Swallowing My Shame: Why I Dropped Out Of My Dream Uni

“But I’m sure she has a degree?…” Ah, yes, I know what you’re thinking. Yes I do have a degree, but it took me four years to complete my BA English Literature degree, not three. That’s because I dropped out of my dream university, one month away from my finishing my first year, feeling hopeless and desperately unhappy. Now, as I continue to grow my own business, build my career and start to understand what really makes me happy, the only thing I regret is not dropping out sooner. I’ve been racking my brains all day trying to think of the right content to accompany this BOSS outfit, and all of a sudden, I had my light bulb moment; it should be that giving up is sometimes just what you need to get started.

Throughout primary school, high school and sixth form, I was the clever one. I was the one that was destined to ace her exams, go to the best university, get a great job as a writer and earn bookoo bucks. Parent’s evening was a dream for me – it was a musical chairs of “gifted” and “talented”, with the worst criticism being that whenever my best friend was in the room, I talked too much (and who doesn’t get that?). What I wanted to be when I “grew up” changed periodically, from vet to prime minister to lawyer to author, most of which I ended up ditching because I was pants at science and I didn’t have the patience for law. Career goals aside, one thing was a dead cert – I was going to go to uni, and I was going to love it.

Fast forward to the hopeful age of 17, and I was travelling across the country attending university open days, snooping around halls of residence and mentally signing myself up for society list as long as my arm. No matter where I went, however, I always knew I wanted to go to Bristol. Someone had once referred to UoB as a university of Oxbridge rejects. Realistically, I was never going to make it into Cambridge or Oxford, so this was the next best thing. I wanted to go to a uni that, when I told people where I was attending, they’d reply with raised eyebrows and a “oh wow, that’s a really great uni.” The boff inside me desperately wanted to show off, because this was it, this was what I had always been destined to do. I was following my predestined path to success.

Jacket – H&M
Trousers – Missguided*
Sunglasses – Miu Miu 10NS Noir Sunglasses*
Bag – Mango
Shoes – Zara (Ego similar

When I got into Bristol, I cried. I was relieved. The fear of not living up to my expectations had become increasingly heavy, and so when I saw that beautiful ‘accepted’ response glaring back at me from the UCAS screen, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Cue a summer of reckless abandon up until my mum drove me down to my hideously expensive, but typically student room in my new halls of residence. I bought a tonne of noodles and multi-coloured pens because I really wanted to live up to the student stereotype – I felt like this was my moment, and I was about to embark on the best three years of my life, make the best friends and have a thousand raucous memories to boot.

Except that didn’t happen. Granted, I ate a lot of noodles, but I ate a lot of noodles from the safety of my room when I got to the point of not wanting to go outside anymore. The people in my flat were lovely, but I didn’t fit in. They were quiet, from well-off backgrounds – the girl in the room next to me had never been on a night out in her life. Over the next few weeks I found a group of girls I got on with – one of whom is called Giselle and I’m still Facebook friends with her now and I still think she’s bloody lovely – but a couple of months in, I felt as far away from home as possible. I didn’t enjoy university – in fact I hated it. I hadn’t found my people, I wasn’t engaging with the work and slowly, even leaving my room became a chore. I wanted to escape into my own little world away from responsibility and commitment, but the more I hid away, the more pressing the outside world became and the more my tutors and uni friends were getting pissed off.

Hating uni as much as I did, I spent nearly all of my time away. I’d spend five hours on the train travelling up to Sheffield to see my ex-boyfriend, or call my friend Camilla who was studying in Winchester to say “hey, I’m coming to stay”. I spent all of my time at other universities because I so desperately wanted to escape mine, and I craved the atmosphere and friendship my boyfriend and friends had at theirs. I even considered moving to be with Camilla at one point – I remember discussing it with her over her kitchen table, glass of wine in hand and student dinner devoured. I emailed every admissions department I could to see if I could transfer without disruption, but all came back saying the same thing – “you’ll have to start from square one.”

One day, as my train pulled out of the station from my home town of Ipswich and I reluctantly began the long journey back to Bristol, I began to cry. I cried the whole way to London, where I was due to get my transfer, and then I stopped. I couldn’t get on that train. I did not want to get on that train. I called Jade, sobbing, confessing that I hated it and I didn’t want to go back. “Well, don’t. Come home.” – her plain and simple words of advice. I got the train straight back home, and decided I was going to quit.

I was terrified of other’s disappointment. I was terrified that in ten years time, I’d look back and regret throwing away the best opportunity of my life. I was a working class kid from a council house – was I really going to give up a place at a prestigious uni, just because I didn’t fit in? Was my mum going to feel let down that I hadn’t lived up to other’s expectations? Would she be embarrassed when she had to tell people that I’d dropped out? How was I going to explain what had happened when people inevitably asked how my first year was going? Anxiety held a vice-like grip over me, and it took me at least another month to send the official email confirming my withdrawal, but when I did, good lord was I relieved.

I felt like a pair of fireside bellows, fit to burst for so long and finally someone had let my air out. I no longer feared my phone, I no longer wanted to hide myself away in a room, I no longer slept all the time and cried all the time and felt like there was no way out. When I finally told my Mum I had dropped out, she congratulated me. She told me that all she had ever wanted was for me to be happy. The truth is I was battling my own shame all along. My self-worth was so intrinsically tied to my academic accolades that when this failed, I didn’t know who I was. If I’m not the clever one, then who am I? The funny thing is, despite never turning up for seminars and quite often being 200 miles north in a completely different city, I routinely ranked high 2:1s on my essays. It wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough, I just wasn’t happy.

 Quitting Bristol was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The old cliche is true – when one door closes, another door opens, and later that year I started again at UEA in Norwich, and left three years later with an English Degree in hand and a job under my belt. I’d started my blog, made one of my best friends ever, lost a boyfriend, gained a boyfriend, made a million banana breads and discovered indie nights. For me, what came out of this personal experience is that sometimes you are your own worst enemy. I had to swallow my shame and bite the bullet, giving up something I felt I was the only way before I could find a different, better way.

Sometimes the path we predetermine for ourselves is not the path we walk. But sometimes the backroads are better anyway.

  • What a lovely post – I say that in a bittersweet way. You've explained your story in such an understanding way that I somehow relate to, as I am now in my final year of university. I'm very happy to hear that you found your happiness with university and studying!

    Much love,
    Fatima x http://www.fatimawrites.co.uk

  • I love this so much. Your content has been so awesome lately Chloe!!!

    I had a similar situation when it came to giving up acting. I'd been the show girl for over 10 years and it was all I'd ever thought of doing, so when it came to quitting, it was really hard for me to adjust my personality and figure out what ELSE I was. Well done you for being brave enough to realise what wasn't working, and having the ladyballs to do something about it 🙂

    Little Miss Katy

  • Chloe, I can so relate to this.. I completely get the part where you love going to school and being always praised, with people expecting you to achieve more and more and more. But then you find out that what you're doing is either not for you, or that you've put your expectations, hopes and dreams on something that ultimately, doesn't make you happy.
    For me, I picked engineering which was 'natural' as I was always good with maths and science. And although I quite like studying it, I hate working it.. like really, doing my internship involved crying every morning, as I couldn't get out of the house.
    I am proud of you for quitting – sometimes, it's the best way to start clear and do something that doesn't make you hate your life. For you, it was switching the uni. For me, it was starting a fashion blog.
    Keep up with the good work!

    P.S. If you want to read my post on the topic, here it is: http://www.thestylehustle.com/overachiever/

  • Wow, this was a really great post! Sometimes I wonder if those people telling you that the most important thing in life is to be happy with what you do, know how hard it can be to quit something, or to drop out of university. I think you were really brave for doing it and I can relate to how hard this must have been!
    At school I was always really worried having to tell my mum that I didn't do as well as I thought (and even now at uni I still feel that way) but one time when I was cuddled up to her on the couch, crying because I was such a disappointment for her she told me that the only thing upsetting her was how disappointed I was with myself.
    Only recently I quit a part time job because it was making me so unhappy, nearly depressed, and people were telling me to quit because I was so unhappy. But I didn't dare for weeks because I thought I'd need the extra money and who knows when I will get the next job and it had only been a few months. But sending off my quitting letter was such a relief and I felt so happy again.
    Your post is such a great reminder that you do need to go down the path that will make you happy and I am extremely glad you shared this with all of us! 🙂
    Lots of Love,

    Jenny Side Up

  • All the feels for this, thank you so much for writing this and can relate to it so much as I feel like I'm the only one who doesn't think uni is the best thing ever. The key to life is happiness and just have to live it the way you want ☺️✨ Did your blog just get big or do you have another job on the side? Thank you xxx

  • can so totally relate to this… I often wonder why I didn't drop out of uni. I did well and made a friend for life but other than that it made me so miserable and I left not even want a job relating to my degree. I'm so glad everything has worked out for you now though, I'm hoping it will for me now…!

    Laura | roseandweston.blogspot.co.uk

  • You look so chic ! Love the sunglasses !


  • I've very nearly dropped out of uni a few times. However I knew I had to stick at it because I would have been too scared to admit to anyone that I was a dropout. Personally, I think uni is done best when you're in the right mind frame. I love how you've spoken about all this, I really admire it. Everything you're doing at the minute is amazing, you're doing so well and really contributing to the blogging world as your content requires so much thought, it's really refreshing.

    You also look chic as hell in those photos!

    Abbie x


  • I think its true when we get so stuck on something a certain way we forget that we might have a better way to reach it love this xo!

  • Such a great post Chlo, but thinking of you crying on the train makes me want to come and give you a big squeezey hug! I felt totally the same about college, it just made me unhappy. We've got to make tough decisions sometimes, but they always end up being for the best! Xxx

  • Wonderful post, so refreshing too! I feel like we all have really high expectations for uni, the 'best years of your life', where you will make tons of new friends and they will be your closest friends for the rest of your life… But it isn't necessarily the case for everyone. I didn't hate my uni experience but I certainly didn't feel like it was the best time of my life. It's difficult when you have to accept harsh facts and make tough decisions, but it pays off in the long run – thank you for sharing! Love the outfit too x

    Summer, http://www.thetwinswardrobe.com

  • I can relate to this, I had my share of uni quitting (it happened twice on two master first years, first time because I was terrible in maths, it ruined it all, and second time because I didn't fit at all, it was a departure from my previous years where I got along so well with my class mates and since I already had a degree, I just stopped going), anyway, today I'm in the middle of a career switch, it's long and boring to be unemployed right now but I finally found a job I want to do and that seem right for me, and that's already a win, I wouldn't have discover it if I stayed at uni. Same as you, I thought it could be a bad decision I'll regret for the rest of my life when I took it but now I'm glad I did even if it came with a wasting time cost.



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