In defence of not going to university at 18

In defence of not going to university at 18

With ridiculously extortionate and ever rising tuition fees and no guaranteed job upon completion, why is it so shocking to suggest that not going to university is indeed a viable option?

A-Level results day seems, to almost all, like a living nightmare. For some, it is the dreaded fear of not getting the required grades and having to painstakingly retake exams. For others it is quite a different matter.

On August 13th 2015, after an entirely sleepless night, near hysterical with worry and anticipation, I collected my A-level results from my secondary school. It wasn’t the grades I overly was worried about – I had achieved highly enough to go to almost any University of my choice – it was more to do with my future. Despite having the months of September to August, and any time prior to sixth form, to think about what course to study and where to do so, thousands of 18 year olds remain completely undecided when it comes to their education and careers – and rightly so. In a day and age when choice overwhelms us, and we can barely decide what to have for dinner, how can we be expected to choose the single career we will remain passionate about for our entire lives.

In fact, many people don’t. A survey from CareerBuilder suggests that in America, 32% of university graduates said that they had never worked in a field related to their majors, suggesting many may have been forced into further education just ‘for the sake of it’. Even more concerning are the recent government cuts to maintenance grants for low income families in the UK, which may well act as a barrier preventing the less privileged in society from accessing education. Why pay for a degree you can’t afford if it doesn’t do guarantee a job? And why is going to university at 18 seen as such a necessity?

Certainly, there is no doubt that some professions require extensive years of university training, and certainly, there are those eager and ambitious amongst us that have had their dream jobs mapped out for years. But this is by no means all of us, and for the ones left behind, it can feel daunting and demoralising.

For those of us less sure of their calling in life there should be more advice on apprenticeships, internships and the importance of work experience, rather than being fed the impression that university is the only way to achieve anything. In some instances, it may in fact be more beneficial to learn ‘on the job’ than through education, in sectors such as hospitality, journalism and marketing.

At my sixth form, however, there was simply no choice. The question was not “do you want to write a personal statement for your university application?” it was “when will your personal statement be written?” There was no choice whether this was what we wanted. We were all bright enough to go to university, so this was the only thing to be done.

From the former editor of the Independent, Lisa Maxwell, to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, there are clearly many that have gone on to be successful without the help of university. Although, one must remember that the economic climate they ventured into was greatly different to today’s prospect of few jobs and fewer houses, perhaps meaning a degree was not as necessary.

Even if you do decide to go to university, take a year or two or even ten before going can be overwhelmingly beneficial in teaching you about real life situations. Look into work experience in your chosen field to see if it’s for you – if it isn’t then it’s probably not worth going to university for! Save up some money and travel the world. Have some experiences outsides the sex, drugs and hangovers that university promises. That can wait. The unemployment crisis and rising tuition fees don’t mean you should step blindly into a job you don’t actually want, just because the prospect of not knowing what you want to do is too daunting.

Four months into my gap year and I am of a far sounder mind than of that dreaded day in August. Combining part time work with blog writing and internships, in addition to visiting friends at university makes me feel well rounded and that I don’t need to be kept within the confines of an academic institution to achieve what I want in life. I have saved up some money, gained independence and feel far more prepared to start university than I did just a few months ago. Don’t be afraid to delay a new adventure to have time to think – it’s better to make the right decision than be forced into one.


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