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BDF May 19th 2012 10:37 PM

Start thinking, logically, and outside the box
This thread is here to help and hopefully guide people in making better thought through decisions about their studies. Particularly university... and since I'm from the UK, particularly universitiees in the UK. I think this is needed. It's more of my personal spin on the general issue... and really the point of this thread is to get people thinking.

University, is not essential. I've come across plenty of people who think along the lines that university is essential to getting a well paid job. I generally think it's because a lot of people are never shown alternatives, and are almost "brainwashed" into thinking that university studies are the only way forward. Here's my point of view with some approximate facts:

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1. University fees in the UK (including accommodation) can add up to approximately 12,000 a year now. For a typical 3 year BSc course, that's 36,000 in total. Including other expenses, it can reach 40,000, and probably even 50,000 in the worst case scenario.

2. To pay back 40,000, at a typical starting salary of maybe 25,000, can take about 10 years. After further accommodation, taxes, travelling, power, heating, electricity, food, basics... you'l be very lucky to have 5,000 left over at the end of the year. Coupled with mortgages it's a nightmare to pay off.

3. In the past, going to university used to be a "prestigious" thing for people to do. That was because not many did it, and so it gave an "edge" to those who did do it. University however has turned into a consumer article which too many people want and go for, thereby reducing just how valuable university education is in ultimately getting a job. By no means does going to university guarantee anyone a job anymore.

4. University has transformed from being more about studying, to more about "bumming around", going out and drinking. I'm not judging it here... but pointing out that employers realise this, and don't really view university as favourably as they might have in the past for this reason, and the reason in point 3.

5. If you go for a course... many people advise "do something you enjoy". That's very idealistic. But the truth is, some courses are simply very unlikely to land you a good job at the end. So my advice is, pick something logical to study that offers good job opportunities, and "do something you enjoy" as a hobby in your free time (lots of free time in uni nowadays). Research into how likely you are to get a job after you finish your course. Also research into what connections the university has with employers, which can help you secure a job when you graduate. If it has no connections it's probably a bad choice.

6. Also, if you go for a course... don't go for something you don't feel confident you can handle. For example, medicine and pharmacy are extremely ambitious. They offer very good job opportunities, but if you're going to graduate with a 2:2 or even fail then it's not really worth it...

7. There are loads of other opportunities and alternatives. Just google "alternatives for university". There are too many for me to go through. *Realistically, graduates only earn about 40,000 more over their entire lifetime than non-graduates. *This excludes extremely high paid professions (which are rare), and probably includes all sorts of other stats including unemployment etc. (without unemployment the figure is likely to be even lower).

8. I get the impression a lot of people go for further studies just to procrastinate on getting a job in the real world. They prefer to go through this slow transition process between school and getting a professional job. If that's why you're doing it... then spending 3 years and 40,000 is a very expensive way of doing it.

9. A final important point is... consider doing university studies overseas, within the EU (it's gonna take a while for it to disintegrate still). Some countries even offer studies entirely for free under certain conditions. Under EU law they have to charge most citizens of the EU with same rates as they charge their own population.

(10. Try not to let your parents push you, if you don't want to do it, or if you do want to do it. You're over 18 by the time you're going to university and it's your life. Trying to please everyone never works.)

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Input is appreciated. I'd like to keep information here reasonably accurate. Correct any mistakes I might have made, etc. And no hate pls. If you don't agree then just say so.

Kumagoro May 19th 2012 11:09 PM

Re: Start thinking, logically, and outside the box
I completely agree with you on most of these points. University is not the be-all and end-all, and there's a horrendous case of brainwashing going about right now. I guess it's because, like you said, uni isn't as prestigious as it used to be. People are made to believe that everyone goes to university, and that you have to get a degree to get a job, but that's not the case.

I've really shocked people by saying this, but I think it's true. University, to me, is just as much an experience as it is education or training. I don't see it as procrastination - what I mean is that I'm here to bridge the gap between college and work, to meet new people and to learn how to live on my own. I think that would be more of a struggle if I went straight into a job, because the social experience of university is somewhat relevant to the workplace. Like learning independence while keeping up with deadlines, that kind of thing. Sure, I'm learning academically and aiming for a particular profession, but above all I'm learning about being an adult. I'm quite happy to pay so many grand a year to learn responsibility, while others pay that money to get drunk and fall down the stairs.

I'm enjoying university. I'm happy. I have a much wider network of friends, I'm less anxious around people, I've learnt critical skills in an academic environment which I can use outside of the seminar room. I have no idea what the future holds, what kind of salary I'll earn, but does anyone? As long as I'm getting the most out of my present situation, I'll be okay.

Thanks for this post. It's good to know someone else thinks in a similar way :)

PSY May 19th 2012 11:17 PM

Re: Start thinking, logically, and outside the box
Thank you for sharing this with us! You've made some excellent points, and pretty much all of this is true in the United States as well. Universities are costing more and more each year. Students can still take out tens of thousands in loans each year, but they have no hope of paying those loans off until they've been in the work force for decades. Having a degree, by no means, guarantees that you will have a job. Simply taking classes and getting a good GPA isn't good enough anymore - you need to look for work opportunities (paid or unpaid) as well - otherwise, you will just be a slightly smarter high school graduate with no work experience.

Ultimately, if someone doesn't have a clear vision for their future career path, I'd recommend taking a year or two off to work full-time and save up money. They could also take classes in community college (much cheaper) in order to test the waters and see which subjects they enjoy studying. During that time, they can explore practical career options, look at university programs/costs/financial aid, etc. That way, they won't be wasting their time when they go to college by jumping from one major to another, they'll have some money saved up, and they'll have prior work experience. It will also give some individuals much-needed discipline and maturity growth, because living as an independent adult at 18 isn't easy. If you can manage that, then you can certainly manage university and the aftermath of having to pay back student loans/finding employment.

For me, university (both undergrad and grad) were and have been means to an end. I knew what career I wanted (marriage and family therapist), but I knew I couldn't achieve that career unless I had a masters degree in a relevant field. For me, there was a clear reason to attend university. For many, that's not the case, and honestly, I feel they are wasting their time and money by going into university undeclared. You can always put your acceptance on hold for a period of time while you explore your options and develop a more concrete career plan. Get relevant work experience, or work as an intern/volunteer with an organization/business if that's not possible. Oftentimes, we THINK being an [occupation] is a perfect fit, but as we take a stab at doing the related tasks 40 days/week, we realize it's really not a good fit at all. Figure all of that out BEFORE you go to university.

Kate* May 20th 2012 04:57 AM

Re: Start thinking, logically, and outside the box
My case is similar to Robin's I went because I realized that it was the only way to do what I wanted.

But I remember my parents planting the idea when I was about 4-5, It was the night before the first day of school and I asked them how many grades there were and they said 12 and I asked what you did after you finished 12 and they said "You go to college" without even taking a breath. So even if I had decided not to go for some reason they would NOT have been okay with it and they would've held it over me for who knows how long.

I agree that it isn't for everyone, but times have changed and where you rarely needed a degree a generation or two back, it's necessary now just to even the playing field. And if you want to talk about unnecessary pressure or brainwashing walk into any high school class and just observe, it's all about standardized tests and college admissions to the point where you want to pull your hair out.

Some people use it to procrasitnate (I knew a guy who had changed his major 7 times) there are easier and much cheaper ways to figure out what you want to study or if you even want to study at all.

I think we have less alternatives here, or at least it seems that way. It feels like you graduate high school with 3 options
You can't get much of a job with just a high school diploma anymore and I didn't know a lot of people willing to join the military while we were in the middle of a war so most of us went to college.

PSY May 20th 2012 05:44 AM

Re: Start thinking, logically, and outside the box

Originally Posted by Kate*
I think we have less alternatives here, or at least it seems that way. It feels like you graduate high school with 3 options

Or, in some of my friends' cases, they went to college and couldn't get the jobs they wanted, so they decided to join the military (at least they can become officers because they have degrees, hence a higher salary). It just shows you how messed up the post-HS system is at the moment. College degrees really are meaningless unless you know what you're going to do with it and how you're going to do it.

i_like_black May 20th 2012 09:22 AM

Re: Start thinking, logically, and outside the box
I think you make a very good point. Of the people I know who I was at school with, those who are now in well-paid positions got there from work experience, not from qualifications.

There are some who are just now entering the workforce (in some cases having graduated with honors) who will be in well-paid positions in a few years time - but about half of the people that initially intended to get a degree dropped out and started working instead. It's a quicker way to financial independence and among my friends, financial independence is highly important.

But then, there are things that actually need that higher level of study. I have a friend who just qualified as a doctor - it's taken her about 10 years (she missed the cut from pre-med to med twice) but she knew it was what she wanted to do with her life and she worked for it. Not everybody has that level of determination and commitment. I don't.

I went to art school initially because people wanted me to. What happened? I got too stressed and I dropped out. I would rather work, but I have now established that I want to work in either education or psychology (as coaching gymnastics full-time isn't realistic at my level in my club) and have tailored my majors to suit that when I eventually go back to study. I have some other stuff to sort out first.

But for the most part, I agree with BDF, a degree isn't a necessity unless you know exactly why you're getting it and what your options are afterwards.

BDF May 20th 2012 12:51 PM

Re: Start thinking, logically, and outside the box
The standardized education system is a problem. Yea, I'll think about writing about that somehow. Maybe after my last exam on Wednesday. I don't think I'm too far from the truth though when I say that you probably a degree to do some cleaning jobs. I've heard that McDonalds have their own degree now.

Standardization generally applies to larger organisations though. Franchised businesses less so, and small, private businesses even less. Everything's done on a more personal basis then, and they might look at you as a person in more detail... rather that depending almost entirely on qualifications for the 1st impression.

Age of Ignorance May 23rd 2012 01:50 AM

Re: Start thinking, logically, and outside the box
In most Western countries, you need a law degree to do what I want to do. So really, I'm hard pressed to avoid University. Just saying.

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