For me, the date is September 14th. It’ll probably be one of the most nerve-racking Sundays of my life; moving in with five other people who I’ve never met in a new place, relatively far away from home.
At first, University seems like a very daunting prospect, even if you do get the grades. Initially it seems like an utter nightmare for even the slightly socially anxious, and when piled up alongside an endlessly shrinking job market and the idea of foreshadowed, permanent debt, looking for an apprenticeship or going straight into some form of work seem like completely viable, if not favorable options.
So why, in the face of diminishing returns from a university education, have more people applied in 2014 than ever before? An estimated 580,000 young people have applied this year, which is 4% more than 2013. This trend even goes against the decrease in the young population of Britain; so why is university still one of the most popular choices for people to achieve their goals, when there are other more accessible options out there?
Well, here’s why I’m going to university. Please quickly note that the majority of the following is based on opinion, and may certainly not be the best method to get to where you want to be in life.
It’s what I’m good at (and it’s not that boring).
I’m studying English this year. No joint degrees or altered modules, just good old English. Whenever I say this, I’m consequently asked what I want to do with the course in the long term. I honestly couldn’t tell you; while I want to do something in Journalism, I know that an incredibly high entry barrier surrounds the industry, so it’s reasonable to assume that I might not make a living off of writing.
But, if I’m going to university to be the best I can at a certain subject, it makes to sense to pick the one that I’m consistently good at. I can safely say that English is, and has always been, my strongest subject. While I might find a bit more enjoyment in something more practical, such as say, Product Design or Art, I’m simply not as good at it. Trust me; I’ve tried.
On top of that, the writing associated with English as a subject is something I do in my spare time, it’s something I’m doing right now, simply as I enjoy it. While people warn you from making a job out of your hobbies, eventually getting paid for doing something you love is one of the luckiest ways to earn a living, and it’s something which hope everyone can one day achieve.
The social side.
Who doesn’t want to experience the nerves and excitement of Fresher’s week, just to forget it all through excessive drinking? Well, I’m not too fussed myself. I’ve never been one for clubs, and I’ve always favored pubs and live gigs, but despite potentially missing out on one of the biggest aspects of student life, I’m still looking forward to meeting new people and awkwardly forgetting the names of flat mates for the first fortnight.
I’m not the most socially adept of people, but the chance to meet like-minded individuals is something I don’t fancy passing up. Plus, the nightlife of Lincoln isn’t the worst out there.
Sure, the possibility for bickering over who may be stealing all the milk is reasonably high, but every now and then it doesn’t hurt to be thrown out of your comfort zone and into the deep end. Minimalist cooking skills will make it a challenging experience, but learning these things (that should’ve been learnt years ago) on the fly will be all the more rewarding in the long run.
The chance to find yourself.
A lot of people go into university with their future planned out, knowing what they want to do. An equal amount of people come out of university having discovered what they love, and it’s scary how much the two subjects often contrast. History students go in prepared to know all the points of the Treaty of Versailles, but come out with enough writing experience to become comedy writers and actors.
While discovering that you want to do something completely different a year into your course may be a huge inconvenience to your meticulously planned future, at least you’ve discovered your new passion relatively early on in the grand scheme of things. You can still reapply to a different course, gain experience through placements or try your hand at an apprenticeship. Better to find out now rather than in fifteen years’ time, when you’re unwillingly in a history classroom trying to pretend that you do legitimately love the subject and teaching it to other, notably unenthusiastic, young kids.
So if you do go into university with the best of intentions, you may find that a different path, or a different course, is better suited to you. Unless you go into your chosen institution with intent to put minimal effort into your education, it’s very difficult to get something out of university, and you’d only have yourself to blame.
Even if it all goes wrong…
One of the main deterrents of going to university is the associated costs. At an initial glance, the idea of paying around 13 grand per year for your tuition and on-campus accommodation can be very daunting, and it’s a weight which many understandably avoid. But the ludicrous costs of bettering yourself are often blown out of proportion…
The ‘crippling debt’ associated with degrees may be non-existent. It’s highly likely that we’ll not make £21,000 for a good few years, and a tiny percentage of students will ever have a salary to pay it back within the thirty year timeframe. As of the current student finance system, the debt associated with your student loans is wiped clean after thirty years, regardless of how much you’ve paid, (sure, we’ll be about fifty, but repayments on a £21K wage are hardly noticeable).
I hate to replay the common marketing drawl of SFE, but student loans are the easiest debt you could ever accumulate. If the worst case scenario comes true and you end up in an entry level job after years of painstaking studying, you’ll have still gained a degree, and you’ll be ahead of the rest of the job market.
A degree puts you above the rest in almost any job, mostly as it shows you have the drive and determination to take initiative, meet deadlines, and all that other business jargon that employers seem to love. Even if you don’t get into your desired field of work after a few years of study, you’ll be the first that employers consider when managerial roles arise. And if you want to be cautiously cynical, degrees are becoming more and more of a necessity as university applicants increase year after year.
So, that’s why I’m going to university in about a week or so. Not to void everything I’ve just said, but keep in mind that this is coming from a potentially optimistic student who has yet to gain first-hand experience of the grind of vital energy drinks, dragging all-nighters and an apparently continuously shrinking job market. Regardless of how it turns out, whether my estimates at student life were true or not, I’ll see you on the other side.
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