Saturday, 16 August 2014

'To uni or not to uni...'

...That is the question. Or certainly that is the question which many 18 year olds faced in the past couple of days.

Results day is always nerve wracking whether it is just for a little test in year 7 or whether it is for your degree classification aged 21+ but I have to say that your A level results aged 18 is THE most horrendous you will ever feel when getting some grades returned. So many decisions to make, sometimes so much stress...all caused by that little piece of paper that you receive in August. And it is completely life changing.

However, this day could potentially be a little less stressful than you might think. This depends on your grades of course. If you achieve your predicted grades and are accepted into your Firm choice university, you are in the clear...all you have to do is become excited about the brand new chapter of your life that is about to begin. But even if your results are a little lower than expected, you needn't necessarily worry. A lot of teenagers are pushed into university by their schools, not really having time or knowledge to explore other options that do not involve further study (which, let's be frank here, is not everyone's cup of tea.) There are plenty of other opportunities out there for the non-university-goer. All you have to do is open your mind a little to a slightly different path. And hopefully this condensed version of the debate that I have recently had with my writer-buddy, Jack Marshall, will help you see all of your options.

To uni (proposed by Charlotte)

At my graduation last month, we were asked to sum up our university time in just one word and I couldn't do it! It's completely impossible. Lots of people began writing words like 'amazing' 'incredible' 'inspiring' and 'challenging' but none of those words are quite is all of that and so much more.

The reason it is the norm for the majority of teenagers to go to university after school ends, is because it is the next logical stage in your development. In the same way you didn't learn to run before you could walk when you were babies, you are eased into an independent adult life while still having the stability of an institution to support you. Universities are filled with people who are far wiser than ourselves, who can make this development into adulthood far easier through their continuing advice. If you do not go to university it is unlikely that you will be able to move out of your parents house, so already you are behind on this natural development and if you do embrace independence away from your family, life is a lot more difficult than if you had achieved this by heading to uni. You can learn to do all those things that you have never done before, surrounded by and with the help of friends and staff members...whether this be a little thing such as learning to use the washing machine or a much larger skill such as learning how to deal with bills, landlords and rent; it is far more fun if you can do it with a bunch of friends.

Talking of friends, the social aspect of university is unrivalled by any other point in your adult life. It is a unique opportunity to be surrounded by thousands of people your age, giving you the perfect chance to meet friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and contacts you will hopefully keep in touch with for many years to come. Meeting people will never be this easy again (which I have already noticed, a month after graduating from university). On top of this, there are a million different activities to fill your free time with, whether this be in the form of society events, choirs you can join, nights out that you can attend....again it becomes a lot harder to take part in this kind of thing after you leave university and it's not all in one place. So you might as well take advantage of the opportunities you have while you still have the chance.

Looking at university more practically, in terms of academia, it should never be underestimated how useful it is for the CV and to help you find a job. These days, for every job going there are a million and one candidates. So whatever helps you to stand out from the very large crowd is definitely beneficial. In addition to your studies, you are also able to gain a lot of experience in an area which interests you and you will actually have the time to gain this necessary experience. The majority of it would most usually be unpaid so if you are trying to hold down a full time job, there is no way you would be able to volunteer to gain extra experience alongside. But university definitely gives you the chance to do this, and actively encourages it, to improve your employability.

When you are at school everyone tells you to go to university. And there's a reason for that. It is such a unique part of your life that you will never really get again. Even if you do attend at a later date, it wouldn't be quite the same. Here at university, you can embrace not only the freedom that comes with adulthood but also the fun that comes with still being young. So don't become old before your time and make sure you participate in all the unique opportunities that university hands to you on a plate.

Not to uni (Jack's response)

University. It’s a big deal – especially these days when annual tuition fees are going to cost you almost £10,000 per year. That’s a staggering amount of money and admittedly you will never pay that off (well, you’re more than likely not to), but do you even want that amount of debt in the first place? Let me tell you that, as a recent graduate, even my £1500 overdraft debt is a little daunting.
But I’ll never get a decent job, I hear you say. Well do you know what? With GCSE’s and A Levels under your belt, there is nothing to stop you from achieving a successful, satisfying and enjoyable career. How? Experience. Experience is the key.
I’m about to start as a teaching assistant in September and not once in the application did it mention requiring a degree level qualification. What’s more is that my salary is pretty damn decent for a graduate starter. Since the age of 16, I’ve known I’ve wanted to teach and therefore every year I have made sure that I’ve had experience in a school environment. It was my wealth of knowledge gained through experience – not a university degree – that landed me my first job.
Work experience and voluntary work are so understated it’s ridiculous. It has never been more important to make yourself stand out as a person in order to achieve success in getting a job. Fantastic grades and a good academic record are only half of the story – employers need to know what you are like as a person, and there is no better way of demonstrating that than proving your worthiness by voluntarily going out there and lending a hand. You’ll not only be helping the people you volunteer for, but you’ll be helping yourself.
Many people I know who graduated alongside me this year are struggling to find employment. Admittedly it is only a month since we graduated, and finding employment as a graduate can take up to six months. But from what I’ve seen, those that struggle are the ones who didn’t make full use of their university experience. There is a wealth of opportunities at university (so even if you’re reading this and about to head off to university, you can still heed some advice) to bulk up your CV and demonstrate your worthiness of employment. The same is true for those of you not going to university – you’re even freer to go out there and gain experience to build towards a career that you want.
So if you’re not going to university and want some advice, how about this: get a part time job – anything, as long as it spins you some money – focus on building relevant work experience and then go for that job you’ve always thought you’d love.

Ultimately the decision lies with you and you alone. It's up to you, whether you WANT to go and whether it would be useful for you. Don't be persuaded to make a decision either way by your parents, teachers, brothers, sisters, friends, pets or because it's the 'normal thing to do.' Go because you enjoy a subject and want to explore it to death. Go because you think it would help your career opportunities. Go because you want to have no money for the next three years of your life. And go because YOU feel it is the best place for you and YOU couldn't imagine doing anything else.

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