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Monday, 14 August 2017

Is University Worth It?

I am so glad I left York Uni and didn’t stay to do a Philosophy degree. It would have been a waste of three years, and I’d probably have been too drunk and sick to go to my graduation. Although I am currently at uni, I see it as a means to an end, and my degree is a vocational degree based upon what I want to do career-wise.

School tells us that university is the only way. They push you into the next step and the next step and the next step and the step after that. In the UK, the school system is as follows: primary school, secondary school, sixth form/college, university. (‘College’ in the UK is the equivalent of high school in the USA.) Students are encouraged to pursue university; nothing wrong with that, but what is the point in going to uni if you don’t have a goal?

On the one hand, if you believe in education for the sake of education, then sure, go to university. But in a practical sense, you will spend a lot of money, and it’s good to have a rough idea of why you’re going in the first place. I initially went to uni ‘for the sake of it’, because I found the social side attractive, and because I didn’t know what else to do, and felt trapped in London. I guess I needed to figure myself out. I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t go and took a gap year I’d have spent it pissing away (literally) in my bedroom.

Whatever you study at uni, whether it’s Maths, Philosophy, Engineering or Art, you should have some sort of ‘plan.’ Remember that university isn’t the only way to make a career in life. I want to be an author but I didn’t do A level English or a Creative Writing degree. To be a writer all you need to do is read a lot and write a lot. Also, I feel like studying it would kill my joy of it, but that’s just my view. To be a journalist, experience is better than getting a journalism degree. To do any kind of vocational trade; plumber, electrician, musician, language interpreter, film maker, chef, entrepreneur – having experience and practicing the field is better than studying it academically. You’ll learn a lot more through doing the job than reading about it.

If you want to do something in life that requires a degree, like to be a lawyer, doctor, teacher; of course it makes sense to go to university. You need to because that is what is required of you to do that job. It requires a certain level of training you will only get from studying it formally. But if you’re only going because you find the subject ‘interesting’ and are trying to please your parents, it's a bit of a waste. I never used to think like this. I used to think that it doesn’t matter about what you do after, it’s about going and learning. But in terms of learning, you don’t need to go to uni to ‘learn.’ If you want to learn about History you can read books. If you want to learn Spanish you can go to classes or take an online course. 

I could have gone to uni and done Philosophy, or History, or Sociology, or Politics and International Relations. But it would have been a waste of time and money for me – not to mention demoralizing – because I wouldn’t be doing anything to do with what I want to do career-wise, and because of the level of independent study, I would probably learn just as much reading up on the subjects alone. This is exactly what happened to me during sixth form. Not saying I shouldn’t have gone to sixth form – it’s one thing to not go to uni, but another to not go to ‘high school’ – but I was doing heavy intense studying and feeling the pressure of exams (along with my classmates). I was learning so many interesting things, but perhaps I could have just have easily learned about Freud and Skinner and the Cold War and realist cinema by studying in my own time.

That’s pretty much what I do now. I mostly read fiction, but I do read non-fiction too. The most recent non-fiction book I read (but didn’t finish; sigh typical me) was Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. I loved it; it’s a book that takes you right from the beginning of human civilisation up to the present day. It explores themes of History, Biology, Anthropology and Sociology. Age does play a role, and there’s a difference between a 16 year old and a 20 year old. Probably at 16 I still needed the ‘structure’ of school, despite how miserable I was. Plus education is compulsory up until 18 in the UK.

I think it’s important for young people to know that they shouldn’t feel they ‘have’ to go to uni. Pressure can come from everywhere – internally, externally – and sometimes it’s subtle. If all your friends are going to uni, it’s hard not to follow through. University can be a great way to mature and grow up and learn how to live independently; cook for yourself, wash your own clothes, secure doctor’s appointments and take care of yourselves. But primarily it’s a place to learn, and while socialising and personal development is great, figuring out your future career is the main focus of it. You may not even know, and instead decide to go travelling or take some 6 month Yoga course. But remember that university is not the be-all-and-end-all of life. Self-contentment and inner peace is.

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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