As a recent graduate this has been a question I have thought a lot about. As I am aspiring to work in magazine publishing where a degree is not a prerequisite, I have been evaluating what use university is to graduates. What are the reasons we go to university to begin with, and is the answer to the titular question different now than it was a decade ago?
I graduated with a 2:1 this time last year and I am not in employment at the moment. I have had temporary jobs but nothing related to my career. Like many, I decided to apply to university because I thought it was the logical next step in determining my future- I may not have known what to do straight away but I would have three years to think about it, right? What would I have done besides going to university without an idea of what I wanted to do? There was a lot of talk about going to university at my school, but there was ridiculously little talk of alternatives. We were given advice on how to write the perfect personal statement but how to write a great CV was never mentioned. Personally this did not affect me as I knew I wanted to go to university for various reasons, and I don’t regret my decision but alternatives to university should be vocalised too. We are not all the same.
My time at university gave me the platform and importantly, the time, to mature as a person, meet new people and be more prepared for the real world after graduating… but not for the world of work. What happens with people who are not sure of what they are working towards in terms of a career is that they leave university in debt, and crucially, with no experience for the working world. This is what the case was for me, so you take the time after university to pick an area you are interested in working in and then play catch up in landing competitive, and often unpaid internships before you can secure your first ‘proper job’.
Those that have aspirations that do not require university qualifications and decide against university can in actuality be better off. They can join school leavers programmes, working for a year whilst gain valuable training, all whilst being paid! That way they are not in debt and are gaining experience straight out of school. Even if you don’t join any leavers programme, you can begin by working from the bottom e.g. a sales assistant, to the top e.g. as a manager. This is applicable in many industries and it immediately sets up an individual with that all important experience while you are still at university sleeping through your lecture. Perfect for those who do not have an aspiration to be involved in something requiring a university degree. With unemployment making getting a graduate job much more difficult than before, graduates are competing for jobs with relatively little experience, despite their qualifications.
I would say university is worth it for the qualification it gives you if you know what career you would like to get into. It can buy you time if you’re unsure of what to do with your degree and gives you important experiences- this is only worthwhile if you dabble in internships whilst at university to increase your experience and help make up your mind about what you want to do post-university, otherwise you’re wasting time applying for internships rather than jobs after you finish…whilst in debt!
Image Credit: kylemarffin.com