When we were brainstorming article ideas for this blog the fact that one of us chose to go to university and one of us didn’t came up and we thought it’d be an interesting article to write about why we chose our paths. We wrote our sections separately and decided we would read each other’s entries when they were finished and see what we learnt about each other.
When I was finishing my A-Levels I was faced with the decision of whether to go to university or not. Ultimately, I had to decide if I could face 3 more years of education or go out into the world and start earning money. The deciding factor for me was that I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do yet. I know it’s an expensive way of gaining some time, but my gut told me university was my next step, and I’ve always believed in trusting your gut feeling. I knew I needed more time and I felt like university could give that for me. I took the pressure off myself by picking a course that I knew I would love and would hopefully guide me into a career that I too would love.
For me, university was infinitely beneficial as it truly taught me more than just what was taught in the seminars and lectures. I grew as a person, learnt independence and how to vocalise my thoughts and opinions more forcefully. I was given the extra time I needed, with the support network of the university faculty and friends, and finally, in my final year, stumbled onto a career path that I am excited to explore. I never thought after 3 years of university I would then be voluntarily signing up for one more year to complete a masters, but with this new found career path, I knew I wanted to be as prepared and learn as much about the industry as possible before jumping in there.
Publishing can be a difficult industry to get into and I found after talking to people in the industry and researching different courses, that a publishing masters could give me contacts and experience that could get me noticed and eventually secure my job.
As useful as university has been, it has not been without its struggles so certainly think about whether you’re willing to put in the work before choosing university. There’s a lot of stress and pressure, quite often they’ll assign all 15 of your assignments to be in over the same 4 weeks, you’ll spend half the time not knowing what you’re doing and your lecturers are reluctant to help because they believe you should be independent in everything you do (unless you’re lucky and get an awesome tutor). I often think about where I would be had I gone in a different direction but at the end of the day, I could never regret what university gave me.
“So what university did you go to?” A phrase I’m so sick and tired of hearing. Why do people jump to the assumption that everyone has been to uni before they get a job? Why are people so shocked when you tell them you didn’t go? Sometimes I lie, and make up a University and a course, as I’ve realised it makes them feel better about the whole situation.
University is drilled into us at the beginning of secondary school, you aim to get top GCSE’s, to get into the top colleges and sixth forms to then get in to the top Universities – so much pressure and routine is drilled into us at such a young age. Looking back now it’s disappointing to see that the other options and routes were not spoken more of. If you were predicted A’s you were pushed to follow business – and that’s the way it was.
I was set on going to university until I finished my GCSE’s and started at sixth form. Two more years of this? I thought to myself. I was so bored of the school routine, being told off for not turning up to registration even though I didn’t have a class until 11am. I knew in the back of my mind I had absolutely no idea what career I wanted to go in, and I really do think school fail to prepare us. How is it possible to know what career you want to go in to at the age of 14/15?! Looking back if someone had told me all of the different roles involved in Construction and the reward that goes with it, I would have took a different path to the one I’ve took today.
I left Sixth Form after a few weeks of starting, I knew there was no point in going to University if I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I knew I wouldn’t give it my all if I couldn’t see how it would help my future. At the time, apprenticeships were very new and not something that were publicised in school but I was intrigued – qualification and getting paid in a job that might suit me, why not?
I was paid to train, paid to learn life experiences, paid to grow up, paid to become independent – I had the support from my NVQ assessor and my mentors at work who helped me grow through the transition of school to work.
Fast forward 5 years – I’m now working in the Construction Industry on a permanent basis, earning a comfortable salary – I know exactly what I want out of my career because I’ve had the opportunities to find out in my current and previous jobs. I didn’t want to go to University to do a course that I really didn’t need to do and having not gone to University I feel like I’m further ahead than what I would have been if I had gone.
Though there are some cons that I faced from not taking the University route and be prepared for these if you do decide to take a different path… I missed out on the ‘University Life’ that my friends got to experience. I couldn’t take part in ‘freshers week’ because I had work to go to the next day. I missed out on the weeks off in between terms, I was in an office job – the allocation of 25 days annual leave per year seems somewhat unfair whilst all of your friends are off, having fun and enjoying summer. The hard part for me was my friends making plans to go out and have fun in the day whilst I was stuck at the office. No one prepares you for the difference between work and school and at the age of 16 that was a huge adjustment, somewhat unexpected and having no one to talk to who understood made that difficult – luckily it’s more and more common now for people not to take the University road.
I am not dismissing the amount of hard work that my friends put in to University and how amazing they are for graduating with their degrees but I didn’t go down that path and so far I have no regrets. Not everyone needs to go to University to succeed.
E: After reading both of our entries it’s interesting to see how we had similar examples for our reasons of going to uni versus not going to uni. My reason for going to university to discover what I wanted to do, is the same reason Jessica chose not to go to uni. I guess it just shows that different perspectives and different personalities can lead you in different directions. I’ve been by Jessica’s side throughout her decision to leave education and throughout her career and I’ve never met someone as hardworking so I think whenever I meet someone who chose not to go to uni, I get the image of Jessica, a hard-working dedicated and smart woman who was just done with education in a classroom. It’s not a reflection of your intelligence if you choose not to go to uni, it’s just a different career path.
J: When we were younger we faced the same decision but made different choices. As Eleanor mentioned we both chose to do different things but in reality for the same reason. Neither of us knew what we wanted to do but throughout both paths we’ve now got to a place in our life where we know exactly what we want and ultimately that’s the thing that matters. I have watched Eleanor grow immensely from her time at University and I’m proud of her for sticking with it. To us, it’s a not a competition about who is most successful in the same amount of time, it’s just living different experiences and being there for each other to share those successes. This is not to say that either choice was better or worse, but that no matter what path you choose to go down, as long as it works for you then you’re doing the right thing.
Remember to explore the opportunities out there, discover different avenues and do what’s best for you – this blog is only about two different paths, there are thousands and only you can shape yours.
Eleanor and Jessica.