Is University the Right Choice For You?

University

At school, I feel like your future is outlined for you. You complete your GCSEs, progress to A Levels and finally go to university. It’s seen as the ‘normal’ thing to do. If you don’t make it to university, you are basically looked at as a failure. Well, that was the case in my school anyway.

But what’s so wrong with wanting to work in a trade job? Or taking another route through apprenticeships. Or even just going into full-time work and feeling settled within your own career path. Why was it never an option to look at other career paths outside of university? I remember all of my Careers classes during school were spent researching universities and university courses, updating CVs and cover letters all whilst having continuous mental breakdowns.

At 17, how on earth do we know what we want to do with the rest of our lives? This decision was going to have so much impact on me but it seemed like I was constantly running out of time for UCAS deadlines and I needed to decide sooner rather than later. But what if I wasn’t ready? What would be so wrong with taking time out and waiting until I was certain? It would surely be better than heading off to a city that I would come to hate, doing a degree that I would have no interest in and debt that I would have to pay off due to my ill-decision.

I’m not speaking from experience with the above as I couldn’t love Liverpool any more, couldn’t have chosen a better degree and well… unfortunately I can’t do anything about the debt. But I do feel like I was pressured into going to university. I was definitely rushed in making the decision of which course to study and which university to attend. I was in two minds of going with the safe route of a finance career or taking a risk and potentially making a future in my dream career. I don’t have to tell you which career path I took but you can read all about my dilemma here.

In terms of choosing which university to attend, that was probably the hardest decision. I was going to be moving to a new city. That’s a pretty big deal. But how would I know which was the right choice? How did I know if I would like it? Would I be able to stick it out for the next three/four years? Would I make friends? Make it a home? I had heard a lot of good things about Liverpool, but some of them seemed almost too good. The first time I visited Liverpool was the day I moved in. And it was the best decision I ever made.

But just because university worked out for me, doesn’t mean it works out for everyone. Sometimes I wonder if it was all worth it. The debt, four extra years of education and did I mention the debt? Do all roads lead to university? Do I need a degree in PR to work in PR? Here are some of my pros and cons regarding undertaking a university degree:

Positives:

They could be the best years of your life

For me, this was definitely the case. University has been the best three years of my life and I don’t regret my decision in choosing my PR course at Liverpool John Moores. The friends I’ve made, the people I’ve met, the home I’ve built for myself and the memories I’ve made, make the thousands of pounds of debt worth it (kind of). I love this city with all my heart and will be leaving with best friends for life. And a degree. Hopefully.

I think it’s a luck of the draw situation when it comes to your first year of university. I would definitely recommend living in halls and not living with people you already know. You may make a lot of new friends this way and your friends from home are always a short distance away if you need them. If you find the people in your flat aren’t a ‘bit of you’ then join a society, make friends with people from your course or at pre-drinks. You can always make friends at pre-drinks. There are so many people in the same position as you and are eager to make friends. Trust me, your first year of university will be the best year ever.

Having the best time at university doesn’t always happen for everyone though. I’ve heard this a lot from people that attended university in London. There’s not much of a student culture and you fade in with the other ‘Londoners’ who have moved to the capital to start their new life. This is why I found Liverpool and London to be so different. In Liverpool you can’t walk out of your front door without spotting someone in their school leaver’s hoodie (I still wear mine too) but in London… I don’t ever remember encountering a student that wasn’t interning. Beth Sandland wrote a great post on university not living up to being ‘the best three years of your life’.

University

Carrying out research for my degree in Best Bars in Liverpool

You get to move away from home

I always knew I would be moving away from Ireland for university. Four out of five of my UCAS choices were in England (the Belfast one was a ‘just in case’). When it finally came to September, with my place in Liverpool confirmed and my flat ready and waiting for me, I almost chickened out. I was terrified. I was 18 and moving to England. I had said for so long, ‘I’m moving away, I’m moving away, I’m moving away’ but when it came down to that moment, the reality of being so far away from home, my family and everything that was familiar to me sank in.

But… it was the best decision of my life. I fully know the best decision I have made in my life thus far was moving to Liverpool for university. If I had stayed in Belfast, lived in the Holylands and went home every weekend I probably would never have left after graduating. I definitely wouldn’t have had the confidence to move to London for a placement year and I may not even have passed university. My life would have looked completely different to what it is now. I love being away from home. Being fully independent at this age is a great feeling.

You have three years of freedom

University leaves you with a lot of free time on your hands. Your first year timetable could contain twelve hours of class time. You’ll soon start sleeping all day and wonder how you ever did a full week in secondary school. You’ll go out when you want, go to bed when you want, wake up when you want, eat when you want etc. etc. There’s no one around to make you go to class, do chores or get your life in order.

When I was on my placement year, this was one of the things I missed most. Not the being lazy part, just the general relaxed structure of having free time and not stuck in an office Monday to Friday, 9-5. Your days were varied and it was up to you to choose how to spend them. Aside from when you showed up to class.

The free time is something I’m definitely going to miss once I graduate and go back out into the real world. But I’m going to make the most of the spare time that I do have this year, working on my blog and trying to figure out what to do post-graduation. The guy who owns Gymshark started his business as a side hustle while at university and now he’s a millionaire. I’m just waiting for my own light-bulb moment to happen to me.

Negatives:

You’re going to be drowning in debt

Nothing scares me more than the Student Loans Company and my impending graduation. I’ve racked up quite a bill and I don’t even want to know what the total will be, come June. I’m going to guess that it will be almost reaching £50,000. If not more. Is a piece of paper I’m going to gain at the end of all this worth £50,000 hanging over my head? When I think of it this way, I tend to say no.

But what if I move away from the UK after I graduate? How do I pay it back? Will Brexit effect this? Can Jeremy Corbyn just become Prime Minister already, get rid of Brexit and abolish all student tuition fees?? Shouldn’t learning be free?? I don’t feel like I’m educated enough on student loans whatsoever and I have no idea how it works if I go to move away. What if I move to Dubai, America or Australia and never return home to work? Does my debt wipe? Is the answer to life-long student debt to flee the country? Am I going to be an outlaw on the run, never to return to my homeland??

If you would like to donate to my student loan debt fundraiser, just ask for my PayPal address. Thank you in advance.

Liverpool

You could work your way to the top without a degree

I’ve always said nothing beats on-the-job experience. Personally, I think it would have been very beneficial for me to have spent the past three years working in a press office/comms role learning the tricks of the trade. Do I need to have the background knowledge of leadership styles? Couldn’t I have read up on this myself or learnt it first-hand? Will I ever use the Harvard Reference System in my daily job? Did I really need to study a module in Finance & Accounting? Isn’t my Business Studies A Level enough?

If I had went straight into working in PR, fresh out of school, I might be in an Account Executive role right now. I may have worked across five different industries. I would have tons of contacts. Do I have to study a degree in Public Relations to be able to work in social media? Isn’t ‘spending eight hours a day on social’ enough of a qualification for the role?

With jobs popping up left, right and centre that didn’t even exist ten years ago, is university becoming less relevant? Do we just need tech-savvy people who live their daily lives through social media and the web (who also have common-sense) to carry out these new roles? I know that years ago, university wasn’t seen as a rite of passage. It was for the rich. But now that it’s seen as a cultural norm (and a chance to spend three years partying) is it more peculiar if we don’t go?

Don’t get me wrong, I know you need a degree for things like healthcare; training to be doctors, dentists, surgeons etc. Or if you want to go into law or be a teacher. But when it comes to the Business field – do we need a degree? Research firm Wealth-X found that in 2016, nearly a third of the world’s billionaires didn’t have a university degree. Anna Wintour, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates all have one thing in common. None of them have university degrees.

You could become an Influencer instead and become rich

Get a head start, find your niche, block out the haters, grab that camera and get on YouTube. That’s the advice I would give to my 15 year old self.

Do you know how much money there is in YouTube? I had no idea until I started watching Shane Dawson’s series on Jake Paul – more on this in a future post. Shane would interview people that knew Jake through YouTube. However, these people (YouTubers) all live in identical mansions in Beverley Hills. Do they pay rent? Nope. The houses are paid for by investors, so that the YouTubers can make content. Mind-blown? So was I. It’s a different world out there for YouTubers, one in which I am now investing my spare time researching because I just can’t get my head around it.

I’m not saying to become an Influencer for the money (yes I am) but think of how fulfilling it must be, to be an Influencer. To educate your fans/followers on what’s going on in the world, how plastic is killing our oceans, how fast fashion is killing our planet, how to contour your face in under five minutes etc.

I don’t know why, but young kids seem to love to sit and digest YouTube all day, even if it’s a bedroom tour or watching someone clear out their wardrobe. I kid you not. So instead of paying £50,000 in Student Finance fees, rake in £50,000 through a few sponsored YouTube videos. Then when the Influencer craze moves on, you’ll be rich enough to retire at 35 and move to Thailand or Bali or somewhere else millennial.

Was university the right choice for me?

Absolutely. Aside from the debt – did I mention the debt? – I have had the best years of my life at university, the best opportunities, made best friends and created amazing memories.

I would class first year as a ‘trial run’ in that it doesn’t count towards your final mark, you’ll be partying all the time, miss a lot of lectures, live on a diet of Pot Noodles and have the worst sleeping pattern in the world. Oh and you’ll pile on a few pounds too. It definitely wasn’t until second year when I got my life together and realised that I was at university to get a degree and hopefully a great job at the end of it.

Without my university degree I wouldn’t have been inspired to start this blog, carry out work experience, chase my placement dream in London or be sitting in my amazing final year flat and have achieved so many personal and career goals in such a short space of time. Even with the debt looming over my head like a grey cloud, I don’t think I would be in the career position I’m in now if I hadn’t enrolled at Liverpool John Moores University on the Business and PR degree.

University

Hoping for a real cap and gown next July…

2 Comments

  1. October 18, 2018 / 9:26 am

    We can never know what would have happened if we’d made other choices. You could have been a successful entrepreneur by now if you’d not been at university gathering debt (are we mentioning debt?).
    But in your case I can be certain that university was the right choice. Why? Because you’re asking all these questions.
    Some students think they go to university for knowledge (answers). In reality, barring a very few vocational degree courses, what you learn is the ability to solve problems by asking the right questions.
    Think of it this way. We don’t know what you’ll need to know in ten years time (let alone forty), but can predict that you’ll be seeking answers and solving problems for yourself.
    Final tip: the most important moment in a job interview is when they say ‘do you have any questions for us?’ It’s a test of your curiosity and preparation. You’ll be fine I’ll wager.
    Besides, financial capital is only one form of capital. There’s social capital (your network and relationships); there’s psychological capital (your ability to cope); intellectual capital (your ability to solve problems) etc.

    • orlaghclaire
      Author
      October 18, 2018 / 2:32 pm

      I have a habit of almost interviewing the interviewer when it comes to the last question, “So what do you like about working here?” – it always seems to stump them a little bit.
      In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy, I’ve just never liked the idea of owing anyone money or being in debt which will be a huge burden once I graduate. But I very much hope to build on the others that you mentioned.

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