It’s the big question, is university worth going to? Have we all wasted nearly 30K and 3/4 years of our lives? Well, my honest opinion is yes, some jobs require a degree (such as the career I want to go into) so obviously, it’s worth it but the whole university process in the UK is something I find really hard to grasp.
Since the tender age of 13 we are set into the mind frame that “university is just the place you go after you finish school”. In year 9 we pick our GCSE options and little did we know how much that would shape our future; pick the wrong options and you can’t do the following A-levels, potentially limiting your opportunities for university. If I had known the effect that my options would have on my academic life at the time I might have spent more time deliberating over them, rather than picking the ones I thought would be easiest/ the most fun. I was lucky enough to do decent enough in my GCSE’s to go on to do A-levels which I enjoyed. by the second year of uni, we’d had enough “thinking about the future’ chats to overwhelm our brain. Just because I’d chosen these A-levels, was I now prepared to pick my future career? Had I picked the right A-levels to help me get to the career or had I limited myself already? I certainly didn’t know the answer to these questions and by now it was too late to find them out. I’d had phases of wanting the be a dancer, singer, a vet – all the usual choices. I felt compelled to commit to a career out of thin air, attending open days and prospect days under the pretence that this was my passion that I had wanted to do for years- really, I didn’t have a clue. I ended up going for something that I thought sounded good without really understanding the career prospects it would lead me to; would it give me everything I needed to actually find a job? Would I require a placement? Is the degree better at some universities than others? I really was blind going to uni. Inevitably, during my first year of my degree, I realised it wouldn’t lead me on the path I would have liked and ended up transferring course to something which I do genuinely enjoy and am now excited for the career I will be going into. “Hindsight” Is something people always talk about and experiencing what I have after transferring tranferring courses, sometimes I wish at school and sixth form/ college the idea of waiting a while before going to university was something they promoted more. At the time it felt like it was either university, college or having no career prospects, obviously I am now aware of all the other options available to people; could I have done an apprenticeship to help me get to where I wanted to be, or could a year of working have prepared me to be more financially stable and sure of my choices before applying for university? I know some people who did decide to take “gap years” and, at the time I thought it may have been a wasted time following so many years of education but now I find myself jealous of things I could have experienced (let’s be honest I missed out on so many potential “finding myself in Thailand Instagram posts) whilst I threw myself into a world I wasn’t entirely ready for. I wish schools could encourage giving yourself time to enjoy the world, understanding yourself and what you want to do with your life before committing to the world of uni.
Even for those who are sure that university is the option for them, the whole process of applying is, in my opinion, less than ideal. Our teachers give us a predicted grade based on our work at school and out “potential” and when we apply to university they use these grades (alongside work experience, personal statement and references) to determine whether we can earn a place. These “made up” grades that are chosen for us determine which type of universities we can even look at applying for, if you’re predicted all B’s the chances are there’s no point in even applying for a university required all A’s, to find yourself being rejected immediately. A lucky few gain advantage from this process, those with high predicted grades can receive an unconditional offer from a university if they see potential in the student meaning even if they get an E in their exams they can still go to university, these are the students I was very jealous of. Nobody knows what you can achieve in A-levels until you’re sat in that chair filling out your exam paper, exams are stressful and people can deal with them differently. I for one was very disappointed with my A-levels results, I put all my effort in and did well with my coursework which made up most of the grade but then I did badly in the exams because I wasn’t focused enough (something which I’ll admit to now) but luckily I still managed to be accepted to my university. My point is, we are limited in our future before we even do our exams; as if somebody has already decided what we are or aren’t capable to achieve. I know that if people do achieve higher than their predicted grades they can apply through clearing to get into another university, however personally if I had been told for a year+ that I wasn’t good enough to get into “better’ universities I would find it hard and would be totally unprepared to suddenly find myself a place in one.
Of course, all of these are just my opinions about the university process and I am sure others may disagree. Personally, despite an extra year, I am very glad I am here. I have learnt a lot more about myself by being away from home, met amazing people, made many memories and learnt a bit of science for my career along the way. If I could go back and advise little 16/17 year old Tamsin on life, it would still be to go to university and gain the degree that I’m getting because I will love it, however I would also tell myself to take more time in deciding what I want, enjoy the teenage years before the years of debt and all-nighters take over. Young Tamsin, don’t feel pressured to decide when you aren’t ready, explore the other options available to you and see the world because believe me you won’t be to afford to at/immediately after uni. PS enjoy house parties; you’ll really miss them.