Making My Mind Up About University

Source: UCAS edited by Cai

Source: UCAS edited by Cai

Cai talks about what it’s been like taking some space from education and he reflects on his thoughts about going to university.

Since I left sixth form, the question of university has been looming over my head.

‘So… Have you thought about university?’ a well-meaning family member asks me.

‘Not yet’ I reply.

Since I left sixth form, the question of university has been looming over my head. Some days, I’m completely sold on the idea; whereas others, I’m set against it. Rightly so though – it’s a big decision.

A year and a half ago, I wrote one of my first pieces for Rife – ‘I want to make my own mind up about university, school’. I, and many of my school friends, felt pressured into making a decision about university, and there were times when it felt as though we were choosing an option we hadn’t had the time to think through properly. I was unsure whether university was for me but applied anyway, only to withdraw my application after a couple of months. It wasn’t sure it was for me and I was making a decision I hadn’t committed to. I wanted space to consider what I wanted to do, and whether university really was the right option for me. Two years on and I still haven’t made up my mind. The difference is though, that I know so much more about what I want to do and where I want to be.

I was gearing myself up to write such a brilliant personal statement that they couldn’t refuse me.

I spent my first year out of education making plans to ‘apply next year’. I mapped out my year – working out that I would work in a coffee shop for several months, go travelling for a few weeks and spend time building up my portfolio. I was gearing myself up to write such a brilliant personal statement that they couldn’t refuse me. With all this experience, I’d be able to pick and choose universities and courses at my leisure.

Roll on the summer and my head was filled with open days, prospectuses and the tedious memory of filling out the UCAS form. But it was all a hassle. Finding the right course, visiting universities, pulling together that stellar personal statement all felt like a waste of time compared to everything else I was doing. I was making real progress illustrating – being contacted about commissions every few weeks. I was progressing at my part-time job – being trusted with more and more responsibilities. And I was already learning so much. Would it be worth putting all this on hold to go through the process of applying to university again, and end up not even wanting it?

So in the end I didn’t apply. Again. The deadline passed and it didn’t bother me.

There can be so much experience to be gained outside of higher education and I feel so much better off because of it.

When it comes to my education, I don’t regret any of the choices I’ve made (well, perhaps I should have paid more attention in maths…) and I feel like not going to university straight from sixth form was the best choice for me. There can be so much experience to be gained outside of higher education and I feel so much better off because of it.

But it’s not the best choice for everyone. I have friends who have gone off to university, and it suits them so much. University can be a great option for some people. Whether it’s the start someone needs or the next step they want to take, university can do a lot of good. But it’s important that it’s a considered decision.

I spent so much time going back and fourth between university – it would change every week. It got to a point where I was finding it hard to plan what I was going to do next because I wasn’t sure if I’d be at university in a years time or not. So I decided to rule it out. Not completely, just for a bit of time so that I could fully commit to not going to university. In the future I might apply for university, but by going through the constant cycle and change of whether I will or won’t, I’m holding myself back.

Whilst at school, we can get caught up in a way of thinking and a momentum that will propel us straight into university.

Taking a space from education is such a positive thing for both me and a lot of other people. Whilst at school, we can get caught up in a way of thinking and a momentum that will propel us straight into university. Taking a break can give you a much wider range of skills. My gap year times three might continue for a few more years, or I might enroll next year. But allowing myself the space away from it gives me the chance to explore what it is that I want to do in the future.

As I said before – ‘I’m not saying that university is a bad idea, just that what you choose to study is an important decision.’ Sometimes spending that time away from what you’re used to can give you that hindsight that you need.

Just make sure you think it through.

Are you going to university? How did you decide what course to study? Are you thinking about putting together a UCAS application? Do you even want to go to university? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter

The Prince’s Trust offers some great education alternatives that you can check out for free.

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