Why University Wasn't For Me (& You Shouldn't Worry if it Isn't For You, Either)
I feel like I should begin this post by confirming that I did in fact go to university. I made it through a whole three year undergraduate course even. Well, sort of.
There wasn't a defining moment in my university experience that I realised the whole thing wasn't for me. That was mostly because I knew it before I even started. I can clearly remember being guided through UCAS applications at college and pushing back every step of the way. I didn't end up applying that year after all, but after 12 months of being penniless with very few job prospects, I got to the point of shrugging it off and deciding to make a go of university the following September.
THE LIFESTYLE DIDN'T SUIT ME
Having only been out of the education system for a year before starting university, going back to the classroom was more difficult to adjust to than I anticipated. My course was particularly small, so the whole experience of a lecture hall completely passed me by for the whole three years I was there. Lessons were just the same as they were in college - only there were far less of them. Being generally rubbish at motivating myself meant that a course with 30+ hours of independent study a week really wasn't the best fit.
The whole social side of uni was something else that just didn't really interest me. I rented privately from the beginning and never lived in halls, so I always felt slightly separated from everyone else on my course. I met some awesome people and made some genuine friends, but I'll be the first to admit that the whole student lifestyle wasn't something that I properly settled in to. Looking back, it definitely affected my relationships with people and meant that I spent a good chunk of my time at university on my own.
I WASN'T PASSIONATE ABOUT MY SUBJECT
I genuinely believe that going to university is a fantastic experience, especially if there's something that you have a passion for and are desperate to learn about in more detail. That was never the case with me, and in hindsight it should have really been the first sign that I was making the wrong decision.
I submitted an application for Politics and Social History, then Fashion Journalism, before finally settling on Education. My reasoning? Well, I'd spent a week long work placement in a primary school when I was 14, so surely that was my calling. I joke that all I learned from doing a degree in Education was that I didn't want to have anything to do with Education, but it's not really a joke at all. I had no passion at all for my subject and never did, resulting in three years of pushing myself to do extensive research on a topic that didn't interest me in the slightest.
IT AFFECTED MY MENTAL HEALTH
I've never discussed mental health online for a whole bunch of different reasons, however I feel ready to admit that it's something that has been a part of my life for more than 10 years now. The scale at which it's affected me has fluctuated hugely throughout that time, but after years of managing it relatively well I was arguably at my very lowest during the second half of my course.
I'm not for a minute suggesting that there's a direct link between the two. What the experience did teach me, however, is that nothing is worth risking your health and happiness for. I was miserable at university, but a sense of duty and a reluctance to quit something I'd already invested time and money into kept me pushing forward against my better judgement. It's too easy to feel like going to university is a given, but one of my biggest regrets looking back is not having the courage to stop myself feeling so desperately unhappy a lot sooner.
I HAVEN'T ACTUALLY USED MY DEGREE (YET...)
By the time university ended I was already working full time in a job that I genuinely enjoy - but one that has zero relevance to my course. Had I not gone to university I probably wouldn't have ended up living in the city or laying the groundwork for my career in the same way that I have. Saying that, I think it goes to show that you absolutely don't need a degree in order to end up doing something you love.
Experiences are sure to differ for everyone, but my degree isn't something that's ever come up either inside of work or out. People genuinely just don't seem to care - and it's not something that I look back on as a particular achievement, either. It's almost expected of you to have a degree these days, to the point where spending three years doing something completely different actually seems more interesting.