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Is University Worth It? 6 Guide Points To Consider To Help You Decide

Updated on May 10, 2017

With such a broad range of subjects and majors available to study, it is important to consider what you are hoping to gain from the years you spend studying. This is particularly important with recent studies showing that:

Over 1/3 of graduates regret going to university.

It can be a large investment of time, effort and money to start a degree. This article provides some points for consideration to help make sure that you are considering the realities of university and working life.

It most cases it is advisable to pursue some kind of further education or training, but ultimately it is a highly personal decision that should be carefully considered based on your own circumstances and personality.

If you are interested in my personal experience studying engineering at university, please see the following article:

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Poll: Do you regret starting university?

If you have been to university, in hindsight was it a good decision?

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1. What do you hope to get from it?

Many people have different goals when it comes to further education, college or university. It is important that you consider why you want to go to university. There are tremendous career, life experience or aspirational benefits to studying at university and each person will have their own experience with their own benefits.

Deciding exactly what you are hoping to achieve from the time you will spend at university will really help you to decide whether it is the right step for you, personally.

The most obvious is the potential career benefits that studying can grant. Achieving a degree or more in a particular subject is at least desirable (and most time mandatory) for many higher skilled jobs or employment opportunities.

For many people it is the prospect of independence away from home which makes university life more appealing. College or university can be an excellent step away from home living as a first step. With university loans, campuses and help-staff, it can be a great way to make your first step away from home and into the rest of your life.

For some people, the life achievement and vocation of earning a degree can be the appeal. Although many people in the modern era will dispel the achievement of completing a degree as "everyone has a degree these days", it is a great achievement.

In the UK, approximately 25% of people have bachelor degrees or high, with only 8% holding a masters degree or higher.

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2. Are you willing to work?

For this the old adage is particularly prevalent: "you reap what you sow".

Getting into university can be a challenge, actually graduating at the end is also a challenge. Many people drop out or fail part way through studying for a number of reasons.

If you are considering committing time to your studies, 3+ years in most cases, and take on board a large debt you have to ask yourself the question:

Am I willing to work at this? If the answer is no or you are unsure, then it is worth at least considering other options.

This takes us back to point 1: what do you hope to gain from further education. It is completely okay If the social and life aspect of university is more appealing than the degree and the benefit in your career goals. However you have to at least be willing to put in the minimum amount of effort to get through your degree.

Trust me, your future self will thank you one day.

In summary, don't forget why you are there at the end of the day. The degree may not be the whole reason that you are there, but at least graduating should be your ultimate aim (even if you do enjoy the journey a little too much!).

If you're not sure that you will put in the minimum amount of effort to get through, or the degree is not the ultimate aim, then there are other paths which may suit you better. After all you are investing a lot of time and money to go to university, if you don't get a degree at the end then it is a very expensive party!


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3. Is it worth the investment?

In the modern day this is a definite question which all prospective students should be asking themselves.

It seems as the years go by, the tuition fees are ever increasing. Currently in the UK, fees are up to £9250 per year. For a standard 3-year course you will be paying £27750 for the degree alone, not even considering the cost of living etc.

It sounds scary, but consider the following.

There are many ways to fund your degree, principally through government loans and bursaries which allow anyone to head off the university. Although bear in mind that you will be paying this sum back for some time after you graduate.

The structure of such loans in the UK is kindly organised to encourage students. At the moment there are bands of repayment, set up in a way that you only pay back a small amount each month based on your earnings, starting when you are earning over £21k per annum. Therefore you won't be plummeted into large repayments when you graduate so don't let this put you off.

In summary, consideration should be given as to whether what you are hoping to get out of university is worth the time and money that you will be committing to it.


4. I'm expecting poor results, should I still go?

This a really interesting point, as:

Your college / A-Level results have no correlation with the results you will get from university.

Don't let your results at A-level, college or GCSE's affect your decision to go to university.

Many people have different environments that they thrive in. Some people prefer the methods of teaching practised at a compulsory school level, while some find it better when they are giving more freedom to pursue their studies.

There are 2 examples that are extremely close to me.

  1. Myself - I averaged a B grade a GCSE level and averaged a D at A-Level. I graduated from university with a first-class Masters degree.
  2. My fiance - She averaged A's at GCSE and B's at A-Levels. She graduated with a second-class Bachelors degree.

For myself personally I didn't particularly like the strict learning structure that is given to you at college and in secondary school. I preferred being able to run at my own pace and put in the time that I felt necessary into the right areas. My fiance on the other hand much preferred being instructed and advised through the process. Neither case is right or wrong, both are individual to the person.

University tends to offer a lot more independence to your studies, there is an old rule of thumb that you should be spending as much time in lectures and seminars as you spend on your own studying.

You should consider whether or not you think this would suit you, but definitely do no count yourself out of university because you think you have bad grades. Many good universities will accept pupils with lower grades.


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5. Do you have realistic expectations?

Having a degree makes it easier for you to find a job in the career that you want to pursue.

I will be specific and state that it only makes it easier, it does not make it easy.

Having a degree is a good place to start when you are building your CV, but it is by no means enough to get you through the doors to your first job. Many employers will look for a well balanced CV with a good mix of education, experience and work experience.

I would urge all prospective students to consider how to build a good CV by building their experience in the workplace and in their hobbies and interests, and not to rely on a magic degree to land you that dream job.

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6. What are the other options?

This is largely depending on the industry or area that you are considering. With the cost of studying at university ever increasing, it is important to consider other options.

Apprenticeship schemes.

Apprenticeship schemes can be an excellent option and are wholly under-rated in my opinion. They give young people an opportunity to study and gain their education while also learning how to work in their industry. A huge bonus is that most companies will pay for the tuition fees.

As discussed above it is important that your CV is built around your education AND experience (particularly in the workplace). Apprenticeship schemes do allow you to achieve both at the same time.

One key disadvantage of such a scheme is that they tend to be few and far between. Many companies don't want to take the time to build someone up long time and won't want to wait a number of years before they have a fully fledged employee.

The second disadvantage is the pay. Many apprentices are poorly paid for the first couple of years at least. It is worth considering if this would suit you, as you are trading pay for experience.

In my experience in engineering, apprenticeship schemes should be a serious consideration depending on your circumstances.

I also have friends that have pursued this path in other industries, such as accountancy, and have made a huge success out of it.

Entry level jobs.

This, again, depends on the industry that you are trying to get into. In many industries actual experience and talent will far surpass a level of education.

Consider whether a degree is the right step, or whether diving head first into the industry may be a better option for you.

A benefit is the pay short term may be better than an apprentice, but worse than a graduate.

The most obvious benefit is the experience that can gain this way. Consider your strengths as an individual, learning by doing may suit you more than studying out of a text book.

It is worth noting that none of the options discussed above are mutually exclusive of each other. Just because you start an entry level job doesn't mean that you can't take a break to go to university or study part time.


Closing notes

The decision of whether to study at university or not is a highly personal decision. So much of whether it is right for you or not depends on your own circumstances, goals and personality.

Many people simply embark off to university as it is generally recommended by family, friends and teachers as the best way to go. I would urge all prospective students to at least consider if this it is best for them.

In the end, it will come down to what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there. Consider where you see yourself in the next 10 years and how you plan to get there.

Does your future self have a degree?

Is your current self willing to put the time and effort into achieving it?

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