University for most young adults is a huge goal and accomplishment. It allows those wanting to pursue a career a stepping stone onto that path and for many, that piece of paper declaring your degree, aka three years of being poor, tired, and stressed makes it all worth the inevitable hassle.
I speak from experience. Kind of. I didn’t actually get the piece of paper they all want so badly. I dropped out of university just before my first year came to an end, and I want to talk about that a bit because I still get a lot of people ask in both curiosity and for some reason, disappointment. It seems that it is now the norm for most young people to progress straight onto university because the student loan system has made it easier than ever to access further education. And because of this, it almost feels like you, yourself, are letting everyone else down just because you decided that path wasnt for you. I’m still pretty traditional and believe hands on experience is more valuable than anything. I’m not forgetting many well paid jobs and positions require these qualifications, but acting like this is the only option that matters is false and unfair.
My sixth form college pushed university just as much as I imagine everyone else’s did. I received no pressure however, from my family. I was the first of my family to go to uni, and since they’re farmers, university to them seems pretty pointless. Originally I applied to the college (I now attend for my BHS stages training) to study a HND in Equine Sports Therapy, I can’t remember the exact name of the course. I managed to get an unconditional offer which I was thrilled about. Over the summer I began to realise I wasn’t really feeling it. Maybe this wasn’t the best decision in hindsight, considering what I’m now doing, it probably would’ve fast tracked me and I might not be still making coffees for minimum wage, but that’s how it’s panned out so nevermind.
Part of me didn’t fancy the whole being used as a dogs body at a college, and I still strongly stand by my opinion that, especially where horses are concerned, experience is everything. You can be told how to do things properly every day, and a horse will always find a way to screw it up for you! Anyway, back to the story, I didn’t enrol, deciding I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, so naturally I took a gap year, where I basically worked, and competed the horses. It turned out to be one of the best years I’d had in a while.
Eventually I decided I was ready to write a personal statement to apply for Film studies & English. I had excelled in both subjects at school and it seemed like it would be my perfect degree, something I could really enjoy and get my teeth into. I applied for five unis, specifically wanting a place at the University of Leicester, which I got.
The first semester was fine, was fairly easy going and exciting. Of course it was daunting, I have a fair bit of anxiety being in situations with people I didn’t know, but I survived, it was fine. I didn’t really do the whole ‘freshers’ thing, I was still living at home because of the horses, and to save money. I suppose this could be why I didn’t really make many friends, and I struggle making friends anyway. But university didn’t really live up to the stories and my high expectations I’d been fed by my friends who were studying. I didn’t really want to party all that much, I wanted to work and get the degree done. The assignments were fair enough, although with how much freedom you’re apparently given for your work, I still managed to be in tears over several assignments, which often made no sense whatsoever no matter how many times I read the brief I was given.
By the time third semester rolled around, I getting really tired of it. I was really struggling for money. Between buying my supplies, eating everyday at uni and train fares, my student loan went no where (admittedly not helped by me treating myself to a pair of new white breeches and riding boots). My wages were barely enough as I was at uni five days a week in second semester, so I could only work saturdays. No surprises here guys, £45 a week goes no where. It just about paid for my netflix subscription and phone bill each month. Around Christmas of 2016, the family business was struggling for money too, that resulted in a lot of arguments and stress that got in the way of my studying, and also resulted in me taking full charge of the horses feed. My family blamed the horses for the poor financial situation we were in, so my attempt to combat this was buying the feed each week. I was in my overdraft a lot, I was tired, and forgot a lot of the time what it was like to be at home for once. I was at uni monday till friday, when I was home I was making sure the horses were done and ridden, worked all day friday and then often competed on the weekends, but I couldn’t fully commit to anything.
I wasn’t doing badly with my grades I must add, I was consistently hitting 2.2, 2.1 and firsts in my assignments (those who’ve been uni know what that means, for those who haven’t, a first is the best you can get) but I still think I could’ve probably gotten much better if I had the time to properly commit to my assignments. I’d often finish the horses at 8pm or sometimes 8:30pm and have dinner, shower and then be far too tired to sit at my laptop and read and type for hours on end.
When uni revealed a big exam on Renaissance drama in June, I quickly realised I not only had no confidence in passing, but realised I was really hating studying, I hated the uni environment, I hated the lack of guidance and I didn’t see the point of my degree. I had no clue what I wanted to do after I graduated. I’d have been graduating this year, all my friends just finished their dissertations. I printed out the form to withdraw from my studies, and took it to the office and walked out of the uni for the last time. And I was done.
In the end, money and my lack of confidence that I wanted to really sit and push paper for the rest of my life, with a degree and nearly 30 grand of debt aided my decision to drop out. I didn’t quit to ‘play with ponies’ so much, but I realised horses and the equine industry is where I wanted to excel. I’d rather be outside getting covered in horse hair, covered in chilblains from long hours out in the cold than sat in an office from 9-5. I’m determined I can succeed and be happy without having a degree and a fancy job, even if it means I won’t necessarily be having yearly holidays and driving a brand new car.
Part of me is a little sad I won’t be able to post the classic photo of me chucking my hat in the air with a scroll in my hand, but the minute I handed in that form I felt a weight had been lifted, and I’ve never been so driven to get where I want to be.