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Straight to University at 18? Perhaps Think Twice

26/07/2015 21:02 BST | Updated 26/07/2016 10:59 BST

I don't know about you but I was absolutely dreadful when I was a teenager - a completely useless entity that stood no chance of achieving anything (a bit like your Tinder profile). I certainly wasn't about to take my A-Levels seriously - you say 'Read Dorian Gray' English Literature lecturer, but what I'm hearing is 'Never come to lectures and stay in bed'.

In your teens your brain is still developing and in my case it wasn't ready to do anything that wasn't absolutely nothing. Fortunately at this time when your brain is little more than a blob-fish with an undeservedly large ego you aren't required to make any life-changing decisions that could immeasurably impact on the rest of your life. Oh now hold on...

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Credit: personal image

That's exactly what you have to do isn't it. I couldn't garner the motivation to have a shower more than once every five days or to decide between binge watching mediocre comedy re-runs on Dave and dealing with my existential teenage angst, but all of a sudden I had to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Conveniently for me I'm a bit middle-class so I was always going to go to university (unaaay) - because that's just what you do. I couldn't see any other options - that was the usual route: primary school; secondary school; terrible acne; massive ego; college; borderline depression and crippling self-doubt; under-achieve hugely in A-level results; continue to under-achieve at an average university; hopefully die.

My degree itself hasn't got me anywhere yet and there are many in the same position as me. But I don't blame the government for the lack of jobs, or immigrants for stealing our jobs - or anyone really. I just think we should look at how we grow up and what we do in our late teens/early twenties differently and make sure we do what's best for us as a human thing. We're rushed in to decisions, and that means that some young people commit to courses that they aren't necessarily sure of and then that's it - they're stuck. And with more and more young people going to university courtesy of some questionable policy decisions by Blair's Labour back in the early 2000's now everyone has a degree of some sort in some bullshit subject like 'Media Leadership' or fucking Business. Management. Everyone in the whole world studies biz man.

As much as I'm totally down with the whole 'education is a right not a privilege' pseudo-socialist rhetoric I'm not sure it works out in reality. The problem with everyone having a degree is that people often just don't go to university to learn about a subject they love, they go because they think it gets them a better job, and then every graduate thinks they're entitled to any job they want because - 'Excuse me, I have a BA (Hons) in Popular Music actually - what do you mean it's not relevant to Human Rights Law? Didn't you hear me when I said BA (Hons)?'

The UK is hardly the happiest of places for young people right now. We're worried about our futures - fuck, we're worried about our presents. And I think that's because a lot of us are a bit lost amongst a self-righteous assault course of graduates and sort of stuck in no-jobs-land, but feeling extreme pressure to achieve. I know I feel that pressure, sometimes for intrinsic reasons and sometimes because of external influences.

According to some recent research (a Danish girl I spoke to for a bit in Vietnam), young people in Northern Europe and Scandinavia often don't go to university at eighteen. It's much more common over there to go to university in your early twenties or even later, and your late teens are spent travelling and finding out what it is that you're really interested in. I can attest to the truth of that to an extent - I met an overwhelming amount of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch people whilst travelling, and they are the most upbeat and engaging people I've ever come across. Now can you guess which countries feature year-in-year-out in polls of the best places to live in the world? Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and The Netherlands.

Maybe that more positive attitude is partly because of a different approach to growing up. They aren't rushed into making important decisions at eighteen. Living a few years in relative obscurity without necessarily having a defined goal is OK - it's all part of your development as an actual real life human person. Then once you know what it is that you like, you go and do that. And it might not be university - and that's ok. That means that the university places go to the people who really want them and will value them like they should.

So perhaps we should take note of those crazy, beautiful Scandinavian lefties up there and just let young people be young and a bit useless for a while. I think it could benefit the general emotional and psychological well-being of young people today. It might even make them a little more rounded, focused, relaxed and hopefully, happier. And that might make the UK a bit less shit. Sounds alright, doesn't it?