So a few Thursday’s ago the annual event known as A Level results day sprung it’s evil/saintly head and a significant proportion of the fair youth of England decided to either

  1. go all Emo and slit their wrists or
  2. party like it’s 1999, 2009 and every other year in between and beyond.

And as usual there was plenty of news coverage about the A Levels and the grades that people had received, you know how it is – the smiling pictures of wholesome looking teenagers, with their top of the range A* and A grades, getting into those high flying uni’s.

This year there was a bit less bile and bitching, because there had been a drop for the first time ever in the overall pass rate. Unfortunately we were still subjected to the whole “the A Levels that I did in the Jurassic error were really worth an A , let me tell you blah blah blah” and how “there’s just too many people passing A Levels to be worth anything any more, yada yada” monologue’s. Basically old ass people just generally pissing on all the hard work that younger people have done. The exact same comments that were made when I’d done my A Levels almost 10 years ago, and the same comments we’ll probably hear next year.

But I digress, the biggest question, which I heard being asked repeatedly (and by repeatedly I mean I heard it once, maybe twice on LBC and it came up on The Wright Stuff), was:

Are A Levels really worth anything?

And sadly I have to say that the answer to that question is…No. With sprinkles on top.

Now I’m not trying to bash anyone or bring any kids down about their grades, but realistically when all’s said and done no, they don’t matter. In the short term, they mostly just serve as a currency for the next course you want to get on to, which is usually a degree.

And then that led me to thinking, is a degree even really worth it? Well, unless you wanna be a doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher or enter into any other profession that actually requires you to have a degree, then again the answer is no. Just no.

Now these are not new thoughts for me and take some explaining so I guess I should start with what I know. Myself.

I left college with a B, and two count them two C’s. My B was in Media Studies and my C’s were in Fine Art, German and General Studies. We were made to do General Studies if we dropped an A Level and I’d dropped English the year before, after feeling like I was drowning the entire year I was on that course.

I didn’t even bloody well know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life beyond, “I want to travel” (and I didn’t even know how to go about doing that), so I had no idea what career I wanted to end up in and therefore no idea what degree I should do. So I ended up applying for a degree in Chinese and Linguistics. Why, you may ask, especially as I struggled, and I mean I fucking busted brain cells getting my little ol’ C in German – because I wanted to travel, duh! You got to spend a year in China as a part of the degree and learn Chinese. Chinese! All things I was dying to do. Also, the semi formed long term career plan was to join the Foreign Office become a diplomat and travel some more. I was all set, it was all kinds of sweet. Except it wasn’t, as I dropped out after 2 months.

The entire idea of having to write a 10,000 word dissertation made me seriously fucking anxious and depressed. Not to mention the constant essays, and little assignments. I don’t like those things.

I forgot, or rather I purposefully pushed to the back of my mind and ignored the fact that that I didn’t actually want to do a degree. I’d already had enough of my A Levels and all the work they had involved. In the last year of my courses, I barely cared about any of them, except German, which I loved even though it was torturous. Media, which had been my favourite had lost its shine, it got boring, and Art, well we had to do a written unit which I didn’t want, neither could I be bothered to do. As far as I was concerned Art was about le art, i.e. creating, practical shit – not writing and bloody contextual analysis’. So by the time the end of the college year came around, I was more than done with education.

But like I said, I’d pushed it all to the back of my mind. The thing was, 2 years before, I never even wanted to go university, hadn’t even given it a thought. So what made me change my mind?

Well folks, that all came down to a classroom conversation in my GCSE Sociology class on university and why you should go. The teacher asked who was planning on going to university and all the kids that were planning on it raised their hands. I wasn’t one of them, my teacher was surprised and some how I was asked why or ended up volunteering my reason which basically at the time came down to I didn’t want to go and had no interest in prolonging my suffering education. On the board he showed us all how if you went to university, you ended up earning more over your lifetime than someone who didn’t. So I decided, having been presented with the evidence, that uni and a degree were the life for me post A Level. Just like that, my switch was flipped and I was pro-uni.

Also, it was expected of me, by teacher’s for sure and my Mum I guess. I came out of school with some good GCSE results – 5 A’s, 4 B’s and a C. And by the time I was in college, everyone and their friend was going to uni, and I never thought I’d be doing any different cause, well what else was there to do? And of course we were all being told little gems like “it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get a degree.”

So yeah, I went, but like I said I dropped out. I went again a few years later as a student nurse. Dropped out of that as well, although there was no 10,000 word dissertation, as the Nursing Diploma was still available at the time, and having found my purpose in life was to heal the world and make it a better place, I also found I could combine said purpose with travel, which again was quite cushty for me.

Fast forward to 2014 and what do I know, well to be honest I don’t even need to be in 2014 to know doing a degree in any old thing (English included here) is a waste of fucking money. I knew people at 21 who’d done degrees and were in jobs earning £17,000 a year. And these were the luckyish ones. I’ve known others who are on between £10,000 to £13,000 grand a year post degree, which apparently is a good thing. I’ve known people who already have a degree retrain in a new degree within the medical field (usually nursing) because they couldn’t find any work with their first degree.

In the end, my own personal experience hasn’t quite bore me some substantial fruit yet, but I may have to end up going back to college to get the skills I need for the web design/social media marketing field I am currently speculating on entering. Or maybe the business I started a few years ago will take off, or maybe I’ll go back into nursing, or maybe I’ll win the lottery.

Who fucking knows?

Right now, I have other shit on my plate I need to solve first quite frankly and the pieces will have to land where they will, allowing me to alter my life as I see fit, because the one thing I have learnt is that life goes on and by default you end up some place anyway and you just keep adding, subtracting and fiddling with the recipe until you get it just right, for you.

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