"Am I making a massive uni mistake?"

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Having doubts about uni? You're not the only one


UEA

Going to university can be a huge step into the unknown - and not just for you. Everyone you know might seem to have it all sorted, but get inside their head and you'd find exactly the same doubts swimming around.

'Is university really right for me?' 'Am I choosing the right course?' 'Will I ever be able to get a job afterwards?'

When you're making a big life change, it comes with the territory to have a bit of doubt and uncertainty. So we recently invited experts from industry and education onto the site to help with some of those questions, including Myles Smith and Lydia Newton, higher education advisers from the University of East Anglia.

Here's our pick of the questions from the event, along with some sound advice from UEA.

man looking out of a coffee shop window

Should I even go to university?

Uniandme123 is planning to take a gap year after her A-level results come out, but she's torn on what subject to study at uni.

"I'm not sure if university is for me because I'm unsure about my career path. My degree choice might become useless if I choose the wrong one after my gap year. Do you think university is worthwhile for me?"

Uniandme123

"If you apply to UCAS with deferred entry and then, after your gap year, decide you don't want to go, it's completely fine to cancel your application," said Lydia.

"Deciding whether university is for you or not is a big decision, so don't feel pressured to decide too soon.

"My advice would always be to study something you have an interest in. Make sure you look at how the courses are taught - whether they are mainly exams or coursework - and think how you prefer to learn.

"Every course is different depending on the university you go to. Don't rush into a decision, you don't have to go to university straight away!"

Nazrin

"I am kind of rethinking my decision to go to university as I am not completely sure about my career path."

Nazrin

"The choice is really up to you!" said Myles. "However, going to uni doesn't fix you on to a specific career path. Over 75% of graduates choose to work in careers that aren't directly related to their degree.

"Going to university is not just about completing academic study, its about gaining experience, transferable skills and giving yourself an opportunity to find the right career path for you.

"Universities also have great careers services to help you find the right job after you graduate. At UEA we even support you for three years after you graduate!"

woman reading in the library

Will my choice of uni backfire?

Rekanem is feeling uncertain about results day and is already looking ahead at job hunting.

"I'm concerned that I haven't met my firm offer and that I'll go to my insurance, which isn't Russell Group (RG) but is good for student satisfaction. Either way, I'll be studying international relations.

"Aside from planning to work my ass off to get at least a 2:1, I'm already researching internships, volunteer programs and also societies I can join at both universities. Can impressive internships and work experience compensate for universities that are non-RG or aren't in the top 10?"

rekanem

"This is something that comes up quite a bit, and its worth bearing in mind that several of the Russell Group are well outside the top 30 institutions, never mind being in the top 10," said Lydia.

"Graduate employability is measured using the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, and full details of each uni's results are available on UniStats.

"But what is most important, regardless of which university you go to, is the experiences you have to use in your CV or interview. You need a good degree to give you the best chance of getting a great job, but it's you that gets it!"

student thinking in an exam

Can I get into uni with just my GCSEs?

Tarcisius got partway through an A-level course before choosing a different direction, and is now looking at university opportunities.

"I would like to know any suggestions towards getting onto foundation degrees with only GCSEs. Some foundation degrees list that they only need 40-80 UCAS points as a requirement."

Tarcisius

"Foundation courses are one way into HE, or it might be worth looking at Access to HE courses available through colleges in your area," said Lydia. "Generally, universities need some qualifications at Level 3 (equivalent to A-levels), in addition to GCSEs. An Access course is one way to gain this.

"Whatever you choose to do, universities are still open to you. We have students with every background under the sun, and it makes no difference to your application having had a couple of false starts along the way."

pile of yellowed books in a dusty room

How old is too old?

There's no age limit on going to university, but it's common for anyone outside the straight-after-A-level age group to worry about their age.

"I'm 23. Am I too old for uni?"

uni17na

"Certainly not!" said Myles. "Students of all ages come and study at university. Never think you're too old; around about 15% of our students are mature students (over 21 at the start of their course), and that number is going up all the time."

student sitting in the library

How do I choose the right course?

When you're deciding on a university and a course, the amount of choice can be overwhelming - as tulip679 is finding out.

"I'm just not sure what I want to do at university. I'd love to do psychology at a Russell Group university and eventually go into forensic psychology, but I've read there is a tremendous amount of people wishing to fill very few jobs.

"I'd be happy to do an English degree, but I'm not sure where it would take me in the future. My final option would be to do history at university as I've been told you're more likely to get into law by doing a history degree as opposed to an actual law degree."

tulip679

"To answer your main question, it is proven that it is the classification and grade of your degree that makes more difference than what you study at university," said Myles. "It's also true that students perform better on courses they enjoy studying."

"Having a history degree, an English degree or a psychology degree would make little difference if you wanted to do a law conversion, all of them demonstrate the skills needed. What would make a massive difference is getting a great result.

"I'd also take a look at which uni you choose to study at. The Russell Group contains some great institutions, but several of them are outside the top 30 in the UK. A great indicator of a good place to study is by looking for institutions in the top 20 in all of the major three league tables (Times, Guardian and Complete Uni Guide)."

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