Following the recent rise in university fees, many students have no began to question the real value of going to university. I believe that if you have a strong interest in a subject and are ambitious to learn more, paying the fees is worth it and you should follow your instincts. If you are unsure what you want to do after your time at school or college, it is important to be rational and not make unfounded decisions. There are many other options that can be pursued other than further studies, such as gap years, apprenticeships, self-employment and employment.
I would like to stress that even though it is a terrifying thought that students come out of university with over a £50,000 debt (which will be me included), this is slowly paid off over a long period of time, only once you start earning over £21,000 per year, and does not affect your credit history. It worries me that people who really want to continue down the academic route are put off by this huge figure and I really hope that it does not prevent them. A degree may even be worth the huge debt, with The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) studies of people’s earnings illuminating that on average graduates earn 157% more than non-graduates. University for me is about so much more than debt and making money. It is about freedom, expression, the development of innovation and dissemination of new ideas.
For me personally, university so far has been one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable experiences I have undertaken as I have always been attached to humanities subjects and had a thirst to learn more. I really cherish all the new friends I have made and it has been a fantastic experience to meet people from all different walks of life. As well as meeting a diverse range of people, it is nice to connect with like-minded people through your course, sports and societies. You can sign up to so many activities, from skydiving to scuba diving, from belly dancing to playing Quidditch. For me, this social opportunity and greater freedom has given me a better sense of who I am as a person.
Game of Quidditch anyone?
Below is me in freshers week with two drinks in hand having a whale of a time!
Freshers week was one of the most fun experiences of my life. I love a drink and a party so I really threw myself into it and had a fantastic time. Going out with my friends in a big group really helped us bond and become really close. Highlights of my first week have to be going to a Chase and Status DJ set and a T-shirt party that ended with me drunkenly falling asleep in my shower.
An aspect of university that I thoroughly enjoy is living away from home. I am able to organise my own life, and am now capable of managing my finances, balancing my social and work life and maintaining a household by cooking and cleaning. Students are eased into this process by living in halls in their first years, which was a lot of fun and not too overwhelming with responsibility when first moving away from home. Moving away from home to a different location, with different people and new responsibilities has really enabled me to grow and become a more well-rounded person.
Here is me with my mother on the first day moving into halls at university, I am looking very excited indeed!
Another great bonus of going to university is the ability to travel, with a wide variety of courses and different schemes offering a year abroad in a country of your choice. You would be given the chance to develop your cultural knowledge, languages, independence and employability whilst also enjoying yourself meeting new people and embracing new possibilities. Travelling abroad would open up so many new trains of thought when studying many subjects such as languages, history, law and politics.
Even though all of these factors sparked my interest and love for university, continued study just isn’t for everyone. No one should ever feel pressured to go to university as there are countless examples considering the incredible success of non-graduates.
I know so many people who have taken a Gap Year and found it thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. If University is something you are not 100% sure of, and you need time to focus in on what you want to do, a year out may be a good option. It is also important to note that it isn’t just university that makes someone a well rounded person. New experiences and challenges are always rewarding, helping to develop your independence and giving you new insights.
For many people, academia and continued studies is not appealing. Apprenticeships are a good option as they allow you to be trained on a job, learning valuable skills and experience. A big bonus of undertaking an apprenticeship is the fact that you earn money from it, instead of putting yourself in thousands of pounds of debt. Additionally, this option focuses upon a certain skill or career choice, creating great employability and opportunity.
Self-employment is a risky and difficult choice for young people as it requires some initial capital to set up your own business. Despite this, there are a number of government initiatives and grants that could help you on your way. If you are willing to take the risk, you could reap considerable success. Self-employment allows great job satisfaction, you to do something you love on your own terms and independence. If you have a flair for art, music, fashion or writing, you could work freelance earning income in your own right.
What I would say to people making this decision is that your happiness is of the utmost importance. It doesn’t matter if everyone you know is going to university, or if no one in your family has never been – do what is best for you! Everyone is different, we should embrace and enjoy our lives without comparing it to others. Life experience isn’t restricted to just university, and whatever route you take, as long as it is what you truly want, will be rewarding.