Why I didn't go to uni.

Hey hey hey!

It's that's time of year where people have either just headed off to uni for a year, or you're in sixth form or college trying to decide if you should go or not. 

I've been through all this, and hell yeah, the decision process is stressful, but I'm going to tell you why I decided not to go to uni. Controversial!

In 2012 I started year 12, my first year of sixth form. It was kinda presumed by everyone at this point that I was going to university, even I thought I was. I went to a grammar school, and it honestly felt like there was no other choice. So, off I went, half thinking about the future, but ignoring it to be honest as that was all too big and scary and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I couldn't decide what I wanted for lunch, let alone what I wanted to do when I was a grown up.

Year 12 flew by, and suddenly, there I was, just before the summer holidays being told to start visiting unis, we'd be starting UCAS in September, and I'd better get started with my personal statement.

Ha! Say what now! UCAS? Uni? Personal statement? I, like many others found this quite overwhelming. I knew I loved computer science and media, but I wasn't really sure what kind of course I wanted to do, and the whole prospect of moving away to go study just made me go nope nope nope. But still, I just kinda went with it for a while because that was what everyone did and it was the only 'sensible' choice. Besides, I didn't want to not be able to have a good job and end up living in a dustbin did I? Because that's obviously what happens if you don't go to university... *face palm*

As the months went on, towards Christmas I really started to decide, actually, this isn't my thing. It's not floating my boat. I'm being pushed into something I am not confident about. I knew that yes, I wanted to so 'something' along the lines of computer science and media, and I knew that I wanted a decent job, but I wasn't ready to commit to going to a university, picking a course that might not have been suited, and getting student loan. Make of it what you will, but I just wasn't ready. 

That, and I had other plans. Hello apprenticeship land! Christmas of Year 13 was when I'd made my decision, I told my friends, parents and teachers my decision, and they were pretty much okay with it. There was this definite stigma at my school about not going to uni. I felt lost surrounded by everyone else in my year who wanted to go to uni. There were so many UCAS assemblies, so many help sessions to help you apply, write your personal statement, all that jazz, which was great! However, for little old me and a handful of others who decided against it, it felt like we were forgotten about. Deep down, I know that we weren't, and I would like to say thank you to my teachers in sixthform, because they did give me a lot of support, and were lovely, but it was hard to figure out what to do, and where to turn for advice, since the focus was on uni. In some ways, I just wanted it to be accepted as a perfectly adequate choice, that was just as good as university. I needed someone to say, this is okay, this is a great thing to do.

So, left to my own devices whilst everyone was busy on their personal statement, I started looking into apprenticeships. I would highly recommend doing this, for everyone, even if you're set on uni, check out apprenticeships in the area of work you're interested in and see if there's anything you fancy. Top tip: you can go do and apprenticeship and then head off to uni! How's that for some great work experience?

The road to an apprenticeship for me was long, so long, but it was worth it! In January last year (2014) I got an interview for an apprenticeship in social media. This was absolutely terrifying, and I don't think I've ever been more nervous in my life. It kinda sucked because at this point I'd had no practice with interviews or that kinda thing, so didn't do very well. However, the whole experience was a swift learning curve and definitely boosted my confidence for future interviews.

It wasn't until August 2014 that I found an apprenticeship agency in London which looked like it catered for what I wanted to do. They offered SEO and social media as well as other related apprenticeship courses, and I was sold. What was great is that I was given a heap of training and advice on things like interview techniques, what skills I should be working on in my own time, and tips for my future job. 

Now, unfortunately I had a little hiccup with my first apprenticeship. My employer, myself and the agency all decided I'd been given a placement in completely the wrong environment. So, this set me back a couple of months, but in February this year, after some more interviews, I got a job! 

I am an SEO and social media apprentice at a fab web design agency in central London, and honestly, since I've been working there it's become clear that giving uni a miss was the right choice for me. 

So, having an apprenticeship, I can tell you what I've loved about it:

- Money: working means you're going to be earning money. Meanwhile, your friends will be getting their student loan and getting a job maybe if they feel like it, and you'll be there earning because you have to and want to. Nothing is more satisfying than buying something you've saved up for with your own money. I've funded all my driving lessons, a holiday and a new camera for my self. Before this year I'd never even been able to dream of actually investing on things I really wanted. The great thing is that you can start saving up for a car/flat or whatever you want nice and early! No students debts!

- Independence: don't think just because you don't go to university you don't get the same level of independence. When you have an apprenticeship you have to get up everyday and get yourself to work. No one else is going to do it for you.

- Weekends: This might sound weird, but since I've been working regular office hours, I know that at the end of every week I have a full weekend to look forward to, where I can do whatever I want. It's fab. And if you've ever worked in retail, you'll know why not working on the weekend is so nice!

- Experience: In these last six months, I have gained so much life experience. Don't get me wrong, at uni you also get a lot of life experience, moving into your own place takes a lot! But, I'm now used to the daily grind. I've gone from some shy little girl to being able to actually speak to other human beings in professional circumstances. Those with social anxiety, I get ya! It is honestly crazy how much my self confidence has increased in these last six months, I've been through some highs and some pretty shit lows (welcome to adult hood where life's out to get you) but all of it has made me stronger. And I wouldn't change it for the world.

Do I have any regrets?

No. I sometimes ponder whether I've made a huge mistake and should have gone to uni. If you're having a bad day it can be easy to start wondering that, but no, in the grand scheme of things I'm happy. I can honestly say that yes, I am jealous of the midweek partying some of my besties get to do, but, career wise, and experience wise, absolutely not. This has suited me down to the ground.

Don't go to uni just to party. Go to uni because you're sure of your course and want to pursue a career in that path. Like I said, any weekend I want to I can hop on a train up to one of my friend's uni's and go party with them. This fulfills my party needs!

This post is pretty long, but I wanted to write what the full process was like. I don't want to skim over anything. Uni is definitely for some people, and my friends at uni are currently having a whale of a time, but always consider the other options! Don't let people sheepdog you into a decision.

I needed someone to tell me that choosing an apprenticeship was okay. This is me telling you that choosing an apprenticeship is great, and you should 100% go for it. 

Thank you so much for reading