College Is A Choice, Not An Obligation

Every year around August/September, without fail, we become inundated with everything to do with college. Where to go, what to do, what to expect, what to wear, how to cope, what to buy and everything in between. It has gotten to the point that it’s assumed that once you leave school, you go to college. However, that isn’t the case. I know plenty of people who aren’t in college, my age and older. There are just as many reasons why people don’t go to college as there are why people do go. Yes, more and more people are going to college, but that doesn’t mean everyone is.

So what does that mean for you, when you seem to be the only one of your friend group who isn’t going to college in September? While everyone is waiting for the offers to come around, or freaking out about what they’re gonna wear everyday, you’re left listening to them. While it’s natural for them to be excited and scared about this big change, it can be easy for them to forget to ask what you’re going to do, how you’re feeling. And that can feel shit.

But you’re not the only one who isn’t going to college. Just because you feel like you are, you’re not. Starting college isn’t an obligation, it’s a choice. Maybe you just don’t feel like going back into education straight away. Or maybe you honestly haven’t a clue what you want to do with your life. That’s okay. So many colleges take on mature students that should you want to start in a few years time, there’s no problem. There really isn’t any rush on it.

College isn’t for everyone. Some people love learning, while others love gaining experience first hand through working. Each to their own, y’know. I’m gonna get real cheesy here and say that life has so much to offer, whether you’re in a lecture or not.

Try not to feel alone if it seems like you’re the only one not going, because you’re not. While your friends are going to lectures hungover and cramming for repeats, you can do whatever the fuck you want with your life. You can go after any job or internship you want, you can travel the world, learn how to cook or start a YouTube channel, because you have all the time in the world. Without all the pressure of final exams, you can take the time to actually try out things that interest you to see what you want to do. You hear so many stories of people dropping out, after realising that they hate their course. It makes you wonder why we don’t have a Transition Year type gap in between Secondary School and college, to give people a break.

More importantly, don’t feel ashamed that you’re not in college. College is a choice. Yes it opens lots of doors, but so does experience. Everything counts for something. For a lot of people, their initial reaction when they hear people don’t go to college is that they didn’t do well in the LC, which is completely unfair, and not true. Points may play a part in it, but not all the time. I feel like we, as a nation, need to get rid of the mentality that the Leaving Cert is the be all and end all. A friendly reminder that probably most of our parents didn’t go to college, and they’re doing fine. They have us, and we’re pretty great. There are so many people who have succeeded without having gone to college, or having dropped out. There is no shame in not following the same path that everyone else seems to be going down.

It can be easy to feel like you’re missing out on a lot. Scrolling through pictures and statuses of college night outs, and inside jokes can sting a little bit if you’re not involved. But let’s face it. A night out is a night out. The only thing that changes when you’re in college is probably the fact you have a class at 9am the next morning, and who really wants that? Your friends will make friends in their course, but that doesn’t mean they’re still not your friend. Just because they’re tagged in photos with new people doesn’t mean you’re forgotten about.

In some ways, I wish I had left a little time before I went to college. I like my course and everything, but I wasn’t prepared for the change. I really struggled the whole year with how different the social life is, and found it hard to make friends. I feel that if I had had some time away from all things academic before college, that it would have made a difference. The Leaving Cert is so draining, whether you got all As or not. And even when you finish the exams, you don’t really get a break because the whole summer is haunted by Results Day, soon to be followed by the CAO offers. Even if you’re getting drunk every night in Ponsa, you’re not free just yet until after all that hype dies down. Because even after that, the next thing is getting ready for college, Freshers week etc. There is no time that isn’t tainted by something academic.

If you’ve made the decision to not go to college, be grateful for the time you have. Use it. Because while you may feel like the odd one out, there are people who are in college regretting their decision. No one really knows what they want to do at 17/18. At least you have the time now to find out what you actually want. Good luck, my friend.