To degree or not to degree, that is the question.

As far as academic journeys are concerned, going to university was once considered the golden ticket to a better future. However, spaces were limited and degrees were largely reserved for only the best students. The 21st century has seen the landscape change dramatically.

An increase in institutions and course types has resulted in easier admissions. Financial support is available too. More accessibility means that university is a possibility for a greater number of people. But is it still the right path to take?

The Desire

For youngsters considering university, the first question is a simple one: do I want to go? A lot of late teens feel the pressure to make their parents proud. After all, this generation is filled with people who would be the first members of their families to gain a degree. Sadly, that’s not enough of a reason to go. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Three years is a long time to waste. If it’s not the right path for you, it’s best to be honest with yourself at the start. If you’re still undecided, reach out to graduates or current students. Their insights may provide the clear insight you need to make a calculated decision one way or the other. For those who will start university, being able to do it with confidence is key.

The Financial Investment

Going to university is ultimately an investment into your future. As such, every student must decide whether the costs of university will be vindicated by their future earnings. While nobody can predict the future, it is imperative that any prospective student makes a calculated decision. This is regardless of whether they’re making a late application or looking at clearing in 2021, or planning for 2022.

A degree in the UK can cost up to £9,250 per year for tuition alone. When added to the living costs and the interest rates involved, a three-year degree may cost a total of over £40,000. That’s before the potential of a Masters and a PhD are included. Likewise, it does not factor in the loss of earnings that could have been made during this time.

As such, the true cost of university could be as much as £100,000 for three years. This is still a worthwhile sacrifice for students who know that they can earn an extra £10,000 for each of the next 30 years. Conversely, though, the difference in earnings between having a degree and not having a degree could be minimal. If so, it will make uni feel less appealing.

The Alternatives

The reason that university might not be the perfect option for everyone is that it does not bring any guarantees. A growing number of graduates have been left frustrated by their inability to find suitable roles during the pandemic. In reality, this trend of an immensely competitive entry-level market has been noticeable for several years.

In truth, the thought of investing so much time and money for an uncertain future will sit uneasily with a lot of students. Naturally, it’s probably not something that’s discussed enough during the application processes. On a brighter note, students who thrive will be positioned to kickstart their careers in even greater style.

There are also some suggestions that the volume of graduates could drop a little as a long-term impact of the pandemic. So, by the time newly enrolled students are ready to apply for their first graduate job, the situation may look brighter. Either way, the most driven students with a clear mindset and goal won’t be worried.

Top graduates will still feel ready to enjoy thriving careers and will see their degree as a key step to making it happen. On the other hand, university is far from the only route available. Apprenticeships enable workers to gain valuable skills and qualifications while earning a wage. Meanwhile, many firms sponsor workers to do part-time degrees over several years.

Climbing the corporate or career ladder isn’t the only option either. A growing number of young entrepreneurs are embracing the opportunities offered by the modern world. Company formation is easier than ever while building remote-based teams and online selling are key. University dropouts (Facebook, GymShark, etc.) show what can be achieved.

The Education In Life

University isn’t all about lectures or the quality of the degree you gain. For most students, it is an opportunity to learn about life. From understanding who you are as a person to gaining independence, there is no better outlet. It allows you to make that transition from teenager to fully grown adult. Besides, some of the memories made are simply incredible.

Moreover, financial hardships can actually force you to develop thrifty life habits. Even if when you go on to have a financially rewarding career, there will always be times when you need to make sacrifices. One example is when you look to overcome the housing crisis to finally get on the ladder. Other situations could include when moving jobs.

It won’t always feel like it when you’re studying, but students have more free time than most. This also provides opportunities to pursue outside interests. From volunteering schemes during the summer break to performance arts, the options are endless. It’s also a great time to discover a passion for healthy living, which you might not do in other life paths.

The Difficulties Facing Today’s Students

Financial struggles have already been mentioned but they are not limited to the tuition fees. The maintenance grants were scrapped five years ago, forcing many students to take on more work hours. Juggling a degree with a job that consumes 20 or 30 hours per week can feel almost impossible. Especially for those that want top grades.

Likewise, this can put a strain on any opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge with outside tasks. Work experience can be a very valuable tool, but many students will struggle to fit it into their schedules. Likewise, they will miss out on some of the lifestyle benefits that university usually offers. The knock-on impact of financial difficulties can be telling.

Perhaps the biggest uncertainties stem from the pandemic and its impacts on learning. Thousands of students were forced to use eLearning during the past academic year. Meanwhile, many features of student life simply weren’t available. It has been a diluted experience, not least in terms of course engagement.

Furthermore, the uncertain future of the post-pandemic era can introduce a level of risk. On the one hand, the economy could be booming by the time new students have graduated. On the other hand, though, any continued fallout that brings business closures could be damning. They may force new graduates to miss out on suitable jobs as other workers seek new employment.

Then again, many students will argue that this is the best time ever to study. The job market still isn’t great and trying to start a career may be tough. So, if you are ever going to study for a degree, this might be the perfect time. While some normality has returned, limited social actions may allow students to throw themselves into the work. This includes mature ones.

The Necessities

Deciding whether to go to university or not is a choice for most people who have the relevant entry grades. It isn’t the only route to future success, but it could potentially be the best. Still, the fact that there are several potential routes should not be overlooked. In some cases, though, university will be the only path available.

The harsh reality is that medical schools and degrees in the sciences are often longer. That means they are more expensive too. Naturally, this will bump up the costs too. However, the demand for skilled workers in these fields is huge. Therefore, you will find that the rewards vindicate the efforts. Especially if you gain the top grades.

Another situation where you may be forced to focus on university is when you have a promise of a job waiting for you. If a relative or family friend has a business, they may have your graduate life sorted. Of course, it will still be necessary to decide whether that path is right for you. The days of simply falling into the family business being the norm are gone.


There’s no escaping the fact that university is no longer the be-all-and-end-all. There are plenty of negatives to counteract the positives and many people now realise that there are other ways to achieve success. From starting a firm or going self-employed in the gig economy to focusing on experience rather than degrees, there are many options.

Nonetheless, university still has a lot to offer in terms of life and potentially accelerating your career. The key is to be honest with yourself and take the time to understand what university has to offer you personally. For many people, there are better options out there. But for those that will benefit the most from uni, it could be the smartest decision ever made.