To go to university or not to go? An A Level results guide

Five years ago, I wrote the blog post, ‘Don’t rush into clearing straight away’ as a response to A Level results day. It is consistently my most read post at this time of year, but since then tuition fees have spiked and people’s reasons for going to university or not going to university have changed, so I thought I’d refresh my takes on things. Here’s my advice to everyone finishing sixth form and college today:

If you want to go, then go. I say this for two reasons. Firstly, I’m fairly confident you’ll love it, and secondly, tuition fees really are not the be all and end all of any decision you come to.

Uni mates – some of the best people I’ve ever met. I’m even marrying one of them!

Of course tuition is expensive, but I worry that the way degrees are portrayed now make young people (and their parents) envision a knock at the door come graduation day and someone stood there asking for £9000 for every year of attendance. It’s not like that. Not at all. At no point in your life, rich or poor, will anyone demand repayment from you. If you make a particular amount of money after you graduate, you’ll start repayments of about £12 a month, and if you don’t, then you won’t pay anything back until you do. If you never do, you never pay. Simple as that. No demands, no bailiffs, no reminders or pressure to cough up. So please, please don’t let the worry of tuition rob you of a future.

If the cost of fees are still playing on your mind however, look at it this way: Say your loan totals up to £27,000. The average graduate salary is £25,000. That’s the equivalent of just over one year’s salary in exchange for the qualification and experience which allows you to earn that every year. It might seem a lot, but when the alternative may be not earning as much, then you’re effectively still paying that cost in one way or another.

But anyway. I don’t want this post to be about money. Quite the opposite really. I didn’t quite do university right. I didn’t live in halls or a shared house, I didn’t have housemates waking me up with pizza most nights, I didn’t have the social freedom to go out and do whatever I wanted each night, and yet I still had an amazing time. I can only imagine how much fun I’d have had if I had fully indulged in the student lifestyle.

Whether it’s the nightlife that seems the most fun to you, meeting a ton of new friends, joining societies full of people that totally get that seemingly really random hobby you have, and discovering they love it too, or simply really appreciating academia, university genuinely has the experience you want to get out of it, whatever that may be.

University of Hull

I’m all for choice, but I don’t want anyone to make the wrong choice for the wrong reasons. If you want to go, but you still aren’t sure what it is you want to do, don’t feel alone. Not going to university next month does not mean you’ll never go. If you defer for a year in favour of having a good old think, there’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s precisely what I did. There was no fancy gap year in Peru at 18 for me (it was Thailand at 23 instead), I spent my year out working in a garlic bread factory and repeatedly flipping a coin over what to do with my life. I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to do (and to be honest, still do – for some that never goes away), and I didn’t want to commit to a degree until I could decide. I did a year later, then two years after that changed courses anyway. The point is, not being sure of your subject doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. If you really can’t decide, but really want to go, then my professional advice would be to choose a generic but valued subject, like English or History, which can easily fit in to most careers and are really sought after by employers.

Today, it’s your results day, and that’s all that today should be about. Celebrate or commiserate, but join your friends, whip out the prosecco and have a bloody good time. Worry about the rest later. Here’s a life tip for you: it all usually falls into place anyway.

On a serious note, if anyone reading this has concerns over their future, please give me a shout. Otherwise, know that even now you’ve finished college, your careers advisor should still be able to provide you with the time for a chat, and if not, then head to your city’s university offices. They’ll have someone who’ll be able to go through your options with you in an impartial manner.

Enjoy the summer, and whatever you end up doing, enjoy September.

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