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University of Glasgow main building on a sunny day
University of Glasgow

Going to university

So you’re nearly there – the exams are finished, you’ve got your results…..now what? It can seem as if there are myriads of options open to you; will you take a gap year and travel, get a job, go to college, begin an apprenticeship, set up your own business?

Some of you may already know that you want to study at a higher level than you have previously done and you may have a passion for a particular subject that you realise you want to explore in more depth. Others may be aiming for a particular career e.g. nursing, medicine or teaching for example, and for these jobs a degree is obviously required. But for some people, the choice of whether to go to university or not is less straightforward. Before we start talking about what you might study, it’s probably worth asking yourself if you should study. Here are some things to consider.

Career prospects and finance

The area of finance is probably one that puts more people off going to university than any other. Why accrue debt when you could be accruing money? However, there are sources of financial support available (see further resources) and while no one would even say that university is a financially easy option, on average someone with a degree will still earn considerably more over their lifetime than someone without a degree. Having a degree opens a wider range of careers to you and will also give you opportunities to explore career pathways you didn’t even know existed.

The chance to study a subject in-depth

For me, this was the deciding factor in going to university – even though I didn’t really know what I wanted to study! At school, what you study is often heavily pre-prescribed by exam boards and there are limited opportunities to really go into depth on what interests you. At university (particularly in the later years) you will have the chance to determine your own study (within limits!) and to spend lots of time on the things you think are important. You may also find that as you begin to study an area in more depth you change your ideas about what interests you – this certainly happened for me as I went to university to study psychology with physiology and ended up finding out that I was much more interested in what was happening at a the level of the individual cell – hence I my decision to become a biochemist! There will be few times in your life when you have both the resources and the time to pursue an interest in such great depth as you will at university.

Extra-curricular experiences

There is much more to university than simply studying – in fact you’ll be amazed at the number of other things you can fill your time with! A quick look at any university’s ‘clubs and societies’ website will reveal sports, music, political or volunteering opportunities (to name but a few) galore. You might well also want, or need, to work part time to support your studies, something which will give you lots of new skills and hopefully some interesting things to talk about on your CV. Add to that the number of new people you will meet, contacts you will make and the independence you will gain and you can see why many people look back on university days as ‘the best days of their lives’. Of course not everyone comes to university from the traditional school leavers route and more and more students are mature, from overseas or who have taken a bit of time out between school and study. There are lots of resources to help you if you are coming from one of these backgrounds and again we give links to some useful resources below. So why not take a look through some of these links and take some time to decide if university is for you!

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This article is from the free online course:

So You Want to Study Life Science?

University of Glasgow