I am a twenty-three-year-old first year student at Glasgow Uni. It can be an awkward one to explain, because I came here to study a few years back and dropped out in my second year. I am glad things have worked out this way though, as I am in a much better position to work and focus at this age than I was at nineteen. It seems odd to me that anyone would think otherwise, however, the UK still observes a curious cultural practice of encouraging teenagers to go to university straight from school. “It’s better to get it out the way with early” we are often told – as if life in Britain is a race to full-time employment and an eternity of grey professionalism. In fact, it is rare for someone who achieves academically at a secondary level to pursue anything other than higher education – we are generally discouraged from doing so.
This process of educatio maximus in our early years undoubtedly works for some, but is evidently dysfunctional in a number of ways. UK drop-out rates have soared in recent years – around 7.2% of first years drop out of university before their second year. Some students begin to realise that university is not the golden road to success, as suggested by teachers and parents. You must have some idea of your destination before undertaking the journey, otherwise you may end up at a loose end (with a large sum of debt).
Other students experience crises of confidence as they struggle with the looming vacuum of self-doubt. Indeed, universities are populated by a number of exceptional individuals, which can leave many of us harbouring questions of inadequacy. We should not, however, be intimidated by the achievements of others. There will always be someone who is better, which is why we should learn what we can from those with ability and knowledge.
The maturation of character is a constant process and experience often allows for a growth in confidence. Indeed, there is no defining point of adulthood and it is certainly not eighteen. This is why young adults who are unsure of their goals should be encouraged to take some time out of education and gain some real experience. Education for the sake of education is a farcical notion that lacks perspective.
Links to drop-out rates: