The Which University Challenge

My eldest has just turned 17, just received her AS-level results, and theoretically is supposed to be writing personal statements, reading prospectus’s and generally making decisions.

School have piled on the pressure about this. Telling them that these are decisions that effect and shape the rest of their lives. Cue the scary music – DUN-DUN-DAH!!! Not surprisingly she is feeling rather panicked by this.

I feel incredibly sorry for this generation of teenagers. I know some will have aspirations or vocations that make these choices easy, but for many it is not so straight forward. They are constantly being bombarded with figures about youth unemployment, how much in debt they will be in when they leave university, and constant threats of removal of any benefits support if they end up in a low paid job, or no job at all. Exams are too easy, teenagers are lazy or abusive or violent gang members. I don’t recognise the portayal in the press. The teens I know work hard and are lovely.  I have seen first hand how much effort is required to do well in an exam- so it is insulting to them to have these tests described as easy.

The generation before mine had free university education. Mine had loans, but to a much smaller extent- and also had the benefits of  lower youth unemployment. It is a daunting time to be a young person. My daughter is in the netherworld between child and adult. Embracing the freedom that being older brings, but not ready for the responsibility. It is a scary time for her.

I am really conscious of not pushing one way or another. I would love her to go to university. Partly because I didn’t- but it is so important not to relive your life through theirs. Partly because a degree hopefully opens doors to jobs that are more rewarding- both financially and on a personal level. And also because university allows some extra time to grow up and learn important life skills while still somewhat cushioned from the real world. I am aware however that the latter is a treat not a right, and that in many, many parts of the world the trials and tribulations of adulthood settle on heads way younger than my precious girl’s.

She is likely to be working until she is seventy years old now, and chances are will have a few career changes/shifts during this time. I have reassured her, that despite schools best attempts to terrify her, this decision is purely about what is best for her for the next few years, and does not set you in a rut from which their is no escape forever. Lifes path’s do not run straight, there are many crossroads, and twists and turns on which she can change her direction if she wants to.

My only recommendation to her is that if she does choose to go onto to higher education, that she chooses a course that trains you to actually do something, a degree that will end in better paid employment. When I worked at Waterstones, many of my fellow employees had degrees, but couldn’t find a job to use them in. How frustrating for them. Having said that though, I have also said that as it is her debt, she could opt to choose any degree she thinks she will enjoy, and just look at the debt as repaying the cost of three years of fun! Three years of student uni bars, and rag weeks, and throwing hats in the air. Oh and probably an essay or two. Perhaps worth getting in debt for….

I am pleased to say that she has come to a decision. And her decision is not to make a decision. She is really unsure as to what she wants to do, so she is going to take another year to think about it rather than make the wrong choice. She will do her second year of A-levels, and spend this year thinking further about her ideas and thoughts about university. She will apply next year knowing her results. She will then take a year out- half to be spent working, and half to be spent on a long dreamt of trip to visit her Auntie in Australia.

She is young in her year, and young in herself. She just isn’t ready to make the choice. But I am pleased that she has recognised that, and rather than being swayed by schools suggestions, or external pressure, has had the guts to say ‘I am not ready yet, I need more time.’ How very grown up!

I wish her so much success and joy in life, wherever it takes her,

Love Miss Cisco XXX



  1. SarahMummy
    August 30, 2013 / 8:16 am

    Fantastic post! It is really tough. Good on her for giving herself time to make the right decision.
    Strangely, I recognise some of the challenges you describe I’m myself – nearly 20 years ago. I came out of university in 1995, straight into the last recession. I worked in McDonalds for two years before getting a proper job. I did a vocational degree which wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. If I had my time again I’d do an academic degree which gives you more choice than a vocational degree which gives you only one choice – in a very competitive industry.

    • Sonya Cisco
      August 30, 2013 / 9:06 am

      Yes, I think some of the struggles are the same, I remember feeling overwhelemed too! It is just hard to know what course to do to get value from it, but as I said- perhaps there is value just in having a few more years before work etc! Whatever she decides in the end, I just want her to be happy!

  2. August 30, 2013 / 9:05 am

    Best decision to make! I have always tried not to pressure the kids into making decision, it’s their life not mine and they have be happy in what they do. All the best to her and I’m sure she will make a success of anything she chooses to do!

    • Sonya Cisco
      August 30, 2013 / 9:07 am

      It is hard to bite your tongue sometimes, but I am totalyy with you- it is their lives and they have to make their own choices! As long as she ends up happy, I will be happy!

  3. Suzanne Whitton
    August 30, 2013 / 10:00 am

    I still remember this feeling – so much pressure to try and decide what you want to do with your life – at 17!! Sadly I think the press only focus on the negative where teenagers are concerned (and indeed most things), as parents we dread this age because of it. I’m so pleased to hear some positive stories from people who are loving having teenagers. Your daughter (and her friends) sound delightful.

    • Sonya Cisco
      August 31, 2013 / 7:02 am

      Teenagers in my experience, are what they always were- slighty stroppier versions of the child we knew before, with weird hair and bad taste in music! hahaha!

  4. Marilynn
    August 30, 2013 / 3:09 pm

    The feeling of pressure is unbelievable. I remember it from my school days. I really don’t think that at 16,17 or even 18 is the right age to make such a momentous decision. As you quite rightly pointed out, there is a good chance Betsy won’t be able to retire until a ripe old age. Whatever a young person chooses, they have to stick with that decision/career path for a very long time. Surely it makes sense that they should have more time to consider and learn more about their options before having to make a decision? I’m still in contact with a lot of people I went to school with, and almost without exception none of them are in the professions they said they wanted/expected to be in whilst at school (myself included). I think that says a lot. I wish her the best of luck, and hope she enjoys those first steps into adulthood and thrives on the challenges ahead of her.

    • Sonya Cisco
      August 31, 2013 / 7:04 am

      I think especially now they are going to be saddled with a forty grand debt they definitely need to have had plenty of time to think! And yes- most people end up somewhere different from where they pictured in their youth!

  5. Jay
    August 31, 2013 / 6:34 pm

    You wrote this perfectly, we’re at exactly the same stage with our eldest son. The AS results weren’t what he’d hoped for so the uni’s we’d looked at are no longer an option and the thought of the loan is terrifying (although it doesn’t frighten him as much as me)!
    He’s signed on to continue his A levels but what happens after that we don’t know.
    Good luck to your daughter she sounds very similar to our son!

    • Sonya Cisco
      September 2, 2013 / 8:44 am

      And best of luck to your boy too. So much pressure for them!

  6. September 1, 2013 / 8:19 am

    Sounds like she has the made the very perfect decision! Exciting times ahead x

    • Sonya Cisco
      September 2, 2013 / 8:44 am

      Definitely! Sad times for me tho, weird to think she might not be under my roof for that much longer!

  7. Distressed Housewife
    September 1, 2013 / 10:47 am

    I agree it’s a terrifying time. I used to teach A Levels and the pressure is huge. They also need a degree just to fill in the damn UCAS forms in the first place! I taught wonderful teenagers on the whole and find the negative press very frustrating. It’s also hard as a teacher when you know how much work both you and the students have put into those exams for them to get pooh-poohed as ‘easy’. Load of rubbish. A year out sounds like the perfect solution for your daughter. I wish her lots of luck xx

    • Sonya Cisco
      September 2, 2013 / 8:45 am

      Thank you, I think it will be good for her to have that extra time to grow up a bit more, and gain some experience of life, and hopefully have some fun too!

  8. Michelle Twin Mum
    September 1, 2013 / 10:09 pm

    How very grown up indeed, I agree that if you choose to go to Uni nowadays and spend that kind of money it needs to be a course which can really set you up for a career and not something that is vocational and you can work yourself to the same level in the 3 years you were at Uni.
    Mich x

    • Sonya Cisco
      September 2, 2013 / 8:46 am

      It is such a big debt these days isn’t it! I had vaguely considered owing back as a mature student, but I wouldn’t any more- be terrified of racking up the debt!

  9. Lucy Benedict
    September 4, 2013 / 8:45 pm

    Really lovely post – I remember my friends freaking out about what course to take, and what it might mean… Only one of them is doing a job connected to their degree. I was the only one to take a gap year, worked, went travelling for six months, worked again. Then at 19 I met my other half. I should have gone to uni, but I had a good feeling about him. So I reasoned that uni will always be there, but he might not be. We’ve been together 14 years, have two kids and I still don’t regret not going to university.

  10. Pinkoddy
    September 8, 2013 / 11:11 am

    Great post, and I’d say she sounds very grown up. I didn’t go to University until I was 24 (also missing out on the grants) with my 4 year old son in toe. I got so much more out of it than my degree (which I have never actually used).

    We have started looking at Unis together now (y12) to determine requirements etc. I am not so sure on the type of degree because you could train for something, but then everyone could do the same. A subject, on the other hand, would be in depth and could be applied to different jobs.

    Best of luck with it all.

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