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To think university is overrated?

(164 Posts)
WeAreGypsy Tue 09-Aug-16 10:42:05

I did a degree at a normal university, in my early 20s, and although it had its merits I think it was overall an overrated experience.

For this reason I find it hard to recommend to my own children to follow that path. Except for the sciences and vocational courses like law, medicine etc. Or if you have a have a total passion for your subject (I didn't, I just wandered into mine).

The fact that you could leave university at age 21+ with over £40K debts is also a killer for me.

Yet everyone talks about going to university, schools encourage it, and its almost seen as a rite of passage.

Am interested in others' thoughts on this and what you hope for your children.

shaggedthruahedgebackwards Tue 09-Aug-16 10:46:15

I think it really depends on the individual

For me personally, I would say that University was absolutely the making of me. Yes I needed a degree for my chosen career but the total experience of moving away from home and meeting lots of new people was as invaluable as the academic side of things

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 09-Aug-16 10:49:36

I think it depends on the job or jobs you think you might want, and the amount of work you're willing to put into the course. And what your alternatives are.

If you're someone who has a clear sense of what you'll do post-18, and how it will get you into a job you want to do, then it makes sense to do that. I do think there should be better support for people in this position and, ideally, more apprenticeships.

If you're not yet mature enough to cope with university (and some people aren't), I think deferring it and earning some money isn't a bad thing at all. I suspect this may become more common, with the high fees, and it would be good too.

What I don't think is great, is when people get put off university either because they imagine the debt will be a huge problem (in the current system, it shouldn't be, though of course this could change), or because they expect life will be handed to them on a plate if they go, and they're then disappointed it isn't. I have known people who went up to university expecting it would be very different from what it is, and who just weren't prepared to develop the independence or put in the work, to make the most of it. Lots of people drop out because they have unrealistic expectations of what university will be, or because they don't have family support. I've seen students whose families are actively pushing them to give it up, making them feel they are just clocking up debt for no reason. That's not good.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 09-Aug-16 10:50:17

Oh, and I think 'passion' is overrated, and one reason people have unrealistic expectations of university.

WhingySquirrel Tue 09-Aug-16 10:52:44

I agree.

I didn't particularly enjoy uni or find it a valuable experience, dida degree I knew I was good at, and then an MA same subject, but I've never found work through it. I am not sure what i would have done instead though. Because emphasis was always on uni being 'what you do'. So while I don't regret it, I don't think it was all that great either.

Rosamund1 Tue 09-Aug-16 10:56:24

With hindsight I wouldn't have bothered. Some universities have highly rated courses, say in music, better than RG even but are relatively unknown. Rather than go for a good course I should have gone for a good name. If you are not going for the top 20 don't bother. You can still rent a house with a group of friends and do an apprenticeship leading to a qualification.

MillionToOneChances Tue 09-Aug-16 11:01:32

I was fascinated recently to talk to a friend working on the IT infrastructure for the apprenticeship levy. I hadn't previously heard anything about this, but it sounds like it will revolutionise further/higher education in the UK. Large companies will have to pay into an apprenticeship fund but can reclaim the money to train their own apprentices. If they don't claim the money it will become available to small and medium businesses to fund their schemes. Higher apprenticeships will lead to degrees. Given the cost of a university education these days I think apprenticeships could be an incredibly attractive option.

Jaguarana Tue 09-Aug-16 11:11:16

I agree too.

DH & I both went to university, back in the days when it was free and grants were available. His course was vocational and he's done well from it, mine wasn't and I've never used it. University for me was a rite of passage, three years of having fun & growing up. I've done OK, but I'd have done just as well without a degree.

Our DS is bright & did well at school, but didn't particularly want to go to university. He felt he'd had enough of studying. He ended up going because it was what all his friends were doing & he thought he should go, but hated it & dropped out after a few weeks. The following year he tried another course somewhere else, but it wasn't right for him either.

He really just wanted to work and earn money and that's what he's doing now. He fell into a career he hadn't considered before, is getting good on-the-job training, has no student debt & is happy.

furryminkymoo Tue 09-Aug-16 11:12:52

I wish I was encouraged to go to University, I am uncertain of how it might improve my career as I am a high earner already but I grafted to get here.

I look at my friends who went to Uni and they have far better friendship groups than I do. I spent a lot of my 30's clubbing and think if I had gone to Uni, maybe done a Gap year I would have got that out of my system.

I came from a shitty small town, getting out of there would have meant that I would likely have dumped my boyfriend (whom I was with for 11 years in the end), I eventually left that area but should have done years earlier.

Also I get Graduate envy, I work for a massive company, I was one of a handful of external recruits into a high pressure, my induction was laughable, I was really just left to it, I still learn of new departments and process today, 7 years after joining. However I joined the graduate scheme would have had a good starting salary, work placements across several areas of the company and the Graduate scheme involves the Senior Execs, lots of face time with them. The graduates on my team have taught me so many things.

As for the debt, with my work ethic I wouldn't have left with much, I would have worked and got money, even in todays paying for tuition fees I can't imagine that I would have just got everything on loan. When I was on an apprenticeship working full time I had 2 other jobs to top up the money as the apprenticeship paid £35 per week.

I will encourage my DC's to consider Higher Education if they are capable of getting the grades.

CalleighDoodle Tue 09-Aug-16 11:13:26

It depends on the course, the uni and the careee whether it is essential or not.

paxamdays Tue 09-Aug-16 11:14:48

I agree with you OP.

I feel like I could have made much better use of my 3 years in uni doing something more useful. I walked into my degree having being basically told to do it by various sixth form teachers because I was good at it. My job now has no links to my degree at all.

I wish I had chosen something vocational. Honestly I don't feel like I've taken anything away from my time in uni at at all. Most friends I made there I've now lost touch with. I left almost 10 years ago though.

I wouldn't encourage my DC to go to uni unless like OP said for the sciences, vocational courses or anything else they absolutely need a degree for.

cantshakeitoff Tue 09-Aug-16 11:17:55

I started uni at 25 when I knew what I wanted to do. It has definitely benefited my career and I wouldn't be able to do what I do now without it.

But I don't think anyone should go to uni just for the sake of it, only if it's what they want to do and think they'll benefit from it.

gadget1974 Tue 09-Aug-16 11:18:47

I went to Uni, got drunk for two years and left with nothing. I am fortunate that I am in a job that pays me incredibly well, probably better than anything my degree would have achieved. I don't agree with the "everyone should go to Uni" concept governments have peddled for years. So many people go now that a degrees are becoming less and less valued. When my kids are old enough I hope that there is a decent choice between university and other training opportunities e.g apprenticeships

WeAreGypsy Tue 09-Aug-16 11:19:00

furrymink, v interesting points in favour

BestZebbie Tue 09-Aug-16 11:21:04

I think that university has three functions
a) to get the piece of paper for future job applications
b) to enjoy going into one subject in depth, as mental exercise
c) to learn to live independently and move out of the parental home

Of these, I think c) is probably the most important, although a is very useful too.
I went to university at 17 and I cannot see my parents letting me move into a random flat or house-share at that age, nor could I have afforded to do so without the student loan. University is also full of other people the same age in the same position, so it is easy to make friends, and there are lots of hobbies and support networks (and subsidised food and drink) which an individual just moving into a flat in their teens wouldn't have. It seems like an ideal way to leave home, to me.

WeAreGypsy Tue 09-Aug-16 11:22:18

I'm afraid I was with the drinking fraternity too, cantshakeitoff. Bad habits ...

voluptuagoodshag Tue 09-Aug-16 11:25:49

I think it's a must if you go for a certain career but the rite of passage thing seems to be the best education. I didn't go to Uni from school but many of my friends did. I was amazed at the diversity and big wide world they discovered (thankfully I did too by osmosis). However whilst they had four years of study (no real debts as was free with grants back then), I had four years work experience and earning and saving. Sounds boring but has stood me in good stead.
The UK has a certain snobbery attached to a uni education whilst in Germany there is equal kudos given to vocational training. My friend's son left school, started an apprenticeship in engineering and is earning a good wage whilst receiving on and off the job training. He has managed to save about £15k whilst his peers are in debt to the same amount. Hmmmmm!

ginghamstarfish Tue 09-Aug-16 11:26:10

Agree that for many it's the social part that is most useful/important.

BabooshkaKate Tue 09-Aug-16 11:26:14

It depends on so many factors and you get what you put in, to be honest. I went to an excellent university with a great, huge campus. I was involved with student politics and a bunch of societies alongside my studies. I had a really vibrant, busy life and I miss it a lot. It was literally the best 3 years of my life. I studied what I wanted to and had thought provoking debates on a regular basis. I can't imagine I wound feel the same if i studied something I had little interest in, like business.

It was also a very safe environment to grow up in and become an adult. If my rent was late I got a telling off from the university and offers of help with dealing with financial issues, instead of being evicted, which is what would happen now if my rent was late.

I think about going back for a Master's but I don't think I can afford it.

FlyingElbows Tue 09-Aug-16 11:27:26

I hated every minute of it. I didn't want to go but my mother is firmly of the impression that academic achievement is the only thing of any value. She is a whole story on her own though so my situation cannot be compared to someone with a normal mother! I was not academically gifted or in any way interested in university but my choice of career was not an option for my mum and, at 18, I wasn't in a position to argue my case. It brought me absolutely nothing but debt. I ended up isolated and miserable because I left everything that mattered to me to go. It will be a cold day in hell before I will do that to my kids. If they want to go I will support them and if they don't want to go I will support them. What I will not do is buy in to this ludicrous notion that it's university or the scrap heap. My eldest starts college next week where she will start on her path to her ultimate goal which is to work with children with special needs. My mother would be horrified but I am immensely proud of her smile

A11TheSmallTh1ngs Tue 09-Aug-16 11:28:33

How old are you?

It's not clear whether or not university is overrated because it will have different employment consequences for different generations. Hundreds of years ago you didn't need university for most professions. 30 years ago you didn't need university for most good jobs. People looking back on their choices (with no knowledge of the current job market or opportunities) is usually not an accurate indicator of whether or not something is necessary for the next generation.

It's typically better to encourage your children to be good at filtering and evaluating information (and knowing where and how to search) than it is to tell them specific things based on your limited experiences.

Alisvolatpropiis Tue 09-Aug-16 11:30:17

I don't think it is the be all and end all.

I don't think however it is overrated, unless you don't take it seriously and do badly.

WeAreGypsy Tue 09-Aug-16 11:34:34

Kind of insulting post A11, but par for AIBU. Its not just an age thing, it is also a subjective thing btw, hence the question on her. E.g. some people loved the socialising, for me personally alot of it was a self-indulgent waste of time! I hope my children will have the benefit of some of my opinions and experience too, as well as others. Its not the same as telling them what to do with their lives. A filtering system sounds barely up to the job.

Moving on ...

Stevie77 Tue 09-Aug-16 11:34:41

Agree with Calleigh, otherwise it can be a very expensive way to 'grow up', as some her stated.

I think, unless you know what you want to do in life, you are probably better off taking a gap year to experience work and get an idea of what might interest you. Then go to Uni to do a relevant degree that will help you achieve that.

I have a degree that did nothing to help me in my line of work, except that fact I have one. My husband doesn't have a degree but has done better in his career - he is more senior, experienced and earns way more than me.

frenchknitting Tue 09-Aug-16 11:34:59

You say "except for sciences and vocational courses" but that is ruling out a massive chunk of university courses.

I would agree that going to university when you have no idea what you want to do at the end of it probably isn't always a good idea. But surely most people do it as a means to an end?

I couldn't do my job without my degree, and that is why I did it. There were no jobs that I fancied doing that didn't require a degree.

If I had just applied the course that i found most interesting I would have done a completely different degree. I'd probably go back and do that if I won the lottery. But there just wasn't a career path at the end of it, so I didn't.

I do think sometimes teenagers are encouraged to do the subject they are best at, without decent career advice.

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