University represents at least 3 years of challenging and rigorous academic study. Depending upon where you decide to go, university could represent upwards of $100,000 of investment. It also represents leaving your friends, family and your comfort zone.
So why on earth should you even consider it?
In the UK having a degree opens up the jobs market and gives you the chance to get in at the ground level with the biggest and most prestigious companies. Many companies will not even consider applications that don’t have a degree for entry-level jobs and increasingly the jobs higher up an organisation are almost exclusively reserved for those with a university education.
This is reflected around the world. If you want the most desirable jobs then you’ve got to prove your worth and a degree is a key way of trying to do this. For certain careers or industries job options may be restricted to those who have taken completed specific degrees (you’re unlikely to get a job in Engineering with a degree in Media Studies), while for other careers it may just having been award a degree, of any type, that gets you in through the doors.
Having a degree also greatly increases your earning potential. In the US people with bachelor’s degrees earn around 50% more than those without, while in the UK a graduate can expect to earn around £500,000 more than a non-graduate.
However, going to university isn’t all about your future career.
One of my first bosses told me the reasons he’d decided to recruit me. “A degree is a degree is a degree,” which I roughly translated as he didn’t really care about which university I’d been to, which course I’d studied or how well I had done. My ability to compose History essays (bloody good ones, I may add!) was an absolute irrelevance to my ability to perform the job. However, my personality, combined with my track record of being able to organise my life, live independently and interact with others, was enough to secure me the job.
You might not understand this at the moment, so let me expand. When you’re 18-19, you are still really a child – I know you’re not, but just bear with me – living at home and relying on mum and dad to sort everything out. Leaving home for university is the end of this as once you get there you’re on your own!
Well, no you’re not, but you have certainly left your support network and have to learn to live independently. Most people choose not to attend their local university (something I would wholeheartedly recommend) and that means that they no longer have friends and family to rely on when you’re in need. Couple this with the fact that you are now in a brand new city, country or even continent and this can all seem pretty daunting.
Gradually you’ll learn how to get yourself out of bed, how to wash your own underwear, tie your own laces and so on and so on. You have to make and manage your life for the first time.
However, this is a good thing and you’ll soon get into the swing of things!
The independent skills that you have demonstrated during your degree will demonstrate to an employer that you are capable of managing your affairs and makes you a more reliable bet as an employee. Your future boss wants to know that he can rely on you to arrive on time, dress appropriate and manage your time and work load sensibly.
I’ve gone back to talking about work! So what about you?
This is such a dreadful term that you’ll be bombarded with throughout your adult life. I apologise for using it.
When you’re 18-19, most of us have been in the same school for a number of years and people have pigeon holed us or have strong preconceptions about our character, ability and attitude. Often this is based on behaviour or events that happened years ago.
When I was 16 I began experimenting with the effects of drinking substantial quantities of vodka. Apart from ruining a few shirts to copious amounts of vomit and convincing any eligible young ladies to steer clear of me, I didn’t do anything spectacular stupid in my youth and my reputation wasn’t awful. However, I changed a huge amount from 12 to 18 and still felt I carried my history with me as baggage in my home town and wasn’t really free to change or experiment with who I was.
I don’t mean to sound like some idiot yoga teacher or spiritualist, but I think one of the biggest things about university is finding out who you are.
Arriving in a new town with none (or few) connections to your previous life means that you can be whoever you want to be. I lost my much disliked nickname and decided I would initially be some sort of post-modern hippy. I grew my hair out, dyed it black, shave patches of it off. At night I went out to different types of bars or gigs and experimenting with my interests.
Although my new friends did mock me, quite substantially, for some of these things, I was free to experiment as they were all doing the same kind of thing and we were all in the same boat. I found that the friends I ended up really close to at university were friends that I’d grown close to because of who they were rather than just because they were the best of a small bunch in my home town.
I’d recommend everyone to live in student halls for at least a year. Through living with a bunch of strangers, not only do you become incredibly close, but you learn how to conduct yourself in a shared space and how to get along with others. Two of my first year flat mates were the best men at my wedding and most of them have remained close friends for the last ten years, while I have increasingly drifted away from my school friends.
There are absolutely tonnes and it really depends on where you are going and what you are into. I’ll just list a few more for you to think about:
- Fun and games – The social scene at universities is incredible with clubs for every interest under the sun;
- Learning a new language – obviously this depends on where you go, but three years in a place like Germany or France and you’re likely to come out of it with a decent level of fluency, even if you’ve not studied it before. There is nothing like being immersed in a new language;
- Getting a work visa – again this depends on where you choose to go and to a certain extent upon your nationality; however, places like Canada offer work visas for international graduates;
- Experiencing a new culture – don’t ever be tricked into thinking that where you live is the best place in the world. The world is bloody massive and very different from place to place. We can all go on city trips and pass judgement on other countries, but there is nothing like living in a country to help you understand what makes it and its people tick.