After a year at uni, Amy McMullen says she is disappointed.
“…university comes with a whole set of issues that leaves many students thinking that it was never really worth it in the first place.”
Not everyone enjoys their uni experience. There are loads of possible reasons why this happens. Some may have a bad time while they’re there. Others will not have expected their time to be the way it turned out.
Amy explains that she and her friends believe that “if we had known what university was like before we applied, we would definitely think again and consider if it was worth it”.
She suggests that things could be different if she had taken an internship or some work experience for a year.
I hope things get better for Amy and that she feels more enthused as she moves through her degree. I wanted to make a few points and offer some advice in the hope that you can feel happy about your choices now and in the future.
I’ll start each point by referring to one of Amy’s comments in her piece.
“I pay the same tuition fees as someone who does a science subject, yet I have less than half the contact hours.”
Contact hours are not important.
At least, not important in the context of making university (and its cost) worthwhile. Contact hours aren’t a measure of worth or a measure of quality. What matters is ensuring you have enough contact time with academics.
If you don’t think you’re getting reasonable access to your tutors, have a friendly chat with them at first and see what you can all get out of it. Failing that, speak to your course rep or Students’ Union about your issue. If a large group of people on your course agree that you’re not getting enough contact time, work together on solving the problem rather than simply complaining amongst yourselves.
“Even more disheartening is realising that I could have learnt most of the syllabus content by spending a few days in the library and using a good search engine online.”
This is where ‘self-learning’ comes into play. My last post looked at taking a 4-year degree in a single year. Some of the top unis put entire courses online for the public to devour. You really could learn most of the syllabus content in a short time. And with library access, you can go deeper. Much, much deeper.
And that’s the point. I like to think of lectures and reading lists as starting points. Taking the analogy one step further, you’re given sign posts in these lectures so you don’t get hopelessly lost. Amy talks about agonising over another essay (yes, we’ve all been there), so learning the syllabus content is not the whole picture.
Everything you need is out there. A formal setting isn’t necessary for learning. A drive to find out more is necessary. If the basics only take a few days in the library and a bit of Googling, imagine where you can go from there.
“I often wonder if it would have been a better idea to get some hands on experience via internships or work experience full time this year.”
You still can. If you already know what career path(s) you’d like to pursue, that’s brilliant. You can find relevant part-time work while you study, use a different part-time role to develop transferable skills, or get involved online in your spare time. Get blogging, connect with people in the field, and join professional networks.
If you aren’t sure about future plans, work on what you enjoy. Many university experiences are useful long after graduation. And they don’t need to be related to the degree itself.
I don’t know what Amy’s plans are, but getting her writing out is a great start. Even if she finds disappointment in some aspects of uni life, writing for student papers and getting involved in various extra-curricular activities can equal great experience.
The fact that Amy has done this in her first year is awesomeness. That gives at least a couple more years to achieve more. Much more. Stuff that won’t gain extra marks or improve the degree award, but stuff that will benefit in other ways. Better ways, even.
“Obviously my first year at university has been a learning curve in learning to live independently, meeting new people and discovering myself. It’s easy to forget the real reason we applied here – to get a degree.”
It’s funny, because independent living, self-study, networking, and discovering yourself are all possibly more important than getting that degree. Again, looking back at my previous post, the degree is less important than you. You have so much on offer to help you to develop, to explore, to learn, to challenge yourself, to network, to ask questions, to engage, to enjoy…
Loads of this stuff can be done outside the confines of university. Academic study isn’t the only option. But it’s still a great option. With so much available around you (physically and mentally), like-minded people (hopefully), and time on your hands (occasionally), a lot is convenient at the very least! I still hope the experience goes beyond mere convenience though.
Comparisons are easy. But you end up comparing an ideal scenario with your current reality. That’s not reasonable. Life isn’t like that and the grass always looks greener.
Make the most of your time at uni. Getting a degree is just the start of it!
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