As I have just started my second year at university, I think that this puts me in a relatively good place for me to be able to talk to you about whether or not I think going to university is worth it.
I am still in two minds over this university thing, but I think this is good as it means I can look at things from both perspectives, without trying to force you into going to university, or getting you to stay well away.
So, let's start by looking at the reasons why I recommend going to university...
1. It gives you the chance to grow as a person ~ I live in a small town and moving away to live in halls for my first year of university was one of the best (and worst) decisions I have ever made. It made me realise that not everyone is constantly watching you and waiting for you to mess up. People are actually genuinely supportive and want you to succeed and will help you in any way they can. Plus, they do not try and pry on your private life or try and poke their noses in on situations that do not concern them. For example, whenever someone sees an ambulance in my home town they will be straight on Facebook, saying that they saw the ambulance and asking for information about who it was going to help and why the ambulance had been rung in the first place. They do not realise that none of this is any of their business and when you tell them this they start getting all defensive and start claiming that it is their business, when it quite obviously is not. Moving away has allowed me to grow as a person because I know that people are not going to be watching and waiting for me to mess up and then post about it on Facebook for everyone else to comment on and feeling free from this is a fabulous thing.
2. There are a vast amount of different opportunities ~ Going to university can help open a load of doors, that were previously closed, wide open for you (not that they would not of opened had you not gone to university, it can just sometimes help open them a lot sooner this way). One of many opportunities I have been given is to go on placement in first and second year, which can help my prospects of going into a job that is in my chosen field when I graduate, instead of having to go down another route just to earn a living. Even if your course does not offer a placement, I highly recommend you do one; whether that is during term time or over the summer (you have over three months off for summer so it is not like you would not have the time then to do a placement or internship - even if it is only for a couple of weeks). Just doing a load of reading on its own is not going to get you a job, but doing a load of reading AND doing a placement/internship might just do it.
3. You learn valuable life skills ~ One of the good things about going to university, particularly if you move out of home to go there, is that you learn skills that you may not learn if you just stayed at home and got an apprenticeship/job. Whilst I was living in halls I learnt how to cook, how to plan my meals ahead to suit how much time I would have to cook, and how to budget. Cooking is obviously an important skill to have as you need food to survive and you cannot live off takeaways as you will soon realise the effect they are having on your bank balance. I would plan meals ahead (not batch cook - I am not that organised!) to suit what time I would be back from university and how much work I had to do. Plus, actually writing down the meals I was going to have stopped me from buying unnecessary amounts of food and also stopped me from eating a load of food when I was not meant to. Budgeting is always a useful thing to do. I would write down how much student finance I was getting each month and would take into account everything I would have to spend that on, such as food, clothes, taking into account whether I would have to buy any Christmas or birthday presents during that time, etc. and then once the next lot of money came in I would total up how much I actually spent to see where I needed to lower my expenditure. Obviously you need to be able to budget later on in life, so learning this skill from a young age by going to university is very beneficial for later in life.
So, there are the positives, but what are the negatives of going to university?...
1. In some cases an apprenticeship or job may be more beneficial ~ You know what I said earlier about how if you go to university you should try and find a placement or internship over the summer if your course does not already give you the opportunity to go on placement? Well, this is all well and good for some jobs where you need to have a degree in order to go into them but where some first-hand experience would definitely come in handy. For example, for what I want to go into I do not necessarily need a degree and could probably get to where I want to be without one. So before going to university, please look at whether or not you really need a degree. In many cases, when you have an apprenticeship, once you complete it, it then leads you straight into a job without having to apply (I think that is how it works - but what would I know?).
2. You can get into £50,000 worth of debt ~ We all know that going to university comes at a price, and that price is a hefty £50,000 worth of debt. You have to take out a loan for tuition fees and the majority have to take out a maintenance loan. As much as you can think that when you get this loan it is free money, you will have to pay it back eventually. Obviously, you do not have to pay it all back in one go and only have to pay a little each month and that is not until the April after you graduate and you stop paying it 30 years after you first started re-paying it. But if you are not getting the most out of university in terms of what you are getting from your course compared to what you could be getting out of an apprenticeship or job then you should definitely re-consider going to university. I definitely think that this is something to consider before you apply to university, but remember that there is no age cut-off for attending university, so even if you originally decide that it is not for you and later decide that you want to go, this is perfectly fine and even if you do drop out of university at any point, no one is going to judge you for it.
3. It can be a lonely place ~ So, before you head off to university, you are told all of these terrific tales of nights out students have had and how much of a wonderful time they have had with their flatmates. Are these stories actually true because I had a horrific time in halls. Admittedly, I did not have some 'legendary' nights out as my anxiety held me back a lot (WHICH YOU SHOULD NOT LET HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU LIVE IN HALLS AND HAVE ANXIETY). My flatmates just were not my type of people, which I guess cannot be helped as you cannot choose who you are put into a flat with during first year. But even if you do get put with a bunch of people you get on with, chances are you will spend a lot of time alone in your room doing uni work and having a bit of you-time (which, BELIEVE ME, is something you will need when living in halls). I definitely think that because I felt so lonely this impacted severely on my mental well being and am so glad I decided to stay at home this year as I already feel way better for doing so.
So is university really worth it? I am still not sure. I guess university is not suited to everyone and maybe it is not suited to me, but as I love my degree so much, despite not really having found the people I 'click' with, I am glad that I chose to go to university, but it might not be the same way for other people. But everything I have said (and more) in this post are things that you really need to consider before embarking on the long process that is applying to university. What you need to remember is that you can drop out at any time, or if you think university is right for you but you are on the wrong course or at the wrong university, it is fine to change courses and start again or continue the same course at a different university. It is up to you to make your own mind up.
Remember, I am always here if you ever need to chat; whether it is about the topic in this post or absolutely anything else.
Love Beth xx