Returning to University after medical withdrawal

Returning to university after a year of medical withdrawal is exciting but can also be a little daunting. Emily shares her experience and tips to dive back into the next academic year after a deferment.

By Emily Alger

I had a year of medical deferment between my second and third year of university. Getting back into my studies after a year out was certainly a little daunting for me, I felt a little out of practice with university and it took some getting used to again. I want to share my own experiences and the tips I’d recommend to anyone finding themselves in the same position as I was in last year.

Don’t assume everyone knows about your withdrawal

The reason I deferred was because I was particularly poorly. When I came back to university I had expected people like my personal tutor to know about my situation, but this wasn’t the case. Looking back, I understand that my reasons for temporary withdrawal were not shared on data protection grounds. However, because I had gone through a lot during my year out, I had assumed other people must have known as well. You cannot assume that anyone in your department or university will know that you temporarily withdrew, so if you’d like them to know then you have to tell them!

Three people standing up holding cups of tea and chatting.
Keep talking with the people around you to settled back in to university life. Image: University of Warwick.

When I told my personal tutor about my year out it felt serious. I didn’t want to feel like I was putting a ‘downer’ on a meeting but looking back it was really important that I shared my experiences. It means that now I have people who know my full story and I can go to them if I need help. It helped me feel well supported by my department.

You cannot assume that anyone in your department or university will know that you temporarily withdrew

Action the support you need

When I returned to university in third year, I had no reasonable adjustments or support in place for me. I knew Warwick offered support for students with disabilities or mitigating circumstances. Treatment in the previous year had affected some of my cognitive abilities so I knew I wanted to see if this support was applicable to me. I arranged a meeting with disability services after discussing my situation with my department. In the meeting we discussed my situation and the support which could be put in place. From then on, applying for mitigating circumstances and reasonable adjustments for exams didn’t seem so hard anymore and the process went through easily.

Senate House at dusk. There is a light dusting of snow on the ground and the sky is pink. There is a tree and a lamppost in the foreground.
Warwick’s disability services are part of Wellbeing Support Services and are located at Senate House on central campus. Image: University of Warwick.

The hardest part of this experience was working out what I needed to do to access the support I thought I deserved. Like I mentioned earlier, you need to alert people to let them know you need help. The university can certainly implement relevant support for you but first you need to let them know you need it. I’d encourage you to talk to your personal tutor, department or disability services if you think reasonable adjustments could apply to you too.

Don’t look back, look forward

Coming back from a year out can be nerve-wracking, you may drop down a year and know fewer people on your course. I think the social side of university is one of the most important and memorable parts of student life. I would encourage you to jump into societies as soon as you can when you return. Having people to socialise with or just talk about how you’re feeling is always important and can help you feel a part of the Warwick community again as soon as possible.

“The hardest part of this experience was working out what I needed to do to access the support I thought I deserved”

University piazza with lots of people sitting and walking around. It is a sunny day.
Student societies are often the heart of Warwick life. Image: University of Warwick.

It is also a big jump to get back into your studies, I was worried I couldn’t academically perform as well as I did before I became unwell. To be honest with you, I don’t think I did perform as well. That’s a thought which would have horrified me at the start of third year but it’s something I am content with right now. Returning to university after medical deferment is a big thing, returning and integrating within my department and societies I loved so much after a year out was a huge step for me and deserves celebration in its own right. It is easy to compare yourself now to yourself before a year out. However, your time at university is a journey and not two short stories to compare. Look at how far you have come and don’t be too hard on yourself, if you do your best you can’t ask for more. I’m sure as you rebuild your confidence and get used to university again you’ll surprise yourself with how well you can do!

If you’d like more information on some of the advice Emily has given, why not take a look at our blog how can hobbies enhance student life or our top tips for studying happy and staying mindful.

Have you ever had a period of temporary withdrawal? Do you have any other advice for students who might be in the same position? Why not leave a comment below, send us a tweet @warwicklibrary or a message on Instagram @warwicklibrary or by emailing us at Don’t forget to like and share this post.

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