Every year, school leavers are faced with an important decision: what next? There’s a whole variety of pathways, yet, shockingly, 50% of young people feel pressured to go to uni.
A survey of recent school-leavers showed that half of the UK’s 18-24 year olds experienced pressure to pursue further education rather than exploring vocational options. Six out of ten students felt that their parents urged them to apply to uni, whilst pressure from teachers can be another influencing factor. Schools typically prioritise assisting students with the UCAS application process rather than outlining alternatives, creating the belief that university is the only viable option. As such, despite a push towards apprenticeships, numbers are continuing to decline.
Moreover, uni has been consolidated as the ‘norm’ for many young people and has consequently been established as the necessary next step towards a successful career; in fact, more students than ever are going to university. Naturally, it can be even more difficult to opt for a different route when all of your peers are heading off to uni.
This pressure is only heightened with the growing use of social media. Going to university can appear to be a string of nights out and lazy days when seen through the filtered lens of Instagram, but the reality is likely to be far from this highlight reel. When your school friends’ feeds are suddenly full of new friends, the prospect of choosing a different path is inevitably FOMO-inducing. However, uni isn’t all about socialising; you’ll also be hit with your biggest academic challenge so far, whilst having to balance cooking, cleaning and washing too.
If you’re leaving school this year, don’t be afraid to do something different, and remember that you can always take a break from education. University is a massive commitment, both financially and mentally. There’s no shame in taking a gap-year to consider your options or embarking on a different path, such as an apprenticeship or a full-time job.
University is undoubtedly a fantastic opportunity for some, but we need to open up the conversation; a university degree is certainly not the only path to success! It’s essential that we end the stigma of not going to uni and start giving school leavers the chance to make an informed decision by setting out all of the options.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer; there are many paths to success and university is just one of them. Make sure you take time to reflect on what you want and try not be swayed by the pressure. If you do choose to go to uni, do so to pursue your own goals rather than to fit the status quo.