January is the time for new energy, new routines or even a new job! For most College and Sixth Form students it is the time to buckle down and start planning the next three, four or six years in the form of what university to apply for through UCAS.

Yesterday was the last day for undergraduate applications to university, which could be a stressful and confusing decision so early on in the year. We asked a few of our apprentices who initially explored the university route to share their stories. Read on to find out what they thought a degree would give them, why they then left and what this big decision meant to their family, friends and themselves. Let’s start the dialogue on the alternative options to university…

Jen Ciminello

Jen, 19

I was going to study Spanish at Queen Mary’s University in London. I have always enjoyed modern languages and completed my GCSEs and A-Levels in Spanish and Italian. I got good grades and realised I was really interested in the world of languages and that’s when I decided that I wanted to take it further.

But, I honestly didn’t think university was the right thing for me. A lot of young people say this but have never explained why. For me, it was simply because I enjoyed working. I had worked part-time jobs since the age of 15 and after finishing my A-Levels I just didn’t want to study anymore. I also didn’t know what career I wanted to fulfill at the time. A lot of my friends had already planned what they wanted to do career wise and I was just clueless. I decided to look into other options such as apprenticeships and understand a bit more about them. It had gotten to the point where I was due to start university in October and by September I was still interviewing. I didn’t know what to do. I stuck at it and managed to secure a role as a recruitment resourcer and I am loving it.

Robert Hwang

Robert, 21

I spent 3 years at university studying Medicine at Barts and the London SMD. I decided to leave university for financial reasons. I couldn’t afford to keep studying for 3 more years to finish my medical degree. Studying in London is expensive: Tuition fees = £9000, Living expenses = £5000, Rent = £7200 per year. Furthermore, new contracts and budget cuts in the NHS made it in my eyes no longer worth the personal sacrifice.

I am very happy with my apprenticeship now. It enables me to gain new skills and qualifications while earning a salary as I can’t afford to attempt a different degree. Furthermore, I think that being introduced to the work environment helps you learn a lot about yourself and mature faster than your colleagues in the university “bubble”.

Anoya Sritharan

Anoya, 22

I studied paramedic science. I had completed one year but did not decide to continue because it wasn’t a career I could see myself in ten years. I had a little pressure as I had to look good and smart for society and I did enjoy my time at Uni, although paying 8 grand to attend two days a week and not getting taught what I learnt when I was working, wasn’t worth it. Financially I had to think if I continue uni I will end up going into debt. Eventually, my parents and my siblings helped me decide it was a good idea for me to drop out and not continue. It wasn’t about what society thought of me but it was about my life and not do something just for someone else.

Robbie Beale

I was quite uncertain when it came to University. I conversed with my friends to get an idea for more reasons of going to University but most of the results were the same; always being taught that it would be good to go or being forced by their parents. There was nothing that could sway me from thinking that an Apprenticeship would be more beneficial than attending a University.

I’m someone who would rather gain experience and know that the type of work I did was something I was happy doing, not wasting a few years of my life on a qualification to find out I would be unhappy in my field afterwards.

I am also fond of becoming financially steady and secure rather than going to University and constantly wondering if I picked the right choice (which is what some of my friends that went to University are doing).

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