The Cons: Would I Recommend Going to Uni?

It’s safe to say that not everything about university is sunshine and rainbows, smiles and laughter, success and socialising. This post is one of two where I explore the pros and cons I found during my time at university, and whether I think it was all worth it. My aim isn’t to dissuade anyone from going to university, but more to reveal the not-so-great parts that other people tend to skate over.


The Workload Can Be Intense

There’s often a bit of a perception floating around that university is like a part-time occupation – not too stressful, you’ve got loads of free time, no boss breathing down your neck, so what is there to be worrying about? And while I personally found first year easy enough to manage, I’ve always described my second year as hitting like a ton of bricks. For ten out of twelve weeks in the first semester I had deadline after deadline; I spent the weekends doing seminar prep and catching up, and the weeks tackling deadlines. The above photo is of the Easter reading I had to make my way through in second semester of second year. Three weeks to get through ten history textbooks, eleven history readings (none of which were short), and an entire fiction story written in Middle English, alongside another essay deadline requiring research, planning and writing. And that was supposed to be the “break” for the semester.

Of course, not every degree will require the same amount of time spent hunched over books, massaging an aching hand from too much handwriting/typing, and trying to remember what format your references should be in, but there’s a safe bet that at least every now and again you’ll find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed. Which is normal! But it’s definitely something to prepare yourself for. It can be far easier than you think to burn yourself out or find that stress about the work interferes with your sleep.


The Living Situation Can Be Far From Ideal

Certainly in your first year you are likely to end up living with a variety of people you’ve never met before, so the chances of you all instantly bonding and becoming the best of friends are… fairly slim. That’s not to say you definitely won’t get on – plenty of students continue to live with their first year flatmates out of choice. However, don’t go into it expecting to never have any issues, even in subsequent years. Out of four flatmates in my first year, we never saw one, another refused to quit smoking in their room despite complaints and setting the fire alarm off, and a third always left grease all over the cooker top.

In addition, you’ll be dealing with more than simply flatmates – I know I had issues with my accommodation providers each and every year. Broken showers, blocked drains, broken gates, ants, maggots, broken vacuum cleaners, chasing after contracts… You name it, I’ve probably had to deal with it. As far as some issues go, like broken showers, it should be fairly simple: you notify your accommodation provider/landlord, and they get it fixed. Problems in that area arise when you have to keep reporting the same issue because they aren’t fixing it. You learn to deal with it, you learn to stop taking excuses and fight for your rights as tenants, but it is exhausting. Some landlords believe that because you’re students, you won’t fight them because you don’t know how, or you don’t know your rights. Just stick to your guns and, if you know someone with more experience, ask them for advice.

This was because of a light we couldn’t replace ourselves. We also dealt with a month of cold showers in the previous house…

It’s Easy to Feel Alone

Living far from home, far from your friends, in a new place – or even after you’ve lived there a while – can feel lonely. A fact that’ll be true regardless of whether you’re at university or not, but worth mentioning nonetheless. It can also feel worse because if, like I did, you have very minimal scheduled hours for your course, it’s easy to spend too much time alone.

If you join societies but they turn out to be pretty inactive, or they only do something on times you can’t attend, it can be frustrating as societies are a primary mode of student socialisation. Another obstacle can be whether you drink or not; I don’t drink for personal and medical reasons, and I’m not interested in clubbing. I tried it, it’s not for me. While there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, it can go against the grain at university. If you’re the same, it might mean you have to put a little more effort into ensuring you see people outside of an academic environment.


Life Doesn’t Stop Because You’re at University

A big thing to realise is that while you’re away at university, the rest of your life doesn’t just… pause. University can feel all-encompassing, but if you’ve left home it can also feel like a double life. There may be people you know back home having problems, or having celebrations, and you can’t be with them because you can’t get away – whether you have too much on your plate, or simply because to leave on short notice is too expensive and you can’t afford it. You might end up missing out on things, like if you’re family is going on holiday and you want to go with them but can’t because you’ve got exams.


So, Overall?

The purpose of this post and the last one was to reveal both sides of the coin about university. For years I’ve felt like people tend to focus only on the highs, and leave others to discover the lows for themselves. But I think it’s fair to show the negatives, and to acknowledge them rather than brush them under the carpet.

Looking back at my time in Liverpool, I’ll never regret that I did it. Going to university was a dream I had from a very young age and one I worked extremely hard for years to make a reality. It was exhilarating, scary, amazing, and stressful all at once. But I think, if I were to go back to 2015 and decide whether to apply or not, there’s no question I’d do it again. Some of the things that help us grow the most in life are the ones that are difficult and that require us to navigate stages of life we’ve not experienced before. Because mostly that’s what it all comes down to – you’ll experience highs and lows in all walks of life, you’ll find opportunities wherever you go, and also disappointments.

Do I think my attitude would have been different had I known about the things I’d find hard? In all honesty, possibly. I would probably have joined a sports society, for one. Maybe the baking society. I definitely would have avoided my third year house. But we only really learn from our mistakes, or so everyone says, right?

University is like playing the long game. You might find some things hard along the way, and question why you’re getting yourself into so much debt while friends are already out of education and earning proper wages and going travelling. But in the end you come out with a degree, a lot more life experience, and hopefully some great friends and memories.

Quarter Life Crisis

It counts as quarter-life when you’re twenty, right? 

If you are, like me, a student about to enter your final year of study at university (although, to be honest, even sixth form would do), then there’s a good chance you’ll be familiar with the feeling I’m struggling with right now: the ‘wtf am I doing with my life’ feeling.

If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s like a heart-squeezing, stomach sinking, brain numbing type of stress that probably has many different facets all feeding into it at once. And no matter how many times you tell yourself that it’ll all work out in the end, it persists. I basically feel like I’m looking out at a permanent mist. I’m standing on a ledge, looking at the drop.

It’s also not helped by the fact that, at this point in your life – or in mine, certainly – other people are taking a particularly keen interest in what’s next. Parents, other relatives, friends, friends’ parents, parents’ friends – you name it. For some reason, they all start showing sudden interest in you.

Personally, I’ve always had a sort of plan. I’ve had it since I was about five or six years old, and it hasn’t really changed since, aside from gaining a bit more detail in the interim. But this plan has a drop-off point where it goes from specificity right into the vague grey area. That drop-off point? That’s going to be next year. In May, specifically. Five-year-old-me’s plan went like this: primary school, secondary school, GCSEs, A Levels, English degree, be an author.

I basically feel like I’m looking out at a permanent mist.

In actuality, I did do basically all of that – I obviously completed primary and secondary school, I did my A Levels (in English, History, and Geography), and I’m doing my degree in English and History. I’ve written a manuscript and am working on a second, hoping to get them published at some point.

But that’s not exactly enough, is it? Authors don’t get paid much even when they’re successful, so I’ve always had it in my mind that I’d have to find something else to do alongside my writing. I didn’t know what that something else was going to be for a long time – I’d have daydreams of various paths: editor of a magazine, or working in a publishing house, or something.

More recently, I’ve expanded my horizons. In the last couple of years I’ve gained an interest in not only writing manuscripts, but also screenplays. And with that came a shift from simply considering magazines or publishing houses, to daydreams of working on film sets. After all, journalism has never been something I’ve particularly wanted to do – I’ve done it in various voluntary roles, and I know I could make a career of it if I put my mind to it, but it’s not where my heart lies, and it never has been.

So now I’m left to wonder… where does that leave me? I finish my degree in less than a year, and I’ll need to support myself both financially and creatively thereafter. I don’t like relying on my parents, and goodness knows they’re ready for me to stop needing to. And I could go into a bazillion rants about how difficult it is to start out doing anything in terms of paid employment these days – I’ve never managed anything more than temporary retail and marketing positions, and even those were hard to get. Things are made especially difficult by the fact that the area I live in when I’m not at university has extremely little in terms of any opportunities whatsoever. Even finding a simple retail job here is a nightmare. But ranting about that won’t help. I’m not always successful at it, but I try not to dwell on things I can’t change.

So now I’m left to wonder… where does that leave me?

In pursuit of that, then, I’m trying to figure out what my next steps are. I’ve signed up to a couple of websites that are, for lack of a better term, film-orientated, and the (admittedly somewhat bleak) hope is that I can find something like work experience over the summer. And in case that never materialises, I’m also signed up to a website called Skillshare, in the hopes that I can learn something from it and build my knowledge of the film-making process.

As it is, I’m sadly inexperienced in anything film, partly because I never really thought of myself as a person who could work on a film set until more recently, and partly because I have honestly never had the opportunity to do such things. I was forever taking up whatever exciting opportunities came my way back in secondary & sixth form – I went on an app-making course, I went to Microsoft’s Think Computer Science events, I volunteered on the Youth Council, I wrote for a website, I got published in a science journal… but filmmaking never crossed my path. And I seem to be at the one university in the country without any student film society.

Aside from that, I’m still working on my manuscript. I’ve started making a list of places and positions I’m going to start applying for in early 2019 for when I graduate. I have a couple of possibilities for post-graduation in my head, but they’re far from certainties.

DSCF4239 (2016_08_27 10_47_15 UTC)
I’m standing on a ledge, looking at the drop.

But I do know some things for certain. I know I’m going to work my arse off in my third year. I know I’m going to throw everything I have at it and hope to all that’s good in the world that it pays off. I’m know I’m going to continue working on my manuscripts, and I’m going to figure out how to write a screenplay. I know I’m going to keep searching for every opportunity I could take.

And I know I’m going to stay determined.

What Getting Into Your Insurance Uni Is Really Like

This isn’t a pity-me post, and it isn’t meant to warn anyone off university, or even my university – just an honest post about what it’s really like to get into your insurance choice university.

Way back in early 2016, I was considering which universities out of the five I had applied to I should put as my firm and insurance choices on UCAS, the system UK students use to apply for university. If I’m honest, the decision was half-made already: I wanted to go to the University of Nottingham, so that was clearly my firm choice. I knew I didn’t want to go to two of the universities I had applied to, because I didn’t like the courses – I’d applied mainly to fill the spots. So, really, the choice I had to make was between the fourth and fifth universities: Liverpool (the one I’m at) and Southampton.

As is probably clear from the title of this post, I put Liverpool as my second choice. I felt like the impression I had gotten from the applicant day I attended was that it was a better fit than Southampton. To me, the campus just seemed more comfortable. There wasn’t a huge amount in it between the courses, from what I can remember, so I was mainly going off of the vibe I got from each of the universities when I visited.

Fast forward to August 2016, and one of the most emotionally confusing mornings of my life: A Levels results day. Having pretty much hated the process of A Levels for reasons worthy of a post entirely their own, I actually didn’t care what my grades were going to be. I only cared about getting into one of my chosen universities, so I decided to wait for UCAS to update at 8am, rather than head straight to school for my grades. I’ll spare you the long and confusing version of events: I was accepted into Liverpool with no issue, even though my grades hadn’t been what they asked for.

I say it was emotionally confusing, because while I was so relieved I had been accepted into university and hadn’t had to go through clearing, I had been so set on going to Nottingham. For the whole of that day, I wasn’t really sure what I was feeling. By the end of it, I was disappointed I didn’t get into my firm choice, glad the A Levels ordeal was finally over, sad I hadn’t done as well as I’d hoped, and relieved Liverpool had accepted me. On top of that, I was just really tired. Sixth form was intense, and spending the summer waiting for something that was now out of my hands and would decide on the course of the next 3 years of my life hadn’t been all too pleasant.

In the weeks after, however, I felt excited. Beyond excited – it had settled in that I was going to a good university, the course looked good, and it was a major life goal that I was about to realise.

So what’s it been like in the time since? A lot of students you see in university prospectuses will say how they were accepted into their insurance, but they wouldn’t change it for a thing, and they now prefer this one to the one they’d intended to go to, and they’ve never had so much as a second thought.

Yeah, that’s not quite true for me.


Don’t get me wrong, I do love being here in Liverpool and it has given me some great opportunities. The course is, on the whole, exactly what I wanted. I have a lot of control over the modules I take, and my grades are doing well.

However… When you do get the impression that a certain place would be perfect for you, it’s hard for the place you felt like was a runner-up to beat it. Admittedly, some of the things sound quite arbitrary: I still prefer the actual Nottingham campus to the Liverpool one. I think the variety of societies and social activities seemed better there, especially as a non-drinker – personally, I’ve found being a non-drinker in Liverpool a bit tragic. Most society events that I’ve found are pub crawls, or will be a short event followed by a night of clubbing. And I think gym membership was cheaper at Nottingham. But sometimes it is the small details like these that can make all the difference to your experience.

Of course, I can’t say any of this for sure; I don’t know if the impression I had from Nottingham would have turned out to be entirely accurate, and I don’t know if I would have found other aspects of university there more difficult. I can’t say for sure whether I would have gone for a year abroad if I’d gone to Nottingham; I chose not to here, because my course only facilitates a semester, and I didn’t feel like that was a long enough time to get settled in in an entirely new environment and enjoy it. There’s every possibility that I could have gotten to Nottingham and found just as many things to dislike, or which I may have wanted to be different.

There are some things that I’m sure are true of all universities: I’m sure there’s always some divide between those who came to university to study and focus on their degree, and those who simply came for the ‘student life’ (a.k.a frequently getting drunk and missing most of their lectures). You’re always going to run into people you don’t get on with. Student accommodation is notorious around the world for its turbulence in terms of arguments with flatmates about cleanliness and noise – that pretty much comes down to your luck of the draw. After all, most people at university are young adults; we don’t all have everything figured out, and some people you’ll run into will have been doing chores for years, and others won’t have figured out how to use a washing machine yet.

So I won’t say that my experience getting into my insurance choice university has been perfect, as I saw in so many prospectuses when I was researching universities. I’m not going to pretend there haven’t been some days where I’ve thought my firm choice could have turned out better. But I do like my university! It’s an experience I won’t regret, and I love the work I’m doing. No matter where you go, there will be things you love and things you wish were different. And that’s always worth bearing in mind.