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23 In college/ lifestyle/ Open University/ ramblings

why I’m not going away to university

Why I'm not going to university

And it’s not because I’m awful at making graphics. πŸ™‚

There’s been non-stop talk of university for ages now, so I thought this post was just about due!  You can’t really avoid talking about it when ‘where have you applied’ is the obvious question EVERYBODY asks.  Me included, because y’know, most people my age are hoping to head off this year.  It’s still exciting every time somebody posts on the group chat that they’ve had an offer or an interview, and it’s still interesting to find out where people want to scatter themselves about.  Big changes and that.  I’m literally the only one of my friends who doesn’t plan to go away to university though, which always seems to beg the question ‘why not?????’.  I guess it’s seen as a rite of passage.


Just to clarify, I do still plan to start a degree in September, but through the Open University, so I’ll just skip the ‘moving away’ part.  Which is apparently what most people look forward to.  I’ll do my Maths/Physics degree through distance learning, from wherever I happen to be at the time.  Home or elsewhere.

Everyone seems surprised by my decision, until I explain why, and then they agree that it totally makes sense.  With the added plus sides of zero entry requirements and lower fees, which don’t hurt.

A few reasons for my decision:

I can decide my own schedule rather than fitting a timetable.  So excited for the flexibility!  If I want to wake up at 6am and get it all done and have the afternoon to myself, then I can.  If I want to spread out my term longer than a standard 10 weeks, I can.  If an opportunity comes up and I want to pause my degree for a few months and come back to it, I can.  Such freedom!

Yes, I’ll miss out on some of the fun stuff, but I’ll miss out on some of the not-so-great parts too, so swings and roundabouts. I won’t have the group living situation away from home, but that’s not the end of the world.    Not everybody gets on well with the people they find themselves living with, or enjoys the area they live in or whatever, do they?  I’m in no rush to escape living at home with my family, which seems to be a push factor for loads of people.  Yes I’m dying to travel the world and spend as much time in other places/countries as possible, but it’s still nice to have ‘home home’ to come back to, without the extortionate university accommodation prices either.

‘Degree time’ will be just that – study time without the faff of getting to places and whatnot.  More time for other things.

I haven’t made decisions based on finances at all, but I can’t help but question 9 grand a year for nowhere near as much contact time as we’re used to at college.  Lots of learning is based on independent study anyway, which baffles me a bit when you’ve moved away to study AT a university then don’t actually have many hours per week when it’s necessary to be on site.  Hmm.

I can still go on nights out and get drunk and have fun like any other 18/19/20/21 year old.  I’ll visit my friends at whichever universities they choose, just without tying myself to one place for another 3 years.  I’ll flit around and try them all. πŸ˜€

I’d rather not wait 3 years to then begin looking for ‘experience’.  Ideally, I’ll have some kind of job during my degree – exactly what, I don’t yet know.  My internship last year confirmed that I’d like to do something with engineering (looks like such a great industry to work in!) but I’d also like to try my hand at something with digital content/media too, so we’ll see.  Would be ideal to get my foot in the door somewhere soon after finishing college.  I’m impatient you see. πŸ™‚  All I know is that A) I definitely want to be in a workplace, or several different workplaces, for the regular social interaction side of things and just for more exposure to different people, and B) I’ll want the money, obviously.  Girl gotta have funds to live.

More time for blogging.  I’m sure any non full-time blogger will agree that fitting blogging around studying/working/living is the hardest part, when you can see a hundred and one things you’d like to do with your blog if only you could make it a higher priority.  My degree will obviously be a really high priority too, but a flexible one at least, so I’ll have more time to explore my options.

By narrowing down my subjects (I currently study A level maths, physics, history and textiles) I’ll be able to enjoy the others as hobbies more again.  Textiles, mainly.  Making my own clothes for the sake of it feels like badly spent sewing time when I have deadlines.

I’m motivated enough to get on with work without somebody telling me to.  I’m harshest on myself, tbh! Distance learning doesn’t mean you’re completely going it alone anyway – there’s loads of online support and day schools and tutorials and all that jazz.  Lots of help.  I often revise best on my lonesome anyway – I’m too talkative and get more done with only myself to talk to.  Which I do – it helps, OK!

I’ve always had an inkling that I’d end up taking an unconventional route, so here we go!  I fully expect it to be ridiculously difficult and that I’ll want to quit sometimes, but that would probably happen whatever I choose.

Quick sidenote: I’m not against the idea of the university experience, I just don’t think it would be the wisest decision for me.  Obviously going away to university is the absolute best choice for many people, and I’ve heard people say over and over again that the uni years were the best of their lives.  A degree (in most cases) is worth it but you don’t have to go about it in the traditional way.  I just wish the system wasn’t so pushy about which option is best for YOU.

When I wrote this post two years ago after attending a ‘prestigious universities’ conference with school, I thought I’d probably end up taking a gap year, but didn’t really have a clue beyond that.  Few more decisions made now!  I asked for your advice back then, and reading through the comments again now is really interesting.

Some particularly relevant snippets:

‘I went to uni because it was the done thing – there were no other options I could see, and even if there were they were never really explored’ – Naomi

‘If you have any kind of idea about the career path you want to follow, my main piece of advice would be to get some work experience in that field NOW. If you get it on your CV while you’re young, you can build up contacts and get more experience and when you’re my age you’ll have waaaaay more to show than anyone else! Also unis will love that :)’ – Naomi

‘Work experience will be more valuable than your degree’ – Kerry

So my biggest piece of advice is to give yourself permission to explore multiple options and paths and really get to know what you excel at but more importantly enjoy… Remember to seek out what intrigues and not just what is comfortable because ultimately you will enjoy doing that stuff for longer.’ – Jess

‘Just a little bit of advice from me for your future TRAVEL. TRAVEL. TRAVEL as much as you can. See the world and experience different cultures. Im sure this will inspire you. Yes also to continued studying but do take time out to fit in a bit of backpacking.’ – Janice

There were many other lovely, helpful comments, these were just the most relevant.  So my question this time – what were your (education or otherwise) memories of ages 18-21?

lily kate x

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  • Reply
    22nd January 2016 at 10:15 am

    Hi, Lily. πŸ™‚ I said we can relate πŸ˜€ haa haa, because I totally understand why you don’t wanna go the traditional uni and I support your decision (Ha! I know you didn’t ask for support, anyways..). πŸ™‚
    Brief entry, in Latvia (that’s where I live), we go to secodandary school for 12 years and then straigh away head to University. I believe in UK, it is a bit different? You have the college part and those A levels, which I totally don’t get.
    So, after highschool I had a gap year. I had no idea what I excatly wanted to do and I had a quite low self-esteem to apply for the programms I thought were cool. The main point is, in highschool everyone was pushing “You have to finish school first etc etc” and then they started asking questions “What will you study? etc etc” I mean, I was confused teenager πŸ˜€ I didn’t know. I had high grades in all subjects, I could do anything I wanted! But that’s the problem, too many choices is bad too.
    After the gap year I applied for Biology studies and had 3 rather hard years at Uni. πŸ˜€ I did enjoy Biology, but I quickly understood that Biology as science will not be my thing. I mean, I like to know how stuff works etc, but to work in a lab or field on daily basis … no, no, no. Now looking back though, I like my Uni years and I wish I enjoyed them more. Had to overcome A LOT of obstacles to get that degree, personality wise, mind wise, study wise etc. Also a very important part from my studies was the comparisment with my coursemates. I was too concentrated on getting as good grades as they had (I am not a competative person, I was just feeling stupid if I got a low grade, it’s lame, I know πŸ˜€ ). So, if I would go to Uni now, I know I wouldn’t care that much about what grades I have and even less about my coursemates grades.
    However, for my career I guess that exact degree I got don’t change much, but at least I can say I have one. That’s good too.
    I love how you know what you want and what you don’t in a very young age. And that you are very confident, wise and smart. I wish I was that confident when I was 18. πŸ˜€ My life would have been so much easier. πŸ˜€
    Anyways, wish you well in your studies and life after college! πŸ˜‰

    • Reply
      22nd January 2016 at 10:16 am

      OMG that’s a long comment. πŸ˜€ Almost a whole blogpost, sorry. πŸ˜€

    • Reply
      lily kate
      27th January 2016 at 9:46 am

      Your long comments make me smile Madara, it means so much that you take the time to share your wonderful thoughts! We have 7 years of primary school, 5 years of secondary school, 2 years of college, then off to university (or not). We sit exams (GCSEs) at the end of secondary school, then choose 4 subjects for college (A levels) to sit exams in. I’m currently in my final year of college.
      A gap year sounds like a great idea if you’re not sure which course to take! How can you decide if you haven’t had time to explore???
      Biology is a great degree, and I know what you mean about liking knowing how stuff works. That’s why I’m choosing physics too.
      I always think that whilst a little bit of competitiveness doesn’t hurt, we need to remember that someone else getting a top grade doesn’t stop you from doing so, so there’s no need to compete really! Although it can be motivaional. πŸ˜›
      Thank you so much for your kind words! People have doubted my decision so I’m glad that I have confidence that I’ve made the right one for me πŸ™‚
      Thank you again! Lots of love from England to Latvia <3

  • Reply
    22nd January 2016 at 11:23 am

    You go girl!! πŸ˜€
    Having just graduated last summer, I can safely say the other side of it all that even I’m not so sure it was the best option for me. Yes, I have made some of the best friends ever, and I met my boyfriend through being on the same uni course, but experience-wise, it can be quite limiting. Yes, I’ve gained experience through being president of a society and doing some of the careers training offered at the uni, but my work experience isn’t very wide apart from retail work in the summers between years. Looking at grad schemes now, experience in a work field would be a lot more valuable than my first class degree, and surprisingly A-levels still get taken into account, which considering the degree is the most recent show of skill, isn’t fair…
    I think the most important thing is to follow what’s right for you – my school was big on pushing university as the only option, and I wish I’d taken the time to explore what other options were available. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and I know I will eventually find a career I’m happy with, but hindsight is always 20/20 πŸ™‚
    I can’t wait to see what you do, and I’m sure you’ll do well no matter which direction you choose!

    • Reply
      lily kate
      27th January 2016 at 9:53 am

      Yayyy Bekah! Thank you!
      Hindsight is a beautiful thing isn’t it? No point regretting anything, but hey, if you have advice to pass on. πŸ˜› At least you met some wonderful people at university, which can be worth more than anything else. πŸ™‚
      Work experience is one of the main reasons I’ve chosen this route – with going away to university, retail etc. jobs sometimes seem to be the only short term options, which is why I’d like to be more flexible with my availability. I fully expect that I’ll spend some time working in retail anyway, but have options. πŸ™‚
      My college was quite doubtful at first and strongly encouraged me to apply through UCAS as a backup, as they thought I’d change my mind once I saw everyone else applying. I stood my ground, and didn’t feel jealous at all.
      I’ll be blogging everything along the way, that’s for sure!
      Thank you so much for all your comments Bekah, they really do mean so much πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Molly W
    22nd January 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Honestly, I wish I had done open university. I’ve just moved back home after one term because the living at uni thing wasn’t working out for me. You’ll do fab!!

    • Reply
      lily kate
      27th January 2016 at 10:18 am

      It would have really suited you! You’re at Lancaster right? I’ve been spending quite a bit of time there lately.
      I’m sure you’ll do fab anyway, anywhere, anyhow Molly! <3

  • Reply
    22nd January 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Think its great what you have chosen, I think that you are more aware perhaps than other people that there is big old world out there and that you don’t need to do the traditional thing in order to do big exciting things, and having run a business, Both Andy and I are acutely aware of how many people with a degree have no experience of the world, and thats more important than going to university in a traditional way. You are destined for great things, and I applaud you for doing whats right for you. As for the debt thing thats a massive advantage not to have when you are done, its so restrictive. I’m so excited for you, and… as always if you ever want to come and do some work shizzle with us you are always welcome πŸ˜€

    • Reply
      lily kate
      27th January 2016 at 10:44 am

      Really glad you think so Jeni! I actually thought about what you’d said about your pschology degree not coming in as useful as you’d hoped. I just plan to get the experience whilst doing a degree, hopefully!
      Thank you so so much πŸ˜€ Need to see you soon, it’s been way too long! I’d love to come do some work shizzle with you two! Eek let’s make plans πŸ˜€

  • Reply
    22nd January 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Duh! I should have read that before I posted… it should say ‘both Andy and I are acutely aware of how many people with a degree have no experience of the world, and experience is way more important than going to university in a traditional way.’

  • Reply
    22nd January 2016 at 2:14 pm

    I love how reasonable you are! You are definitely thinking it through! I wish I were like that when it was time for me to decide. I went to the university, because I thought this is how it is supposed to be. Everybody is doing that, so I should do as well. Looking back I would definitely make different decisions, but I don’t regret anything, it is as it is. I can’t change my past, but I can change my future!

    • Reply
      lily kate
      27th January 2016 at 10:47 am

      Thank you Alina! I feel like I’ve made a plan that just means I don’t need a fixed plan. πŸ™‚ I feel like university definitely won’t be the right experience for everybody, so it’s a shame that it’s treated like it should be. You’ll have an amazing future regardless!
      Thank you so much for commenting!

  • Reply
    24th January 2016 at 12:39 pm

    It’s so refreshing to see you’re ready to make a decision that YOU are completely okay with and not going with the flow just because it seems like you have to. We have a different system here in Pakistan, 10 years of school, 2 years of college and then comes the university. I’ll be completing my college soon and I’ll be taking a gap year because there’s so much I need to do before I go for my graduation. It seems hard because it’s totally NOT how we’re supposed to do it but I think it’ll be good for me, I’ll have time to support my education on my v own. I’ll be the empowered young woman if things go accordingly haha!

    • Reply
      lily kate
      27th January 2016 at 10:50 am

      WE are the only ones that should make decisions about US! Good on you taking a gap year, I’m sure you’ll love it and fill it with exciting things! Let’s be the empowered young women yes πŸ˜€

  • Reply
    29th January 2016 at 10:19 am

    I’m not sure if the English system differs from us in Scotland but once I left school a year earlier than most (aged 17) I went to college for three years. At college I studied Creative Industries: Television Production which gave me an HND but I never went to University. Sometimes college is used as a stepping stone to uni but other times it is a completely stand alone qualification that means uni isn’t really needed.
    As much as I love learning I knew university wasn’t for me. I struggled going to school thanks to undiagnosed anxiety and so the set up of university life would not have suited me. I’d probably have felt so anxious in lectures that I wouldn’t have missed loads. College was far more free-flowing for me with it being a mixture of several classes and practical work out filming on locations, doing studio work or editing. And if I had decided to go for whatever reason, I would never have moved away from home. I’d have stayed and gone to one of the unis closer to home. I don’t really get the whole moving away thing if I’m being honest but that might have something to do with me being such a homebody.
    I think with something like university you have to do what is right for you and not what is considered the norm, a rite of passage. Life isn’t a one-size fits all situation! I wish you lots of luck with your OU degree!
    Debi x

    • Reply
      lily kate
      1st February 2016 at 6:30 pm

      Our system is a little different to yours yeah! I think our A levels correspond to your Highers. Sounds like you studied a really interesting topic and had lots of fun, making the right decision for you!
      I don’t really get the urge to move away from home either – but I think that has a lot to do with your family. I’d miss having my parents company to chat to, and don’t feel like I have shackles to escape like some do.
      Life definitely isn’t one size fits all! I feel like I’m gonna need a very unique size haha πŸ˜›
      Thank you so much for commenting!

  • Reply
    29th January 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Open University sounds really intersting. I guess if you are not interested in the prestige of going to a university with prestige, then you are more open to seeing what programs or courses really suit you. In Canada there are very few institutions that are know the world over, but my parents wanted me to go to one. It was really important to them and I cannot say it was either good or bad for me. I know they about fainted when I applied for a couple of other universities besides University of Toronto. Well, you get to apply for 3 in one application fee! It sounds like I did a lot to make my parents happy, and I did not have to move away from home either, so that was good for them. My parents had a hard time letting go, and really, I didn’t do much that pleased them. It took a lot longer to find myself and I am not the dentist or engineer they hoped I would be.

    • Reply
      lily kate
      1st February 2016 at 6:38 pm

      It’s an unconventional route but a popular one, especially for people trying to fit a degree around family / work. I’ve never been particularly interested in prestige for the sake of it (although I’m sure the universities are fantastic anyway) and for me, other experiences are more valuable. At least you enjoyed your time at university, whether it was your decision or your parents’! They must be proud of you and your daughters regardless.

  • Reply
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