I am a university drop-out. What's more, I am a second time university drop-out. Today, young people have it drilled into them: after school, you must go to university, you must get a degree, you must face tens of thousands of pounds of debt and eventually, you might not even get that dream job you've got your heart set on. University is not for everyone, and I'm a huge advocate that young people need to be given other options that don't involve them being laden with unwanted debt, stress and all of the other hardships that go along with forcing yourself into a degree. The first time I went to university I was 18, it was my first time away from home and I was totally up for a year of freedom, partying and exploiting my new-found independence to the max. I chose a course that I wasn't exactly passionate about, purely for the fact that I felt I had to go to university, neglecting the fact that this meant studying something I wasn't bothered about for 4 years and ultimately having nothing to show for it. I left that course after first year because, despite passing my assignments and exams, I realised that I couldn't see myself studying something I hated for 4 years and being stuck with a degree I didn't want or need at the end of it. The hardest part of leaving university was telling my parents, who I anticipated would be disappointed beyond belief. Granted, they were a little disappointed, but they understood that I was 18, hadn't a clue what I wanted to do with my life, and they supported me.
I spent the next few years dipping in and out of various courses, jobs and generally being a bit flaky in most aspects of life. Finally, at the grand old age of 21, I realised that what I wanted to do with my life, and what I'd always subconsciously wanted to do, was to write. I promptly applied for a journalism degree and, content with my decision, I moved to the other end of the country and started a whole new, slightly terrifying, life. I didn't know anyone down south, and I felt instantly disconnected with the university, the town and the people. Despite this, I found myself really enjoying the course - more so than any other course I've tried, which is surely a positive sign. I was flying through assignments and feeling increasingly confident with my choice of career. Until, that is, I had a sudden realisation that I was getting myself into a hell of a lot of debt for something that might not even be worth it. Whereas when I studied in Scotland, tuition fees were nothing but a non-issue, the move to England brought me down to earth with a jolt - a £9000 a year jolt, to be exact.
I've spent all week um-ing and ah-ing over whether or not I could justify this and, as much as I would love to get a degree in journalism, I've found another option which is much more sensible. The decision was actually more terrifying this time round, I had to leave my seminar in tears to ring my mum and I broke down on the phone. I was so scared of disappointing everyone yet again, I was scared of proving everyone right who said I wouldn't "stick this one out" but the relief that washed over me when I told my mum my concerns was massive. I've come to the conclusion that university just isn't for me, and as scary and stressful as that is, it's okay. Bearing in mind that graduate prospects are dwindling, I fear for those who undertake degrees purely to prove a point or because it's what they are "supposed" to do or because it's what their family wants them to do. Young people need to be shown that there are more options than just going to university, whether that's working or travelling or apprenticeship schemes or whatever the hell makes you happy.
Forcing myself into taking a route that I felt obligated to take was probably the worst, and most expensive, mistake that I've made so far in life. And I'm sure I'm not alone in this. I know plenty of people who have left university, opting for more vocational routes into their chosen industry. I may not have earned a degree, but I have learnt a lot through my time at university. Do what makes you happy, never make decisions to pacify others and always, always, always trust your instincts. University is not the be all and end all that it's made out to be.