This time of year is the time of year where you're getting nagged by your teachers to get your UCAS university application sent off.However, how are you supposed to make the decision on which universities to apply for if you don't even know if you really want to apply?
At the start of my Year 13, I was so sure that I was going to go to university and as far as I was concerned, I had it all planned out - I was going to go to Bishop's Grosseteste University in Lincoln to study primary school education and become a teacher. Looking back now, I’m not sure I ever really wanted the decisions I’d made. I decided I ‘wanted’ to go to Bishop’s Grosseteste because someone I knew also wanted to be a teacher and she was going there so I figured that was what I ought to do too, because why not? As for actually wanting to be a primary school teacher, I’m sure there was a part of me that wanted to do that. I loved and still love kids, I was good with kids and I knew it would be rewarding - or was that just because everyone had said how good I was with kids and every movie about every teacher ever always says how rewarding teaching is? Between entering sixth form and actually sending my application off, I changed my mind on which university I wanted to go to, which subject I wanted to do and even whether or not I wanted to go to university. I applied for Photography instead; at York, Nottingham, Lincoln and UCA. I am unbelievably proud to say I got offers from them all, even an unconditional from York which blew me away. I could hardly believe it! I accepted the offer from York St. John because it just felt so perfect for me. It was a small campus but a short walk from the city centre and all the students I had encountered seemed so happy and nice. When I really deeply started thinking about it, I wasn't sure if I really wanted to go to university anymore, due to all these circling neverending questions and doubts I had.. Was I ready? Was the course right? Would I be happy?
I made the decision to defer my entry by a year, so rather than starting in 2018, I would instead start in 2019 - except now I've realised I don't want to go to university. When I was considering university, the open day student who took me on a tour at York gave me the best advice anyone could have given me. She said ‘if you aren’t sure that you want to come to university, don’t come.’ The truth was I wasn’t sure. At all. I didn’t want to spend thousands of pounds on something I didn’t want. I was so lucky to have such a supportive family who trusted me to do what was right for me and my happiness so that was the easy part. When I took the first step to emailing York and telling them I wanted to defer, I was absolutely fine. The true ramifications of deferring my university application didn’t set in until I started looking for a job to tide me over for a year. After failure after failure, rejection after rejection, I started thinking ‘what the hell have I done? Have I just made the most stupid decision of my life?’ I now know that deferring my offer was the best decision I've ever made.
If you're one of those people who is currently unsure about whether university is really what they want, I will try my best to help you out by giving you some of the benefits of going to university as well as some of the downsides and then maybe you will be a bit clearer on what is right for you.
You will get a degree - this is the obvious advantage of the university. By the time you leave, you will have a qualification. This qualification can help you jump straight into a career of your choice and can open up your options, prospects and widen your horizons. Even if the qualification doesn't necessarily reflect your job of choice, it gives you more choices as any degree at all is highly sought after by employers, and they are likely to favour you if that degree is proudly sitting on your CV.
You will meet lots of new people and gain new friends - going to university means that you will be surrounded by loads of new people who you've never met before. You all come from different backgrounds with different interests, but these people can become amazing friends.These friends could end up being lifelong friends and stay with you for as long as you live, reminding you of what fun you had at university with them and also giving them the ability to support you in the future, having known you in the past.
You get the opportunity to be more independent - by going to university, it is the chance for most people to experience their first shot at independence. Their first time living by themselves, their first time budgeting, their first time having to motivate themselves to work… all of which are things that are new when you turn up at the university. University allows you to learn how to do all these things by experiencing it first hand. You are forced to be independent, but you still have a support system if you need it. You have lecturers and the finance department and student services and your family back home to support you if you're struggling so you're not totally out on your own. You get that independence and freedom without being thrown in the deep end - it’s like the perfect little stepping stone.
You end up in thousands of pounds of debt - let's get the elephant in the room out of the way. By going to university, you are paying £9,250, which you don't have, to learn more about your craft. Sure, you can get a student loan, but you are going to end up in debt - a lot of debt. Not taking living costs into account, university costs at least £37,000 for a standard four-year degree course. That's not counting how much it will cost you to pay for accommodation and all the other things you need. You will end up buried in debt, plus it will decrease your future salary as you have to pay that loan back from the money you earn in a career. Although you don't have to start paying your loan back until you're earning £21,000 and it's written off after 30 years of non-payment, it's still a costly burden to carry.
You are not guaranteed to get a job - although having a degree will help your job prospects, there are no guarantees. They will only help your prospects if the job is there. If you have taken a degree with poor job prospects and the job or career you want doesn't have an opening then your degree cannot create a vacancy for you to fill. If the job isn't there, you're in the same position as every other unemployed candidate. It could be seen as four years of hard work and burdening amounts of debt for nothing. This is why it is important to think about what degree you're doing and what that means for you after graduating.
You have a lack of real world experience - although university gives you plenty of real world experience in terms of budgeting and living alone etc. it doesn't necessarily give you real world experience in the way of careers and jobs. At university, you are in a lecture theatre learning about how you'd do this and how you'd do that without actually doing this and that in a real life career situation. Even if you have a placement year, that is better than nothing, you still have a backlog of support at university that you won't have when you're out there in a job. You will not know what a real job is like until you get a real job outside of university and sometimes, first hand experience is more valuable than knowledge.
There are plenty more advantages and disadvantages to consider than the ones I've listed here and you of course will need to consider them, but hopefully this will help you start to make a decision.
One of the main things to remember is you aren't weird if you don't want to go to university. There is no law that says you have to go to university and you can still be amazingly successful and have a wonderful job that you love without it. A lot of people I know don't have degrees but are crazy successful. You have to do what's right for you and if going to university isn't right then that's your decision and don't let anyone try to change your mind and force you into doing something you're unhappy in.
You do what you need to do to be happy.
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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.