I’ve argued before that fees themselves don’t act as a deterrent to university, since higher education is seen by many as the only feasible route to career success. There is much more to higher education, but it’s hard to deny that a large number of people take the HE path in the hope of improving future prospects.
The Independent asked students and graduates if they would have paid £9k per year. That question isn’t so important right now, but some of the answers given are definitely worth exploring.
Nottingham graduate Luke Martin puts the student experience into perspective:
“The ‘university life’ is a deeply individual one and it’s a shame to imagine it simply as a (very expensive) commodity, when for most it’s an all encompassing and enjoyable lived experience.”
You have a wealth of opportunity at university. It’s easy to imagine that a degree is the most important end product of your study. In reality, many other actions over the years can surpass that seemingly crucial grade.
Qualifications are certainly important, but they’re no replacement for other achievement and personal experience.
Luke Martin adds, “I suspect that I took a lot out of it that can’t be measured in pounds”. While you can’t put a monetary value on everything you do, you should attempt to translate as many of your actions into meaningful examples that others can understand.
Build upon your long-term plan. How far have you looking into the future? You don’t know what’s awaiting you around the corner, but that’s not an excuse to abandon forward planning.
It’s all too easy to see graduation as a million miles away. Even if you think it’s approaching fast, it’s just as easy to think the job search starts when you’ve finished studying. But it doesn’t.
Your search has already started. If you’re at uni to improve your prospects, every minute is potential time to be winning. Some ideas that are quick to start, quick to implement, but require a long time to make a mark:
- Start a blog: Blogs almost never achieve overnight success. Three posts do not make a must-read blog. A consistent effort, however, can yield results. There is no sure-fire way of reaching a huge audience and/or huge respect, but you’re guaranteed not to reach it if you don’t try at all.
- Build online network profiles aimed at your chosen career/job route: Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like aren’t overnight success stories (unless you’re Charlie Sheen). Thankfully, you only need short, committed bursts of activity to make a difference over time. But do commit to it, otherwise you’re profile risks going stale.
- Get working on a career RIGHT NOW: Ask yourself, “What can I do straight away to move closer to a role in X industry?” If you had a free reign to work on whatever project you wanted, what would you choose? If you aren’t already doing that now, what’s stopping you? Take your unexecuted ideas and start bringing them to life.
- Volunteer: There are plenty opportunities to volunteer. It doesn’t have to be charity work and it needn’t be in a formal job situation. Giving up your time to support a cause and to enhance your own experience will look great ongoing. However, there’s no point in volunteering simply to look good on paper. It doesn’t work. Your aim is to provide value and enthusiasm. You may even build some amazing contacts, memories and future opportunities in the process.
- Seek out a mentor: We learn from the actions of others from birth. You may already know someone who you respect and could learn a lot from. If you do, why not tell them how you feel they could help you with a bit of guidance. They will likely feel flattered and be delighted to spend some time with you. And the worst they can do is say no!
If you don’t know anyone personally, Forbes has an 8-step plan to find a mentor and a slideshow with the steps too.
After you graduate, your overall experience is worth more than just the degree. One graduate suggests: “We’re left in a world where a degree is just an expensive, bog-standard qualification.”
While I don’t agree in such harsh tones, it’s true that a degree, in isolation, is no longer enough to secure the employment of your choosing. You must put the legwork in to use your degree and the skills you developed, because the piece of paper isn’t going to make a big noise on your behalf.
An increasing number of graduates find it insanely difficult to secure suitable employment. However, it is no reason to wash your hands of higher education. In a world of ‘quick fixes’ and ‘instant access‘, you’ve still got to play the slow game for some things, frustrating as that may be.
I’ll leave the last words to KCL graduate, Daniel Smith. No matter what the cost, we’re all different and it’s in your own interests to make your experience worthwhile, amazing, and relevant to who you want to be:
“Each student will have a different experience to the next and just because everyone has a degree does not mean there is an equal starting point when looking to start a career after university. In a fundamental sense though, a degree is worth any amount of money, if it’s something you’ve always wanted to aspire to.”