University Pros and Cons, Is going even worth it?
My daughter attended university in the United Kingdom – so the university pros and cons of this article is mostly relevant to a UK audience.
However, it contains some wisdom that applies to most anybody considering investing time and money into higher education.
So I’m publishing it as one of a series of articles written as research/opinion by my daughter as detailed in The Entrepreneur Experiment. It has been edited a little to amend some very specific UK terminology.
If you are still considering whether to apply to university then it can be helpful to think about the pros and cons.
- Employment. Some jobs specifically require a degree so if you desire to be a doctor, engineer, dentist architect and so on then university is an obvious choice. Even if you are unsure of your future career path many jobs desire a degree in general as it shows you are reasonably intelligent and have good organization and learning skills.
- The experience. Universities are a diverse and vibrant place to make friends and learn new things and you will definitely broaden your mind. If you stay in your hometown the opportunities are probably harder to come by and are likely just not as exciting and you’ll miss out on meeting many new friends and learning, not just academic learning but all sorts.
- Passion. If you are passionate about your subject, then it is incredibly rewarding to learn about it. University gives you access to countless academic text and your lecturers will have so much knowledge, if you are keen to learn then it will be very enjoyable.
- Non-academic skills. University is great for being independent and being independent encourages you to develop valuable life skills such as cooking and doing laundry. During your studies you will also learn how to think critically and analytically which can be transferred into any workplace.
- Debt. University is not cheap, even though you don’t have to pay off your loans until after you are earning a certain amount this loan comes with interest. Whilst it can be easy to forget about this whilst at university, when you get your first paycheck and this amount has been deducted it’s going to be frustrating and it will take years and years to pay off.
- Time. All courses are at least three years, and many are often more. It’s a big commitment and when you finish your degree you will find that many of your old school friends who left school and went straight into apprenticeships or job are on an annual wage and renting a flat whilst you are moving back home and unemployed.
- Unemployment. University does not necessarily guarantee employment, especially if your course is not technical or scientific. Whilst it might be great to explore your passion in art and spend three years painting, it does not do wonders for your job prospects.
- Its difficult. University is not like school you have minimal contact hours and most of the learning is through your own efforts and sometimes this can seem impossible. The topics you will learn are nothing like high school where if you had decent essay writing skills and a good memory you could do well. University subjects can leave you puzzling over something in the library for a full day and still not grasp it. When I started my dissertation and I had a stack of 20 library books in front of me and 12,000 words to write on a topic I was teaching myself about, I wondered if I could actually pull it off. I managed in the end but the truth is many people don’t, if you don’t put the effort in then you won’t do well and unlike high school there are no teachers or parents to motivate you.
If you have already applied to university then here are some tips that I wish somebody had told me in first year.
Make use of all the resources
When you are paying for the university services it makes sense to get the most out of it and get the most out of your university experience. Whilst most people fully realize the university experience in terms of meeting friends and having a good time one thing that many students do not appreciate are the opportunities that are offered on the academic side.
Many courses have minimal contact hours where you get a few lectures and tutorials a week, however if you use your initiative this can be increased to much more. All staff members have contact hours where you can go in and discuss your plan for an assignment, a topic you didn’t quite understand or get feedback on assignments.
A lot of people only see their tutors if they do a lot worse in assignments than they expected and want to know where they went wrong. As well as this I would recommend going to see them if you got an average grade so you can find out where to improve and also if you got a really good grade then you can learn what made your piece of work so you can try and repeat this in future assignments.
Don’t be a passive learner when your faculty will have some of the best minds in your field. Many of the staff members will have done research on the most niche corners of your subject so if you are interested, they will be more than happy to discuss it further with you because they will be glad that somebody cares about what they are passionate in.
Try new things and challenge yourself
It is the same for most courses and most universities that the grades you get in first year do not count at all to your single grade. When it comes to picking your modules, it can be incredibly daunting to see some difficult looking modules that you have no prior knowledge on and be tempted to pick the safest option.
I had this experience where I was deciding between two compulsory modules; one was a safe bet, a module all about the workings of British politics and I had studied this at school and knew I would be able to achieve a good grade. The second one was a course on the global economy which I knew nothing about and had a reputation as being a hard module but for some reason I picked this one. It was admittedly horrendously difficult, but I ended up receiving one of my best marks of the year and it was far more rewarding than learning about something easy that I had already studied.
If I had picked this module and done awful it wouldn’t have affected my degree, it would just been a learning curve and I could have known what modules to stay clear of in the future.
This also applies to societies- the perfect place to try new things. The ones at my uni ranged from sporty ones like the ski and rugby societies, the more geeky ones such as the Marxist society and the feminist literature society and then also the fun ones like the cheese and wine society.
Don’t worry if you don’t love it straight away!
For the first month of university I did not enjoy it half as much as I thought I would, and I felt like the only one experiencing this. The worse thing was that everyone around me was having a great time, my peers made friends really fast and seemed to fit right in and I wondered why I didn’t. However, in hindsight people weren’t enjoying it as much as I thought.
Since that first year one of my friends has revealed they came close to dropping out and another said they were depressed. The thing with fresher’s week and the first few months is that everyone is desperate to look like they are having the best time and because people want friends, they hang around with the first people they meet. However, many of the photos of people having a great time on social media will hide feelings of homesickness and anxiety, and those big groups of friends that met in the first week probably won’t even talk to each other by the time Christmas comes!
It takes time to settle in and there are endless opportunities to make friends and if you don’t manage straight away do not worry, in the thousands of students there are definitely people who will be your best friends you just have to commit to finding them.
If you still don’t love it – change
On the flip side to my previous tip if there is something that you do not like, do not persevere with it if you have tried to stick it out but still aren’t happy. Even if it seems like a lot of hassle if you are unhappy it simply isn’t worth staying in the same situation.
This can apply to smaller things like a module or the flat you live in but also big things like your course or your university. I had two friends in flats that they weren’t happy in, one moved out and into a new flat and found great friends and loved it, the other stayed put and had a miserable time.
You can always change your circumstances. Many universities let you switch courses if you have the grade requirements, three years is a long time to study something you hate. If you make any of these changes and come to realize that it’s university itself that you do not like, then there is no point staying and it might be best to drop out- even if it leads to disappointed parents it is the right decision!
Most people don’t regret it – there is more to life than just money.
That being said – it’s a solid financial decision http://money.com/money/4081143/is-college-worth-the-investment/