Is university the right option for you?

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October 16, 2021
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Unsure about university after A level exams? You’re not alone: this major life decision leaves plenty of students uncertain, and the pandemic only made things worse, with one in 5 students changing their mind about uni in 2020 in light of COVID-19.

But there are plenty of other perfectly valid reasons for choosing to delay or not go to uni at all and follow a different path. In this post, we’ll explore the different options available to you after school and ways to figure out whether getting a degree is the right choice for your future.

How do I know if university is right for me?

We get it. We live in turbulent times when it’s easy to feel unsure about the future. But fear shouldn’t be dictating your choices as a young adult — your passions and aspirations should.

Here are a few steps you can follow to figure out whether uni is the right choice for you:

  1. Know your interests. It’s totally fine if you don’t know what you really enjoy yet, or if you don’t know whether you want to invest in it full-time. That’s what gap years are for.
  2. Consider your lifestyle preferences. Going to uni usually involves big changes in your lifestyle — are you ok with moving to a different area and potentially house sharing? Or on the other hand, are you happy to commit to a place for the next few years?
  3. What are your career aspirations? You don’t have to take a job in your field of study, but most people choose a degree that can open career options for them. Consider whether a degree is necessary/helpful to get your dream job (if you have one) or non-academic options are available.
  4. Do you enjoy studying? This sounds like a silly question but think about it — maybe you want to learn a new language but going to school every day and taking exams for your French degree isn’t for you, and you may be better off with private, tailored classes or a year of adventures in Paris.
  5. Assess your finances. To most students, uni represents an investment towards their future. But not everyone is prepared to make it right out of school.

Plenty of options available besides uni

So you think that university may not be the best choice for you right now. Let’s explore the other options available.

Other forms of higher education. Bachelor’s and undergraduate degrees aren’t the only paths. Here are the alternatives listed by UCAS:

  • Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) and Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE): first and second year of a degree course.
  • Higher National Certificate (HNC, one year) and Higher National Diploma (HND, two years.)
  • A foundation degree (normally two years) consists of flexible vocational training that includes both academic and workplace learning. 

Apprenticeships. These are the ultimate hands-on experience for your dream career. If you know what type of jobs you’re interested in and you’re ready to start working right away (80% of your apprenticeship time will be spent on the job) this is a great choice for you.

You’ll earn a salary and have a regular contract, and your course fees will be covered by your employer and the government. But you’ll also be studying the theory behind the work.

Internships. Internships are also completed at the workplace but are less structured than apprenticeships (in most internships, you won’t study the theory.) They can be shorter than apprenticeships and, especially with sought-after employers and competitive positions, they may be unpaid. 

Remember that you can mix and match: plenty of uni students and graduates decide to do an internship to get the experience and connections they need in their field of choice.

Gap years. Gap years are becoming increasingly more popular. If well planned, during a gap year you’ll gain experience to write in your CV, make invaluable connections, and develop soft skills like communication and adaptability. 

If you choose a gap year abroad, you’ll also have the chance to learn a new language (that you can easily turn into a qualification — hello Spanish degree) and see whether an international career is for you.

Start working right away. If you know that studying isn’t for you and you’re excited about joining the workforce, who’s there to stop you? The world is your oyster — work part-time or full-time, volunteer, and even start your own business. You’ll be building your CV and gaining invaluable experience to fast-track your career.

Many aren’t in the position to choose and may have to work to support themselves financially — if this is your case, make sure to check out part-time study options and enquire about scholarships and funding opportunities with the uni’s financial aid office.


Do you have to go to uni to get a good job?

Absolutely not. A degree is essential for some jobs, especially academic and scientific positions, but not for all. There are plenty of exciting and well-paid jobs out there that don’t require formal academic training (although keep in mind that a relevant degree may help.) 

If you already know what your dream job is, figuring out whether a degree is necessary is the first step to get there.

Do I need a language degree?

You don’t need a language degree to learn a language and if uni isn’t for you, you may learn faster and have more fun travelling and/or hiring a tutor.

However, a formal qualification will look great on your CV and may even be required by employers. Remember that you can always decide to learn the language that works best for you and take the exam(s) you need as a private candidate.