It’s all about university application at present – or is it?

We are at that time of the year when 18-year-olds are preoccupied with their application to university. They are busy getting their personal statement finished, hoping for a recommendation in support of their application from the head of sixth form or whichever teacher is going to write in support of their application to the university of their choice. All these are on top of the upcoming mock exams and other commitments they may have.

I will start by just summarising or perhaps simplifying what in my humble opinion, matter most in terms of university admission and the bigger picture in the life of the soon-to-become-a-fully-grown-adult – the eighteen year old young person.

For a teenager in the UK, you need not be Einstein to get into a university. You do not even have to do A-level, as any Level 3 course will do, as there are so many universities offering so many courses, and the admission criteria can be rather lenient. However, not all degrees lead to what would be considered a graduate-standard job, as there are many graduates doing the so-called McJob! I’m speaking about flipping burgers at McDonalds or stacking shelves at Tesco. Taking a philosophical approach, and for someone who values knowledge, I think all types of university education have value – irrespective of which university or which degree. I see no reason why one should not just acquire knowledge for the sake of acquiring knowledge and for curiosity. I went to a graduation ceremony recently, and although it is from a university usually ranks very near the bottom of the UK rank table, it is nevertheless a joy to see all these proud and jubilant people, as they walk with pride and shaking the hand of the university vice chancellor. In fact, some of them were dancing as they approach the provost.

However, philosophy and ideas in themselves do not pay bills and not everyone puts ideas above pragmatism of everyday life. So many young people work extremely hard to get into a top university and this is not to mention the emotional, physical and financial sacrifice by their parents. Some may want to argue that there is no link between the university a person attends and their career prospects or live opportunities. I profoundly disagree and I have insurmountable evidence to back up my argument. There is a link to a BBC webpage below which shows the link between degrees and lifetime earnings. 

Many will say money is not everything, and I agree. One of my favourite words is “Choice” and what attending certain universities, or perhaps studying certain degrees does, is that it gives you more options. As I said earlier, every degree has a value or to be more accurate “perceived value.” Talking about perception, the question to ask is who decides which degree is worth how much? There is something called the market place, and there is no question that people with a degree from certain universities or with certain degrees, are perceived by the marketplace to be more valuable. I’m not here to ague about the merit or to go into the right and wrong of this discussion, but to merely highlight what is out there. Having knowledge and awareness on likely outcomes of the important decision of choosing university degree courses will allow the young person to make decisions when making critical choice, with wider ramifications for their future.

In conclusion, I will say that it is the university that one attends that matters more than the actual degree, with the exception of medicine. I do not completely agree that this exception applies to Computer Science or Engineering.

What I’d say to the young person is: have a goal; believe in yourself and do what it takes to get you to where you want to be. One thing I’d like to add to this is to try and have fun along the way, as the journey is also quite important. A key aspect of our purpose as parents is to help guide our children and do all we can to assist them in the decisions they make.

We parents are just a catalyst, as it will always be up the young person to do what is needed to be successful. Success is the more scientific aspect, one word that is perhaps more important than success is fulfilment, as success without fulfilment is not what we yearn for in life.

Link to BBC – Degrees and lifetime earning –