University Might Not Change Your Life (And That’s OK)

Try to relax, and don’t expect too much.

Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash

University is a lot of pressure. There can be pressure from your family to not just go but succeed, pressure from teachers, the pressure to have the same experience as your friends and, of course, the pressure you put on yourself.

If you’re moving away from home to study for three years (or more) and racking up thousands in student loan debt as you do so, it needs to be worth it, right? It needs to be life-changing — because everyone will tell you that. Is there anything more pressurising than the need to have a life-changing experience — and feeling like a failure if you don’t?

It’s like New Year’s Eve. It’s built up as the biggest night of the year, and people spend months — and often spend a wedge of cash — planning the perfect way to ring in the new year. Does the night ever live up to expectations?

Build something up to be the greatest thing ever and you’ll be let down.

But here’s the thing: uni doesn’t have to be life-changing. It’s unlikely to be.

And that’s OK.

Did I hope for a life-changing three years at university? Yeah. Did I get it? Not so much.

I studied History, more because I enjoyed the subject than I wanted to do anything with it. I didn’t have a career plan, I hoped to stumble across one during those three jobless years I had ahead of me. As you can probably guess, it didn’t happen.

Getting a job after I graduated was a struggle. Notwithstanding the fact that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I was also faced with the age-old employment catch-22: you can’t get a job with no experience, but you can’t gain that experience until someone gives you a job.

Eventually, I found something, although it was nothing to do with my degree and I didn’t need to have a degree to do it. I moved on within the company and then got another job somewhere else. But, again, I didn’t need my degree for either of them.

So it’s easy to say that university was not life changing for me. Who knows how my life would have panned out had I not gone, but there could be a version of me in an alternate universe in the same exact job even if he can’t put “B.A.” after his name (not that I do that anyway).

Not that I regret university. I enjoyed three years in a lovely seaside town and made friends that I’m still close with to this day, almost fifteen years later. If you’re wavering on your decision to go I would, on balance, recommend it.

But don’t worry if, three years later, you throw your mortarboard in the air and wonder why the experience has not totally transformed you. Don’t put that kind of pressure on it. You might find you’ll have a better time that way.

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David is an author and freelance writer. He has two short story collections available, and his non-fiction work has appeared on The Mighty, WhatCulture and Just Football, among others.

Navigating parenting with a disability and trying to write a novel. Email:

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