Discuss: my experience with university

Over the past couple of days teens across the country have found out whether they got into university or not so I wanted to share my experience with university and start a bit of a discussion. 

I’d spent two years at college studying Forensic Science and was planning to go to university to study Forensic Science. I didn’t really think about whether or not I wanted to go to university, I just thought I had to do it. 

One year and a half later I found myself quitting and starting a marketing apprenticeship. 

There were two reason behind me quitting. The first was that I realised it wasn’t something I wanted to do as a job, it fascinated me (and still does) to learn about forensic science but as a job it wasn’t what I thought. Believe me I didn’t go into it expecting it to be like CSI but it was boring in comparison to what I expected. 

The second was that I didn’t feel I was being prepared for a career. Instead I felt I was just being taught to pass exams. One and a half years in and £12k down, I didn’t feel like I was getting my money’s worth and felt incredibly under prepared. 

My apprenticeship gave me more experience in a year than I’d got in one and a half years at university. Granted they were different subjects entirely but university could never have offered me that kind of experience even if I’d studied marketing. 

I don’t have a single regret about leaving university and I am glad I left because it was the right thing for me to do. I’m also grateful for the support I received from my family and Tom because it wasn’t an easy decision to make and it was scary being a ‘dropout’. 

I’ve spoken to other friends who went to university without really asking themselves whether it was what they wanted. 

At 18 years old you can’t be expected to know what you want to do and with yearly fees of up to £9,000 you owe it to yourself to make sure it’s what you really want to do. Don’t feel pressured into it and don’t feel you have to go because that’s what you’re ‘supposed to do’. 

There are other options such as apprenticeships which allow you to learn on the job and earn a wage. Over the past couple of years I’ve spoken to a few business owners who prefer to take on an apprentice or someone with experience instead of someone with a degree.

I’m not trying to say university is wrong at all I just believe that everyone deservers to think hard about whether it’s right for them or not because you are kind of ‘sold’ university. 

Did you / didn’t you go to university? What are your thoughts? 

  • I came pretty close to quitting uni after the end of my second year, I’d changed my mind about the career I thought I was going to go into as my degree choice had put me off. I’m glad that I did go on to finish it, but realistically I haven’t used it.

    • I think it’s so difficult to go to university and choose a degree when you’re 18 and when you probably haven’t had experience in the career you’re interested in.

  • I always thought I had to go to uni and I spent most of my a levels trying to decide what I wanted to do as I had no idea, and then I decided to not go. I started working full time to save up for going travelling with my best friend, and then I started to want to go to uni, but I was still unsure what I wanted to do, so I looked through all the course on ucas that seemed to be relevant to my skills/interests and then I found the perfect course. It was one i’d never considered before, but after a visit to the uni I knew it was wanted I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. After 2 years of uni, I still know this course and the decision of going to uni was the right one for me, it may be that i didn’t ‘need’ a degree to go into the area I wanted, or i may not have got much experience, but I’ve had the most amazing time, learnt so much and realised what sort of thing I really want to do with my life. Im more motivated and excited about learning which is just great.

    I think there needs to be more encouragement on people taking gap years or exploring other options, or letting people know its okay to quit or change course or change uni, or even that its okay to do a course that isn’t necessary to get a job, just cos you want to go to uni. Yes you’ll be in debt, but everyone will be in debt and its manageable debt. Don’t be scared of uni because of the debt. But also don’t go to uni because you think you have to.

    Glad you managed to find something you really enjoy and good for you in having the strength to drop out when you weren’t happy, that must have been a very hard decision.

    Emma x
    Writing Essays With Wine

    • Thanks for your comment Emma. I’m glad to hear you found a course you wanted to do and I agree as school and college we were just encouraged to go straight to university, no one encouraged us to think about whether it was right for us at that point in time or look at any of the other options.

  • Oh man, you guys are so lucky that your college/university tuitions are only that! The standard for a public university in the US is over $23,000 a YEAR. Trust me, we know it’s a very broken system. That means getting half way in and then changing your mind is much more expensive. I definitely agree with you that college isn’t for everyone. While the freshman experience of dorms is a really big deal in American culture, if you’re 18 and don’t know what you want to do yet, it’s usually best to just hold off going for now.

    I went to a four year university at 18. I pretty much knew I wanted to study literature / creative writing, and that’s what I did. I was lucky enough to have grandparents who payed for all my tuition, and parents who supported me financially in other ways like housing, food, etc, although I also worked the entire 4 years as well. I totally agree that college isn’t for everyone, but here it is hard to get a job in a field like marketing without a 4 year degree. However you can go to trade schools like pharmacy tech, graduate in a year and a half or two years, and go on to get good jobs.

    I’m glad you had the courage to make your own path and make hard decisions! It seems like you had a lot of great support from your family and Tom 🙂


    • Wow $23,000 a year for a standard university? That’s insane, ours used to be less than £4,000 a year but a couple of years back the government raised the limit to £9,000 a year. Now they’ve realised people won’t be able to pay it back quickly and they’re going to be waiting ages to get it back.

      Good to hear it worked out for you, in hindsight I wish we’d been encouraged to really think about it before I went.

  • I graduated this time last year, and the final 1 and a half years of my 4 year degree I started to really wonder why I was even doing it. I don’t regret it and studying a language that gave me a year of studying in another country was an unforgettable, valuable experience but in retrospect I was never told there was any option OTHER than university. School never showed us any other options. My mum pushed university as a mandatory thing instead of one of several choices.

    There isn’t enough information out there about apprenticeships and vocational courses, kids are just told ‘go to university, you’ll get a good job if you have a degree’ when the reality of it is that young people with actual skills and work experience are FAR more likely to get certain jobs than graduates, many of whom struggle to find work in the current economic climate. I have a BA in Japanese but I’m working a poorly paid office job now (although granted I would’ve had better opportunities if I was willing to move back to Japan), and very few people I know who didn’t go on to do MAs or MScs are actually in what we were all told is a ‘good’ job.

    If I knew then what I know now, I might’ve made a different choice, but the information wasn’t available. Do your research and don’t just take what older adults and teachers shove down your throat about uni!

    • My school pushed university, as did my college. No one told us to think about whether it was right for us or not and I didn’t stop to ask myself whether I wanted to do it or not, I thought it was what I had to do.

      Good advice about doing your own research 🙂

  • CJ

    A really interesting post. I did my degree part-time in the evenings, whilst working full-time. Not much fun, but I didn’t get into debt.

    • My Mum is currently doing an open university part-time, she’s been doing it for about five years now and only has a couple of years left. It’s been really hard for her to find time but she’s managed to avoid debt too.

      I love learning and I like to think that at some point I will do a part-time degree.