Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Friday 7 March 2014

University - To Go or Not To Go | Tips & Advice

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!


  1. This is such a good post and a definite read for people that are on the edge about going to uni etc. I, like you, didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left college and again, like you, was the only one from my tutor group NOT going to university. Instead, I took up a personal training course. This cost me a ridiculous amount that i’ve never actually paid my Grandad back for because since then, i’ve never actually worked as a PT because when I finished - we were in the midst of the recession. No where was taking on :( So I was stuck in a dead end reception job which was when I decided that I HAD to make something of myself and went to uni. Then, after a year I got pregnant - a whole new situation. I again, decided that I wasn’t just going to sit at home and be a dole dosser so I applied for the Open University and now study part time hoping to go into teaching in the future! It doesn’t have to happen right away and I personally think that working for a few years then going to university and doing it through a smaller one like yours is the best choice!


    1. thanks so much for your comment Emma :) I agree with everything you've said - it doesn't always happen right away and often, it all works out for the best. 'Everything happens for a reason' and all that! :) So happy you've decided to do an Open University course - i wish you the best of luck with it all. I definitely think having a few years away from studying helps no end if you're a bit indecisive - as you really do see what you want from a future instead of just trying to wing it! xxx

  2. This is such a good post and well worth a read for anyone in two minds about going! I'm in my final year at university now, then going on to do postgrad to be a teacher but it took me a year of working to decide if I actually wanted to go, even to this day I'm still unsure if I made the right decision! And totally agree with the whole not being big on going out and getting as drunk as possible, far more important things to spend money on (like nail varnish and make up!)


  3. I completely agree with everything you've said here Beth. For a very long time I wanted to go to University because it was the 'thing to do' but after falling ill and being out of 6th form and out of action for 5 months, I fell so behind and it just seemed like University wasn't an option for me anymore unless I retook the year. By this point I was so down and out about everything that I just gave up. I dropped out of 6th form and got myself an apprenticeship working as a receptionist - this also just wasn't for me and I quit after six months... I dabbled in a couple other jobs including retail (I know what you mean about bitchy customers) and in the end found myself working in a pub. Yep, stereotypical school drop out. I had fun for a while and getting up when I wanted in the mornings was a breeze but it just wasn't fulfilling and eventually I reapplied for college. A week after starting I quit that too... Education just wasn't for me after so long out of it. I still don't know what I want to do with my life, but after a couple months unemployed, I now have a stable full time job as an IT administrator for a large company. It's great money and I work with great people and I intend to stay there for a couple years whilst I sort my head out... But you're right in what you say about University not being something that you think of as a 'must'. Work experience and having a good knowledge of the field your going into in a hands on way can help you just as much as Uni.
    I'm definitely like you Beth, I'd pick a night in with my jammies and a film over a boozy night out any night!
    - I think there may be a post on this in the pipeline for me after this essay of a comment! :)

    Lots of Love.


  4. Such an interesting read :) Although I'm in my last year of uni I'm still in two minds as to whether it was right for me. I'm doing a science subject, so ultimately will be able to apply for some jobs that I wouldn't have been able to apply for without a degree. But I haven't particularly enjoyed the experience, and wish I could have taken a year out to really think about what I wanted to do with my life before applying (I started during the last year that fees were at £3,000 so if I'd have taken a year out my degree would have cost me an extra £18,000). I think if there's any uncertainty it's definitely best to take your time and not rush into it. There's no harm in getting a job for a year instead and developing as a person. In fact that's what I've chosen to do for a year after I graduate instead of going straight into a career - I've had enough of rushing into making a decision!

    Helen from Beautiful Curiosities x

  5. This is really great advice! Going to university has been, for me, the best thing I've ever done, but I know that if I had read something like this before I went it would have helped my nerves a lot!

    Also I'm glad to learn I'm not the only one who has struggled to keep up a part-time job alongside my uni life! It's stressing me out so much this year but I really need to save the money for when I leave.

    Would you consider writing a similar post about finding a job after university?

    Lil x

  6. Really interesting post Beth :) I had never wanted to go to uni since I was at primary school and leaving secondary didn't change my mind either. I decided to do a course at college in Media as it was my favourite subject at school. When I realised after a couple of months that the course wasn't for me and it was based around going to uni to get anywhere, I decided to drop out. I got myself a part time job and moved on from there into full time work for 3 years. I got pregnant and decided to drop down to part time work and then left my job a couple of months before I was due. I'm now returning to work part time and I do not regret for a second not going to uni. My best friend has spent 4 years at uni and is currently doing her masters and she has no idea what to do after it's all done. I think uni can be great if you know what you want to do, but I found working really rewarding and loved earning my own money each month. I was able to move in with my boyfriend and afford our house and not owe any money for education I didn't really want. xx

    Kat from Blushing Rose Beauty

  7. Thank you so much for this post. I am in year 13 and I couldn't decide what I wanted to do for university and I didn't want to spend 3 years doing something I wasn't sure about, so I never applied. I feel like I am the only person who is taking a gap year and I am so worried about September and how all my friends and my boyfriend will move on and go off to uni and I will just be stuck at home on my own. Your post was so helpful and now I'm not sure that I will even end up going to uni. I still have no clue what I want to do as a career but starting a blog has help me realise I want to do something creative. I'm hoping my gap year will help me figure it all out and I can travel and see some more of the world.

    I love your blog but this post was so helpful and could not have come at a better time for me. Thank you xx

  8. Such good advice. Could of done with this when I was deciding. I just opted not to go as there was nothing I wanted to study & I hated the thought of the social side. In the end I did a degree distance learning & its the best thing I've ever done.

    Just shows how its such a different & hard experience for everyone!

    Belle ♥
    Mascara & Maltesers

  9. I'm a few years off choosing whether to go uni or not or what to study. I think this post was very informative and would help a lot of people decide whether it was for them. Personally I have no clue what I want to do which I think is ok for now. Loved this post- well done xx

  10. This post is brilliant and it really covered a lot of things that I should have thought about more. I went to university straight from school without too much thought into where my course was going to take me and ended up hating the whole experience. I have a degree now which is all well and good but with some more thought, I should have definitely picked a different path. Hopefully this post will help people to not make a decision until they're completely sure :) pressure from schools plays such a big role and it's really wrong in my opinion xx

  11. What a great post! I completely agree that the decision to go to uni is entirely up to the individual. I am in my final year and uni and I love it....all apart from my course. The uni itself is great but I just don't get on with what I have to produce for me final pieces. It is really hard to stay motivated throughout your time at uni and that is why picking the right course and uni for you is essential!
    If I could go back and adjust a few things I would have chosen a different course but at the same uni. At the same time if I didn't go to uni then I wouldn't have met my boyfriend of now 3 years :) xx

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Great post! I wrote a similar post about what university has taught me (so far) haha.

    University isn't for everyone - I dropped out of my first university as i felt pressured to go and didn't actually want to do the course...
    But after deciding what I really wanted to do, I headed back to a different university and love it so much!!! xx

  14. I think one of the most important parts about uni is studying abroad. It combines travel, learning and meeting people from all over the world. It's an experience unlike any other.

  15. Amazing post Bethany! I'm currently in my second year at Uni and it hasn't been an easy ride. I study photography and I always loved it at College, I was good at it and I totally loved what I was doing but as soon as I came to uni I found that I lost all love for it and I just struggled to get through. I could do the work, I just really didn't want to and lacked motivation entirely. I was loving everything that was coming through blogging and decided that Photography really wasn't for me anymore as I just couldn't see myself becoming a photographer or what not after uni as I dreaded anything to do with taking pictures. I thought that I wanted to do PR, in fact I was dead set on it and went about changing courses for my second year. I didn't look into it enough but in my head I just thought I knew exactly what I wanted. I didn't think it would be that easy to go about changing and thought I'd have to prove myself for the course but as I had great grades from college, much better than was needed to get on the course they didn't need anything really from me, they just said yes. I essentially stopped everything I was doing on my Photography course, I really didn't want to bother handing anything in but they recommended that I did as a back up so I stopped working and just handed in what I had done (somehow managed to scrape through and pass) and decided to intern instead. I loved it and really enjoyed working and was looking forward to starting my new course. When the time came around to changing, something just didn't feel right. I went in one day and everything they were saying I would be doing, I just didn't want to do and honestly had no interest in, the girls on the course seemed super bitchy and honestly I just knew it wasn't me at all. I had a minor break down, stopped going to it for a few days and decided that I would try and change back as the thought of doing a course I'd hate more for 3 years instead of a course I hated slightly less for 2 years, just sounded so much better. I'm now back on the Photography course and although I don't love it and know that it's not what I want to do I am liking it a bit better and am enjoying more of what I'm doing. I still dread taking the pictures etc, but it's just a little different to what it was. Uni isn't for everyone I agree, I feel like it is for me, I just don't feel like I know what course I really should be doing. I'm a hard worker, and it's so unlike me not to want to work. Who knows what I'll end up doing in the end, but I'm sure the photography degree will help me in someways!

    (sorry for the absolute cracker of a comment! minor essay?!)

    Lorna | xx

  16. Going to uni was the best decision I have ever made. I had the best experience of my life so far. I would highly recommend anyone thinking about going to do it!!!

    I studied footwear design at De montfort University, and now work for the biggest global footwear brand in the world. 3 years of hard work really can make dreams come true :)

    Good luck to all those applying this year

    xx Sophie xx

  17. I'm very, very similar to you. I went to Uni a year later than all the other people my age, and I knew I wanted to stay at home and commute as this is would also be cheaper for me and my Mum can't help me in any shape or form with funding. Uni is not a light hearted decision, it's something which takes time and thought. I'm glad you found your time at uni a positive experience in the end, hope mine turns out just like yours. Although I'm going to try and cling to my 5 hours a week part-time job for as long as possible! xo

    Hannah | Glitter and Sparkle

  18. Love this post. I went to uni in 2010 and ended up dropping out 4 months later because of situations at home but I also wasnt enjoying my course. Then I started to work and im glad I took that time out of education because now I know what I want to do with my life! So this year ive applied for university and a HE college as a back up plan :D heres to the year 2014! :D

    Yazzy xx

  19. I love reading posts like these! I have totally been in the same boat. I have changed my mind about my career ideas a lot over the past few years, I started wanting to study psychology and now after doing a foundation degree at in costume at a local college, i want to be a tailor haha. I have found it hard sometimes, I do occasionally feel like I am missing out on a good experience, but i needed to take some time to realise what I wanted out of life and I am so glad I did!! I hope you are enjoying your course!!

    Daisy xxx

  20. Interesting post! I think that I want to go to Uni, but I also want to take a gap year. However, with a gap year there are definitely pros and cons.... hmm

  21. I totally get this! Growing up in Cornwall, I always wanted to be a writer and by the time applications came around, I wanted to be a journalist. Everyone was saying that to make it in journalism I'd have to get out of Cornwall, so I went to Winchester. After a year, I moved back home, studied an HE course in a local college, lived with my parents, worked part-time (so not the university lifestyle!) and came out with a First in Writing for the Media. I never regretted my degree because it taught me a lot about the career but I had fuck all experience! After a year of trying to get a suitable job in Cornwall, I decided to do a PGCE so I could teach Film/Media/English at A Level. I passed this and took the first job I was offered to pay the bills - it was in Web Marketing. Now, almost three years, it turns out that I love it! My degree taught me what I needed for the job but the PGCE wasn't remotely necessary and almost made me and my boyfriend bankrupt! My brother is three years younger than me, never went to university, trained as a carpenter and is now self-employed and probably earning more than me and my boyfriend put together! Swings and roundabouts, ey?


I always read all of my lovely comments. Make sure you check back as i often reply but if you do have a specific question and want a quicker response then please do email me over at or tweet me (@Beth_BirdsWords). Thank you for all your support! x