Arguably the first ‘big decision’ that most young people ever have to make: should I go to university?
Back in 2014 I was faced with this decision and at the time it was so over-whelming. Family, friends, and teachers were all giving their opinions as to whether or not I should go, which only made it more difficult. I feel like a lot of young people apply to uni because of a mix of pressure, and also because they think it’ll buy them more time to figure out what they actually want to do.
However, there are so many aspects to consider when making this decision. This is why I’ve written this post to hopefully make the process a little easier for some of you.
For me personally, I realised that at the end of the day it had to be MY decision, and I had to do what I thought was right for ME. With that in mind, I got accepted into the University of Winchester, and the following September I made the move to begin life as a ‘student’.
Do I regret it? No.
If I could go back and change a few things, would I? ABSOLUTELY.
What do you want to get out of university?
For some people it’s just a given, and they’ve known all throughout school that they intend on going to university. However for some it’s not quite as simple. When the fees jumped from £3000 a year to £9000 a year, this caused people to seriously consider whether what they wanted from university made the £27k+ debt worth it.
I know that for me personally, it probably wasn’t; but then again, I can’t imagine myself thinking that any experience costing £27k+ would be completely worth it.
If you don’t want to live at uni, there’s the open university. Depending on how far away your chosen university is, you might also have the option to commute if you’re not too keen on leaving home just yet.
If your chosen course isn’t necessarily a must-have requirement for most jobs in that sector, will you get enough out of the experience on it’s own?
Obviously there’s so much more to university than just the course itself. The friendships you make there can sometimes last a life-time. There are life skills you learn there that you never even thought you needed, and things that certainly weren’t taught in school. (Cringe alert) You might even meet the love of your life there, who knows.
If you really don’t fancy the debt, you can always look into local colleges or online courses that offer similar qualifications, at a fraction of the price. This way you’ll still further your education; you can work at the same time if that’s something you’d be interested in; and if you’re doing an online course you can do it completely at your own pace as it’s usually quite flexible.
Remember, the choice has to be YOURS
There may be people in your life who are laying on the pressure and trying to convince you that university is the only good option. But this is so not true. You could go straight into work or get an apprenticeship to build knowledge and skills; do a foundation degree; get some valuable work experience; take a gap year; or even start your own business! There’s no such thing as the ‘right way’ when it comes to your own life; especially when you’re being expected to make sure a huge decision at 17/18-years-old.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a gap year either. The worst thing you could probably do would be to put all this pressure on yourself and rush into a decision.
Which University Course?
If you still don’t know whether uni is the right choice for you, think about the course you would study. Sometimes industries specifically look for a degree on the CV, such as Medicine, Teaching, and Engineering; but a lot of the time it’s not an essential requirement.
If you’re really torn, then why don’t you try getting a job in the industry for a year and see how you like it. Obviously this may mean taking on a lower-level and lower-paying job. However it does mean that you’d get first-hand experience in that line of work, and then you can decide if you want to study it at university.
Please also remember that if you decide not to go to university at 18-years-old, this definitely does not mean you’ve missed your chance. I met loads of people at university who had taken a year/several years break between studies. It’s just whatever works best for each individual, and you can always decide to go to university at a later date if now is not the right time for you.
There are 1000s of university courses out there, and there are some very lucky people out there who know exactly which course they want to do. If you’re not one of these fortunate people, then try listing your interests or using Prospects.com to research different job roles. Not only will it give you a better idea of what you’d expect from the different jobs, but also what the requirements are.
I’ll link the Prospects website for you here: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/browse-sector
My Personal Crisis
This really had me stumped for a while. At the time I felt like I was going through such a crisis, because since I was about 13 I’d wanted to be a Primary School Teacher. However, when it came to writing the first line of my peronal statement, I had no idea what to say. I couldn’t for the life of me put into words why I actually wanted to do the job. I was so gutted.
This is when I realised that it obviously wasn’t the right path for me. I knew I wanted to work with children, so I decided to do Childhood and Youth Studies instead. I figured this way I could always pursue Primary Ed at a later date if I changed my mind.
Big or small? Remote or city? Campus or off-campus? There are so many things to think about, which is why I can’t recommend open days enough!
Open days give you the perfect chance to explore the campus and see if you get a feel for it. I remember having a particular university in mind because I loved the prospectus and the look of the course itself; but when my Dad took me to see it we actually really didn’t like it! It wasn’t particularly well-presented, and they’d spent loads of money doing a new (and expensive!) accommodation. But this meant that they had left the other accommodation options completely neglected. We went to view one and my Dad asked ‘where do they eat?’, and the tour guide just said ‘oh they usually just sit on the floor in the hallway’. So that was interesting ?.
On the other hand, when I visited Winchester I instantly fell in love with it. I could definitely see myself studying there and living there for the next 3 years. I knew I wanted a campus uni so it ticked that box, and it wasn’t too big which I also liked. Overall I was very pleased with my decision to study there, and I had a lovely 3 years.
If you take anything from this post, let it be this: despite what people may tell you, university does NOT have to be done straight away. Nor is it something that is going to be the ‘best choice’ for every individual out there.
Have you been to university or are looking into going? I’d love to hear your personal experiences with the decision-process, and what you would change if you could!
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