In my last year of high school I had three teachers give me three different pieces of advice when it came to moving beyond the realm of mandatory secondary education. My Media Studies teacher felt I should go straight to university and take up journalism, for sure. She was very adamant that this was my path. My English teacher voiced his concern that I may be wanting to do too much with my life, and I should try and figure out one thing to do. Just for now, at least. My Music teacher told me not to go to university if I didn’t know what to do, because the debt just isn’t worth it.
I took the last piece of advice on board, every so often going back to think about if I was truly trying to do too much; but I never regretted not studying journalism. I’m 22 years old now, and have seen friends leave university with debt weighing on their shoulders because it wasn’t what they thought it would be. I’ve seen people switch degrees like they’re changing their weapons in an RPG. I’ve seen people finish their time at university and go on to do great things, and I’ve seen people finish university and find themselves with absolutely nothing but a lot of money owed.
“I’ve seen people switch degrees like they’re changing their weapons in an RPG.”
To have access to tertiary education like we do is a great privilege that shouldn’t be overlooked. Though, because we acknowledge that privilege some of us end up feeling like we owe it to ourselves to go to university just because it’s there. Many friends of mine went to university because they were scared of real life, which is understandable– it can be pretty rough. For a majority of us, moving into tertiary education is expected of us; but is it always the right move?
For some of my classmates, their path was clear. They knew exactly what they wanted to do. But then there were people like me: heavily involved in all manner of things and never knowing which one was to be the stepping stone to the rest of my life. I told everyone I was going to university just to get them off my back and when school ended I told them I was taking a gap year. It’s been 5 years since then.
In those five years I have been successfully self-employed in the performing arts, writing and photography. I’ve also been less successful. I’ve had boring sales and office jobs and I’ve been unemployed for long amounts of time. I’ve had to deal with blank looks and condescending remarks when I tell people I don’t study, and every Christmas with my family for 5 years has been some form of intervention to get me studying things I have absolutely no interest in. I’m not in debt, though, but I’m far from being financially stable.
There are facts that are hard to swallow when you become an adult. The most obvious one being that it is hard to get a job if you don’t have a degree, even in some of the most mundane things. Most of the people around you will be studying if you’re not, and you’ll grow apart. Some people you thought were friends will find you daft for passing up the opportunity of tertiary education but you will see some of those same people leave university after realising it is not for them. Because university isn’t for everyone.
Leaving high school is a pretty big deal, and I remember my last year very clearly. But if there is anything I’ve learnt so far, it’s that you should never settle when it comes to what you want. If you aren’t sure about something, take the time you need to think it through. Not knowing your path is nothing to be ashamed about, and most people have no idea what they want to do for the entirety of their lives. Put yourself first and don’t be afraid to try new things, be impulsive, push your boundaries and learn more about who you are. You can always go back and browse available courses and start your study whenever… or never, it’s up to you.▼