According to Universities UK, a record of 1.77 million students went to university to achieve an undergraduate degree in 2017-18. I’m going to put this out there right now - I was not one of those 1.77 million people to go to university. All my friends went to their respective universities and I didn’t. Why not, you ask. Didn’t I get an offer? Was I having financial issues? Did something traumatic happen that meant I couldn’t go? The answer to those questions is no, no and no. I did get a place, an unconditional offer in fact, at York St. John. Yes, the university is expensive but I had savings and student loans. Finally, my home life was pretty great. I had my parents’ full support to go off to uni and fulfil my dreams. So why didn’t I go? Simple - I didn’t want to.
I thought I wanted to for a very long time. My whole life actually, I was sure I wanted to go to university to study and get a degree and then get a job. It was only when it came to applying that I thought ‘hang on, do I want to do this?’ and it quickly became apparent that no I did not. I still applied and got offers to four different universities but I truly was not sure that this was what I wanted at all anymore. I didn’t decide not to go until the end of January 2018 and at that point, I had no idea what to do instead. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just knew what I didn’t want to do. So I deferred it for a year and off I went to figure out what on earth to do next.
So life was all hunky-dory after that. I found an apprenticeship and am as happy as Larry doing what I’m doing now. I’ve officially cancelled my application so I am not going to university this year or next year, or maybe ever. But how do you decide that you don’t want to go to university? What do you need to think about? Well, here are a few things to consider.
Do I actually want this - am I sure?
I know it’s a big question, and I know that it pretty much sums up the entire article. But it’s a serious question, and when you break it down, you always know the answer in your heart, even if you don’t realise it at the time. I went to an open day for York St. John and I got the best piece of advice I’ve ever received when it comes to making decisions and going to university especially. That advice was ‘if you aren’t sure, don’t.’ I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t. So all I’m asking you is are you sure? Because if you aren’t sure, should you?
What do you want to do?
When going to university, I think it's important to think about what you want to do with your degree. Do you want to be a photographer, or a teacher, or a lawyer? Do you need this degree, will it help you? For example, one of my reasons for not going to university was because the syllabus didn't appeal to me in terms of actually training me to be a freelance photographer, but felt more like it was training me to be a curator of photography. So think about your future, what you'd like to do, and consider whether your degree would be helpful and necessary for your dream.
Have you considered other options?
Some people think that university is the only way to get into their chosen career. If you want to be a lawyer, you need a law degree, if you want to be a teacher, then you need an education degree. But you don't always. There are often lots of different ways to get into your chosen career, even if you want to be a lawyer or a teacher. There are things such as apprenticeships or internships to get you into your area or you can start in a low-level job in a company you'd be interested in working for and work your way up the corporate ladder. So have you considered how else you could get to where you want to be?
Of course, there are a plethora of things to think about but those three are things that I thought about that helped me to make my final decision.
But don't forget to talk to people. Lecturers, current students, your friends and family - let them know what you're thinking and let them help you.
Whatever you decide, make sure the decision is yours and no one else's. You have to do what is right for you.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.