Having just finished three years of my university degree, it feels as though I’ve come to the end of an era. No longer afforded the comfort of being deemed a ‘student’, it seems as though myself and many others have entered the gates of the “real world”, where student loans aren’t there to cover the three-day bender or cost of the monthly rent. Suddenly, we are faced with the thoughts of taxes, being either employed or self-employed, and the idea of being on Universal Credit.
I began my degree in 2018, moving to Manchester to study Drama and English. However, by my second year I began feeling tired and drained at the thought of my worth being judged by pieces of paper, exams and essays. Although I enjoyed certain areas of my course, I became desperate for practicality, and started actively seeking work in my desired field of media. Fortunately, by the time I came to the end of my degree I had been self-employed for around two years, therefore I had already thought about tasks like applying for Universal Credit, registering self-employed, and how I was going to manage my own taxes. Despite this, the number of tasks I still have to consider still blows my mind. For this reason, I now pose the question, why were we never educated on these matters at university?
Academia is central to most university settings; although degrees teach how to receive a good grade, they fail to set you up for life after university. In the eyes of most universities, gaining an excellent qualification or grade is the be all and end all. With this much focus on academia it is no wonder that there is a great amount of fear and uncertainty when grades are no longer the centre of attention.
Conversations like being freelance, applying for Universal Credit and paying council tax should all be part of a university module. Although what is taught in the final year is pivotal to the last few months of a student’s degree, a module on life skills could be significant in laying the foundations for what comes after. Job applications are timely, so having time which is not consumed researching what council tax is or spending weeks stressing over if freelancing is the best option could be super beneficial. Universities should do better to support their students in the next steps after they’ve graduated. Let’s eradicate the notion that every student should enter “uncertain waters'' after their degree. Let's get rid of confusion and instead develop knowledge. Finishing third year should not feel like “the end”, it should feel like the beginning of something very exciting. For the beauty of the future is that we don’t know what will come next.
A piece of paper leaves you educated in a subject but lacks the education of the “real world”. Life outside of campus shouldn’t be intimidating, and the responsibilities of adulthood should not look like a burden. Curriculums should no longer leave taxes, job applications and applying for financial support in the shadows. It’s time to open the eyes of students, guiding them out of the shroud of ignorance and into the bright lights of the future.