On Ditching University

I attended two semesters of university before calling it a day and starting a ‘proper’ job – one with an office and a monthly salary. Not only did I save myself an estimated £8,000,000 in debt, I started my career about three years before everyone else my age. This has obvious benefits, such as:


But, now I’m nearing the other side of my twenties, I’m starting to wonder if I have made A Huge Mistake.

Because uni isn’t about the degree, is it? Not entirely anyway. It’s about being thrown into a tight space with literally hundreds of new people your own age, equally as clueless and excited about life as you. It’s about trying ungodly booze combinations, exploring new ideologies (“Humanist Society? Where do I sign up!”), getting the stupid out of your system and maybe, just maybe, figuring out what the hell you want from life. 

My 18 year-old self couldn’t have imagined anything more terrifying*.


Still, it hasn’t been all spreadsheets and desk drudgery for the past five years. I really love what I do for a living. I’ve met interesting people, made dozens of mistakes and become a more capable person. I can totally cook a roast dinner from scratch! And one thing is true: I’m a helluva lot more confident/brave/sure about myself now compared to when I stepped off the train at King’s Cross five years ago. 

But I can’t help thinking there’s loads I’ve missed by ditching uni – formative experiences like sleeping in questionable foreign hostels, working in a sticky-floored bar or making life-long bonds forged by living in a damp-infested house with seven others.  As I get older, the likelihood of living in a random European city for the summer diminishes. I got bills to pay. 

I’m so grateful for all the experiences that my career has enabled me to have. I am very lucky. But the feeling that I’ve missed out on something essential and wonderful and awful persists. 

*I’m an out-and-proud introvert. And when I first started uni, I took my interaction avoidance skills to the next-level. I was persistently stubborn in my resistance to making friends and generally an all-round poo bum. But that’s a story for another post. 



3 thoughts on “On Ditching University

  1. Emma Cossey says:

    *fellow introvert wave*. I found uni a real struggle, especially as my uni turned out to be in a real party town. I really didn’t enjoy clubbing. In fact, I used to slip out and go home at 11pm when everyone else got too drunk to notice. I also didn’t enjoy the aspect of ‘one learning style fits all’ (from my personal experience anyway). I kind of think we’re sold this idea that uni is this brilliant, amazing, essential experience – and if you didn’t do it, you failed. I actually teach students now who chose a practical business diploma over uni, and it’s so exciting to see how ambitious and interesting they are. They’re little creatives and entrepreneurs in the making.

    Essentially, I think going straight out into the working world is much better for your personal development and independence. But I guess it’s always going to be a grass is greener situation isn’t it?

  2. Katie Poole says:

    I am so happy you wrote this post – because I’ve been feeling the exact *opposite* of this lately. Having gone off and got two degrees before any actual work experience I’m now looking back on this thinking: WTF? Why on earth would anyone else let me do that? (Probably because I didn’t get a job in either of the fields I studied – but rather I’ve started a career in a different field that several professors – way back in my late teens – said I wouldn’t be very good at!)

    In retrospect, I can tell you with full confidence that 17-year-old me (yes, I started uni at 17) should not have been in a university classroom studying for a degree – I should have been exploring my personal interests and focusing on developing those skills. But at the time my family was convinced that university was where I belonged, and there was no discussion – just a decision. I was always going to go to uni right after I finished high school; gap year wasn’t a ‘thing’ in my family.

    In a way I’m grateful for the degrees – after all, my MA opened the door for me to begin working in England, something I couldn’t have done without it. But I really feel as though work experience at that time in our lives is so beneficial to helping us figure out what we want to do all day every day for as long as we work.

    After all, if we want to further our education later in life university will always be there for us – I’ve heard fantastic things about part time Masters programmes, and have my own far-fetched dreams of one day completing a Masters In a field relevant to my career…

  3. Sarah says:

    I don’t think there’s a right answer to this. It depends on the individual and what you want out of your life. I am in university right now, and yes, we have been sold that uni is a brilliant place that we should all aim for, but I do sometimes wonder if life would have been easier for me if I just tried to work (considering the jobs I want seem to be within in the fashion industry).
    Ultimately, I know university is the place for me. It’s not just the course that’s invaluable, but the people I have met, the societies and new hobbies I’ve discovered and the lifestyle; let’s be real, this is my only time to drink in the middle of the week or to be too poor to go somewhere and have a valid excuse; I’m a student.
    I don’t know what I want out of life and university is my way of figuring it all out. At the moment, I enjoy the learning style, which gets more specialised each year. However I know there are people that know exactly what they want, and sometimes university is a step towards their goal, and sometimes it isn’t.
    I think there are certainly pros and cons to both going and not going, but no one should be told that one is always the better option. It depends on a whole lot of factors to do with the individual person.

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