Deciding whether or not to go to university is a huge decision.
Uni will give you a chance to study a chosen subject in greater depth, getting lots of new experiences, contacts and opportunities for self-development along the way (particularly if you choose to move from home). Plus, having a degree often makes you a more attractive employee in the long term.
But given the huge financial commitment involved, becoming a student is no longer an obvious choice to make. These days, alternatives to going to university are growing in popularity - and many can give you a direct route into a career you love.
Feeling undecided? Here are some topics to consider...
The average graduate has £50,000 debt. This is because as a student you’re entitled to a loan to cover tuition fees (a maximum of £9,250 a year), plus depending on family circumstances a maintenance loan to help with living costs (a maximum of £8,700 a year or £11,354 if you’re studying in London).
Although a university degree comes with a hefty price tag, do remember that you only need to start repaying student loans if and when your salary reaches a certain level - as of April 2018, this figure is £25,000.
For many people, studying isn’t just about getting a degree at the end. It’s also about having the chance to learn about a subject in far greater depth - conducting research, writing essays, meeting deadlines, managing your time and collaborating with others. This approach to learning helps you develop skills that are valued by employers.
And let’s not forget the social side. At uni you’ll be exposed to a world of new experiences and will probably meet new people who end up becoming lifelong friends.
Of course, some career paths demand a university education. And if you have your sights fixed on a higher-paying profession like medicine, management consultancy, finance or law you may feel that the cost of getting a degree will be worth it in the long term.
But these days, going to university isn’t a sure-fire path to a stellar career. According to 2017 research by the Office for National Statistics, 47% of people who’d graduated within the last five years were working in ‘non-graduate roles’ (roles that normally didn’t need a degree).
The sheer number of graduates in the job market could be one reason for this – there’s been a steady increase over the past decade. But unfortunately it seems that having a degree doesn’t automatically open the doors it once did.
If you have an idea about the type of work you’d like to do but don’t fancy university, apprenticeships or vocational-based learning can be a direct route into a particular sector.
An apprenticeship is a scheme where you get trained as you work and earn a salary, plus gain a nationally-recognised vocational qualification. Apprenticeships often lead to a full-time job at that company and can also equip you to find a job elsewhere in your chosen industry.
Another option is to get straight into work. As a school leaver, you’ll need to start at the bottom and work your way up but you’ll be in, and earning money straight away.
If you’re still not sure what you’d like to do next, perhaps it’d help to take a gap year after school. It’ll give you a chance to reflect and think about your next move - particularly if you feel you need some headspace after A-levels.
Some people travel, others do voluntary work - but chances are you’ll need to find work to fund plans for your year off.
At HR GO, we work with multiple sectors who look to hire temporary as well as permanent workers so are bound to have a role that suits you. Who knows? Perhaps taking on a temporary role in your gap year will show you what drives you, where your strengths are and what you love to do - and be the catalyst for a whole new direction in life.
The decision whether or not to go to university might not be a straightforward one. If all your friends are planning to apply, you could feel tempted to follow them too in case you miss out on the experience. Equally, your parents may expect you to get a degree.
As hard as it might be, try not to feel pressurised into what could be the most crucial decision of your life.
Only go to university if you want to, and you feel it’s right for your own goals and personal circumstances.
Whatever you decide to do after school, if you want to succeed your heart has to be in it 100%.