Image | found via Pinterest [edited]
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll be aware that I sometimes go off on one and throw a bit of a random non-beauty post into the mix. This, my friends, is one of those posts. Spur of the moment n' all that. I really wanted to put my two pennies worth into the whole 'uni vs not going to uni' thing - it's a discussion I've had many a time and I've seen the positives and negatives of both sides of the coin. I'll be coming at this from more of a 'creative subject' angle (I study Graphic Design) so this post probably won't be relevant to everybody - but I'm sure there will be little hints and bitesize chunks of advice you can take away from this and apply to any subject. Of couse, nobody's situation is the same and so my experience might not be relatable in the slightest - either way, I hope there's some form of helpful hint in here you can take away if you're coming up to making the whole 'shall i/shan't i' decision...
Is uni right for me? Some people know exactly what they want to do in life straight from the get go. Good on them, eh? Sadly, I wasn't one of these people. I was always a good all-rounder at school and I always worked hard but I never really knew what I wanted to go into for a career. I'd always been creative ever since I first picked up a colouring crayon but I was never one to kid myself. I knew I wasn't going to be able to sit in a merry little studio all day, painting pretty pictures and drinking cups of tea whilst nibbling away at a pack of McVities HobNobs from 9-5 (I know for a fact other creative people have had this daydream when at school...) When I finished college (where, suprise suprise, I took Fine Art...), I was the only person out of my whole course who wasn't progressing to university. When everyone else was putting together portfolios, I was sorting out a new contract at work and ordering a new work shirt. I felt as if I'd gone as far as I could go, I'd had my fun and it was time to move on from the happy little bubble called education. I was just being realistic - after all, I'm sure if you're similar to me that you've often sat there and wondered how the flippin'eck you make a career out of simply being good at creative stuff? I didn't want to go to uni, study for 4 years and come away with a bar job and one heck of a lot of debt in my hands. I knew for a fact uni wasn't right for me at the time. And when I look back now I'm so glad I didn't go as soon as the end of college rolled round.
Yes, I missed out on the whole 'going out' scene because whenever my friends were out on the tiles I was, quite frankly, too bloody tired to do anything aside from scramble into a hoodie and pyjamas after I'd finished my shift. I grew apart from a lot of my friends simply because I was working all the time and they got fed up of asking me to go out and I noticed over time that I'd developed a completely new outlook on life compared to them. Not going to uni allowed me to grow so much as a person over the next 3 years and it was the best decision I ever made. I think you know deep down whether or not you want to go to uni - 'gut instinct' is a very powerful thing. Luckily, my family have never ever forced me into believing I need a degree to get anywhere in life so I never had conflicting opinions from them. I guess my only advice to you would be to just do what feels right for at the time. Don't give in to tutors trying to encourage you to apply for uni (and my goodness did I get a lot of that...), don't give in to friends trying to persuade you to follow a similar path to them and just think about what is best for you. If, like me, you aren't sure whether the subject you're taking will provide you with decent career options, it's maybe time to have a little think about whether or not all that time and money is worth it. There is nothing wrong with plodding along in a job for a while. You can always apply later down the line when you've had time to re-consider your options. On the other hand, it could turn out to be one of the best things you ever did but I think my main piece of advice is not to get caught up in the 'going to uni hype'. Seriously take some time to consider pros and cons and think about what you're actually going to do once you get that degree (sadly, all those cheap Jagerbombs and amazing nights out you don't remember add up to sod all once reality rolls around...)
Choosing a subject. Don't take a subject for the sake of it - it's a lot of work (despite what your first year might fool you into believing!) and you'll be spending a lot of late nights working on deadlines and all the boring bits inbetween. If you're umming and arring over a subject, then maybe you aren't completely ready to go to uni just yet. At the same time, I can't really talk... I applied to uni on a complete whim at the age of 21. I'd been unhappy at work for over a year (it's only when I look back i realise how deeply unhappy and unfulfilled I really was), and one day I just completely cracked. I'd had enough of customers speaking to me like I was a few sandwiches short of a picnic and I wanted out. Straight away. I was completely done with sales and retail and I'd began to realise it was nothing more than a short term option for me. After having a particularly heated 'discussion' with an irate customer I came home, grabbed the phone and asked for a prospectus from the two nearest universities to me and that was that. I saw 'Graphic Design' and knew I had to apply. I'd always had it in the back of mind from being at school - I'd just never considered it properly before now. It was the perfect choice - it was creative, it was something I could make a career from and it was something I knew I'd enjoy learning about. Choose something that not only you enjoy doing and something you'll be engaged with, but something that you know you can make a future from. Listen to your instincts and don't opt for something 'just because'.
Choosing a uni. This is the next biggie isn't it? For me, I wasn't bothered about the whole going out every night and getting hammered 'life experience' aspect - I just wanted a new focus in life and a new career option so I knew for a fact I didn't want to go to a 'big' uni where I knew there would be emphasis placed on getting as drunk as you possily can every single weekend of your life. I didn't want to move from home as I wanted to keep my job part-time and earn at the same time as studying. This narrowed it down straight away and it was an easy choice to make. My course is actually done at a college - but it's validated and split between the uni in my area. Don't throw out the option of a smaller uni or HE course at a college simply because they might not look as good on paper. If, like me, you really don't want to be going out every night of your life and spending all your dollar on alcohol (i'm aware I'm probably in the minority here ;)) - it's worth considering. I also know for a fact I wouldn't have gotten half the opportunites i've had from going to a smaller uni than I would have done going to one of the 'biggies'. The experience is much more personal and I have a lot to thank my tutor for as he's gotten to know me personally and none of us are 'just a number'. I managed to secure a work placement within my first year - something I probably wouldn't have done if I'd gone to a bigger uni. At the same time though, you have to consider the facilities might be better at a more well-known uni. Again, you just have to weigh up the pros and the cons for what you want to gain out of it.
Funding. The big worry everyone must have, surely? I know I certainly did! I never considered uni until I was 21, so to be honest, I didn't know how it all worked and I was completely clueless when it came to student loans and grants and whatnot. After earning a decent(ish) full-time wage for quite some time, this was the element that nearly killed off going to uni for me. I spent many an evening in Costa working out how I was going to survive on a student loan, spreadsheet in hand. Now, I'm aware I sound over-dramatic here - I'm lucky enough to be able to live at home so it was never the fact that I might not have a roof over my head or food to eat. BUT, if you've spent some time working your arse off, you'll know what I mean when I say you become accustomed to a certain amount of money each month! Of course, my disposable income at this time was so unrealistic (totally took that for granted) but I felt so scared when I looked at the difference in what I'd have to live off each month compared to what I was used to. I look back now and think I was being absolutely effing ridiculous, but there's no doubt that funding yourself is a massive factor in going to uni. However, when you actually look into how it all works, it really isn't as scary as you think and you learn to live within your means. Funding has gone up since I applied, but don't let that put you off. When you think about it in the long-term then it's all relative and paying it back isn't as scary as you might believe. A student loan is the best loan you will ever have. Don't be scared to invest a little in your future! There are also lots of places you can go to for advice when it comes to funding - make sure you ask about extra little helpers such as bursaries or anything else you might be entitled to depending on your situation. Spend some time reading up on it all and do your research. The more you look into it, the more do-able you might find it becomes. Also, apply as early as you can. The process isn't fun in the slightest and filling in those forms isn't a quick job!
Part-Time Jobs. Which brings me onto my next point. To work, or not to work. Personally, I preferred to work - it was like my little safety net to my 'old' life! I worked Saturdays and Sundays right up until the start of my second year when I dropped it down to one day a week. It's always good to earn a little bit of extra cash if you can - stretch the loan even further and have more in the bank to treat youself (believe me, you'll feel the need to treat youself after every assignment...) It's also good to work whilst you're at uni to maintain some sort of connection with the world outside of your happy little 'education' bubble. It keeps the mind focused (and when you have a bad day at the office it can only propel you on to work harder towards your future new job prospects, right?!) However, PRIORITISE. Yes, it's nice to have extra money coming in but as soon as it's having a knock on effect - consider re-jigging things. I ended up quitting my part-time job in my second year (my course is only 3 years) as it was all getting too much to balance. I'm lucky that I was able to do this as I have no idea how I would manage a job in my final year. I know some people that do and I take my hats off to them. Another important point to make is to make sure you keep in check with your bank accounts. Believe me, I know the overwhelming fear of clicking onto your online banking when it's been a while since your last loan installment but try not to let it get to that stage. Luckily, I'd been saving all the time I was working so I've always had my 'rainy day' fund should I ever need it and it's made student loans and managing money so much easier for me. Make sure you put some money aside if you're working - it lessens the blow slightly if you feel as if you have to leave your employment due to course commitments as you'll have some money to go on should you ever make a little slip up when it comes to your finances.
So there we have it - a few tips and advice for choosing whether or not to go to uni and little things to consider once you've decided. Don't let anyone tell you that getting a degree is the be all and end all - because it's not. I know many people who have made a success of themselves without one and I have no doubt I would have found another path if I hadn't decided to go to uni. It was just the right decision for me to make at the time and it's since proven to be one of the best ones I ever made - but if I'd done it any earlier I can tell you I wouldn't be typing the same thing now. Sometimes the best decisions are those that aren't planned in the slightest. Don't be afraid to step outside the comfort zone of your 'perfect plan' and just do whatever feels right at the time. I have no regrets that I decided to go into the world of work before I went to uni at all - and I don't feel as if I 'missed out' in any way shape or form. But i guess this all depends on what type of person you are. I think the main thing is not to get hung up on the 'hype' and not to obsess over the decisions you make - it doesn't matter if you get something slightly wrong or feel as if you've been following the wrong path for a while - just go with the flow and almost always, things turn out just the way they were meant to be. And with that, I shall be off before I reel off any more Pinterest-y sayings or gushy 'whatever will be will be' quotes...
Have you written a similar post? Let me know!