University or not?

Whether or not to go to university is a big decision and you should give yourself plenty of time to think about it properly. Talk to your school, your family, your friends, and your employers and read up as much about everything as you can. A good place to start is the UCAS website. (UCAS is an independent charity providing information, advice, and admissions services.) It has a very useful page on whether university is for you. We have listed some further useful resources below.

Some of the questions to consider are:

Do you have a particular career in mind?

If so, check what qualifications you need to do that subject – start by looking on the job profile pages of the National Careers Service and Prospects. Many careers now require degrees. A full-time course is usually the quickest way to get a degree – but check if there are other ways you might be able to get the necessary degree for your chosen career.

Are you unsure of your future career?

This could affect your decision in either direction. A good degree from a good university opens up a a wide range of rewarding careers and professions; many employers ask for graduates but don’t require them to have been graduates in a particular subject. So if you think that you can get a good degree in a good subject, university might be the right decision for you. On the other hand, you could decide to postpone university for a year or two in the hope that you might have better idea of what you want to do; and in the meantime, use the opportunity to earn some money/go travelling/do some volunteering.

Are you interested in a particular subject?

Doing a degree means you will spend three or more years studying a particular subject, for the majority of your time. You therefore need to have a genuine interest in a subject, and be prepared to commit your time and energy to it.

There are over 37,000 undergraduate courses at over 395 providers in the UK, so have a look at all the different courses available, including performing arts degrees at conservatoires.

Do you like studying?

See the answer to the question above. Different people have different characters, and some are more suited to studying than others. If you don’t want to spend most of your time studying, you are better off getting a job or doing an apprenticeship.

Will you be able to get into a good university to do a good degree?

Universities and degrees are not all the same, and employers are more impressed by some than by others. As you’ll be committing large amounts of time and money to your university degree, make sure you’re doing something valuable and beneficial – otherwise an apprenticeship or job might be a better idea. Do your research.

Are you worried about money?

There are two aspects to consider – first, the cost of doing a degree itself (tuition fees plus the cost of your food, accommodation etc), and second, the fact that you won’t be earning (or earning much) for a number of years after leaving school. This might be an issue in your personal circumstances.

Begin by reading the UCAS pages on how student finance works and our page on worries about going to university. There is financial help for students for poorer backgrounds, so don’t immediately dismiss the possibility of going to university if you really want to go. But if you want or need to start earning as soon as you can, you can still continue your education part-time.

Are you more tempted by the alternatives?

If you find yourself more excited by the alternatives to university than the prospects of university itself, then think very carefully before going to university just because you assumed you would, or because all your friends or family are going. Everyone is different, and different things suit different people.

Think about doing one of the many types of apprenticeships available – this article from March 2016 shows that you can still do many careers without going to university – even things like law or accountancy. You will have to work hard if you’re trying to combine work and studying (harder than if you’re just concentrating on your studies full-time) – but it may suit you and your circumstances better.

You might also be interested in the following pages:

Worries about going to university
Preparing for university

Spend time with animals

Preparing for work or apprenticeships