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Is it better to be at a university that suits your personality or career prospects? watch

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    I am currently on a year out of university due to mental health issues (depression, anxiety and social anxiety/agoraphobia + perfectionism yay.) I am definitely going back next year, but i am unsure whether to go back to the university i was at last year (The University of Edinburgh) or go to back into first year at a more local university with a small campus and more of a community feel (which is not quite as prestigious.) I studied Psychology last year, and i would like to continue studying that as it really interests me and i know i want a job where i can help people somewhat when i leave university (working in marketing or being a therapist for example.) I am quite a quiet person, with a hard working nature and i can feel easily overwhelmed. Being in the city of Edinburgh was overwhelming to say the least, not so much with the work but with being in the middle of a city. I really like Edinburgh though, and i feel that i may have more career prospects being there than at a smaller campus university. I also quite like the psychology course at Edinburgh too, and i have met some nice people also doing the same subject. The setting of the university is where i dont feel comfortable, and i know that for the next 3 years of my degree i would need to live in a flat in Edinburgh for practicality reasons rather than commute from home, and i don't know how i feel about that. I have now started CBT therapy on the NHS after a 6 month wait, and i am hoping to tackle my social anxiety/agoraphobia and feelings of discomfort in busy places and things related to that. This means that i could possibly feel less apprehensive in Edinburgh next year in terms of my anxiety, and i do have some friends there that know what i have been through in terms of my mental health and are very supportive and nice.

    Alternatively to this, i could instead go to the more local, smaller campus university where i could live at home rather than on campus however i would be starting from first year again (courses in Scotland take 4 years.) I would save money as i would be living from home, whereas at Edinburgh i would need to be in accommodation. The university is not as prestigious as Edinburgh, but it is an entirely different atmosphere. I think the atmosphere there would suit me more, however i don't think a degree from there would look quite as good and i would have to start from first year again. I had worked very hard to get into Edinburgh university and i am still proud of that, and i like to think i can do it but it would be difficult. CBT may help me a lot and i may feel more capable of going back eventually, but i don't know. It may be too early for me to make a decision on this at the moment (and I don't have to yet) but i would like to get some advice on this from people who have experience of university, and i would like to get some different perspectives on this.

    Is it better to go somewhere that suits you as a person and your personality, or to go somewhere that is better for your future and could help you grow the most (even though its scary and overwhelming?)

    Career prospects

    Both are important, but honestly for me being at the university that suited my personality made so much more impact than my undergraduate university, despite my undergraduate uni being objectively more respected.

    My undergraduate university was much, much bigger, around 200 on my course. Great course, good opportunities, I did well and I had an offer for an MSc in Forensic Psychology from there. But I also had no friends, very little support and just wasn't making the most of uni because I was so anxious, I was 'lost in the crowd', didn't know any of my lectures, nothing.

    My postgraduate uni was tiny (around 5,000 in the whole uni). There were 7 people on my entire MSc, my course was less respected objectively (Sport Psychology) and it is far lower down the league tables (though less important for postgrad). But being so much smaller and so much more of a community made every difference. My lecturers right from the start realised how much my anxiety impacts me, and worked with me from the day I joined to build up to improving in confidence. My lecturer started off by getting me to e-mail him thoughts on lecture readings which he would feed back into lectures so I could see my points were worthwhile, then he would start to get me to nod or shake my head to a question to practice communicating, eventually building up to saying a sentence aloud, which I had never ever done before.

    We used first names with lecturers, they read through drafts, chatted with us more informally, e-mailed us with opportunities or interesting seminars at the university. My lecturer/supervisor spend many a time when I was very ill with anorexia helping me both academically when my health and concentration were deteriorating, and also helping me to try to cope, and encouraging me to take time out to get well.

    I gained far more academically there because I was so much more engaged, which in turn obviously helps career prospects, and having so much enthusiasm and love for the subject again massively helped career. And because it helped me so much socially and with confidence, that will affect my career prospects rather than positively than being lost in the crowd at a university which may be more respected or 'higher up' in league tables but isn't right for needs. And I went on to the Civil Service Fast Stream, where I was recruited to my department specifically because of my degree background.

    So a balance. But remember that career prospects is likely to involve what suits your needs too: the university, style of learning, module content, size of university and contact with lecturers all comes into it

    Career prospects if you care about your future and get somewhere in life.
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