A bit about why I started Uni's not for me
I was at school in my first year of A Levels studying English Literature, Spanish and Classics when the inevitable question arose one assembly – ‘Which university will you go to?’
At an academic level, school was never something from which I gained pleasure or connected with. Yes, I made lifelong friends and was generally a happy person. But, the idea of facing exams filled me with horror. I just couldn’t get a lot of stuff conceptually and completely crumbled under the pressure. I was much happier doing practical things. So, the idea of having to go through exam anxiety for the next three or four years did not appeal in the slightest.
When I spoke to my parents about my concerns, my mum was really supportive. My parents met at university and enjoyed their time there. But my mum was running a successful PR company and I trusted her advice as an employer. ‘There’s no rule that says you have to go to university, darling. You’d probably be much better off doing something vocational.’ It was music to my ears.
Returning to school with the news that I would not, in fact, not be attending university, they were very understanding and agreed that perhaps uni was not for me.
However, while they were supportive of my decision, they were totally unequipped to help me find an alternative to university. Like many schools, uni was the expected path after A Levels. I hadn’t anticipated quite how little information was available at school or on the internet.
My mum and I got researching. We found very few resources promoting the alternatives to university. That’s when we decided to set up Uni’s not for me. Initially, it started as a blog, detailing my experience of leaving school and finding work without a degree.
I enrolled into a business admin course and graduated the following year. With my vocational qualification, I started my career in finance. It lasted a month.
I tried my hand at temping to help me see which industry I liked. I worked in a number of different places before finally following in my mum’s footsteps and landing a role as an account exec in PR.
Although it took a few different jobs to work out which one I would actually be ok at, not one single company ever questioned not having a degree.
In the year that university tuition fees rose, so did the number of readers to my blog.
After just under a year at my PR company, I decided to take on the blog full time. I wanted to grow it into something that would be useful for young people exploring the alternatives to university, their parents, teachers and employers.
So, I took the plunge and created a website where we could write and share inspiring stories about people who did it without a degree. I wanted a mix of inspiration and practical guidance about alternatives to university. What I didn’t want was another jobs board.
Two years on, we are a growing community of inspiring and successful people who couldn’t, didn’t want to or chose not to go to university.
Last year, I wanted to share some of these stories and we organised a photoshoot with the hugely talented Rosie Hardy, (who also didn’t go to university.) You can read their stories here (www.unisnotforme.com/about).
While we organised the photoshoot to get some great pictures on the site, I was really struck by how much the participants loved meeting likeminded people. They were all from different backgrounds, doing different things but they all shared one thing – not having a degree.
It’s pretty clear that a big part of going to university is the social side. The flip side being fear of missing out if you don’t go.
I decided it shouldn’t be any different for non-grads, so a few months later I launched UNFM Society. Anyone currently in work, and between the ages of 18-25, can join UNFM Society. We organise events and regular meet ups to give young people the chance to socialise with likeminded people – and the feedback has been great. I’m always immensely proud when people build friendships through a community like ours.
My greatest ambition is to ensure that young people are made aware of all their options after school. If you want to go to uni – great. Go for it and get a decent degree. But, as a society, we’re obsessed with league tables which rate schools on their academic performance. In this day and age, that’s pointless and misguided. Schools should take a more holistic view of what constitutes a successful student. As Albert Einstein once said:
‘Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’.