The summer I spent waiting for my A-Level results was the summer one of my friends (let’s call her Sarah) from sixth form started in her HR position for a local business. She did consider going to university, but only briefly and decided that by the time she was twenty-one she would rather have money than owe it.

I personally thought she was crazy, who in their right mind would pass up the opportunity to go to university? When you’re a graduate you have better and wider career prospects, you can go straight into a well paid job… not to mention having the experience of a lifetime! You spend three or so years studying something you’re interested in, making friends who will be a part of shaping who you become, finding love, being irresponsible, staying out late, having a beer with breakfast and ice cream for dinner, not because you can but because that’s all you can afford and all the while with wholehearted support from your family.

It sounds wonderful; except that now that I’m approaching the final year of my degree I actually have no clue where I want it to take me. In fact, in this economic climate I’m not even sure it will take me anywhere. It’s so hard to find a job nowadays that that’s what Wally is considering changing his name to.

When I saw Sarah on New Year’s Eve she had been promoted, she was driving a company car, and was looking at buying a house with her boyfriend. She has her future laid out for her because she took the opportunity when she saw it. Granted, I can’t imagine that her past two years have been as exciting as mine, but when I graduate my degree won’t really mean anything until I acquire a masters degree or some sort of apprenticeship training, the latter of which I could have done straight out of sixth form.

Herein lies the problem: we’re told all through the application process that all we have to do is get a degree and a dream career will be ours for the taking. It sets us all up for disappointment. University isn’t a fast track to a £40,000 annual salary; in fact most starting salaries for graduates are more like £22,000. Your degree is just one part of many processes and learning experiences you can take towards a successful career, and its potential can only be realised integrating them all.

Does this mean I wish I had skipped these three years and jumped straight into a career? Well, sometimes, like when I eat a mouthful of cereal and realise the milk is sour, or every time I check my bank account, but then I remember that I still have a long way to go, and that university is incredible; from being intellectually nurtured within a field of study that I adore, to carving out my own little patch of independence, there’s no place else I’d rather be.