Here’s Why University Isn’t Compulsory

One of the most annoyingly common questions I get asked when I mention I’m home educated is “What about university?” The majority of people I’ve met seem to assume that university is the only option. The truth is that not everybody is obliged to conform to the traditional path of higher education. Living in the modern world means  that there are increasing  and diverse options.

In university you spend about three years pursuing a certain subject. At the end of those three years, you have a qualification, the idea being that you will include it in your CV as proof that you have a certain level of knowledge. Your educational path is regimented.

Three years is a relatively long time to study something – a time in which you may change your mind about what you want to do. The idea of university is based on a very set view that your life must be completed in steps.

When people have finished studying, many end up with a conventional 9-5 job, which is another example of unnecessary discipline. Actually, that’s what they hope all this studying will lead do, and many end up without a job having spent all their time preparing for it. It is all fine if a conventional job is what they really love doing, but 1) do they really?; and 2) and if they don’t love it, or end up with no job, is it still better to have given 3 years of their lives following a path that someone else has designed?

That just doesn’t sound particularly fun to me. I am confident that if I did want to attend university I would be able to; I have both the intelligence (thank you) and the logistical capability (I’d sign up to take the entrance exam at a local school or exam centre) yet I can think of more worthwhile enjoyable things to do with my life. You do NOT need qualifications to have a job (you need skills and motivation), and working freelance in areas you choose gives you more flexibility.

Another university-related question I frequently get asked is, “What about GCSEs?” (In the UK, GCSEs are exams for 14-16 year olds, and doing 5 of them would be equivalent to getting the American High School Diploma). Because I am fifteen, this is a particularly relentless question; almost everybody asks it. It really frustrates me and it’s become such a boring and irrelevant question. Why should I have to explain the answer on command? Everything people ask relating to home education is boring and annoying for me to have to answer, actually. The reason being that people all have the same set of questions and I’m suddenly obliged, not only to explain my choices, but to justify them as well. The concept of home education is alien to most people.

The GCSE question in particular annoys me, because people that ask assume that exams are compulsory. When I wasn’t planning on doing GCSEs, I had to explain that I didn’t need them because I wasn’t planning on going to university, and then I had to explain that you don’t need to go to university, and then I had to explain why you don’t need to go to university, and then I had to explain what I was planning on doing with my life. I also felt incredibly alone in my choices because ALL of my friends were doing GCSEs, and ALL of them were planning to go to university. I did not meet anyone my age with the same plans as me until about two months ago. When they told me they were not doing GCSEs, I could not believe it. Suddenly I felt a lot less alone.

Most people who go to school take about 11 GCSEs, while a lot of my home educated friends take 5, as that’s the minimum you need to get into most colleges. I have taken 2. I do not plan to take any more. There were two reasons why I did these exams: a) I was interested in the subjects and felt that doing an exam would help to motivate me, and b) I wanted to see what GCSEs were like because all my friends were doing them.

The two subjects I chose were English language and Psychology. English language was the more difficult (and less enjoyable) subject, but it gave me more techniques and motivated me. Psychology was very interesting. It did get boring towards the end because I had to keep re-reading the textbook, and it got stressful because I had to memorise details, but I enjoyed it more than English. These GCSEs are part of the reason why I have not blogged in a long time. But the interesting thing is that it took only a few weeks to prepare for them. Yes, I put in the hours, but it was so do-able, so what is the big deal? We all can learn anything when we want to (and we also learn what we don’t want to learn because we learn all the time, even when we are not conscious of it).

Now that I have done these two exams, I feel like a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders. I no longer have to spend every minute of my day trying to study. I do not have to plan my life around exams. I can communicate with my friends. Hell, I can see my friends. I can actually have a life.

I have found that this experience of doing GCSEs has made conversations easier because I can avoid telling people that I am not going to go to university. When I say I am doing exams people just assume that I will go to university, so I don’t have to explain to them why I am not: the question doesn’t even come up!

Perhaps doing GCSEs has also made conversations easier for me psychologically. I have tried out exams so I can be more confident when telling people they are not for me. More than that, I understand what my friends were up to and no longer feel left out from this idea of doing something “necessary.”

You do not necessarily need to go to university if you do not want to. The whole point of it is to accumulate qualifications, and you may not need those if you’re working freelance, or you don’t want a traditional office job. People look for knowledge and experience, not just a certificate. You know, I’d have a profession that I actually enjoyed. Like being a musician. I’m quite keen on writing as well. I might publish a couple of books. This might sound flakey to people, but I  was not thinking of selling a couple of poems at a bar in exchange for a drink (I will accept that too though!). I meant that my aspiration is to do what I love doing and earn money from it. That will be my “job.”

What do I plan to do next?

I plan to follow my interests. I will keep playing guitar and keep writing. (Remember, I’m gonna be in a band and I also have to write a book). I can take my mixed-media art journals so much further; I am going to write more blog posts about how I did each page and what they mean to me. I have two camping trips planned for the next two weeks (I’ve actually just got back from Berlin and before then I was at an unschooling camp, so that’s a lot of trips I’ll have gone on in a short amount of time!) Yesterday we had two sets of family friends over, and the day after tomorrow we are having some home-ed friends over, so lots of socializing! I’ll be trying to get my Spanish and French up as well. Learning is a process that happens naturally from life. You cannot stop yourself from learning because the brain wants to pick up new information and utilize it. Whatever is inspiring and enriching in university, I am able to have at a greater rate, and I have already started. There is also something exciting on the cards: I am going to start a business selling dreadlock-style hair extensions!

I now have more time to blog as well. I have to say something to you: Thank you for reading my posts. I hope the people who follow my blog understand how much it means to me that they read what I write. Thank you for being here and showing an interest, and for sticking with me. Some of you comment a lot (you know who you are) and I really appreciate that. I enjoy reading your blogs as well and I intend to read them more now that I have more time!

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16 thoughts on “Here’s Why University Isn’t Compulsory

  1. This is a brilliant post! Honestly, you’re more enlightened than people I go to school with.
    Society has structures us to believe we go to school to get a good job to make money to have a good life. Of course there is no such guarantee. You can get a degree and never have a job or you could never get a formal education and be extremely successful. It could also be vice versa.
    I feel a degree is just some sort of safety net. Luckily I’m doing a course I love. Systems engineering. It takes about five years, then two more years for a Masters degree.
    And if I could have any job, I would work in video game designing or software application. So it works out.
    But some people would rather not have the basic 9-5 job yet they still feel this to need to fulfil the advanced education quota when there’s no point. Life is too short to waste time doing what you don’t love.
    All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jemima,
      Thank you for your comment! It’s good to know you’re doing a course you love and know what you want. You’re right; a degree really is no guarantee of success, and life is too short to waste time 🙂 It’s interesting you describe a degree as a kind of safety net. That sounds pretty accurate.

      Thank you for reading my post,
      Jamila

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You know what? If someone just keeps on asking, you don’t have to explain yourself. You just live, and be you, whatever those choices are. Not going to university is actually a good thing, especially when you don’t want to: don’t ever be forced into something you don’t want to do. You’re very lucky that for you, exams weren’t compulsory; for me, it’s expected and you need to do them. What your doing actually sounds so much better, because you’re living your life the way you want to and you’re actually getting more creative because of it

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Elm!

      You’re right; I do not have to explain my choices if someone keeps asking. It’s just that I feel the need to demonstrate to them that I am not stupid, and I feel like if I don’t answer their questions, they will think I am stupid or have bad social skills. Even worse, I feel like I have to represent ALL homeschoolers and make a good impression.

      Thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I totally understand that! 🙂 Ahh, but you shouldn’t have to represent all homeschoolers. You’re individual, but I can understand why you’d think you weren’t sometimes, or like other people don’t think you are.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You and I have somewhat similar backgrounds…I was an English major in my younger days (hated it!) and took psych. as my minor (and LOVED it!) If I had had a college advisor that was any good he would have strongly suggested that I change majors, but he didn’t….oh well, only taught English for a year any way…was terrible at it. I am so, so envious of you, Sweetheart. You know what you want. You know what you’re good at…just stay true to yourself . The “problem” (as I see it) is that you’re not a “typical 15 year old” and people have difficulty sometimes understanding really bright people and why they do things the way they do things. You don’t owe anyone any explanation (and I’m sure you know that). I admire your parents for home-schooling you. (Yay, Mom and Dad!) Some day, that book will be published and I’ll be asking for an autograph and saying, “I know this young lady!!!! She’s one of my blogging buddies”!!! Now go out and have fun, learning the way YOU learn!!! Hugs! Lucie ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lucie!!
      I love reading your comments, as always. You are so encouraging and I feel inspired when I read your messages! Oh wow, that’s cool that we did the same subjects. You had to stick with English a lot, lot longer than I did! Thank you for your motivating words 🙂 Speaking of which, that book I’m supposed to be writing really needs to be continued soon…

      Have a great day! I hope funny things happen so you’ll write a blog post about them.
      Jamila x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jamila!
    I agree with you! After finishing school I started studying something and I found one year later that I didn’t like it so much. Then I changed for another thing just to find out 1.5 years later that I didn’t like that either. And I changed again AND again… I did finish the 4th thing though. If you asked me back then (or now) what I want(ed) to do with my life, I never answered I want to work doing this or that. I decided I wanted to raise a family and do whatever I pleased when I pleased it.
    So, go ahead and do whatever makes YOU happy! I’m sorry we live in a world who’s mostly ruled by people who think 9-5 is the way to go. Those people probably don’t have dreams and they always do what it’s expected of them to be done. They are another (and another and another) brick in the wall. 🙂

    And I still LOVE the way you write! I hope you keep doing it 🙂
    Have fun on the camping trips! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Paola!
      I am happy to hear that 😉 I really like what you said about your goal being to raise a family and do whatever you please when you please! I think that is a great goal. It’s cool how you’ve known you wanted to do that since you finished school. Out of curiosity, what were the different subjects you did that you changed?

      Yeah, I feel really depressed imagining what it must be like to believe that 9-5 is the only option. To be one of those people without dreams… I guess that the people we are talking about do not feel as though they are missing out on anything because they do not know about other options. It’s weird to think about their perspective.

      Don’t you think it is funny, just in general, how different people have totally different perspectives and there is no OBJECTIVE right way of doing things?

      Thank you so much for what you said about my writing! You don’t know how much that means to me 🙂 Have a great day/whatever time it is that you read this.

      Jamila x

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Jamila! It’s so nice to hear from you! 🙂
        I hope you are having a great summer.
        You wanted to know the different subjects I chose. I started with computer science, then interior decoration, then chemistry and in the end environmental science. I finished the last one knowing I’d never get a job in that.
        There are many things that interest me but nothing interests me enough to dedicate my entire life to it. Does it make sense? I still want to learn a lot of things and I’d die if I have to settle only for one thing.
        I totally understand you. What I could NEVER understand was how someone in their late teens knew what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. (Because I know what I want to do today but I can’t even picture next week!) 🙂
        I knew I wanted a family (maybe because in my head I always have the idea of a happy/hippie family and not something super structured that I can’t understand).

        And keep writing, you are GREAT at it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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