Deciding whether or not to go to university, can be one of the biggest decisions you ever make. With university fees increasing (in the UK), it's more important than ever to know beforehand whether going will be worth it.
I am a person who on the surface, looked like a great university candidate – I was an academic, hard-working kid who liked Maths. However, my time at university was quite disastrous and – despite getting a good degree in a good subject – it set me back very far. Maybe I wouldn't have gone on to accomplish all that I have done or be the young man I am today without the hardship, it's hard to tell. Nevertheless, I have very mixed feelings about whether my university experience was ultimately a liability or an asset.
It is my wish that young students going to university not only feel that they are making the right choice but also that they are proved absolutely correct throughout the rest of their lives with no regrets.
I believe that if you do decide to go to university, you should only go for one of three reasons. But before I say what they are, I'll start with the five things to remember when deciding. I hope this is helpful!
THE FIVE IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER
(1) Going to University is YOUR choice!
University will be a big part of YOUR life, so it is YOUR choice. It doesn't matter what your parents or friends think, it doesn't matter what society thinks, it doesn't matter what anyone except you thinks about going to university. You know yourself and what's right for you better than anyone. University has to be something that you want to do; don't just go because your brother went or because it's the "done thing" or because you're going with the motions.
Remember as well, that with parents and older family members, university for them was very different from how it is now. For example, people used to get head-hunted straight out of university after acquiring degrees... that kind of thing does not really happen so much anymore. These peoples' opinions may be very outdated ones.
It's okay to listen to advice and hear others out but don't let anybody else heavily influence your decision or make it for you.
(2) Enjoy your subject...
... because you're going to be doing a LOT of it for several years. Your subject and studying it is the whole reason you go to university. If you have doubts on day one, you're probably going to be a wreck by year three. Most people I know, towards the end of their course, have kind of had enough of their subject and are glad that they'll be seeing less of it – even if they went in at the beginning loving it. A subject you enjoy will motivate you. People don't work hard for things they don't care about.
I understand that for some subjects, it will be your first time studying it, so you may not know whether you love it or not because you've never done it. The point is however, that if you're not passionate about, not excited for or lack a keen interest in your chosen subject, don't bother.
(3) Don't think that merely having a degree will get you a (good) job
Once upon a time, a degree was a prestigious qualification that could have you set for life. Now, not so much. Maybe an "Oxbridge" degree is like that but in general, probably not. A degree can be a good stepping stone to beginning a career via a graduate-scheme but a degree in and of itself, is not really a job qualification anymore. Sadly, as the price of a degree has gone up, its value has gone down.
If you look at any job recruitment site, you will quickly learn that most jobs look for experience rather than degrees. Some occupations require degrees and that's great but others really do just want experience. So only get qualifications if you actually need them.
(4) A "Dream Career" makes your university decision easier
Regardless of what age you are, if you don't know what you want to do in life, that's cool. Honestly, it's not a problem, so many people don't know. Knowing what's out there and what's for you is tough and to expect people to plan their lives about things they've never done when the future is constantly changing is ridiculous.
But if you do have something that you're passionate about and that you want to do with your life, then that's really wonderful. It also gives you an advantage when deciding on whether to go to university or not. If your dream career requires a particular degree, then you know that you have to go to university and get that degree. If your hopeful, future career path doesn't really ask for much in the way of qualifications, then it's better to just jump on the leader and start climbing it as soon as possible.
(5) You can get life experience in other ways
Some people like to go to university "for the experience". Yes, university can help you to grow up, it can teach you to work hard and it can be a nice, transitional phase between the teenage world and the adult one. It can also be good to help you grow socially too. But lots of these things that university can help you with... can be gotten from somewhere else as well.
A job or volunteer work can teach you about hard work and responsibility and looks good on a CV. Travelling can teach you to be independent and to trust yourself. Take any of these paths and there will be social challenges to overcome. University isn't the only way to grow up, in fact for a number of people, with all the drinking and partying, they just horse around more than when they were kids. Some people don't work hard before they go to university and by the end of it, still never take the work seriously, primarily because they don't care about it.
The degree is the core of the university experience. The subject comes first. If you're interested in the subject or the careers it is linked to, then hit two birds with one stone and get the degree and all that life experience. But if you're not in it for that qualification then it's not worth going.
THE THREE UNIVERSITY PATHS
So, with all this in mind, here are what I believe to be the only three valid reasons for you to go to university. If you aren't going for one of these three reasons, then I feel it would be very wise to have a big think about your plans:
(A) Your dream career requires a particular degree as a qualification
Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Accountants... these are just some of the careers that require specific qualifications and high levels of education. If your dream is a job like one of these, then getting the relevant university education will be a vital part of your career.
(B) You feel that your chosen subject would greatly benefit your future dream career
An actor does not need a degree... but if you feel like taking a drama or theatre course would help you learn more and prepare you for that career, then that's great. An aspiring writer may see a particular creative writing course at a particular university and feel that it could hugely benefit them, splendid!
(C) You are so interested in your subject that you wish to learn more about it
There's nothing wrong with learning about something if you're enthusiastic about it. If you're interested in learning about something and a degree is the best way to do it, then I say go for it. You'll learn lots and also get a piece of paper at the end of that may or may not help you gain better employment too.
I hope that this has been interesting and most of all, I hope that it helps you make a university decision that you're happy with. Thanks for reading!