£41,000 later: was it worth it?

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Ex-Comment Editor and recent Lancaster University graduate Bryony Seager offers her thoughts…

In short the answer is yes, but I anticipate that for this article I’m expected to elaborate a little more on my thoughts. First things first, I’d like to point out that despite the opening line of this article, I am in no way advocating the rise in tuition fees that occurred in 2012. It is more that, to me, the fees were superfluous to my experience at university. It would have been extremely nice if I’d of been able to attend for free, but the fact that I am now in such a large amount of debt does not weigh heavily upon my mind when I balance it against all of things that I got out of attending university. It seemed like a good investment at the time and it still does.

I think it’s also worth noting at this point that my thoughts do not come from a place of money. I can’t look at £41,000 flippantly, or shrug it off. That is an awful lot of money, and possibly higher than the debt that some people are facing because, due to my economic background, I took the government for every penny I could get out of them at the time. I wouldn’t have been able to attend university if I hadn’t done that.

Yet this isn’t an article about whether tuition fees are fair. It’s about whether university is “worth it”. In that light I think it’s important to stop thinking about the money side of things, and think about the time. If, in another walk of life, someone asked you to invest three or four years of your time in something without getting paid for it, you’d probably either think it was a joke, or you’d demand that the benefits of doing something like that were nigh on miraculous. I think that that’s the important part, whether you’re going to get enough benefits out of university because of the time you’re going to invest, rather than money that you never see, and for a lot of us, will probably never entirely pay back.

In that sense, and it’s something you’ve probably been told before many a time, you get as much out of something as you’re prepared to put into it. University offers a myriad of experiences that you would have to search long and hard for in the real world, and yet here they’re right at your feet. It only takes a quick stroll around the Freshers’ Fair held in Intro Week to see that you could be playing Tennis before breakfast, salsa dancing at lunchtime and then training Muay Thai in the evening. There is so much on offer that you can’t possibly do it all, but the option is there. It’s yours to grab with both hands, and this is something which I believe would be much more difficult outside the parameters of university. This, of course, is just the society and sports side of things. Assuming you at least marginally like the subject you chose to study, there is the chance to explore it more in depth that is possible at school or in the world of work. It gives you the chance to develop skills that perhaps would not be quite so easy to gain outside of university.

In a cynical kind of way, to get the most out of university you have to treat it like a set of tick boxes, charting exactly what you’ve done and what still needs to be achieved. Everybody’s goals will of course be different, but as long as you can emerge from the other end saying that you put everything you possibly could into it, then that’s the outcome you want. In fairness I believe this is true in most walks of life; what’s the point in doing something if you aren’t going to do it properly?

There’s an image that often circulates around the internet, a pie chart of sort that divides student life into three sections: sleep, social life, and academics. It then asks you to pick two, suggesting that you can’t possibly do all three to a satisfactory level. I call bullshit. If you’re going to get the most out of the time investment, and the monetary one, then it does require a little bit of effort. Perhaps, if you’re not prepared to give that effort, then it wouldn’t be worth it, but for me, if I weigh up all the amazing things that university did for me, or if I compare who I was in 2012 with the person I am now, then I don’t think you can put a monetary sum on that experience.

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