A couple of days ago, I wrote about why I chose to study for a degree with the Open University, a distance learning institution. That post can be summed up simply in one sentence: I started Open Uni because I wanted to study for a degree but I didn’t know if I could mentally cope at physical university or if the subject I chose, Sociology, was definitely the right decision for me. (You should go check that post out if you’d like the full context behind what you’re about to read, though!)
I concluded that post by mentioning the fact that I decided to apply to physical universities for this autumn, despite having a list longer than a transatlantic flight detailing all of the reasons why uni wasn’t for me. Whaaaat? I know right, I’m so unreliable in my decision making.
So why have I had a change of heart? I guess that’s the huge question to answer now. I’m four months into a distance learning degree and I’m actually enjoying the content and learning style a lot. Why would I change? The first thing to mention is that I haven’t completely decided yet, I might still sign up for the second year of OU. But. I did have a moment of uncertainty about what my near future should be.
Unfortunately for me, this happened over the weekend, with two days to spare before the university application deadline. A panicked, stress-filled effort to get an application together, research and choose five unis, and request a reference from my college followed. With the help of my family, and a very cooperative college, I got it in by the deadline.
I was so relieved to have sorted it out, but I was also quite confused about why this suddenly mattered to me so much. I think over the last month, I had been repressing thoughts about my future, convinced I had taken the right path. But the right path at one point in your life, isn’t always the right path for the rest of your life. Once I opened my mind and let these questioning thoughts and anxious uncertainties in, I realised the criteria I was using to base a decision off of, had changed. These are some of the reasons that led to my decision to send off an application:
- I now have greater confidence in my subject choice, and would like to fully throw myself into it
- My social anxiety comes and goes: on the bad days I feel very much how I felt when I chose to study with the OU, but on the good days, my mind stretches further and my curiosity knows no bounds
- I have enjoyed being able to make a bit of money and get some work experience alongside studying with the OU – in fact I just started a new job. However, I now feel that if I’m studying something I love, I want that to take centre stage for a while, and instead get an easier part-time job on the side
- I don’t want to miss out on an experience that so many people seem to value – if it was something I wasn’t interested in at all, I wouldn’t care, as many of you know I’m a bit of an advocate for making life decisions that don’t follow the norm. But I am curious about uni, and I know a lot of people rate it highly, so it feels like a good thing to try out
- I want to be in a learning environment again – the OU doesn’t give you that sense of being part of a studying community, and can often be quite isolating
- I’d like to live away from home again – I enjoyed independent living when I was travelling and am ready to experience that again
- I love my hometown, but I’d also love to live somewhere else in the UK
- My mental health is still shaky – but I feel like I’m more aware of my feelings and will be able to take control of a situation if I felt like I was getting worse
- I have a backup plan – if I hate being at uni, I think that I will know when is a good time for me to drop out; I also know that I could return to the OU next year if physical uni doesn’t continue feeling like a good idea
- I have enough confidence in myself to not succumb to peer pressure at uni, or feel like I have to take part in a certain lifestyle: my two years out of education have taught me that not all friendships are made through shared drunken nights out and there will be people I have common interests with – I don’t have to conform to the common view of what uni should be
- I doubt I’ll feel this in my first few weeks, but right now I have the confidence that I can cope with the standard of uni work as I’m halfway through the first year of a degree already
The last few years have been a struggle for me in relation to education. I hated college and wanted more than anything to leave, but I stuck with it and achieved grades I am proud of. After that, when I was travelling, I did everything I could to forget how education made me feel, I avoided thinking about it completely and chose to decline my deferred uni place for 2017. Over that summer, I realised I had a yearning to learn things, and I really wanted to do a degree; that’s how I ended up enrolling in a course at the OU. Now, I have managed to open my mind enough to consider actually attending physical uni, and a small part of me thinks I can do this. I think I want to give it a go.
And just this slight moment of doubt, that perhaps I need to give it a go to see if it could be right for me, was enough for me to rush an application over last weekend and send it off.
I have no idea what will happen over the next few months, or how my mind will digest information from unis as it starts to come back to me: choosing which uni to go to, signing up for accommodation, organising the finances… There are still a lot of opportunities for me to go back on the decision I’ve made now. There are a lot of months between now and the autumn; knowing me, I won’t stick to this same decision the whole way through.
But, by applying, I’ve given myself the chance to consider it.
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