“So what do you want to do with your life?”
…A question that causes uncertain people of all ages a mixture of fear and dread, but one that particularly by 18, feels like it demands a sure answer.
As a stressy sixth former, I remember how ridiculous it felt to have to make decisions at that age that would determine the rest of my life – and not quite knowing the answer to what I wanted to do felt like the end of the world.
Spoiler: it definitely wasn’t.
Should I go to Uni?
However, at the time I was someone that was highly motivated and excelled in academics – so my teachers, family and even myself considered there to be only one course of action: study an academically rigorous course at University. Being perfectly honest – I don’t recall there being a time in my secondary education where uni didn’t feature in the grand plan and my mindset at the time was that I couldn’t be successful unless that was what happened.
The only time that uncertainty really kicked in was (inconveniently) in Year 13, when pressing ‘submit’ on my UCAS application didn’t quite feel right, realising that as much as I might enjoy higher education in the traditional sense – I had no idea what I wanted to do past that and whether it was what I really wanted.
At the time I had never considered any other route, and the people around me considered things like apprenticeships to be inferior to a more academic route and I didn’t massively know what they would entail and whether there were any out there that would be right for me.
Choosing Apprenticeship instead of University
Long story short, despite getting into my chosen University – I made a snap decision in the summer before I was meant to start – to start working for humanutopia. No academics, no books – working on the road and learning by watching, asking questions and gaining experiences. I realised very quickly that in this route I was learning just as much (if not more), just in a totally different way.
Before taking the apprenticeship – there were definitely a bunch of things I considered to be drawbacks…
- Would It be as mentally stimulating?
- Would I still get opportunities to meet new people and make new friends without the structure of Uni?
- Would it still allow me as many options once I was finished?
In the end, though, what sealed the deal was how it made me feel. The fact that I knew I was going into something I loved and would make me feel an incredible sense of purpose. I’ve grown to realise apprenticeships, like the one I’m doing, can eradicate the worries that people might have regarding picking between the two options. I’ve been able to learn in a way that’s challenged me, meet some of the most incredible people through doing something I love and get to nearly three years with a hundred times more skills and knowledge than when i started.
Don’t rule out University
Don’t assume one specific route is for you
I would never rule out university – and for some people it’s the perfect pathway for them to choose. For many of us though, we are pushed into it as an option based on the expectations of the well-meaning people around us and the fear that any other route will not provide us the same future opportunities.
I would never have considered doing what I do now unless I had experienced what it was like to work alongside this company first – so given that, my biggest piece of advice: don’t assume one specific route is for you: whether that is what university course, which Uni or whether it’s even for you at all. Go out there, experience things, refrain from ruling things out straight away.
And if you can’t answer the question of what you want to do with the rest of your life …
Don’t panic. You’re not meant to at 18.