Yup, you read that right.
Don’t get me wrong, it was an extremely difficult decision to make, but I can honestly say I have (surprisingly) benefitted so much from leaving university and have progressed in a career I’d never thought I’d dream of doing!
Back in 2012 when I was in 6th form, I always remember our head of year badgering on at the about the only decision there is to take once finishing our A Levels, which was obviously going to university. “UCAS applications MUST be in by next week” were the type of emails that were always pushed out to us on a weekly basis. I remember having a meeting with one of my teachers about what the alternative options and career routes that are available if I decided not to go to university. To this day I will always remember their reaction as they point blank laughed at me. I was confused. Why was that simple question so funny to them? I felt embarrassed I even asked in the first place. After the teacher gave me an answer which I wasn’t entirely looking for, I left the classroom still not knowing what my options were.
Big or small, I’m not the best at making decisions. Deciding what film to watch on Netflix or even what to have for lunch I find difficult at times. So knowing what I wanted to do as soon as I left 6th form was a pretty hard choice. Yes, going to 6th form was a choice but I got pretty good grades at GCSE level and thought ‘it would pretty much be the same’ in 6th form. Oh, how I was wrong! Going out with my friends, clubbing and having a boyfriend made me lose focus and I started falling behind. I found 6th form incredibly hard, not only because of the obvious distractions but I was not enjoying traditional education anymore. I’d spent so many years having to go to school every day. The minute I knew it wasn’t compulsory, was the minute my mindset switched. But, I kept going as I thought I had no other choices. My A-Level results reflected this. I knew I could have worked harder and achieved better grades but instead, I somehow, just about got myself a place at a university.
I decided (again, with great difficulty) to study Outside Broadcasting at Southampton Solent University. I am totally obsessed with any nature documentaries (bonus points if David Attenborough is presenting it!) and always had an interest in technology. So, I put two and two together and started looking for media and production degrees. Unfortunately, my 6th form didn’t provide a Media course at A Level, so it was all pretty alien to me. But I went to the open day at Southampton and to my surprise I loved it! The university itself seemed amazing and the course, well I was blown away.
Before I knew it, my mum and dads car was full to the brim with all the fresher essentials. Pots, pans, a suitcase full of clothing, pictures which reminded me of home and of course a bag full of alcohol. My mum and sister traveled up with me to help me settle in. When they left my uni halls to head back home, I instantly wanted to go with them. I have always been a home bird and knew going to a uni not close to Cardiff would be a challenge for me. Even my family continuously told me I would find it hard, and they weren’t wrong. The issue was I was so bloody stubborn about the idea of uni. If I didn’t go, what else would I do?
Anyway, back to uni life. My first day at uni was exactly how I expected. Everyone was very nervous and there were some cringe-worthy icebreaker activities to get to know the people on your course and tutors a little bit more. I remember the head of media production stating that “half the students in this room will drop out before Christmas”. I laughed, alongside all the other students… little did I know that I would be one of those people.
Weeks went by and I was spending all of my money on train fairs back to Cardiff to see my family and boyfriend. I knew this wasn’t going to help me with settling in. When back in Southampton, I was incredibly lonely. Most nights I would spend sitting in my room on my own watching tv or on Skype with my boyfriend, I knew this wasn’t healthy. Despite being a happy-go-lucky type of person, I find meeting new people incredibly hard. I would turn down most invites to going out for freshers week mainly because I was constantly thinking about being at home instead. I eventually got persuaded into going out and even then I didn’t enjoy it. Being in a new city with new faces felt all too strange for me, so I snuck off and went straight back to my room, the only place I felt happy.
I remember the night I told my parents that I wasn’t enjoying uni and being away from everyone. I was sobbing over Skype and I think my parents deep down knew how I felt before I had nervously told them that night. As well as feeling alone, the course was not what I thought it would be and I was just not enjoying. I tried my hardest to give uni a shot but I felt as though I was still in the same mindset as I was when I was in 6th form, and that mindset was not budging. So, before I knew it, I was walking into the head of departments office to hand in my resignation. I was petrified with telling them I wanted to drop out but for them, it was as though they were expecting it. I was given a piece of paper to fill out and that was it, I was done with uni. It was a strange feeling. I was expecting the head of the department to at least convince me of the reasons why I should stay. Instead, I was in the office for 15 minutes, with it feeling more like a doctors appointment rather than a finalising one of the biggest decisions I’d ever made in my life.
Coming back home was not easy, I was continuously feeling guilty about my decision. I felt embarrassed when I was asked by friends and family why I dropped out. My brother sang ‘Beauty School Dropout’ from Grease on a daily basis and my new nickname was Frenchie. Luckily, I found this funny but in the back of my mind, I was still felt as though I was getting judged by being back home. I was fortunate enough to have my retail job to come back to which was my job whilst I was in 6th form. I knew however that I didn’t want to have a full-time career in retail. The minute I come back home I started looking for jobs, but still not knowing what I wanted to do made it even harder to look for jobs. So many people told me to “just go in a call centre for now” but I didn’t want to go into something I knew I didn’t want to do, I’d already felt like I’d made enough bad decisions so I was extra cautious and wanted to get a job I truly had interest in.
Since dropping out of uni I have had numerous roles in multiple workplaces, from a small family law firm to the BBC. I’m proud to say that I’ve completed an apprenticeship, went back to college (for the second time) and pursued a career in HR – something I never thought I’d ever do in the space of 6 years. I have certainly learnt that your career is all down to you, and the work you put in.
From dropping out of uni, I have realised is that it is okay to not know where your career will take you. If I hadn’t of dropped out of uni, would I have gone into HR? Probably not. But the fact that I love going to work each day and enjoy what I do is a bloody accomplishment. Yes, I have had ups and downs along the way, but don’t we all? I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. Yes, corny I know but for me, it is so relevant. Adulting is hard and making big career decisions don’t always go to plan – but that’s fine!! I am in double figures with the number of interviews I have had and haven’t got the job (a more detailed blog post on that soon!). Rejection and admitting defeat (like dropping out of uni 3 months in) is never easy, but it’s certainly given me some life lessons. So yes, dropping out of uni is one of my greatest achievements. It’s taken me a long time to make such a bold statement, but I couldn’t be happier with the decisions I have made and the way my career has panned out.
I would love to know other people’s experience whilst at uni, how did or how are you currently finding it? Let me know! I’ll be writing another blog post about what I’ve been up to since dropping out of uni and the challenges I faced by being a uni dropout… So stay tuned!