Having had to answer this question myself, I know how hard it is to answer when you aren’t 110% about it. I thought I would try my best to help others in the same situation I was in last week. (If you are wondering what I chose to do, go to my previous post linked here)
If you are finding it hard to answer this question, then please consider the following things:
Firstly, do you have a subject that you would like to study? Go to an open day at a university that you would consider going to (I put location first but it’s up to you) and listen to lecturers try and sell the courses to you. It will give you an idea of what you would like to study. I find that reading about courses online was incredibly boring – it’s as if all universities just copied and pasted the same standard description about each subject. Being face to face with the guy that will be benefiting from the money you would be giving the university for letting you study there is much better as he has to persuade you that doing his subject is the best thing ever.
If you come away with a course that intrigues you, brilliant! Carry on with that subject in mind, find the best uni’s for it and visit them. Odds are, if you are fascinated by that course then you will probably have already been swayed to go to uni.
If you have a uni course in mind or even a few uni courses in mind but are still unsure, speak to your college teachers about them. For example, if you are liking the look of a business related degree, go and talk to a business teacher at your school or college. Odds are, they did a similar course to the one you would be referring to and they will be able to talk to you about it to help you figure out if it sounds like your cup of tea. Or you can always look for some insider knowledge: thestudentroom.co.uk is a website that allows college and university students talk about everything student-y. If you have a question, post it and odds are someone will be able to answer it. Another alternative is to contact UCAS. UCAS are surprisingly unbiased towards university and are quite happy to help you will your life after school/college if you decide that university isn’t within your chosen career path. I contacted them when I was offered an apprenticeship at the beginning of my gap year to see if I could still hold my place at university while I do it (just in case I hated it you never know) and the guy said that I could and gave me loads of information on how to know if the apprenticeship was right for me.
If you come away from the open day thinking “nah, they were all rubbish” maybe try a different uni open day. Different universities are better at different subjects. When I visited Chester university, I went to a talk about Marketing and thought it was boring. Then, I visited Liverpool nearly a year later and LOVED the look of it – so much so that I applied to do that instead of what I thought I would always study: fashion.
Then, if you still don’t see yourself studying any of these subjects, start thinking about other options.
- Staying at college: There are loads of adult courses, whether that’s to learn a trade or just to learn a skill. There’s IT, business, cookery, languages, hair and beauty and many more. You can also do these courses part time in case you want to get a part time job to earn money to fund your course. Also, you can study some courses at night if you already have a full-time job. You may also be entitled for financial support if you feel like you wouldn’t be able to afford it.
- Apprenticeships: If you are 18 years or younger then companies get a grant for taking on an apprentice therefore you are very likely to get one doing what you love. If you have a niche, then go with it. There are different levels of apprenticeships: entry level, level 2, 3 and 4. Entry level tends to be for apprenticeships that require you to learn a skill from from scratch. Level 2 is equivalent to 5 GCSE’s, level 3 is equivalent to 2 A Levels and level 4 is equivalent to a foundation degree. You can even get apprenticeships nowadays that allow you to study a degree while doing them and getting a degree qualification after a certain number of years, which is amazing. I know that Barclays has amazing apprenticeship opportunities at Radbroke Hall in Cheshire (obviously, I will know more about what’s around me than anywhere else.) Apprenticeship minimum wage is £3.40 an hour (as of January 2017) and can range from 1 to 4 years. The first year is paid at apprenticeship minimum wage and then the next year(s) would be paid at national minimum wage for your age.
- Internships: If you don’t know what to do and don’t want to commit to an apprenticeship then there are loads of internships as well. Be careful though as internships can be unpaid and you should always make sure that they aren’t just going to stick you in a corner and use you for free labour. At the interview, see what training they would provide and what skills you would be learning. They should have a clearly structured training plan for you. Also, if you would be travelling far then ask if they would cover any travel costs as they may just presume that you are local.
- Getting a job: There is nothing stopping you from diving straight in to life and getting a job. Jumping straight in is a perfect way to experience a career without messing about with getting more qualifications. Working your way up the career ladder equips you with more skills that will support any jobs that you are promoted to. In some jobs, employers will prefer to promote an employee that is already fully trained through previous experience with them than bring some posh tottie in that has a degree that needs to be fully trained up.
But, if you are unsure about any of this, like me, then there is nothing stopping you from taking a year out to try everything.
If you decide to do an apprenticeship but keep your university offer while you do it then you can still go to university if you decide that that would be more suited to you. As long as the last day of your apprenticeship doesn’t overlap with the first day of university then you can always do it. Just don’t forget to defer your offer so that it is still there waiting for you and also don’t forget to apply for your student loan in time as well. You don’t want to turn up to university and realise that you were meant to pay £9,250.
If you feel too overwhelmed and don’t think that you are ready for adult life, then a year out will give you time to breathe and gain confidence ready to launch yourself into the world of adults.
I hope this has helped you to come to the conclusion of whether university is right for you. It’s a big decision, don’t let anyone else make it for you.