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Finding the study path that’s right for you

Fourth year student Natalie Hotchkiss talks about taking time out and changing degrees midway through her undergraduate programme.

Not all paths through a four-year undergraduate degree are straightforward, and we’re here to help you navigate what’s right for you.

Photo of Natalie Hotchkiss
Natalie on her year abroad in Beijing

Natalie Hotchkiss, a final year student of Chinese, originally came to Edinburgh to study Chinese and Spanish MA joint honours, but found her pre-honours years stressful and anxious.

The crunch point came when she found she’d missed the Spanish honours threshold (the mark she needed to progress into her final two years) by 1%, something which she says made her feel “well and truly burnt out, deflated, and more than anything, a failure. My mental health hit an all-time low.”

“After deliberating with family, friends and the University, I decided to take a year out. I took it as an opportunity to reflect on my time in higher education so far, and help to prepare for the remaining years.”

“I didn’t take the year for granted, and ensured I made the most of it. I worked in China, studied in Spain and travelled to Cuba. Following my deferral I went straight into my year abroad in Beijing. Through these practical life experiences I gained away from Edinburgh, I felt more motivated and prepared than ever before to continue with my degree. This was a stark contrast to where I was mentally two years prior.”

Straying from the 'traditional' path and finding your feet

When considering the prospect of changing degrees, Natalie says she criticised herself for “straying from the 'traditional' university path that so many had followed before.”

“However, in my own experience - as well as speaking to others who had been through the same - the standard path isn’t always the best. I know for a fact that if I hadn’t made a change, I may not have made it to my final year.”

“Taking a year out and switching degrees has remained to be one of the best decisions for me. The support I received from the University, in particular from my Personal Tutor and Student Support, was critical in guiding and helping me make a decision through this difficult and stressful time.”

“My one regret, if any, would be that I wish I had reached out for support sooner. Take advantage of the resources available if you are unsure if the current path you are on is right for you. The University is there to help in these circumstances, to ensure the path to your degree is the best one for you!”

The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures' Student Support Officers are here all year round to offer support and guidance, and are the first point of contact if you’d like to discuss changing degrees.

Find out more about our Student Support Officers