5 alternatives to going to university

Not keen on going to university? This year has seen a record drop in university applications of nearly 10%, so you are not alone in considering other options. However, with university more often than not cited as being the best option after taking your A-Levels, diving into higher education can feel like your only course to take.

To those who can relate to this, fear not! There are other routes that can take you to your dream career, without a huge price tag attached.

Image by: obscure allusion

1. Internship For many employers, when having to make the decision between employing a recent university graduate and an individual who has previously worked and been nurtured by their company, they will recruit the latter.

Why? Although with a degree a student is given the skills and knowledge to pursue a certain career, unless it is a fully-vocational degree then they are still lacking in tailored training to do a job. Through internships you can build a good reputation within a company and learn the ropes for the role without needing to sit through years of unrelated lectures.

2. Volunteering Through volunteering you are much more likely to obtain useful experience in your field of interest. As with internships, you have the opportunity to build relationships with people who are paid employees and so can seek advice on how to progress up the ladder to potential employment.

Moreover, work experience is a must-have on any CV; it shows those future employers you are proactive and willing to get stuck in because you're passionate, not because you're driven by a pay cheque!

3. Gap Year In my time at university I have encountered many students who applied for a course they knew little or nothing about, paid up to £9000 tuition fees a year to learn about a subject they had no passion for, then graduated and pursued a career in an entirely different field – one they actually liked!

Through taking a gap year you give yourself time to get out there into the ‘real world’ and have some amazing experiences, meet wonderful people and get some career inspiration by finding out what it is you’re really passionate about in life and want to keep doing – with pay.

With good preparation beforehand, you could just embark on one of the best years of your life.

4. Be Your Own Boss I know what you're thinking, it's a fools dream – but that attitude is entirely unfounded! Look at Lord Alan Sugar; he came from a working class background with no higher education and now he mentors other individuals like himself who are trying to make their way in the world.

The future of our society depends upon entrepreneurial minds, without which well-known brands such as Google and Apple would certainly not be around today. It all starts with an idea and one of them could be yours! If guidance is what you need, get in contact with the Prince's Trust, a charity made to help people like you get their own business started.

5. Retail Management Traineeships The retail sector is the third biggest private sector employer in the UK and so employment prospects are looking good for those hoping to build a career in this field. Those who now reside in the Head Office of many retail companies started off as team members in small branches.

Loyalty to a brand can go a long way so if there's a specific brand you are passionate about, hand in an application to become a cashier, shop floor assistant or other role at their local store. If you mention your desire to progress up through the company, employers will be sure to give you every opportunity. In a matter of years you can go from selling the clothes to managing the people who manage the people who sell the clothes!


Deciding to take an alternate route to achieving your career goal can be a daunting prospect but as we can see from the above, those alternatives can pay off in the long run.

If you fancy yourself as a Larry Page or Sergey Brin (they’re the founders of Google by the way) sign yourself up for SEO work experience. If you think you’ll be better off as another Lord Sugar, brainstorm a product or service you’ve got the skills to offer and which people will buy – and away you go!

Do you know of any other brilliant alternatives to going to university? Please leave me a comment below...

Grace Fox is a student in her second year studying Childhood, Youth and Education.