It’s Okay to Change Your Mind About University

For many young people in the UK, today is results day – long-awaited and much-anticipated, futures are potentially steered in totally unforseen ways because of the letters that appear from within those envelopes on this notorious Thursday. Dreams, and hearts, are seemingly made or broken.

Facing Pressure

The amount of pressure put on eighteen year olds, by themselves and perhaps also the adults in their lives, can be immense. The idea that this is your one shot at having a ‘successful’ life, that grades are the be all and end all. The thought that time is running out and if you’re not on the starting line for the marathon that is conventional adult life (uni, working your way up some kind of career ladder, finding ‘the one’, moving into a flat and then a house with a mortgage, having a couple of kids, etc.) then you’re going to be left choking on the dust of everyone else’s victories.

Frankly, I think these concepts are terrifying. Not to mention very restrictive and one-dimensional. Yes, this model works brilliantly for some people. But no, it does not have the ability to make everyone happy. And the first step of it, going to university, encompasses so many big decisions. It definitely made my brain hurt at eighteen (and to an extent it still does now, at twenty).

Making Decisions

Decisions such as choosing one subject path, commiting to having a big debt, moving to a new city… None of these should be taken lightly, yet I feel that’s how they’re often seen. My experience of this whole system was that it was almost like choosing to take the university path in the first place is the most important thing, rather than if the individual elements of this decision actually gel with the person you are and want to be.

But I wasn’t ready to make such solid decisions then. I applied to five universities in the autumn of my last year of college like everyone else, even though I knew I was going to take a gap year (my application was for a deferred place, which would allow me to take a year off with a confirmed uni place for the following year). Because for me, although I had a visceral feeling that university was not the right next step for me at that point, it felt reassuring to have something lined up for the year after my gap year.

Every university I put down gave me conditional offers, yet I didn’t feel excited about that. Even so, I chose one as my top choice and the confirmation that I was going to be attending that university came through on results day. I was staying in a tent in Hawaii at the time I found this out, at the beginning of my gap year travels, and so all of the university stuff felt incredibly surreal and distant. It kind of got swept to the side, in the stormy winds Hawaii was throwing my way and I shelved the whole situation for later.

But even when I was back home and working a sweaty summer job serving ice cream a couple of months before university was due to begin, I still couldn’t get my head to think about it all. I had avoided applying for accommodation and student loans and I wasn’t trying to connect with other freshers on social media like everyone else seemed to be doing. That’s how I came to the conclusion that university really wasn’t the right next step for me at that point.

Changing Your Mind

Even though I thought I had pushed away from the pressures of the conventional route by taking a gap year, I hadn’t really allowed myself to truly consider what I wanted and how I felt about where I was going in life because I had a specific course and university set up for me from the start. It took me withdrawing my application completely and experiementing with other paths and options to seriously reconsider what I wanted to do next.

I’m at a completely different point in my thinking about my future now than I was last August, and even though I really don’t have it all figured out or solidified in concrete, I feel a lot more positive about what I’m going into next. The important difference between me now and me a year ago is my attitude. I’m taking control of my decisions this year, rather than letting myself be pulled into different things relcutantly.

And That’s Okay

So I am going to university this year, but this time it’s because I want to and can see a pencil outline of a potential future I like through this route, rather than because it’s just the thing to do. And for me, this is a much better reason to choose university. But it’s also why I think it’s totally okay to change your mind about uni or choose not to go at all. For example, Mia is absolutely killing it and she didn’t go to uni. She’s worked hard to get to where she is now and I think that it is this ambition to do well, even when you’re pushing against a conventional system, that is inspiring.

The point of all of this is that your motivation to ‘succeed’ does not have to be built on a typical model of success, or other people’s expectations of you. That’s like walking three miles to hang your laundry on someone else’s washing line just because that’s where they put their clothes out to dry. You’ve got to put up your own line, and no one is going to do that for you, that is your work to do.

If you know what you want to do, and that involves uni, then great! If you know what you want to do, and that doesn’t involve uni, that’s also great! Go for it. But if you feel unsure about uni or whatever other future people are expecting you to fall into? Then maybe step back a bit, ask yourself some questions and try to get to the bottom of why you’re making the choices you’re making.

You don’t have to go to university at eighteen. That’s honestly fine. Take your time to come to that decision, spend a year working, travelling, getting to know yourself away from educational systems. Because the chances are, you’ve never had to confront that person before: who you are without school to attend. It’s scary, but can also be pretty enlightening.

Sometimes you have to allow yourself to get lost a bit to really know where you want to end up. And having a university place lined up for three months after you’ve finished college doesn’t necessarily give you the space to do that. So if you’re wavering on your uni decision, whether that’s related to your grades that you receive today or not, then just remember it is okay to do something different. This is your life to live, not anyone else’s.


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32 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Change Your Mind About University

  1. Leticia Collins says:

    This is such an important post everyone going through their A levels should read! I’m so glad you shared your experience. So much pressure is out on A level students to go onto university and it’s not for everyone, or sometimes not right for them just yet. Everyone’s different

    Tish | thesundaydiary.co.uk

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah says:

    Absolutely! I took 4.5 years off between school and uni. Even then I changed degrees 3 times. It took me 6 years to get a bachelor degree and I feel 100% that I studied the right thing and I’m happy! I’m 33 now and applying for a PhD now. Life experiences have helped me be sure about what I want to do with my life. There’s no great rush! Sarah Elle x

    Liked by 2 people

  3. lifejourney4two says:

    Totally agree with you Alys, most young people have no idea what they really want to do with their lives. You need to try different things and find where your passion lies. Luckily today there are many options such as, deferring, change courses, uni exchanges to different countries, possibilities to travel on a budget, study as a mature student, bridging courses – the list is endless. Too much pressure is put on youngsters choosing subjects at high school as if that will determine their life’s course! Just choose something you enjoy – the rest will follow. There is no rush.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. questionsfromateenager says:

    SING IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS! Somehow, a lot of my friends think that if they chose something, they have to stick to it. I say to hell with that! I know it’s mostly because they’re scared what others will think of them if they switch but with something like uni (which defines your future career) it’s SO important to do what’s right for you. And if you have to experiment to figure out what that is, then do it! Don’t let the pressure stop you doing what’s best for you. Brilliant post Alys, this is such an important topic for teenagers and young adults!xx

    Liked by 2 people

  5. eviebraithwaite says:

    Couldn’t agree more with this! There’s so much pressure put on us at such a young age to make these life-changing decisions, but really, there’s no rush. I chose to go to university straight after sixth form purely because I didn’t know what the next step would be otherwise. While I’m loving university, I wish I took a year out or stopped to consider all of my options and think about what I truly wanted to do in the future. Everyone has different plans and uni doesn’t always have to be the option! Hopefully this post will help everyone struggling with this atm! x

    Evie x | https://eviejayne.co.uk

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Wandering Pram says:

    Great post, it’s 21 years since I got my results and Gap years weren’t common then, but I wish I’d thought more about what I wanted to do after uni, instead of just picking a course, and a gap year is a great way to get perspective to do that
    #teacupclub

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Joseph Beech says:

    The skill-set threshold required in order to have a well paying job has increased and as we progress into the future we’re only going to see more jobs being encroached upon by Ai and automation. Not just the lower echelon jobs but some of the middle class jobs and some parts of the medical field.
    If I could give advice to high school graduates are looking for colleges i would urge them towards the stem field. Humanities and liberal arts degrees aren’t as employable for example I have a cousin who has a master’s degree in arts history she works at Starbucks..
    I should probably stop before I begin rambling about the future. Anyways that’s my take on university.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alys says:

      I guess it is good to be realistic about what options are available at the end of each choice you make. Still, I think it’s important to do things that ultimately are going to fulfil you 🙂

      Like

  8. Bexa says:

    100% agree with you Alys! I think there is waaaay too much pressure on 18 year olds to make that big decision. I had no clue what I wanted to do at that age. It’s great you have taken time out and waited until the time is right for you. It look me 5 years to decide I wanted to study for a degree after quitting college. It’s never too late! Great post and a really important message too. Thank you for sharing 💖 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ariana Allen says:

    This was eye opening to read. The UK seems really stressful when it comes to college and university. Here in the US it’s nowhere near as daunting, I can only imagine how it is over there. There’s pressure here to do well but from my experience nowhere near as intense.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. sophhearts says:

    I love this post and really really relate! I had a gap year too, then went to uni purely because I didn’t know what else to do. I stayed for a year and earned credits but left after that because I just didn’t enjoy any of it! I’m now completing my degree through OU and it’s a much better option for me. I feel like no other options are explained other than the typical brick university experience which is totally wrong. Good luck with your path, I hope you love it!

    Soph – https://sophhearts.com x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alys says:

      Thanks Soph! It’s nice to hear other people’s paths, so glad it’s working out for you! I did the OU this year and enjoyed it but I knew I needed to try something else this year xx

      Like

  11. Aleeha and Lucy - HALE says:

    I absolutely love this post – one that I really needed right now too! I’m applying for university in a couple of months and honestly, I just can’t help but think I need a gap year. I don’t feel ready for university yet, but I feel this pressure around me to not take a gap year because I’ve got ‘good grades’. We need to stop linking grades with gap years and not going to uni!
    Aleeha xXx
    https://www.halesaaw.co.uk/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alys says:

      Thanks! Honestly taking a gap year won’t impact on your ability to use your good grades to do uni afterwards (if that’s what you want to do!) I think it’s much more important to take opportunities that make you happy and feel right at the time 🙂 xxx

      Like

  12. everythingevening says:

    I loved this post, I went to a higher education college for two years after school and studied Events Management. I then changed my mind and went to do Marketing at uni last year at the age of 20. I’m happy with my decision and I know I still went straight to education but my first year at college involved no work outside of the class! It gave me so much confidence after a rough time with exams.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hannah says:

    I went straight to University after College and honestly, I regret it. I wish I had taken a gap year and taken some time out of school before throwing myself into exams and revision again. But at the time, the college I was at was pushing everyone straight into University and did not look fondly on gap years. Now that I am graduated, I am excited to finally have some time to myself to chill before starting the world of work. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  14. crystalsandcurls says:

    Thank you for the shoutout lovely 😉 I really enjoyed this post – and you’re massively right. University might be pushed on people but it is NOT the be all, end all and I think it’s important to encourage people to be independent and really think about what THEY want as opposed to what they “should” do xx

    Liked by 1 person

  15. seeking wonderful says:

    I really liked your post, it does bring back some memories from the time I had to apply for uni as well. Isn’t it kind of funny to put so much pressure and expectations on 18-year-olds when on other hand most adults will still look at you as a little child who does not know anything about life? I never really got that duality.

    Liked by 1 person

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