Hey, my name’s Sola and to put it quite simply, I’m a uni dropout. It’s not your conventional way of starting a conversation, but it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
I was on a cool course with all the promise of a rewarding career at the end of 3 years of study. But something felt off balance. At the back of my mind, I knew I wasn’t where I belonged, doing what was right for me. And that needed to change.
While figuring out whether to stay, take a gap year, or drop out I didn’t feel I had a support system to help me breakdown my options. University was all I knew, but my peace of mind always made me wonder ‘what if uni is holding you back?’ Rationally, I knew I wasn’t wrong, and the stats certainly back that up.
In 2018, the Guardian reported a rise in university dropouts after three consecutive years. More and more young people are enrolling into uni and then changing track after realising that it isn’t the right pathway for them.
I’ll share a little about why it wasn’t right for me, what alternative pathways there are and where I am now. It might not be a traditional academic route but it’s rewarded me a whole lot more than uni ever did.
I grew up believing success starts with a university degree and I couldn’t have been more wrong. I don’t doubt it’s absolutely the right choice for some people but for me; it definitely wasn’t. And like me, there are probably many who have felt and are currently feeling the same. By sharing my journey, hopefully, it will help make someone else’s a little bit easier.
My Family Influence
I’m from a strict household and culture that enforces – and never lets me forget – the importance of attending university. It was simple. If you didn’t have a university degree, it was near impossible to be successful. My parents moulded my mindset from a young age, so I knew what it meant to be successful and would follow their example.
I always loved learning and creating. I was known as the creative, free-flowing kid – snapping photos or doodling everywhere. My parents acknowledged my interests and hobbies, but that’s all they were to them, interests and hobbies.
Going to Uni to Not Going to Uni
So naturally, I followed the pathway they laid out for me and pursued science in school, college and university. Along the way, my gut instincts would remind me that as a creative person I couldn’t conform to the academic hold I was in. (*Note to self: never ignore your gut instincts. When they ‘talk’ to you, listen*). But as many aspire to do, I just wanted to make my parents proud.
I enrolled to study Biomedical Science at Nottingham Trent University – my first mistake. It was difficult being surrounded by friends studying creative degrees like graphic design or fashion who’d ask me to help with projects… I’d had enough and hit my breaking point. I had to make one of the most conflicting decisions of my life that should come easily to anyone – putting myself and my happiness first.
Dropping out / changing track
I decided to drop out, but that meant being a disappointment, leaving with incurred debt and wasted time I’d never get back. I didn’t have a back-up plan. All these things weighed heavy on me, but the feeling of liberation outweighed all. Expecting to get some practical advice, I consulted with a student counsellor who told me to “take a gap year, think about it and then make a decision”. And I wasn’t provided with any tools or support and left feeling more anxious and worried about my future. It seemed I was on my own from here.
My first job was in retail. I used my spare time to pursue a career in the creative industry as a digital marketer. I had no idea where to look or what I should be looking for, but there was no way I was giving up: I wasn’t going to let being a uni dropout define my potential.
After stumbling on the government website for apprenticeships, I began looking into what exactly an apprenticeship entailed. I always had the impression that it only serviced the NHS or manual labour jobs.
Finding the right information was a struggle, so I did some digging on the digital marketing industry. And I did as many online marketing courses as I could to boost my CV, and I even created a portfolio and started producing a sit-down radio show and a podcast.
I did everything possible to open the door to the digital world. At times I felt close to calling it quits until I connected with WhiteHat, an apprenticeship centre. They showed a genuine interest in my future from the onset and connected me with RockCorps.
What I’m up to now
I am Apprentice Nation’s digital producer and content manager.
Apprentice Nation is a new platform powered by RockCorps and WhiteHat. It’s for people aged 16-24 with the sole purpose of bringing them together to showcase the value apprenticeships offer in today’s job market.
This platform hits so close to home and would’ve been exactly the support I needed at the time I was conflicted about uni. Being part of building a movement that helps young people overcome the obstacles I faced, brings me a real sense of joy. It holds a purpose I 100% identify with and can’t stress enough how necessary it is.
For those of you who are feeling a bit lost, keep persevering no matter what. It’s easier said than done, I know, believe me. And sometimes you will take a loss. But all it takes is one breakthrough to shine a light on your potential.
And remember, not being a university graduate doesn’t determine whether you will make it in life. Now I’m not at all suggesting that university is a waste of time, nor am I discrediting its obvious academic benefits. But University isn’t for everyone and it’s okay if it isn’t okay for you.
Get paid to get trained
With tuition fees and impending debt – if you’re feeling unsure – take a look at Apprenticeships. They’re a great way of learning on the job and receiving real-life work experience. For those like me, who aspire to be certified in their field, apprenticeships offer university degree level qualifications that you can work your way up to.
Apprentice Nation recognises the importance of providing young people with the right information and tools to make the right decision for their – not their families! – future. Whether you’re going to uni or not going to uni, it’s there to help point you in the right direction and offer other avenues to help you persevere to get your win.
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