With my Facebook news feed full of classic ‘dissertation hand in!’ photos from all my school friends, it serves as a reminder that 3 years ago (or just over, actually!) I made the decision not to apply to university, and that decision has really defined my life up to this point.
Quite honestly, its not something I’ve really given that much thought up until recent months, and I just wanted to write today about how I feel on the matter. A lot of people see university as a rite of passage, an experience that has to be had, but I want to compare my potential university life to the life I’ve had instead.
People always say that university is where you’ll meet your future bridesmaids/wingman/soul mate, but I genuinely believe that I’ve made more friends, and possibly truer friends through the wonders of social media, and I can’t imagine what life would be like without them now. Plus, I’m super awkward and introverted 90% of the time, so I doubt I’ll have been much of a social butterfly at uni!
On the other hand, I do feel like I lost a few people through not going to university. I found my last year of sixth form quite trying; while my friends did a good job of pretending that me not going to uni wasn’t a big deal, I was left out of so many conversations about accommodation nightmares and lecture timetables, and even though I promised to visit everyone, for the first two years, I hardly even spoke to my school friends, let alone seeing them, and its really only been in the last year that I’ve reached out to them again.
Sure, I haven’t had a year studying abroad or worked in a fascinating placement, but I’ve done some pretty incredible things in the last three years. I spent two weeks driving around Europe by myself, I’ve run two half marathons and completed a Tough Mudder! I’ve progressed at work, I’ve been accepted for credit cards and got health insurance. And yes, I haven’t moved out, but that means I’ve been able to start saving for a mortgage and other important grown up things!
By not moving away, its meant I’ve been able to stay close and up to date with my family. I pick my cousins up from school one day a week and take them to their swimming lessons, I get to watch them in their school plays and dance shows and I’ve been able to watch them grow up into proper little people, even if I’ll always remember nightmare baby-sitting! It also meant that I got to be there when my grandad got sick, and getting to spend as much time with him as possible before he passed away is something that I could never replace with a university experience.
I’ve never told anyone this, but I knew three years ago that university would drive what little confidence I had back then right out of me. I probably would have turned into a ball of anxiety and imploded in a corner somewhere. And ok I may not be the most confident person in the world at times, but I’ve come a hell of a long way in the last few years and that needs some recognition. (I would never have been able to publish this post 2 years ago)
Yes I live at home still, but independence takes more forms than just moving out. I saved up and bought a new (second hand) car – my dream car too – and that in itself has been a huge factor in my independence. I’ve changed from a person who would never sit in a cafe by myself to someone who now frequently travels by myself, whether it be a day trip to London or getting the Eurostar to Disneyland Paris.
So just to summarise, I guess you can probably see that I really don’t regret my decision. Sure, I have days were I feel under-qualified and my day job is uninspiring, but I wouldn’t change any part of my life up til this point because its made me the person I am today.
I also want to do a little shoutout to the people reading this who may be in the university decision making process. I get the pressure, I get the confusion, and I’m in no way saying that I don’t believe in going to university; for some people its necessary, some people want the experience, and some people like the security that gaining a degree can give you. I just want you to know that you’re not alone in your thoughts, and you shouldn’t let the general belief of ‘you must go to university’ be the only reason you make the decision you do.
I’d love to hear about your university decisions and how you feel about them, drop me a comment!