It is a whole two years since the no longer a teen passed his A levels and yet it seems like five minutes ago. Since then, he has worked, travelled around New Zealand and completed his first year of university.
Both my husband and I went to university and we had both assumed that all of our children would do the same but this summer for the first time, I have sat back and really wondered if that is still the best path for them.
For my other three children, university still seems like it is a long way off but with R turning 13 on his next birthday, I know from experience that it won’t be long before we start thinking about his future and what he wants to do with his life.
He already has a few ideas. He has a real talent for maths and thinks that he might enjoy a career that involves maths or statistics in some way. He also enjoys science and there was some talk of physiotherapy as he is a keen sportsman and would like to work with sports people. But in reality, how many 12-year-olds really know what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
My eldest son has done really well during his first year and I am so proud of his amazing end of year results. However, he has been less than inspired by his course and is now unsure if the course he is doing will actually take him on the career path he wants to follow. He doesn’t want to change course or university but feels that he might as well complete the course and get a good degree before making any choices.
His general lack of enthusiasm coupled with the talk of exam results recently has really made me wonder for the first time if university really is the best way forward. I have read quite a few articles about the lack of jobs for graduates and people often talk about graduates getting non-professional jobs as there are not enough jobs to go around and it is really worrying when you are a parent. Added to that, there is the financial consideration. A student who takes out student loans for a three-year course could graduate with £35,000 – £40,000 worth of debt. That is a lot of money.
Having dug a little deeper into the truth behind the talk about graduate jobs and I was relieved to find that the statistics regarding graduate employment were better than I first thought. This article from Which was written this year to try and dispel some of the ‘myths’ about graduate employment and these figures from HESA (Higher Education Statistical Agency) 72% of leavers from higher education last year, were in work within six months of graduating. 72% is not too bad and out of the 38% some of those will have continued with their education, some will have gone travelling and some are in employment areas where there simply are fewer jobs available.
When I reflect back on my own experience of higher education, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Yes, it led me to my professional career but at the time, it was more than that. It was during those years that I had my first taste of life on my own, finding my independence. It was during those years that I discovered the joys of city living. It was during those years that I had experiences that I have long looked back on with a smile (and the occasional cringe). I know that I am a better and more well-rounded person because of my university years. I learnt so much and I learnt so much about myself.
As much as I am uncertain about whether university is the right choice for my children, I know that it will be if they choose to walk that particular path. I want them to go, I want them to have the experience as I know it will shape their future and hopefully in a positive way. Having said that, I don’t want them to go for sake of it. I think my advice now would be that yes, university is amazing and it is what they should be aspiring to, but if another career or training path appeals to them, they need to explore all of their options thoroughly before making their final decision.