You’ve finished school, you’ve done your A Levels and you can finally do all the things you spent the last two years doing legally, so what next? Go to university, right?
Whether you have a career path in mind, want to take your education further, or, like me, you just want to procrastinate having to Live An Actual Life a little longer, more and more people are deciding to go to university. Which is great, don’t get me wrong; University is a wonderful opportunity, and one everyone should have. But, whether they loved their degree or hated it, there is one thing unanimously agreed upon by all university students; Uni is not what we thought it would be.
You do not feel as though you have embarked on an exciting and enriching adventure, you do not feel as though you have found the root to self-discovery, you do not feel as though you are becoming a better and more educated being.
You have not embraced adulthood warmly and preparedly, but rather you have found yourself tripping over your shoelace and tumbling rapidly downhill where you arrive into adulthood on your arse and with a pounding headache.
I spent the majority of my first year wondering whether I was simply doing this whole university thing wrong, but I turned to the most reliable source of comfort for these things; the internet. And then I realised that nearly everyone was in the same existentially terrifying boat as I was.
Now I’m drawing a close to my third and final year and I feel like, whilst I am in some ways more lost and confused than ever, I have learned a lot about this whole university thing. So, I have complied a list of the realities of uni, so that whether you are considering uni, starting uni or like me, you’re in the process of being spat out of the whirlpool and into adulthood, hopefully there is something helpful or comforting you can take from this post. Either that, or I’m about to make you question all your choices and ruin your life.
1. Your entire life is spent in a permanent state of existential terror
If you haven’t watched Dan Howell’s ‘Quarter-Life Crisis’ trilogy on YouTube you should probably go do that now (Check it here). I have never known anyone describe an existential crisis quite as well as he does.
An existential crisis is pretty much a universal experience for everyone between the ages of thirteen and thirty. It is, effectively, the moment you realise the very basic concept that you are a human being and that you only have this one life and then you are inevitably going to die, just like everyone else around you. University is essentially one continuous existential crisis that has you asking all kinds of crushing questions like: What is My Purpose as this Intelligent, Sentient Being? What Am I Going To Do With My Life? How Will I Know I Have Made The Right Choice With The Path I Take In Life Before It’s Too Late And I find Myself Trapped In A Job I Hate Wasting Every Single Day Of My Existence Waiting For It To End?
These thoughts have a fun way of creeping up on you at the most random and inconvenient of times. And it is very easy to become completely overwhelmed by them. You could be watching TV, or eating dinner, or lying in bed trying to sleep and BAM all of a sudden you’re internally debating God’s existence.
This can become very counter-productive and very isolating if you let it consume you. Something I have an unfortunate tendency to do.
There also isn’t really a cure for existential terror either. Or at least, if there is, I definitely haven’t found it. But know that you’re not the only one thinking these things, and know that there is purpose out there somewhere and, probably, the whole point is to find it.
2. You will spend too much time at a shitty club half-drunkenly dancing to shitty music and wondering how and why you got there in the first place
We’ve all been there; you mis-calculated at pre-drinks and definitely did not neck enough vodka to be enjoying yourself as much as everyone else seems to be.
Some people love nights out, and that’s totally cool, I’m just not one of them. And after my first year freshers week, I had already lost interest in the whole clubbing thing. This probably had something to do with my declining mental health at the time, but regardless, I found the majority of my uni social life revolved around clubs. Half of the time, I’m not even sure any of us we were actually having fun, but it’s all part of the uni experience right?
Well, that’s what I kept telling myself, and it took me way too long to realise that, actually, there were a million other options for me to expand my social life that didn’t involve £1 jagerbombs.
The best advice I can give anyone starting uni is join societies. Once again, I left it way too late, and only really started to get involved with extra-curricular stuff in my third year, but it was the best decision I made. The thing is with freshers, you are literally thrown together with people you have never met before, with absolutely no guarantee that you will have anything in common, and you are not only expected to live together, but to go out, have fun and forge great relationships with each other. And whilst some people get super lucky, and most people find that after a while they bond with certain people more than others, this really isn’t always the best way to make friends. Societies however are fantastic because they work on the premise that everyone in that society has at least one thing in common; whether it be the netball society, the creative writing society or the Game of Thrones society, you immediately have something to talk about. The other thing, of course, is that most universities have hundreds of societies to choose from, so no matter what your interests, there is probably a big group of people all interested in the same thing.
3. You’ve only turned up to one lecture this week and even then you rolled up 5 minutes late, in your pyjamas and clutching a coffee like it’s your last remaining tether to reality
To be fair, I don’t hate my degree. If I could turn back time and choose to study something else, would I? Well, hell fucking yes. But I don’t hate it. It has been pretty interesting overall, and I know a lot of people that do love their subjects. It really is great to be studying something that you’re genuinely interested in, and everyone else in that room is interested in too.
But you’re on your own now. Literally no one else gives a shit whether you turn up to your lectures or hand in your essays on time because it’s your future you’re screwing up and no one else’s. And truthfully, you’d think that the inevitability of failure and working in a fast food restaurant for the rest of your life would motivate you a lot more than it actually does.
The chances of making it to a lecture that starts anywhere before midday are slim. The chances of you actually understanding what the lecturer is talking about are even more so. And you will spend the majority of first year feeling like someone must have fucked up and accidentally accepted you somehow because you do not belong here and clearly everyone around you is far more intelligent and maybe you should just pack it all in.
The good news is that, though it might not seem like it, nearly everyone else feels exactly the same. And by the end of first year, things will genuinely seem a lot clearer.
It also helps that you are genuinely interested in the subject you are studying – don’t go based just on what you were good at, or what ‘might get you a good job in the future’. Motivation is a rare thing on university campus, and you are way more likely to find it if you actually care about what your three hour seminar is on.
4. Getting your 5-a-day is a near impossible feat
It’s Friday, you haven’t consumed anything of actual nutritional value all week, you kept telling yourself you would cook something with actual vegetables, but here you are once again, eating an Aldi pizza off a chopping board because you’ve run out of clean plates and you’re too lazy to do anything about the mounting pile of dirty ones in your sink/on your kitchen counter/bedroom floor.
I don’t even know what to say about this. My cooking skills still start and end with the belief that you can throw anything into a wok, drown it in soy sauce and call it a stir fry. You probably aren’t likely to start reading from Jamie Oliver cookbooks, or stop stocking up on Tesco Value ready meals, or stop eating cereal as breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon snack. But you might try…
5. You will get amazing opportunities that you might not get anywhere else
I feel like this post has been largely negative about uni, but the truth is there are some truly great aspects of it, and if you go you should definitely try and get involved with as much as you can. Even if none of your friends are signing up for that club you want to join, do it anyway. The best friends you make will probably be through the stuff you do outside of your studies and the personal development you can gain will be invaluable.
As some of you know, in my third year, I became deputy music editor for my university paper, which not only meant I was able to interview some of my favourite bands, it meant I gained amazing, real life experience in a job I wanted to do. I also got a part-time job during my second year which, again, gave me great experience, plus wonderful new friends.
If I’m being honest, the degree itself was pretty useless to me. And that’s my fault – I chose the wrong subject and I rushed into things and I didn’t have the balls to admit to myself during first year that this was not where I was supposed to be. However, I don’t regret sticking it out, despite the crippling debt, because of all these other experiences I was able to have.
6. University really is not the ‘be all and end all’
After several stressful events leading me to a pretty destructive breakdown, it was actually a few of my family members that finally told me this. And I needed to hear it. Because I was convinced that I was going to fail my degree and that would be it – the end, my whole future destroyed.
But honestly, uni really isn’t for everyone. Maybe you were doing the wrong subject for you, maybe it was just the wrong timing and for whatever reason you rushed into it without really knowing why, maybe further education just isn’t the path you’re meant to go down. That’s okay. And that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.
What I’m saying is, don’t listen to the noise. Listen to you and what you know is right for you. And if you don’t have a fucking clue what you should do, or what you want to do, or who you even are then that’s okay. There are so many options out there.
Take a year out. Take two. Work for a while. Travel. Don’t go to uni at all. Go and then drop out after a year. Go and then change your subject after three weeks.
Understand that uni is an option that, whilst is becoming more and more accessible no matter what your background, many people of older generations, and many people now, didn’t get. Respect uni for what it is – an incredible opportunity to expand your knowledge of a certain subject and qualify you for your dream job.
But also, know that you have other options. Know that uni is not your only path to success no matter what anyone tells you. Know that you can go to uni and find that your degree is as useful to you as a fart in a jam jar, but the other experiences you have outside of that degree are invaluable. Know that everyone’s experience and needs and wants are different. Your degree is for YOU. Your uni experience is what you want it to be.
But what are your thoughts and opinions? Are any of you feeling the same as me? Did any of you drop out of uni? Are you planning to go to uni this year?
Let me know in the comments or send me a Tweet – I’d love to chat with you guys about it!