Thinking about interrupting your studies?

13 February 2018

Students take a break from their studies for a range of reasons. In this article, Sinead, UCL Wellbeing adviser answers some questions you may have if you are considering interrupting your studies.

Girl ina cafe looking out of the window deep in thought

You may have started UCL with a vision of how university life will be, a plan for how the next few years will go and particular expectations for yourself. Whilst we hope that your time at UCL will be enjoyable and fulfilling, we also realise that managing university life alongside challenging personal circumstances or health issues is not easy.  

Why do students interrupt their studies?

Students take a break from their studies for a range of reasons. Whether it is difficulties with your mental or physical health, personal issues or financial concerns, sometimes taking a break is the best way to allow yourself the time and space to focus on the matters affecting you away from the pressure of academic life. 

If you are struggling to engage with your studies and keep on top of your deadlines, or it feels as though it is too difficult to juggle academic work with other challenges you may be experiencing, interruption may something for you to consider.

In most cases, students interrupt for up to one year. However, this varies depending on individual circumstances and is something you will agree with your department.

I feel like I need a break but don’t know what to do

It can be difficult to decide whether taking a break from your studies is the right thing for you to do and we would encourage you to speak to your academic department about this to see what your options are. Either your Personal Tutor, Departmental Tutor or Supervisor is a good point of contact for this.

You can also come along to a Student Support and Wellbeing drop in to speak to one of our Advisers. Our advisers can give you an overview of the process, signpost you and discuss accessing support outside of UCL. It is worth remembering, however, that your interruption needs to be approved by your academic department so you will need to speak to them about your specific circumstances.

Is it just me?

It might feel like you are the only person interrupting your studies as all of your friends continue but many students take a break and you are certainly not the only one.  Taking a break isn’t the same as dropping out, nor is it something to be ashamed of.

Taking time away to focus on your health and wellbeing – and any other matters that may be affecting you – can have a positive impact for your academic life when you return. Taking a break allows you time to focus on your wellbeing to help you feel in a better headspace when you resume your studies.

We would encourage you to make the most of your time away by engaging with support and treatment, if needed, so you are better placed to reach your potential when you come back.

How can I access support while I am away from UCL?

During your interruption, you would seek local support outside of UCL. In the UK, your GP is the best starting point for this as they can make referrals to other services if needed. Many students will return home for their period of interruption or to a place that is safe and supportive. If you are an international student and therefore returning to your home country, you would need to think about how the support you need can be accessed locally.

In addition to accessing professional support, it is always important to remember self-care and self-compassion. If you have been having a difficult time, it is even more important to take the time to look after yourself. Find out how other UCL students are looking after their wellbeing in our self-care tips article.

Next steps

It is normal to have doubts about whether taking a break is the right thing for you and you may have a lot of questions about how it works. There are also a number of practicalities that you will need to think about. Take a look through our interruptions guidance for a general overview of the process and have a chat with your department.

Your studies are important, but your health and your wellbeing are even more important and sometimes being kind to yourself and allowing yourself a break is the best thing you can do for yourself. 

Sinead Dennehy, Wellbeing Adviser, Student Support and Wellbeing