Student Ambassador Andrew Mcilvaney

Student ambassador, Andrew Mcilvaney, shares his experience of changing course at the University of Portsmouth

  • 02 December 2021
  • 5 min read

My name is Andrew and I switched my course to Sociology and Criminology here at the University of Portsmouth.

Deciding which course to study at university can be challenging. You might be thinking of studying something you took at A-level or you might fancy a subject area you’ve never studied before.

If you’re asking yourself if you’ve made the right choice and you’re considering switching your course but feeling apprehensive, I hope to offer you some advice based on my own experience. 

Knowing when you’ve made the wrong choice for you

When I first moved to the University of Portsmouth, I enrolled on a course I had taken at A-level. Alongside already having a sound understanding of the subject area, I was also only thinking about how I would use my degree after I graduate rather than the process of studying and enjoying the three years it would take me to complete.

I think this is where I made my first error, choosing career prospects over happiness. Shortly after I started, I knew I had made the wrong decision. I wasn’t making any friends on the course, I wasn't engaging with the lectures and completing assignments felt like a chore.

I decided to stay on the same course for a year, but by the end, my mental health had deteriorated and dreaded the thought of coming back to university after the summer. Looking back, these were all warning signs I was ignoring, because I couldn't comprehend the idea of starting all over again.

Not looking back

After a year of being a student at Portsmouth, I switched my course and started again in first year. I had spoken to my personal tutor on my previous course about other course options, and staff from the sociology department regarding course details. I also checked what the average time table and assessments on the course looked like.

It felt daunting, knowing that I would be a year behind my housemates. I'd have to meet a whole new set of people and above all else, enjoying this new course was not guaranteed.

Two years later I can honestly say I have not looked back since. I started engaging with the content because I was interested in what I was being taught. I have made the most amazing friends because they share the same enthusiasm as I do.

Completing assignments no longer feels like a chore. It has given me new career options I never knew existed, that suit me. I started volunteering at a charity because of the area of research I am interested in the most. My whole life has changed because I recognised I was on the wrong path.

Student Ambassador Andrew Mcilvaney

Two years later I can honestly say I have not looked back since. I started engaging with the content because I was interested in what I was being taught.

Andrew Mcilvaney, BSc (Hons) Sociology with Criminology student

Have the courage to start again

If I had one piece of advice for you, if you’re finding yourself in the same situation as I was once in, it would be this. Don’t panic, you have options. Think about why you came to university in the first place. If you’re like me, the answer would be because you wanted to study a subject you are passionate about.

It is scary when you decide to start over again, it may cause you anxiety and apprehension making a decision as big as this one. Make sure to reach out for support from the university, talk to your personal tutor about how you’re getting on with your course.

If it’s affecting your mental health, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to speak to the student wellbeing service, they are there for you. But most importantly, don’t take this as a defeat, because it is never too late to do what makes you happy.


Andrew Mcilvaney is studying BSc (Hons) Sociology with Criminology at the University of Portsmouth.