It’s taken me a long time to realise it, but this is something I’ve never questioned. Since around the end of high school/start of my A-Levels, it’s always seemed that university is just a thing you do. All my friends were wanting to go, all our teachers were telling us if we don’t get good grades we won’t get into uni. Then as I went through sixth form, all my friends were applying to uni and so was I, my friends were taking up so many extra curricular activities, going to Africa and helping out kids in need, just because “it’d look great on my ucas!” It’s just something I’ve always felt pushed to do and never really realised it until recently. If you’re feeling the same or if you’re thinking of applying to uni, then read on!
Firstly, a little bit of a back story (“but Hayley, you just gave us a backstory” yes true, but this is different). When originally applying to university, I applied to two – the two closest to my hometown as my parents kept pushing me to stay close to home as it would be cheaper. I didn’t look into what was best for my course because it didn’t really bother me, I don’t even think I know what I wanted to do anyway, I applied to two different courses at two different universities! I ended up studying Digital Media close to home, turned up on the first day and found I was the only person on the course which wasn’t fun. I shared lectures with other modules and was never actually alone but it was still weird. Then as months went on, I hated what I was doing and wasn’t engaging with it, so I eventually dropped out and reapplied to other universities after properly looking at them and what the courses offer, and attending open days. I’m much happier now and the university was voted best in the country for my course, but I still have days where I wonder “should I be here?” Here’s why:
When applying to universities, I got declined from many universities as they told me I’m not ready and should take a foundation course as I’ve never studied Photography before, only Art. The universities I did get accepted to said the same to me, but I didn’t want to stay in my hometown for education again and I couldn’t afford to move and go elsewhere unless I could get student finance and accommodation which I couldn’t due to it being a college course. I also didn’t want to waste another year after I’d wasted a year at the wrong university, I didn’t want to be the old girl in class no one wanted to speak to! But now I’m here, I realise how wrong I was. Firstly, there’s plenty of people my age on my course in my current year, and in the year below, there’s even a couple people over the age of 30 so I would hardly be the oldest if I skipped a year. I’d be around 2 or 3 years older than everyone at most, which doesn’t make a difference at all as you forget peoples age once you start talking to them!
Secondly, a foundation course really would have helped me. It’s not that university doesn’t teach me anything, it does! It just doesn’t teach me the basic skills I need or any technical skills like I thought. This means I’ve basically taught myself photography and what I learn at university is the theory behind photography and how to put meaning to my work. It seems this is the case with quite a lot of art degrees, although I can’t speak for others. I actually feel like once I’ve left university, I still want to do a college degree just to catch up!
So, if you’re thinking of going to university, make sure you listen to what people tell you but also don’t listen to them. No, that’s not me talking crazy. I mean, listen to professionals like the people at university, you can even email them and ask for advice or call them. But when it comes to your friends, your tutors, your parents, I would take what they say with a pinch of salt. Of course they always want what’s best for you but they don’t always know what is best for you, and you need to make sure you do a lot of research yourself. And, just because staying at home saves money doesn’t mean it’s the best option. Many people regret it, just like I did, as they miss out on the student experience!