Is university the right choice for me?
One of the most difficult questions that young people must get their heads around these days is definitely: Is university the right choice for me?
In many ways, it used to be so straightforward…
If you had the academic ability, you would follow the traditional route: you left school and went to college or sixth form; from there you went on to university and then you started your career.
But times change and there are now many more potential routes open to school leavers.
So, which way should you turn?
Why go to university?
The first part of figuring out the answer to the question of whether university is the right choice for you is to think carefully about why you are thinking of going in the first place.
University is still by far the most popular choice for school and college leavers. And with so much of a focus on higher education, it can feel like it’s the only route open to you.
However, it really, really isn’t.
And if you’re thinking of going to university simply because that’s what everybody else seems to be doing or because most of your friends are, think again!
What other options are there?
Well, the most obvious alternative to university is an apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training in a wide range of highly skilled job roles. From engineering to agriculture – and pretty much everything in-between – there’s a very good chance that there’s something out there for you.
You’ll come out of it with a foundation degree or higher but the main difference between apprenticeships and uni is that you’ll get real training in the workplace alongside your studying – and you get paid for it too.
Some industries and sectors also offer school leaver training programmes. These are sometimes designed by big companies looking to train up new recruits. Again, you can study – either for a degree or specific professional qualifications that are directly related to the area of work.
If all this appeals to you, it could well be a better choice for you than going to university.
Good reasons to go to university
However, you shouldn’t feel like we are trying to talk you out of going to university. There are several good reasons why it still could be the best option for you.
For example, if you already know what career path you want to take, university could be the right track. Lawyers, doctors and teachers and similar jobs typically require you to have a degree. So, university is the logical next step to take from school or college.
Statistically, university tends to lead to higher-paid jobs. This comes down to the difference between ‘professional’ jobs – the ones that typically follow on from university – and ‘non-professional’ jobs. As a rough guide, professionals tend to start on around £7,000 more per year than non-professionals.
In fact, the earnings gap over a lifetime can be as much as £321,000!
Passion for a subject
Another good reason to go to university could be if you have a real passion in a subject. If you love a subject and learning in general, you’ll love university!
You can plan for your future career at the same time as well, of course. Many graduates get involved in volunteering or take on an internship, or another kind of work experience placement.
However, it’s worth remembering that there’s no guarantee of a job once you’ve finished your degree. This is especially true if you haven’t really thought about what you’d like to do after the course has finished when you choose your degree subject.
Many sectors still offer ‘graduate level’ jobs for university places but the competition for places is extremely competitive.
Is the student debt worth it?
You’ve probably heard about student debt. If you go to university, you’ll be taking on a lot of debt because students take out loans to pay for tuition fees and living costs, such as rent.
As most universities charge in the region of £9,000 a year for tuition fees. That means that over a 3-year course, you’re looking at around £27k for the tuition fees alone.
In 2021/22 the average student debt in England after finishing a degree was £45,150.
You shouldn’t necessarily let this put you off though. You are given plenty of time to pay off your loans and the amount you pay is determined by the amount you earn after you have left university.
But it does mean that just drifting through a degree course without knowing what you want to do at the end of it probably isn’t particularly wise!
At the end of the day, only you can answer the question: Is university the right choice for me?
Whether your answer is Yes, Maybe, or Definitely Not, it really doesn’t matter as long as you have made the right decision for you.
The question needs to be given a lot of thought.
Consider where you are aiming to get to and whether a degree will help you get there.
Think carefully about whether you really want to study for another 3 years and if you need to take on the student debt.
Most of all, weigh up all the pros and cons of all the different options open to you.