Peer pressure is a horrible, constricting thing. It makes you do things you wouldn't necessarily have done, had you been given more freedom to sit and work out what you really want.
While I was doing my A Levels in sixth form, I felt an unbearable pressure to go to university. Fortunately, I wanted to go, but it must have been around 90% of people who were making UCAS applications, ordering up brochures, and discussing where they wanted to go and what they wanted to study. Those few who were going into apprenticeships or work were slightly sneered at; the collective consciousness so obviously thought that such things were "beneath" them that it hurt.
I transferred to college for my final year of sixth form and found the atmosphere regarding further education much more relaxing. Some of them wanted to go to university, but not all of them, by a long shot. A lot of them were staying on at the college to study for diplomas in their favourite subjects, and others were taking on apprenticeships, supported by the college. Funnily enough, I got As and Bs in my three A levels for Year 12, but in the Year 13 equivalent at college, I left with straight As...
I didn't feel ready for university - I'd just finished a fairly intense workload, and didn't want to be swept up in the craze for such further education. I'd made a half hearted UCAS application - still feeling vague pressure from the friends I'd left behind at school, who remained on Facebook, posting about offers they'd received and how excited they were - but I ended up cancelling my application, because I knew I needed a year out to relax a little, without the intellectual pressure I'd been under.
I worked for a year at a call centre - it was fairly easy work, and the only pressure I had was finding the will to get out of my warm, cosy bed each morning! I'd recommend taking time out to anybody - don't let the masses dictate that your next step should match theirs.
But this isn't the main point of my argument - I'm arguing against what I'll call the Intellectual "Imperative". You feel indirectly "ordered" to complete as much further education as possible - collecting, so to speak, the qualifications you'll need to get a decent job - in an economic climate where graduate jobs are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. I won't ignore the truth behind that theory - setting yourself up academically for a decent job is, of course, essential. However, there can be consequences to heading straight into an MA after completing your undergraduate course.
Some people will get tons of financial support from their parents, which is good for them - others, however, will land themselves in even more debt. I know that when I considered the fact that I'd want a break after graduating, I knew that my bank will only be giving me two years to pay off my overdraft - factor in a year of an MA, and you've only got a year to work it off. The obvious bonus, therefore, of getting a job - even if it isn't a great one, to start with, is that you'll begin to make a dent in that debt, and your bank account will slowly begin to look a little healthier.
Another thing to consider is the intellectual pressure - after a hectic year of increasing workloads, with more essays, a dissertation and tons of stress, I don't really want to up the pressure for yet another year! As with my gap year, I believe it's a lot better for your mental well being to take a break from academia and decide what you really want to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you're making a rushed, irrational decision as to what you're going to study for your MA - I'm saying that it'll be worth your while if you take more time to consider your decision, decide that it's the best one for you, or, possibly, realise that you want to make an alternative choice as to what and where you want to study.
Besides, who says you have to do your MA full time? In my ideal world, I see myself taking a year or so out to work and decide if, what and when I want to study further - and I'll want to balance this with making money and participating in the working world. So I think it'd be hugely beneficial to undertake a part time MA - that way, you can take a break from study to carry out other tasks, and when that's done, you can get back to your chosen field of study - this way, you can work in a sector that's at least partially relevant to what you ultimately want to do in the future, instead of grabbing whatever part time job you can find to support you financially.
There's tons to be gained from obtaining industry experience before heading into further education - if you know what your dream job will be, there's a chance they'll want relevant experience before they'll take you on. They'll want to know you can function in the real world. Sure, studying an MA will ensure you've proved you can fulfil the intellectual side of a job, but what about the real-life application? We're still young - why not experience the world for a few years before deciding to undertake more study?
A lot of the time, employers may not consider an MA to be a deciding factor as to whether you'll get the job or not - you've already proven you can undertake intellectual pressure and workloads from completing your undergraduate degree. Getting into work after you graduate can help you network with people who have knowledge about careers related to those you could see yourself doing, who have experience of alternative options to obtaining your dream job that don't involve racking up the debt and missing out on the industry experience that could well be that deciding factor.
When those of you graduate and go straight into further education, I'll be happy for you - you know what you want to specialise in, and evidently have academic focus. As far as I'm concerned, though, I'll be specialising in my chosen sector in a different way - from experiencing the working world and working out what internships and experience I need a little ahead of the Intellectual Imperative crowd.
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