I was appalled to read an article describing how the Government is planning on selling billions of pounds worth of student loans to a private debt collection agency for a fraction of their face value. After mulling over the topic for quite a while, it led me to ask the question ‘Is University really worth it?’
I went to University and gained a degree in Psychology, graduating in 2012. Since then I’ve gained a good job on a salary that’s probably slightly higher than the average Graduate my age. However I don’t think this has anything to do with my degree itself, more the hard work I put in out of hours of my full-time job I went into after graduating. This is just one example where an individual went on to gain a respectable job that isn’t directly linked with the degree they achieved. When I think about my peers who graduated in the same year as me, I don’t think any of them are working in an environment that has any links with their degree. Perhaps one or two at a stretch but nobody who has gone on to further their degree in a work environment.
Although I’m currently in a job that isn’t directly linked with Psychology, I’m very happy with where I am and probably do owe a certain amount of credit to my University experience. During the four years I studied, I did pick up a number of skills and was presented with the opportunity to strengthen others. From researching a topic in depth to essay writing, they have all contributed to my CV and enabled me to impress in job interviews. In that respect, I think University is a valuable experience that many young people could benefit from. Yet a large percentage of people I graduated with DO have a degree and are not happy with where they are career-wise. Therefore not everybody utilises their skills to the extent they could or should be, so perhaps this is why the usefulness of degrees have been called into question over the previous few years.
If you’re a University Graduate or soon to be one, it may be wise to read an article titled ‘Degrees do not guarantee jobs, people do.’ There’s a short paragraph in it that sums the situation up perfectly: “A degree will not excuse stuttering through an interview, it will not correct spelling mistakes on a CV and it doesn’t individualise the generic ‘I have a 2:1 and worked the summer at my Dad’s place’ cover letter.” Whilst people are sat on their high horse and believe that having a certain degree will enable them to walk into a career, the person who is extremely hard working and charismatic will get the job. I know quite a number of people who think the perseverance stops once they’ve graduated, believing themselves to be something similar to the Messiah. Without being humble, there is no way you’re ever going to make it in the world of work. Employers are presented with so many CVs these days, it’s all down to an impressive interview. Being arrogant and self-serving will never come across as desirable to somebody who is wanting to employee an individual for the next few years, therefore being able to discuss your interests and experience in an approachable manner is something a degree does not teach you.
The current economic climate is a struggle for a lot of people and you don’t necessarily need a degree to be the most qualified for a position. With internships and apprenticeships becoming more popular, this is a perfect way to gain the necessary skills for a particular job you’re interested in. Take for example the field of Marketing or PR; a person without a degree who works a 9-5 job but does a lot in their spare time (writes for publications, gets involved in social media, reads a lot around the topic, networks well etc., pursues internships and apprenticeships) will be a lot more qualified than an individual who gains a Marketing degree, of which the majority is just theory as opposed to any practical application.
Once you’ve graduated from University, you’ll start to pay back your student loans. There are always stories in the press that illustrate just how long a person would have to work on a specific salary in order to pay off their loans. Not only are these disheartening and worrying, they are also discouraging. With the job market a constant battle between 30-40 individuals for one position and knowing that an interview is more important than a CV itself, it can seem a little pointless to go to University. It is slightly alarming that the UK Government are planning to sell student loans to a private debt collection agency, as these types of company usually employ quite aggressive tactics to people who fall behind with payments. Not only that but the loans students have racked up are from the Government themselves, not this debt collection agency and so it’s immoral to implement such a strategy when no student has even agreed to this.
I would give two pieces of advice to people currently job hunting. Firstly, if you don’t have a degree do not worry about your chances at securing that job you are so passionate about. Spend your free time honing your skills in that specific area, know your stuff and this will all benefit you when you’re in a job interview. Secondly, if you do have a degree please do not be nonchalant about interviews and job hunting. Employers do not value degrees as much as they used to, so it’s not a great idea to assume that you are employable just because you turned up to 50% of lectures still hungover and scraped a 2.1 classification. If you’re applying for jobs/internships/apprenticeships and constantly getting turned down, you should concentrate on your people skills and the way in which you come across in an interview, not to mention your “out of work hours” experience. Getting involved in lots of projects related to the area you wish to have a career in will look great on your CV. As Sabrina The Teenage Witch would say, reign in that egotitis. It genuinely will help you in the long run!