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Should my DD drop out of uni? Opinions please(101 Posts)
For context, My DD is currently studying English Literature at a Russell group uni . She's been fairly unhappy all year, which has been difficult to see, but she's truly settled in now and enjoying herself a bit more. Course wise, she's just received her latest essay results, and they show she is working at the level of a 2:2. My DD thinks this is the end of the world, and is now discussing dropping out this summer, at the end of her first year. Is a degree at 2:2 level 'worth it'?
My encouragement is that she will get better throughout the next two years, and she will hopefully gain a 2:1, if she doesnt' a 2:2 is still great. Is my DD correct in her thinking that a 2:2 isn't worth it? I really think she should stay. She works very hard - I think she's is overthinking her marks as she spends a lot of time working and tries her best...maybe she's thinking this is the best she can do. It didn't help that her essay marks were lower than last term. Help me persuade her to stay!
My understanding is that the first year doesn't count towards your final grade. You only need 40% to pass. Lots of people treat the first year as fun/settling in and then knuckle down a bit in the second year. If she's finally happy at uni, then tell her not to worry and stay.
Yes advocatingmum but the problem seems to be that the DD is working very hard, not going light on work to have fun/ settle in, so it's a tricky one.
Yes, she's actually working very hard..she's never been the party animal type. All her feedback from seminars and workshops state that she is comscientious and very good, but this doesn't seem to translate into her essay marks. I do feel for her as she's trying her best and she thinks this is the upper limit of what she can do. It's horrible to see her upset and disheartened when she's far away and I can't be of full help. She thinks if she's only getting 2:2 in first year, the second and third year will be harder and she'll stay on the same level, or get worse.
What would she do if she left? A 2.2 from a good university is going to open up far more options than no degree at all. She needs to spend some time thinking about what she would actually do otherwise - it would be a really bad idea to drop out without a clue.
She's only 2 terms into a 3 year degree. These are really early days. You said yourself that she had taken a while to settle in, but was happy now. That settling in period will have had an impact. Chances are her work will still improve significantly, if she puts the effort in.
Are these essays actually counting towards her final degree? Does the first year count significantly towards her final degree.
I've had students working at 2.2 level at an early stage, who have come out with Firsts by the end. And loads who move from 2.2 to 2.1. It's still all to play for.
Anyway, she doesn't have to make a decision just yet. I'd absolutely be encouraging her to push on and give it her best shot for the rest of the year at this stage. And even if it is looking like a 2.2, that's better than no degree and no plans (unless it's having a serious impact on mental health etc)
It might be worth looking at the extent to which she can choose options, includng outside options in her second and third years. If she gets better marks in some aspects of the course, and is able to focus on these, her overall marks should improve.
It can certainly be true of more technical courses which may have quite difficult compulsory maths courses in the first and second years but a wider choice in the third. But see no reason why this should not apply in English.
There is no blanket rule that says first year courses don't count. They may not on some courses, or carry less weight, but it depends on the course and needs to be checked. Good first year results are useful for any student who will be seeking an internship at the end of their second year.
What else would she do?
Well I averaged a 3rd in my 1st year exams, built up to a 2.2 in the 2nd year and managed to -scrape- gain a 2.1 in my finals.
IIRC my 2nd year counted something like 15% towards the final result, so the lower mark didn't drag me down too much (the 1st year mark didn't count at all). Can she talk to her tutor as to where she can improve?
Also does she get to choose options - that helped me as i could drop the subjects i was less keen on.
A 2:2 from a Russell group is still better than a 2:1 from one lower down the ranks - sad but true.
But this year won’t count for her final mark and she absolutely has time to improve and get it up to a 2:1. Do encourage her not to drop out, but she should definitely speak to her tutor/department head about what extra help they can offer to get her up.
But if she’s been unhappy all year, is it the right university/course for her? If it isn’t can she explore transferring to another university that could be a better fit?
I disagree. I got a third from a top uni - I just couldn't cope with the course - and frankly its been worse than no degree. You can't get on to any school leavers programmes, and you can't get onto any grad programmes because they all want a 2:1. Get her to drop out, save herself the debt, apply for a school leavers programme or high level apprenticeship in a field that interests her. She can always go back to study later.
My oldest ds got a 2.2 from a not great uni but he got onto a graduate trainee programme and already 3 years after graduating earns enough that means he will be one of those that does actually repay his student loan (assuming he stays at that level or higher).
As mentioned above often year 1 soes not count towards final grade and also English is one of those subjects where as they mature the student gets more used to rhe style of writing required.
If everything else js now settled down I'd encourage her to stay or alternatively could she transfer?
Sometimes it takes students a little longer to really ‘get’ what they need to do at university. So they can be working hard but haven’t (^yet^) figured out what critical analysis is. It’s really common in my experience, and nothing to worry about. A 2:2 at the end of first year is not a horrible result, and in no way means she can’t get much better results in the next two years.
She should probably speak to her personal tutor who can reassure her that she’s doing the right things, and that it will start to come together for her if she keeps working the way she has been.
Honestly, I’ve seen so many students struggle in first and even second year but something seems to click into place in their final year and their work really improves. The way degree classifications are calculated takes this tendency into account.
It’s great that she’s finally settled and happy at university. That will also help her to succeed in the next two years.
It's very strange that she's not doing as well as she hoped though. I know it's very different, but she got 2A*s at A Level, and a lower grade that barred her from the top top unis. Don't worry, I'm really trying to persuade her to keep going. She hasn't been unhappy for a lot of the year, she didn't have many friends to start with as she's quite shy. Combined with an accommodation situation, it's been tough. She is happier now as she's got one very good friend, and other friends.
Yes this year doesn't count, but she's worried she's getting a 2:2 in first year as it is supposed to be the "easiest year". I think she feels disheartened as she's on the same level or below the people who do no work, come unprepared to seminars and workshops. I think she thinks it hasn't been worth her time, and all her hard work hasn't paid off.
I just don't think she's your typical uni student, she feels like she wouldn't fit in anywhere. She's quite shy at first, which held her back, but she's such a lovely girl so it was horrible getting ready phone calls in those first few weeks. She's just not into the drinking games that dominate the social life in her halls unfortunately, and it has held her back socially. Surely every uni is like that with a big drinking culture? She met her friend though a society and they go out a lot and do things together, so at least she's happier in that sense.
The point is she is working hard and motivated. I suggest she sits tight and makes the most of any support/study skills help there is to improve her essay writing technique.
Molly this sounds counter-intuitive but she may be working too hard on coursework, at the cost of marks. She might well do better if she relaxed on the work front a little. I think this can particularly be true with English, probably less so with science subjects. If she could ease off on work - or overthinking the work - her marks might improve along with other things too, especially if the feedback on her oral work seems better than on her written. Of course it might not be the case with your DD but I've certainly seen it in others. Merely a suggestion!
Don't worry, I'm really encouraging her to try and stay on. I'm not a great help though, as i didn't go to university, I don't really know what marks are normal for first year English essays?! Does anyone? What's an acceptable range?
Has she had a word with her tutors to find out why she is putting on the effort but not getting as high a mark as she’d like?
First year marks don’t count for a reason, they expect you to find your feet and settle in. Now is the time to get it sorted. It would be a shame to leave without at least asking as it may be something she needs in any field she goes into.
I'm currently sitting a P/T business degree and just finished 2nd year. If I focused on the marks in first year and the quality of work I produced - I would have dropped out too! The quality of work you create gets drastically better in second year, using feedback from first year assignments plus additional skills and knowledge you gain.
If she is focused then she will have no problem!
Yes she goes to office hours and runs through essay plans and ideas...she's got a meeting with her supervisor this week so I'll encourage her to ask lots of questions then!
Re essay marks, I know of at least one uni that never gives a 1st for essays in the first year.
Really? Which uni is that out of interest? Is it Russell group?
Just to offer a different view. I would be very wary of continuing a degree past the first year unless she was really sure it was right for her. Student finance is only available to do one degree now with an allowance for one extra year if you have a ‘false start’. This means that if she sticks it out and in another year finds she doesn’t get the grades she hoped for and it wasn’t really quite the right degree subject for what she wants to do she has no option of getting funding to do a different degree.
Would she think of taking a year out to work and think about her options? Many degree programmes would allow for that without dropping out altogether.
2.2 level marks in the first year are totally normal. It is expected that you improve. And yes the work is harder in later years, but the students have learned more and know more too. The ones who are now skipping classes will find it more difficult next year and in final year as they won't have mastered the things studied in first year which underpin the later work whereas your DD will have covered all that. I think she has not found her space/people/niche there, and when she does, a lot of this will come together. Hopefully that's happening now with friends. Tell her to ask for a one-to-one with a tutor she clicks with to talk about what's needed to be at 2.1 level.
If she drops out now, too, she'll still have incurred a year's worth of debt for nothing.
I would tell her to relax- a 2.2 in first year is fine. Make use of all opportunities to get feedback on written work- ask what would have turned this essay into a 2.1. Is it lack of detail, too much irrelevant detail, not enough analysis etc? Some unis have Essay Writing classes offered through student support.
Tell her it really is early days. My DD is graduating this year from a four year degree - year one she was just scraping a 2-1 level overall. Three years later she is on track for a first. She was re reading some old essays in her room the other day and said she couldn’t believe how badly they read compared to what she writes now!
Yes, get her to write down questions.
Basically, “What can I do to improve my grade?” If her supervisor will go through previous essays with her, that would be great.
If it’s something to do with unoriginal ideas then that’s a harder place to start from than if it is something like sloppy research. She needs to know.
I had a friend at uni who got really atrocious marks in the first year despite working hard. He stuck at it and eventually got one of the highest Firsts in our year. So it's not a lost cause! But she needs to talk to her tutors and get them to give some concrete guidance on what she needs to do for higher marks.
goodbyestranger makes a good point about overthinking too. With humanities I think there's a step up between A levels and uni where you need to stop trying to squeeze in as much information as possible and proving you've done the reading, and start using essays as an opportunity to try out some new ideas to see if you can make them stick. Sometimes the good marks come from making a really odd argument but making it well.
(I'm sure this won't be advice you want to pass on to your daughter but I wrote some of my best essays after a few drinks and just tidied up a bit the next day.)