Right now in my life I am at the crossroads of waiting for my AS results and deciding whether to go to university or not. I’m sure many of you reading this, will or have already, gone through this stage in your life. The choice of further education or not is a difficult and life-changing decision, usually involving a further consideration of whether to move away from home or not or to go straight into a job after school. The decision isn’t made easy for you either as there is such a vast choice of degree courses and the necessity of getting great results.

Universities set high grade standards to get the best candidates to apply and in the end hopefully leave with a first-class honours (1st) or second-class honours, upper division (2.1). In the UK, the top group of universities are called the Russell Group which includes the ‘best’ 24 universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds, Sheffield, Durham and Warwick to name a few. They require the highest grades of A*s, As and Bs to gain an offer as well as a brilliant personal statement to show you’re a well-rounded person in addition to your studies. Russell Group universities offer medical, biological, social and physical sciences in addition to degrees in humanities and business. However, on league tables the Russell Group universities don’t always come out top. The University of Kent scores top for Journalism in the UK above Cardiff and Sheffield, two of which are Russell Group universities.

On the one hand, university is an experience to gain knowledge, meet new people and hopefully get a job at the end of it. But, on the other hand, many students find it’s a time to PARTY! Many universities are in areas set up for a student lifestyle with nightclubs, bars, shops and restaurants so when the students aren’t studying or cramming for exams you’d find most of them down the pub or with a hangover. Apparently that’s all part of the fun! Also, accommodation for second and third year students is needed which means many city centres are filled with plenty of students and like-minded people.

This way of spending your university life may not be appealing to you. You may want to study hard, focus on your work, read, do extra research and join clubs and societies. Both approaches of living the university life can be mixed and it’s down to you to decide which way you will do it if you go.

Universities offer so many opportunities that are pushed into the minds of 17-18 year-olds to convince them that this life is for them. We are told that university is a great way to make new lifelong friends, learn to cook and live away from home and, most importantly, that you’ll definitely get a job at the end. However, though this may apply to the majority, this is not necessarily how things will be for everyone.

Jobs aren’t certain nowadays due to the recession and unemployment rates rising. The most needed jobs today are in the emergency services of police, fire and ambulance as well as teaching staff due to the increase in schools that are needed. This applies all over the UK. In addition, all 16-17 year-olds will have to stay on at school until they are 18, in education or learning from an apprenticeship from September 2014. This is putting pressure on schools, sixth forms and colleges and not everyone wants to stay in education. But in contrast, some students could be convinced that further education is for them after school since sixth form and college is slightly different, in a positive way, as you’re treated more like an adult.

The Sutton Trust is an educational charity set up to help students at an educational disadvantage due to the fact that their parents may not have gone to university. The Trust wants to help people not to waste their talent and encourage those from different family backgrounds to have a chance without the focus on what school and neighbourhood they come from or their family background. The Trust and its partners have put over £40 million into the charity to aid students to get into Oxford and Cambridge and run summer schools in both the UK and US. They also offer scholarships to encourage people to go to university to learn more and gain from the experience.

However, university isn’t a necessity as there are other chances of further education and careers through apprenticeships, diplomas or college courses. Some jobs need a degree such as doctors and midwives but jobs in accountancy and journalism don’t require a degree but specific qualifications which can be gained at colleges. In fact, you can just go straight into a job as not all jobs need degrees or further education. Going into retail is a great example as you can work to get promoted within the company to a higher position and a higher salary. In addition, to be air traffic controllers, web developers or tradesmen degrees aren’t essential.