I believe university should be your last resort, not your first choice.
Meaning, the first thing you should do when you graduate high school is not university.
Note the I believe. This an opinion that I’m putting forward, not a fact based guide (so I can’t be held responsible for any mess ups). But I’d still love to hear your thoughts and comments down below. ⬇
So yes, university should be your last resort. More and more people are dissatisfied with university – there’s a lack of connection to the real world, they’re not studying something necessarily interesting and they know that a degree doesn’t always mean a job.
University used to be something amazing and well respected. Sadly, not as much anymore. Let’s take a look why… 👀
The problems with going to university
Here are a few problems that I’ve noticed with university:
- In most countries, universities cost money
- In too many cases, a degree does not guarantee a job
- Those 4 years may be ‘fun’ but not very productive
- The education system is outdated – no one likes memorising, studying from textbooks and exams
- You’re expected to have work experience when you graduate
- Studying something like ‘Business’ or ‘Marketing’ will not teach you about business or marketing 🙄
- You don’t learn essential life skills such as starting a business, understanding money and buying property.
- Everyone goes to university, so a degree doesn’t have as much value as it used to
I’ve probably missed a few.
Obviously, every case is different. For traditional careers, university is essential and well worth it. But if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur (not a fan of that word 🙄), someone who’s looking for a flexible job and to maybe start a business – I don’t feel university is worth it. Francisco, the investment banker, agrees – he felt university was a waste of his time, and it’s where Goldman Sachs found him!
Anyway, it’s not very helpful to identify a problem without presenting a solution, so here is, in my opinion, what you should do before even thinking of going to university.
Before university; take a year off
After high school, take a year off. You can get all fancy and call it a gap year, or you can call it the year of self-education. This means your gap year isn’t spending your parents money and travelling the globe – it’s a productive year to help you decide what you want to do with your life.
During this one year you want to be:
- Building money making skills
- Financially educating yourself
- Figuring out what you enjoy and what you’d like to do for the next few years
The hard one is number 3 – how do I figure out what I like? The Japanese have a snazzy Venn diagram to help you find your ikigai (reason for being):
You can try different jobs – work for startup, work for a corporate, work as a waitress. Try different things and see what makes you tick, and what disgusts you. You can also travel, work abroad and meet new cultures – a fascinating way to discover new ways of living.
And the thing is, it may take longer than one year. And that’s totally ok! Keep working on those three things and keep searching and figuring out what you want to do. And then once you have, maybe you realise university is worth it and it’s time to go. Or you maybe you realise it’s not, and you’re better off without it. Or maybe you want a mix, and decide to study online and work at the same time.
But isn’t it much better to go to university with a plan, with motivation to study and with the money side sorted out? Most people just go to university because everyone else does – and that ain’t a good idea. 😳
Assessing university; is it worth it?
So how do you figure out if university is worth it for you? Here are a few things I would put on my list:
- Price (+ how much debt I would get into)
- Degree (something technical or interesting – Business/marketing won’t get you far)
- Network (the kind of people you’ll meet and be mingling with)
- Location + opportunities (abroad is very exciting, student internships are lit 🔥)
These are the 4 factors I would take into consideration when assessing whether you should go to university or not. One amazing thing that universities do offer is opportunities. But you need to be switched on enough to take advantage of what you get. Opportunities to travel abroad, to work for a cool company, to get funding to build your own company.
You’re better off searching, gaining skills and learning for 2 years and then heading to uni rather than spending 4 years wasting time, money and energy loafing around because you’re not sure what’s going on.
It’s also important to note that you do not need to have everything figured out. When I say figure out, I mean have an idea of the direction or path you want to go through – do you want to travel more? Discover new cultures? Help people? Be creative? By trying more things, you’ll have the opportunity to see what it is that you’re really interested in.
Maybe you spend 3 years travelling, working and learning and then decide to go to university. And that is totally fine; you will know you wanted that degree and therefore will be motivated, you’ll have life and career experience, and you’ll actually get a shot at getting a job – since you are far more qualified than an 18 year old that went directly into university.
Once you’ve taken your year (or several years) off building money making skills, financially educating yourself and getting work experience, then it’s time to assess university. And if you decide that you do want to go to university, then I would optimise to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. Here are a few ways:
- Going to university for free in countries like Scotland, Denmark, etc
- Applying to scholarships to get as many grants as possible
- Studying abroad
- Taking advantage of every opportunity in terms of networking (clubs, events, workshops, etc)
- Getting (paid) internships
- Consider going online
Optimisation goes a long way – it makes university worth it. Because the thing is that university offers a lot of amazing things for young people. But because they’re young, they don’t know what they want, they don’t know how to take advantage of opportunities and they don’t understand how the system works. Which is why at 18 you should take time off, figure out you sh*t 💩, and then consider university.
So there you go, my opinion on university. Personally, I’m studying online at The Open University and I’m quite pleased. I made the mistake of taking up business because finance was not available, but I’m currently in the process of changing to something more interesting such as sociology/politics. The Open University is all online, which is great for flexibility. It is also much cheaper – less than £1,000 per year. After high school I took a year off, thought I knew what I wanted to do (not enough though), went to university for a term, quit and now I’m studying online and working.
Every student’s path is different – the most important is to not rush into it. You might be pretty shocked to discover that in the real world, grades don’t matter that much and neither does a degree. What really matters is grit, self-education and experience. What really matters is figuring out what you like first, and then hatching a plan. What really matters is not wasting some of the best years in your twenties to studying something you hate. So be ready. 😉
Disagree? Nice, let me know your thoughts in the comments or by emailing me 😛