Wednesday, 13 February 2019

University isn't for everyone

I honestly think it's ridiculous that we expect 17/18 year olds to choose their degree subjects which can often have a big influence on the rest of their life. I also think there is far too much pressure on bright students to study at university and that it's almost expected that that's the only route to success.




University isn't for everyone

University isn't cheap and tuition fees alone can cost £9k+. I can't begin to get my head around putting yourself that much in debt at the beginning of your adult life.

Obviously, University does have its plus points and there are definite benefits to attending if its the right decision for you. Many of my friends who studied for a degree have very successful careers now and wouldn't be where they are today without their degree. However equally, I also have friends and acquaintances who are now in roles or jobs that don't utilise their degree at all. I also think it's perfectly possible to be very successful without a degree and it's not the only route to a good career and I hope that by the time my own children come to choosing their options for further education that other options are discussed too.

I've actually started (and dropped out of) two university degree courses in my life. The first was when I was 18 and fresh from sixth form. I moved to Dundee to study Genetics. I've always had a love of science and assumed this would be the career for me but I absolutely hated it. I loved the social side of uni and the independence (and drinking) but the course and being away from home when I wasn't ready for it just wasn't for me. I actually made myself really poorly and ended up losing weight and being covered in hives through the stress of it all. After Christmas in my first term, I decided to leave as I knew I couldn't cope with another 4 years of this.

Anyway, I ended up moving back home and bought a house with Steve instead. I started training as a Dental Nurse which I really enjoyed and passed my qualification with flying colours. I think a vocational course like this was definitely right for me at this time. I was starting a life with Steve and wanted to be earning ££ but also wanted to invest in my career too.

Fast forward 7 years and one child later and I was working as an Oral Health Educator. I'd get to see my own patients in my own clinic and loved my work but I was ready for more. My mam was a foster carer at that point and I was really interested in Social Work so decided to apply. To my surprise, I passed the entrance interview and exams and started at Northumbria Uni as a mature student.

Well I managed one year at University before accidentally falling pregnant with Heidi. Studying for an intense degree like Social Work with two children under 5 years old just wasn't really going to be an option. Part of the degree involved working weeks of night shift etc.... and it was impossible for me to work this around the kids and Steve's shifts so again, I dropped out after completing just one year.

Looking back, Social Work would definitely not have been the job for me. I now know that I'm not somebody who takes well to being managed, I am not a fan of following rules and regulations and seeing problems with a system and not being able to challenge or change them. I know in my heart of hearts, this would not have been the best career choice for me and that I would have ended up super frustrated but it's only now that I'm in my 30s that I've realised that. Maybe not everyone is like me but I really do think you need some life experience behind you and to try a few things before deciding if university and a set career is right for you.

Typing that I dropped out of university not once but twice sounds awful but I have no regrets. I am still paying off the student loans though so it was a bit of an expensive mistake. When it comes to a time when I'm advising my own children what to do once they leave school, I am probably going to actively encourage them to travel for a bit and see the world first. A gap year/working would be ideal and I think more students should consider this option. It sounds cliché but I think a couple of years between leaving school and starting university/beginning your career gives yourself a chance to learn about the person you are and what kind of career you'd like to pursue.

My children are being raised with a self-employed mam and a dad who has been employed by the same firm for 15+ years (without a degree) so I do hope that they have some awareness that University isn't the only route to leading a happy and successful life.


What do you think? What are your experiences with University education in the UK? 

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University isn't for everyone


6 comments

  1. I do wish that children were made more aware of all the other options that they have. I didn't do too great at my A Levels and still didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life and almost convinced myself that I should go to Uni because that's what everyone else was doing. But then luckily my very wise Mum pointed out that going to Uni when I had no idea what I wanted my career to be would be a bit of a waste of time. I'm so glad I listened to her, going to Uni for the sake of it would have been a bit silly!

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  2. i have two experiences of uni too. I started a surveying degree at Newcastle (after a gap year in America) and hated it, dropping out after one term! it was really hard & not swanning around houses like I imagined...more solving complex maths equations and standing in the freezing cold with a theodolite! My second stab at a degree was much more successful-I went to Northumbria to do Sociology & I loved the course it was just so interesting! I've been working at Northumbria pretty much since I graduated (nearly 14 years eeek!) and although my career definitely hasn't skyrocketed (I blame the kids & need for part-time/flexible hours) I do enjoy the work I do and think I get a fair wage! I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from applying if you pick the right course and I see how much students get out of their time here through volunteering, societies, friendships & living independently from home. It's not just about the job you get at the end of it for me!

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  3. It frustrates me that young people aren't given any other options and that if you don't want to go lots of people think you're not clever enough. I got into Newcastle university but my first divorce meant I had to leave. I'm also still paying my student debt off over 15 years later.

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  4. I couldn't wait to get out of the education environment. When we left school, most of my friends went to college or sixth form, but I skipped off with relief. I later returned to night school in my late 20's to do do A levels. But I've never known what I wanted to be, so I preferred to study for pleasure.
    My Dad went to university in his 40's to get a business degree so he could rise to a management position I his chosen career. Fortunately I never had any parental pressure about further education. The benefits of hippy parents

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  5. Ooh very interesting topic! I studied geography at Leeds 5 years ago and absolutely hated it until about year 3 when I found 'my group' who I'm still close with now. Looking back I probably should have studied at home. I do question the usefulness of my degree from time to time. I've just got into a role that doesn't require a degree, but there as aspects of it that are useful, the research and problem solving skills especially! And I wonder if I've gotten to it a little bit sooner than if I didn't have a degree. I also love that it gave me independence and a set of friends all over the country. But these aren't degree specific of course and I don't directly use my degree! I think it is pushed, when I was 18 there was no alternative explained to me, I was bright with good results so had to go to uni, when maybe a work based learning would have been better. Also I was the last cohort of the 3k fees so maybe that was a push too. I used to regret going to uni, but now I'm glad, for all of the life experience not necessarily the geography (although I got a trip to Austria out of it!) Xx

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  6. Very interesting post.
    I went to uni and achieved a BA and an MA. I was lucky, I knew exactly what I wanted to do since I was in primary school and I knew I wanted to go to uni (there were other courses I could have done to get into my dream career).
    Uni was, at times, really hard. There were days when I really struggled and just wanted to go home, especially when having issues with flatmates. I was lucky that my boyfriend (now husband) got a place at the same uni so we moved there together. If it wasn't for him and his support, I don't think I'd have made it through the four years.
    Yes, going to uni has alot of highlights but the lows can be pretty low xx

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