So it's that time of year again...people all around the country have got their A level results and have found out whether they've got a place in their chosen University or not...cue lots of advice posts and articles about University.
Lots of people go through the motions, so to speak, they go to school, go to college and as it's the 'thing to do', they also go off to University, but it's definitely not for everyone. I started University in 2007 and graduated in 2010, so it was a little while ago now but I can safely assume the pros and cons are still very similar. I thought this post might help anyone out there whose in two minds about whether they should go or not and it includes a few helpful tips that I learnt along the way too.
Independence and freedom
At 18 years old (the age most go to Uni) all you want to do is move out of your parents house finally and do exactly what you want. No curfews, no rules, no chores! Being at Uni is great for your independence and freedom, not only can you do everything you want but it also causes you to grow up, and quick.
Your own space
There's nothing better than having your own space. It might only be a single room, with an en-suite bathroom if you're very lucky, but it's yours and you can decorate it however you like, watch whatever you like on TV and clean it whenever you like. It's a space where you can really let your personality shine through and everyone has to abide by your rules, including your parents if they come to visit!
Making new friends
They say you make friends for life at University. You might have a small group of close friends or a large group of friends but you're all having the same experience and that's something you can share for life. Going to Uni is like a fresh start when it comes to making friends, they've never met you before and they know nothing about you so it's up to you to put across whatever impression you want when you first meet.
For some people, making friends is really hard to do. I personally didn't really make friends with the people on my halls floor so I would recommend really trying to do this if you can, otherwise it can get very awkward when you enter the kitchen and they're all sat in there.
On first moving in I'd recommend leaving your door open so anyone can come and say 'hi'. As much as it's super difficult, really try to say 'hi' to anyone you see. I'd also recommend having some sort of food or cake you can share with people to really break the ice.
Before I started Uni there was a forum where future students could talk to people on their courses and this led to myself and three other girls chatting lots before Uni and even on MSN Messenger (yes, it was that long ago). That made it much easier when we actually finally got around to going to Uni because there were already some people we knew. We actually all ended up living together in our second and third years and are still friends now. If you can, try and see if there's something like this you can chat to other students on. Things like Facebook and Twitter have probably made this so much easier these days. The Uni also has lots of taster and open days so you can see others from your Uni and course and get chatting too.
Just going to University is an experience in itself. Most people will be living alone for the first time, be away from home for the first time and these are all great experiences. Nights out, parties, studying, meeting people and graduating are all great experiences which follow as well and when you look back on your time at Uni you'll realise just how much you experienced and how much it changed you as a person.
Working towards your chosen career
Now we mustn't forget the actual reason for Uni and that's to get a degree towards your chosen career path. If there's something you're passionate about and want to do in the future then studying it for three years and graduating is the best feeling ever.
Independence and freedom
As much as this is a pro of going to University, it's also a con as well. No rules and no chores means you'll end up eating tins of 'curry' and having absolutely no clean clothes to wear. Along with independence and freedom comes big 'ol responsibility. No more mummy doing your washing, cleaning, ironing and paying for those things you thought just appeared in your house such as food, bathroom essentials, cleaning products etc.
When it was time for my mum and dad to leave me in my halls, in my little single room, all alone, I cried my eyes out! Although I was only around 2.5 hours from home, it felt like 100s and 100s of miles away and it was super scary.
It is so, so hard in the first few weeks to be away from family and friends but you have to remember that they are only at the end of a phone if you really need them and it does get easier. In my day we didn't have things like Twitter or Facetime so it was either a Facebook message/web cam or phone call to family or even an old fashioned letter! It does get so much easier as your mind gets distracted by making friends and all things Freshers Week. Before you know it you would have been at Uni for weeks and are no longer homesick.
Working towards your chosen career
This is another one that's a pro as well as a con. Looking back on my Uni time, I wish I had been a bit more savvy about getting a degree. Just because you study for three years towards a degree and graduate, doesn't mean you'll get a job in your chosen industry. I think it's really important that anyone going to Uni understands this.
I went to Uni with this big dream of working on a top, glossy magazine and living in London but as I got further through my degree and did work experience I realised this wasn't going to be a reality for me. Not only is London ridiculously expensive to live in but it's pretty difficult to get into the industry altogether without work experience. In my day, being paid for work experience wasn't the norm and I did lots of placements for free, which cost me an absolute fortune. To get into the industry you either had to take up an unpaid internship for months or it was who you knew in the industry, which meant you could get a foot through the door.
I'm not saying you shouldn't do a degree because of how difficult it might be to get into an industry but I think you should have realistic expectations and possibly look into alternative avenues of your degree. I did things like website content writing, reviews, working on independent magazines in the area and blogging and somehow I've ended up in PR.
Lack of money and debts
I only really got through my Uni days by working during all of the holidays and during term time in the Student Union bar. It wasn't exactly much pay but it definitely helped. People are often put off by Uni because of the lack of money and the amount of debt you get into. It's true, but after you graduate, your graduate overdrafts will stay interest free for a little while to allow you to pay them off and your student loans don't need to start being paid back until you earn over a certain amount per year.
Getting maintenance grants and bursarys will help but these are based on what your parents earn, which is absolutely ridiculous because essentially the Uni thinks your parents are helping you out all through Uni. I'm sure they will as much as they can but they might not be able to afford it themselves so you really need to be strict with your budgeting and don't blow the money you get all in the first week.
It's a good idea to get a job outside of Uni hours as this will allow you to buy little luxuries here and there and have money for things like nights out etc.
Personally, going to University was probably one of the best decisions I made. It made me grow up, gain confidence, make friends, be realistic about what I wanted to do and was generally just a good experience. It is definitely not for everyone though and if you go and you don't enjoy it, then that's ok or if you don't go and go later in life, that's ok too! Not going altogether is absolutely fine as well! Ultimately it's your decision and no-one elses! Hopefully this post will help you in some way!
Here's a very dodgy picture from my graduation for you:
Before you go, why not nominate Cherry Pie in the Cosmopolitan UK Blog awards here under the 'Best Beauty' category.