Some people describe the beginning of one’s tertiary education as being akin to breaking out of a bubble and finally entering the ‘real world’. There are certainly elements of truth to this. Uni is a massive and hugely exciting change that will probably inject your brain with all sorts of idealism, and eject you out the other side. You’ll be a markedly different human from the unknowing first year who entered, that’s for sure. With all of these lifestyle changes and personal growth wafting in the air, here are the things we wish we knew before getting started on the Uni trajectory.
#1 There Are Infinite Ways To Be Intelligent, Beautiful, Creative Etc.
Coming from the constrictive social conveyor belt that is high school, it is hard to imagine how Uni could be a vastly different social experience. It’s essentially the same people from high school (plus or minus a few extras) spread out across different institutions. Yet in reality, the two are poles apart, and for this we’re grateful.
At University you will encounter diverse groups of individuals who view self-expression as an art form to be lovingly indulged, and proudly and publicly exhibited. Gone are the days when you have to diminish your personality to fit inside the lines. Or, as Missy Higgins put it, ‘a triangle tryna squeeze through a circle.’
At Uni, beauty and intelligence are no longer defined by your ability to conform to social norms. Uni is a land where you’re measured by the depth and quality of your thoughts and creativity. Uni is a world that gives you much more breathing space to embrace your strengths without having to apologise for it. Breathe easy, the social corset is loosening.
#2 The Importance Of Tertiary Education Is (Somewhat) Inflated
As much as we love the social freedom afforded by Uni, there’s no denying that there’s huge hype around tertiary education in Australia. Going to Uni tends to be seen as the most sensible move towards a prosperous career. It’s a stepping stone that many employers regard as a necessity. Attending a tertiary institution is certainly an achievement, and pragmatic move. But, let’s not forget that there are many alternatives for individuals to achieve their own life goals. Pathways that involve vocational institutions or perhaps individuals going at it alone, are equally valid. In fact, some of the greatest minds and ideas came to fruition despite (or perhaps in spite?) of their lack of tertiary education. Take Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple), Sir Richard Branson (the brain behind the Virgin Empire) and Coco Chanel (need I say more?) for example. All of whom built their success independently of the formal education system. Just as there are many ways to be intelligent at University, there are equally as many outside of it.
#3 You’ll Probably Still Be In The Bubble
Yes, the University experience is liberating. There’s a diversity of thought and people that’ll free your mind and spirit. But at the heart of it, University is just another bubble. Another environment in which you will have generous assistance available to you. Receiving financial support from parents will still be considered socially acceptable. It’s another ecosystem in which getting good grades sometimes seems more important than pursuing opportunities outside of University.
So if Uni is bubble (albeit an blown-up, shinier, rainbow version of the School bubble), what can we do to avoid being totally sucked in? Well, nothing, if you’re enjoying it. Many say that the Uni experience constitutes the best years of their life, and it’s not hard to see why. So if you find that Uni is a huge vibe for you, why not just roll with it? On the other hand, if you’re the type to plant your feet firmly on the ground at all times, it’s worth poking your head out once in a while. Reassess what you actually want, and whether or not your Uni experience is helping you get there.
Remember, University is a beautiful bubble, both inside of it, and out. Whether or not it’s the only way to be a productive member of the ‘real world’, is worthy a debate.