a decision made by your school, then I would urge you to look into appealing the decision. This may seem very daunting but the deadline for appealing is very tight, so the immediate  first step would be to view the appeals policy on your university website and get in contact with your university student union. 

When appealing, you are essentially going against the decision of your university, so your academic tutor or anyone internal to the university will not advise you on the content of your appeal. However, it is important to remember that student unions are independent of the university, so they can offer support, advice and guidance throughout the whole process.  

Be mindful of the fact that you will most likely require evidence when appealing, so it’s important to do this as soon as possible to ensure you’re within the deadline and leaving enough time for responses, requests for letters etc. 

Appeals take place over a few months’ time and in three or four stages. This might seem a lot but hang in there and persevere through this as you may be able to overturn the decision. In this time, consider the options you have to either progress your work and studies in your own time or pause until the appeals process is complete, in the case the decision is overturned and you can return to your studies. 

Financial Decisions

When you decide to leave higher education, the first step should be to inform your university or educational institution as soon as possible. This is especially important if you are paying student finance, as this will ensure that the university informs Student Finance to freeze the amount of loan you are paying back. This is also important to stop any further scheduled payments if you are paying yourself for postgraduate courses. 

I recommend getting in touch with your academic tutor and student services, who can help discuss your decision and address any questions or concerns you might have. They can also direct you to the correct teams and people to complete the process of withdrawal. Once this is finalised, you can contact Student Finance or the relevant office for payments to formalise your decision.

Withdrawing is not a decision to be taken lightly. The UCAS website has a page explaining things to consider when withdrawing including transferring over to another course and credit exchange, which may be useful if you are choosing to remain in higher education. For example, one Muslim sister I talked to changed her degree to one within the same field, but with a better balance of placements and lecture work. 

If you are leaving in your second or third year, it may be useful to ask your academic tutor about any diplomas or certificates you may be eligible for during the time you have been on your course.

Once your withdrawal date is finalised, consider renting out your room in student accommodation. For university-managed housing, contact the accommodation team to discuss this, but if it’s a private arrangement, contact the owners and see if you need to find another occupant to be released from the contract. Facebook groups and society group chats are a useful way to advertise the room to students.

Getting the Right Support

Leaving higher education, particularly after spending a few years studying a course can be hard to navigate and you may feel an influx of emotions. I remember feeling a mixture of relief and worry due to the uncertainty surrounding the future. Therefore, it is important to sit through these feelings to help reflect on the experience you have had, as you’ll come to appreciate the numerous valuable lessons and opportunities for growth it provided. These realisations will gradually help you embrace the positive impact of your experience on your self-development.

Below is a list of ways to support yourself:

  1. Talk to people: Talk to those around you about how you are feeling. Although they may not share your exact experience they may be able to offer support and guidance or simply help with gathering evidence or writing emails. 
  2. Get creative: Find your creative outlet to express how you are feeling such as through journaling, painting or drawing. Finding a way to reflect and process how you feel is useful in offloading emotions that can seem confusing. It is also a brilliant way to slowly begin to lean into finding your next career path.
  3. Stay active: Taking a short walk in nature can always help to clear your mind and relax. Seeing Allah (SWT)’s creation and taking time to appreciate just how magnificent the world around us is, helps to put situations that sometimes feel overwhelming into perspective. It’s a powerful way to incorporate dhikr into your daily routine too.
  4. Get support: Muslim Youth Helpline are a super resource to use if you want non-judgemental, confidential support. Apart from this, consider reaching out to your university Muslim chaplain if you have the option. 

Once you feel ready, I would encourage you to begin thinking about your next steps. It is important to bear in mind that this may take weeks to months before you feel ready but InshaAllah taking small steps will assist you in the long run. 

Finding your Calling

Once you are ready, begin looking into fields that you would like to focus your career on. This may be similar to what you have studied or something entirely new. For myself, I decided that I wanted to use this opportunity given to me by Allah (SWT) to explore other interests. Using the techniques mentioned below I made a list of what areas I would like to look into. 

To help me do this I used Prospects. This website is frequented by university career centres and has many useful web pages and links. I found the job profile page quite useful as it provides a short summary of roles within each sector as well as links to job listing pages. This can be used in conjunction with the more commonly known Indeed for job searching.

If you are still unsure on what you would like to do, you can read this article on finding a path in higher education: A Big Sister’s Guide to Higher Education in the UK.

The Right Resume for the Right Job

Using your experience of higher education, including any clubs, societies or events that you participated in, you can create a CV. During the withdrawal process, you should still have access to the careers team or the designated careers staff for your school. The time that you have access to this support may vary depending on the institution. 

Alongside this, it’s important to update your LinkedIn profile with all of your skills and experiences. There are plenty of significant articles online to help you make your profile suitable for employers. 

Another valuable resource I’d highly recommend is the Young Women’s Trust. They offer six complimentary sessions with a coach to help you plan your future. You can send in your CV and application to get free personalised feedback to help you secure your role. The fantastic thing about their CV feedback service was that it offers support even if you haven’t identified a specific role yet. 


As Muslims, we give monetary charity to many organisations that we trust. But alongside financial contributions, we can also donate our time. There are many opportunities to volunteer with organisations that you feel passionate about or have interest in. This way, you can not only support others, but also build your skills and experience. 

Charities, like all fields, require people with a range of different skill sets. You can find several voluntary and paid roles within the charity sector at Charity Jobs.

Volunteering is also a great way to advertise yourself to potential employers. One sister I spoke to had been volunteering at an organisation for a few years and when a paid role was advertised she was encouraged to apply, which she did and got the job!

Network through Social Media

In our digital world, more and more opportunities are available through apps like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Take a look at pages and people that you follow; you might be surprised by the jobs and opportunities advertised there. It’s an easy way to direct your search as you’ve essentially pre-selected your fields of interest by following these accounts!

It’s also a fantastic way to connect with people within your field. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people within the sector that interests you to find out a bit more about what they do. I was very lucky to connect with one of my mentors who I had been following for quite a while. You can connect with Muslim professionals through schemes similar to that offered by Muslim Women Connect. I also found Amaliah through social media so it’s worth a shot!

These are just some of the key steps I took to begin my new career. It’s important to remember that these things may take time as it’s all new territory. When I was feeling particularly deflated, a friend said to me, ‘being unemployed is a full-time job’, which is absolutely true as job applications and interviews are hard. They take a lot of energy and unlike a 9-5 role, you don’t have a cut-off time. So, be kind to yourself and remember to take regular breaks. Statistics show that on average it can take around four months to find a role, so although it will take time, you will find your career path InshaAllah. 

It’s also important to cherish this time of pre-employment pause that we don’t often get to experience after school. By seeing it as the blessing it is and by putting my faith in Allah (SWT), I truly felt that I could go for any opportunity. 

It is crucial to remember that your time at university was not a waste; it has equipped you with knowledge, skills and experiences that you can transfer to other sectors and fields. Islam teaches us to continually learn and grow, which can be done outside of the current academic institutions we have in the western world. 

I wish you all the best and pray Allah (SWT) guides you in the best way possible on the next stage of your journey.

Samra Abbass

Samra Abbass

Samra is based in the UK and has key interests in Inclusivity, Muslim and South Asian history in Britain which she has demonstrated through paid and voluntary work.