Higher education, as a rule, is generally quite a good move for a vast amount of people – a degree is a certificate of applied intelligence, and will open doors after three years of studying that can be very difficult to get into any other way. That said, it’s not like university is the be-all and end-all of success. There are many, many other ways to get ahead in life, whether it’s by starting in a smaller job and working your way up the ranks or coming up with an excellent idea independently or simply by networking or being creative. University is a very, very good option for a lot of people, but it’s not the only option and it’s certainly not the only option to getting ahead in life.
The people who tend to do well by going to university are the ones who are prepared to work hard and in many ways make sacrifices. Science courses, for example, don’t have much room for creativity. And even courses in the arts and literature are enormously restricted in the modules available to students. It may be that a handful of English students are particularly keen on medieval literature. Most aren’t, but will have to put up with it to get a decent grade. That, simply, is the way of the world and one of the great displeasures of university – it may well offer a good way into something that a student wants to do later on in life, but there’s a lot of unpleasant stuff to sift through in the meantime.
The same thing goes for getting ahead outside university too, of course. Often the very successful people in life haven’t gone to university, and many of them say things like “I learnt the value of hard work”. Not going to university may set some people back in work, but at the end of the day true talent shines through whether you have a degree or not, in our experience. University is a personal choice, and though it can be very helpful, it’s absolutely not for everyone. This is our guide to working out whether or not you should go to university – we’ll address the pros and cons and the whys and whens, but at the end of the day it is absolutely your choice.
The Advantages Of University
A degree, as we said before, is a certificate of applied intelligence. Practically, this means that you don’t have to prove to any potential employers or clients that you’re clever enough to gain a university qualification. Of course, from your time at university you should also gain a vast amount of practical knowledge, but the real and most important part of a degree is simply that it shows that you are capable of getting it – not the knowledge that comes with it. It’s a subtle difference, but a very important one.
Having a degree under your belt in any subject will allow you to apply for better jobs and positions that would only consider graduates. Whether this is the right thing for an employer to do is the subject of a much longer and entirely different article, but, right or wrong, this is the case in the real world and many job applications will only be looked at if the applicant has a degree under their belt. As such, university can be immensely important in securing a good, stable, well-paid job.
Another huge advantage of university is the jump-start into adult life. Often someone who graduates after A-Levels or at the GCSE stage will not be able to move out right away and will be stuck living in the same place they grew up – generally with their parents. This means they don’t have the advantage of learning the general “life skills” that university students will learn over their time at university. Things like washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning are all simple tasks, but together they culminate in the ability to just live independently. This isn’t just an advantage of university, admittedly – everyone will learn it when they move out – but university is often when people learn to pick up these skills at the same time as earning their degree.
Finally, the social side of university is another huge advantage. Not simply because students are forced to learn how to make friends and socialise etc. etc. (most people already know how to do this) but because university is a great way to begin networking in quite a controlled and simple environment. At university you are surrounded by people who will – like yourself – grow to be young professionals in their field, and so in 20 years when you might need a graphic designer or IT consultant or a chemistry expert you won’t have to search the web or put an advertisement in a newspaper – you could simply log onto Facebook or check your phone and all will be well (and, if you’ve made the right impression, at “mate’s rates”).
So, yes, there are a huge advantages in going to university. However, there are disadvantages too (which we’ll get to). First, though, here’s a pinch of salt to go with all the claims we’ve made above.
A Pinch Of Salt (As Promised)
To sum up the advantages above, we could say university offers: proof of intelligence, intense knowledge in a specific subject, jump-start into independent life, social practices, and networking advantages. Now, these are all immensely useful things to have, but it’s not like university is the only possible way of achieving a lot of these.
It’s true that a degree is a very sure-fire way of proving you’re clever and that you have good knowledge in a specific subject, but it’s not the only way of doing so – a few years working within a specific industry, particularly in a prominent, problem-solving position, can prove the same thing. Yes, a degree is the fast track way into becoming a clever expert, but we don’t want you, reader, to think it’s the only way.
Similarly, a jump-start into independent life will happen sooner or later when anyone moves out of their parental home and starts living on their own. University may well be the easiest way to start learning (because you’re surrounded by people in a similar situation and have the cushion of a student loan), but it’s not the only way to learn how to live by anyone’s standards. Social practise will also come sooner or later, and no, you might not get the networking advantages that a university student might, but you’d be surprised how many people you can meet in a year if you put yourself out there. Networking comes in many shapes and sizes, particularly with the power of social media these days.
Point is, yes, university is very often the best and fastest way to get ahead in a lot of categories, but it’s rarely the only path to the same destination. University is advantageous, but we don’t want you to think that it’s the only possible way to take your life in a certain direction, because it quite simple isn’t. It’s simply the fastest.
The Disadvantages Of University
There are also a few disadvantages of going to university that we should address. These, generally, fall under the category of “common sense”, or even in some cases “duh”. Still, in the name of balance and fair play we’ll do our best to address them without sounding too patronising. Wish us luck!
The big first disadvantage of university is, of course, the expense. Now the prices of university fees have more-or-less tripled, there’s all the more reason to try to make it out in the world without trying to get a degree. £9000 a year, plus a student loan for living, plus whatever else it might cost, multiplied by the number of years you study, and you’re looking at a whole lot of debt before you’ve even started your working life. This, of course, has put a huge amount of people off university from the outset, and in fairness it’s very easy to see why.
Another big disadvantage of university is that it often has the ability to type-caste a working brain a little. If you were pretty decent at writing essays and factoring an equation during you’re A-Levels, there’s every chance you’ll only be decent at one of them by the time you graduate. University streamlines a person in one specific subject, but it doesn’t go much outside that so if you’re hoping for a job that’s not directly related to your degree you’re going to have to do a lot of extra homework to get on top of it properly.
University also has the possibility to, simply and frankly, not be quite right for a lot of people for a huge variety of reasons. One thing that everyone thinking about starting university should be aware of is that a degree program is hard work and will last a good long time. You can’t (well, you can, but you shouldn’t) leave after a year with a first-year grade to show off – the full degree grade is the only thing that’s worth anything, so you have to be in it for the long run. If you’re not, you’ll end up spending a lot of money on what essentially will have been a useless experience. Worrying, we know. You have to be sure you’re able and willing to spend another three years (at least) studying before you start university.
The disadvantages, we’re afraid, also come with a fair amount of salt. There are two sides to every coin, and every coin has two halves, and each of those… well, you get the point. Doubtless if we tried hard enough we could come up with a few pinches of salt to go with our pinches of salt. Don’t worry, we won’t do that.
Another Pinch Of Salt
So, the disadvantages summarised are: the cost of university, type-casting the brain, and the possibly painful commitment of another three years in education. Yes, they’re all pretty nasty things to be stuck in, but, again, it’s not like they’re all that bad, when you think about it.
The cost of university, for example, will be more than made up for with the job that you’ll get with your degree. That’s painfully obvious, really – if it wasn’t then nobody would ever, ever bother to get a degree in the first place. It will eventually pay for itself. The debt is a pain, but it won’t be the end of the world if you get a good grade at the end of your degree. In the grand scheme of things, the £36,000 that the entirety of university will cost will be less than your mortgage and once it’s paid off you’ll be earning a truly significant amount of cash if you did university right. Besides, the student loans system is set up so you have to be earning a decent wage before you even start paying them back. In that scheme of things, it all works out OK.
Type-casting the brain, the cynic might suggest, is going to happen anyway in any career path, university or not. And that of course can be prevented by keeping your studies separate from your vocations and if you’re doing an English degree doing the occasional bit of maths or vice versa. And the commitment to three years is a very important thing to get your head around but it isn’t, in itself, a bad thing to be committed.
You have to be certain that university is right for you before you start, it’s true. But remember that university isn’t for everyone and you can do well without going – university is, at best, a shortcut to success, and is far from the only way there. And if you don’t think university is right for you now, it’s not like it’s going anywhere – you can always attend later. Whatever you decide, we hope this article helped and we wish you all the best. Good luck!