Education Quandary

My daughter is unhappy at university and wants to come home. Should she stick it out?
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The Independent Online

Why is she unhappy? Ask her more about why she dislikes her drama course and try to get a feeling for whether it really is the wrong course for her, or whether she is just suffering from unrealistic expectations and a wobble in confidence.

You say she also lacks friends, but maybe this is not so serious. It is, of course, miserable to feel you've left all your old friends behind and haven't found replacements, but a month isn't long to make new best buddies. Encourage her to be herself, keep on meeting new people, and be patient.

More students than you would imagine find starting at university difficult, and probably more so these days when the popular myth is that everyone has a brilliant time getting wasted during freshers' week. If you are shy, or homesick, or even - yes, it does happen - studious, these first few weeks can be wretched.

On the other hand, if she really has gone down the wrong road, now is the time for her to move. Encourage her to think hard about what she really wants. Then encourage her to think about whether she can switch courses where she is, or whether she needs to start again.

If she does, it isn't a disaster. She can come home, reapply, then find a job to tide her over until next autumn. It's not uncommon, and students who do this are often exceptionally committed to their second-choice path.

Readers' advice

My daughter has just left her university after two weeks. I left my course after three months, and my daughter's father left his university after a year. None of us dropped out completely - it was just the wrong choice. I went on to Cardiff University and gained a BA (Hons) degree.

The writer should trust her daughter to know her own mind. I knew after two weeks but stayed until the end of the Christmas term out of shame and fear of failure. They were the most miserable weeks of my life and sapped my confidence and self-esteem.

My daughter has now enrolled at the university in our home town and changed her course. She is far happier now and, while dismayed at history repeating itself, we gave her our full support in whatever choice she made.

We should trust our instincts - our heart often knows the truth of things long before our head can rationalise it.
Anne Robinson, Northampton

One of my university friends left his economics course at the end of his first term and took two years out before deciding to apply for a course in computer science.

He says it was the best thing he ever did. Not everyone knows what they want to do when they first leave school.
Giles Bolton, Manchester

Why not encourage her to stick it out at least until the end of term? That way you will be able to see if her problems fade or not. She may just be reacting to leaving home, but will find her feet as the term goes on.
Michele Vanden, Berkshire

Next week's quandary

We were planning to move our son from his boarding school to our local sixth-form college next year, in order to give him the best chance of a good university place, but now I'm told that public school children are getting more places at the top universities again. Should we still go ahead? He doesn't mind moving.

Send your letters to Hilary Wilce, to reach her by next Monday, at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or send e-mails to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser.

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