When I was at school, it seemed like I had to go to university otherwise I would get nowhere in life.
While there, I don’t remember being presented with another option, other than to go to university at the end of our studies.
It was university or nothing.
I was set up to believe that to accomplish anything in the future, I would need to get a degree.
There were no ifs, buts, or maybes.
It was presented as the holy grail, that would open plenty of doors.
However, seven years after graduating, I look back on this and can’t help to think I was misled.
In those seven years since university, I can’t say I have got much benefit out of my degree.
Yes, it helped me improve my writing and researching skills. I learnt how to structure articles and make constructive arguments, but was that alone worth £3,000?
I’m not so sure.
Going to university is a fantastic experience and you learn a lot about yourself, but it is not the bee all and end all.
It’s certainly not the end of the road if you don’t go either.
There is a always a fork in the road. There is always more than one path.
There is no one route
This article is by no means a rant against university.
I enjoyed my time there and I did get a lot out of the experience. I learnt how to live without my parents and with others. I also gained confidence in my ability to organise my time effectively.
However, I can’t say that I definitely needed to go to university.
Would I have got where I am today without going?
It’s hard to say.
I’m not sure what route I would have taken had I not gone to university. I doubt I would have ended up where I am today if I didn’t go.
But, I couldn’t say that university is the reason I am where I am today.
In fact, I would say university is far down on that list.
I learnt more living in Australia for a year, than I did in three years at university.
My issue is that university is being portrayed as the only road to take.
If you don’t go to university you will not be successful.
You will not be able to get a well-paid job.
You will be stuck in dead-end jobs if you don’t.
This is all rubbish!
You only have to look at some of the most successful people in the world to see that going to university is not as important as it is presented to be.
You can be successful without a degree, the two are not mutually exclusive.
The Problem with University
My main issue with university was that it was sold to me as a necessity.
I wasn’t presented with other options. My father is a builder, I could have gone down that route and become an apprentice under him. Would I have been fulfilled in that role?
It’s hard to say. Life would have been very different, and I almost certainly would not be at this point to day.
The problem with university now, is that more or less everybody goes there.
In the UK, the majority of school leavers move on to higher education at university. There is an overwhelmingly large number of people graduating with degrees.
This means the job market for graduates is saturated. If you want to get a job, you need to stand out from the rest, which is hard to do, when you all have similar degrees.
It’s this area that frustrates me.
We are told to go university to improve our chances of getting a good job. Yet, those chances are diminished when there are thousands of people with similar experience and degrees.
A degree has become less of an investment in yourself and more a badge of honour. A rite of passage that must be taken to be accepted into the upper echelons of society.
But, we shouldn’t do something just because everyone else is and everyone says it’s the right thing to do.
What is the right thing for one person, may be the wrong thing for someone else.
A piece of paper
We leave university with a piece of paper and a mountain of debt.
There are experiences and teachings interwoven with this, but the debt and the paper are tangible aspects of your education.
In many ways I felt I was defined by that piece of paper. People would often ask what I was going to do with my history degree. Like I had all the answers ready.
I was often made to feel it was a mistake to take history. Maybe, I should have done a more useful degree, like Business or Marketing I was told.
But, it’s not the piece of paper that’s important. Once you’ve graduated, each year it becomes less and less important.
What matters is how you apply yourself after you graduate. You could have a top degree, yet, if you don’t apply yourself and work hard, you’re not going to get anywhere.
A degree is not indicative of success. You only have to look at Mark Zuckerberg, Sam Walton and Bill Gates, to understand a degree is no substitute for hard work and application.
Your value as a person is much more than the sum of your time at university.
You should see your time at university as a stepping stone to further success.
It is not a guarantor of success.
It is not the end of the road.
It is the beginning of a new chapter, where you can express yourself to the world.
Once you’ve graduated, the world is your oyster. It’s up to you how you provide value beyond your degree.