September can be an exciting time of year, it can mean fresh starts such as a new school year or a different place of learning such an university. However it can also be a very lonely and hard time of year because it can mean that the people around you are slowly drifting back to their new homes in new areas to their new friends and you’re just not doing that. Now don’t get me wrong I know deep down in my soul I made the right decision but god it was a heart wrenching one. I for one know how hard it was to watch my support system of friends and family go to have new beginnings and you are staying in the same place trying to stay afloat. On one hand I am so unbelievably proud of the people in my life who are going onto university and are gaining themselves a higher education to reach their fullest potential but on the other I felt alone and I felt like I wasn’t going forwards like them..but backwards. It’s that conflict that makes September a hard month for me, and with my friends going back into second year it’s harder having them back for a few months and now they’re going back to their new lives. If you have ever felt like this or are one of the friends leaving this is for you because I am going to give you my story of how I decided against university, how I told the people around me my decision and how I came to do what I am doing now.
Since I was a child I had always wanted to go to university, I couldn’t tell you why but my older cousins went and my parents talked so fondly about it that I decided that that was going to be part of my journey. Throughout primary and lower secondary school I was an achiever and I had always strived on being told that, my parents really drove that home to me and gave me opportunities to keep succeeding. However in the last few years of mandatory school I let that go to my head and I started to slack, I watched my grades start to seem to slip and I watched everyone else keep achieving. This had a huge knock on my confidence but I tried to boost my hard work to catch back up, I just hadn’t been prepared for other pupils who were much more gifted than I was. Fast forward to Year 11, the last year of GCSE’s and we had meetings about our future and mock interviews with local employers where I knew that I needed to impress everyone to get back on top of my game. I spent many hours with my dad (god bless that man) perfecting my CV and interview skills to impress the man who owned the dingy local cafe down the road, in my mind he was going to be my biggest critic. On the day of the interview that man became my biggest fan, he told me I had the strongest CV and the best interview skills of the children he had spoken to that day; I HAD WON. The real person I needed to impress and failed to do so was my head of year, she was a strong minded women who didn’t pussy foot around nothing! She asked me what I wanted to do in the future and I froze, in a blind panic I said university. Unfazed she came back at me with “doing what exactly?” I just couldn’t answer that question, and I felt a wave of embarrassment and disappointment. I couldn’t look her in the eye. I explained to her how I really enjoyed education and wanted to continue into sixth form and university but I was undecided on what field I wanted to go into. She informed me to choose subjects I would do the best in and that I would enjoy the most because at least then I have some ground to make a decision on and off I went to think about my A level choices.
On GCSE results day with decent results under my belt I went to make my decision on what subjects I wanted to study intensively for the next two years. I decided to take four A Levels (first mistake) and two of them science and two essay based (even bigger mistake). To cut a long story short I really struggled, despite being fairly clever I just did not have the skills to keep up with the work or the mentality to make it work. I had very little organisation or motivation to reach my full potential and I really fell into a pit about it. I just felt like I was letting myself and my parents down because I wasn’t succeeding the way we had always planned, instead of feeding my passions and my goals I was focusing on what I was hating the most. Even with a significant amount of pastoral care/help I just knew that this struggle was not meant to be part of my journey for any longer than them two years. Why should I put myself through this hell and the debt and the struggle just because I thought this was what I wanted as a child. So I decided this wasn’t for me anymore.
Once I took the burden of university and letting people down and trying to be better than everyone else off my shoulders and decided to just enjoy what I do and achieve for the sake of achieving I felt relief and I started to work harder and succeed. IT ONLY TOOK ME UNTIL 3 MONTHS BEFORE EXAMS TO TO DO THIS. I came out with not too bad A Level results and I just took them home and got really drunk. That was the end of that dream.
Now how did I tell people that I wasn’t applying to university? Well for my dad I told him straight away and he supported me from that day on. For my mum, well…she asked me the day after UCAS application deadline which university I applied for and I told her I didn’t apply for any. Smooth I know *facepalm*. I did find it hard to tell people when they asked me what I was doing next year but I knew in my heart I couldn’t go for the sake of saving myself some face. I just informed people I was working on a plan and changed the subject if I’m completely honest. People will either support you or not but at the end of the day it is your decision and your life, and your happiness needs to be at the foundations of all your decisions.
So after a good 4 months of not knowing what to do with my life I was looking after the children I nanny for four nights a week and I was really enjoying my job. I was helping with homework, made dinner and did bed time routines as well as started helping supporting the youngest’s autism. I decided to look into autism courses to help with my job, from there I found an online course with the Open College which taught childcare and autism awareness, but the only problem was that it was going to cost me £500ish upfront and I just couldn’t afford that. So I looked into one of my local colleges and found out I could do their Early Years course for free and be fully qualified to work with children at the end of it. I felt like it was all falling into place: I could continue with my job, I will end up with a career and I won’t be in debt. There were other factors playing into me wanting to stay at home instead of university such as my mental health, my dads poor health and my relationship.
Regarding what it is like to be that friend who doesn’t go to university, it is a hard position to be in but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for your own future. It seems hard now but just try to take that into your stride, try to build friendships at your next step whether that be working or another form of education because that will help the process feel less lonely. Your journey isn’t any less significant than someone you goes to university’s and vice versa. Everyone is trying to find their way in this world and you should always just follow your instincts because you know your own happiness, if it doesn’t feel right find another path until you find what feels right.
I am a huge believer in “what is meant for you won’t miss you” and this was just meant to be my journey. I struggled and fought to be where I am today and I am grateful everyday for it. I now work hard and I am motivated and I seem to have my shit together for now and it makes the struggle worth it. So if you are genuinely lost or confused about your next steps in life I can offer you two pieces of advice: get as much information about every option possible to you and then go with your gut instinct. This can be a huge deal to someone especially at the age of 16/17/18 but just know that there is need to get stressed, just do what you need to do and one day it’ll work itself out.
Do you have any similar experiences to share? Or any advice/tips to help someone else in this situation? Please let me know.