Heading off to university is a big step — and it’s not appropriate for everyone. While there are definite upsides, there are also practical drawbacks that you’ll want to consider before making the commitment.

So, what sort of questions should you be asking yourself?

Let’s run through a few.

What’s the endgame?

You might have a dream job in mind. In that case, consider what steps you’ll need to take along the way toward this career. In some cases, a degree might be absolutely indispensable. In others, you might be able to progress without ever going to university.

Are there any alternatives?

Before committing, you’ll want to think about the alternatives. It might be that one of them makes a better match for your skillset. You might decide to go directly into full-time work, just to figure out who you are and what you’d like to do. You might also go for an apprenticeship in the profession you’ve chosen.

Can you afford it?

University education doesn’t come for free. You’ll want to ensure that your new career will be worth the time and money you invest. Ensure that there’s demand for the qualifications that you’re picking up, and see how easy it is to get a foot in the door. Certain graduates can walk straight into a new job; others must work harder.

Have you researched financial aid?

With that said, much of the time you’re not actually leaving university saddled with debt. This is because most student loans aren’t actually loans — they’re more like government subsidies. If you don’t reach a certain threshold for earnings, then you won’t have to make repayments.

If you’re stuck, there are also short-term lenders specialising in dealing with students and extra student loans. Just make sure that you can handle the interest. If you can’t, then there’s always the ever-reliable bank of mum and dad — if that’s an option.

Have you researched the best universities?

Not all universities are created quite equal. Make sure that you thoroughly research the options, and make sure that you’re choosing an institution that makes a good match for your ambitions. Don’t choose to study somewhere just because it’s nearby and familiar; part of the university experience is having to fend for yourself in a strange new town. With that said, you don’t want to turn your nose up at a quality education just because it’s a little inconvenient.

Are you staying at home?

By staying at home throughout your studies, you’ll be able to save significantly on accommodation. But again, you’ll miss out on a portion of the university experience. Plus, you’re going to have to move out at some point, so why not do it sooner rather than later?