Should I Go to University? A List of Pros and Cons

If you’re unsure whether you should enrol at a university, then take a look at our list of pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

student thinking 'Should I Go to University?'

Pursuing higher education allows you to develop knowledge, new skills and better your professional prospects. That said, going to university comes with its set of advantages and disadvantages, both of which you must consider before enrolling in a course.

Below, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of going to university, to help you make a more confident and informed decision.

Pros of going to university

Here are 10 benefits of going to university worth considering:

1. You’ll be able to secure specialised jobs

Gaining a university degree in your area of interest will improve your chances of securing a job role in specialised fields. Indeed, most skilled jobs require academic training as well as a bachelor’s and master's degree. Some examples include careers in healthcare, engineering, education, law, and accounting.

So, while there are many alternatives to university, a university education is essential for certain roles and careers.

2. You’ll earn more money

Did you know that graduates earn 35% more than college leavers?

So, if you are a high school student aspiring towards having a lucrative career, a college degree will give you a head start.

Meanwhile, if you are a professional with industry experience and are hoping to land a promotion or develop your career further, a university degree can certainly help. That said, this will also depend on your industry as well as your employer.  

3. You’ll develop transferrable skills

Transferable skills refer to a set of skills that you can use in any job role. Some of the most useful transferable skills include communication, critical thinking, teamwork, multitasking, leadership, and creativity.

So, attending a university will not only provide you with specific subject knowledge but a chance to hone other skills that make you more employable.

4. You’ll broaden your mind

Going to university gives you a chance to move somewhere new, meet people from diverse backgrounds and make friends from across the world.

Not only will you broaden your social circle but your mindset, too.

Plus, apart from studying, you can throw yourself into other extracurriculars that revolve around culture, politics, arts and sports. All of which will contribute to your personal growth.  

5. You’ll gain expertise in your favourite subject

If you know what field you wish to pursue a career in or are passionate about a particular subject and want to learn more about it, then college could be for you.

Pursuing a degree will help you become an expert in your areas of interest and allow you to delve deeper into these topics. You could even pursue a career within academia, by obtaining a master’s and PhD qualification after finishing your undergraduate studies.

6. You’ll hone your research skills

A university degree teaches you how to think analytically and critically, but also how to conduct thorough research, question assumptions, become apt at solving problems and deduce informative conclusions.

Whether it’s research for a bio-med project, or a literature thesis, this is a skill that is invaluable to employers, and which you will utilise time and time again throughout your career.

7. You’ll have access to networking opportunities

Your professional network plays a critical role in  your success in this day and age.

University will allow you to create and broaden your network of professional contacts, be it through volunteering opportunities, internships or meet-and-greets that can bring you in touch with potential employers and people who can support you in your future endeavours.

8. You’ll become more independent

For young students, university life gives you a taste of living independently. Not only are you exposed to new social settings, but you learn about basic life skills such as doing the laundry, cooking and paying bills.

This newly-found sense of independence will give you a chance to grow into an adult and give you more responsibility over yourself. It may sound daunting at first, but you will learn a lot and grow from this experience.

9. You’ll be able to see the world

If you choose to enrol in an academic institution in a different country, this will give you the chance to travel and study at the same time. In many universities you will also have the option to do a year abroad, and there may also be courses that include field trips in different countries.

So, if you are passionate about travelling and exploring new places, university could definitely open up a few opportunities for you to do just that.

10. You’ll be able to gain work experience

As a university student, you will have your fair pick of internships and part-time jobs which will allow you to attain experience and gain technical skills. Some degree programmes offer a year in industry, but also job placement opportunities that you can pursue during summer breaks.

This will ultimately give you a head start as a graduate looking for entry-level positions, and will certainly contribute to your résumé.

Cons of going to university

Like everything else, going to university has its shortcomings. Here are 10 disadvantages of going to university.

1. You will end up in debt

Everyone knows how expensive education is nowadays. Therefore, unless you have the financial means to pay for your education upfront, you will be graduating not just with a degree but also a considerable debt.

Plus, there other expenses you need to take into consideration, including your accommodation costs as well as living expenses.

That said, you can always apply for financial aid, scholarships and bursaries that will lift some of the financial burden off your shoulders.

2. You will commit a long time to your studies

Going to university is a long-term commitment, which could require three to eight years of your life, depending on the course you choose to take.

This can be a real challenge if you are a working professional because you'll have to give up your full-time job to return to university.

But even if you are a young student, this factor can still be a consideration for you. After all, you will be depriving yourself of years of income and piling on student debt. That said, part-time study options could allow you to work while you work towards your degree.

3. You won’t be guaranteed a job

The only guarantee you get from going to university is that you'll be graduating with a degree (if you work hard enough). Apart from that, there is not guarantee that you will find a job easily or that you will be promoted.  

The job market remains quite competitive, and you will need to assemble a variety of skills, qualifications and experience in order to stand out from other candidates. However, on many occasions, a college degree could be a minimum requirement to qualify for a role.

4. You will lack technical skills

Not all degrees offer hands-on experience and  the chance to develop technical skills.

While many entry-level roles do offer training, your lack of technical skills could prolong how quickly you land a job and kickstart your career.

Internships, part-time work and volunteering are all great options to attain some technical experience in the fields you are interested in.

5. There won’t be a lot of contact time

Some courses may offer significantly less contact time than others.

At school, you may have gotten a solid eight hours of classes, five days a week, but at university you might find that you only have five to eight hours of lectures, seminars and workshops a week. While this does depend on the faculty and course you select, it could still be deterring to receive such few hours of teaching considering the extravagant tuition fees you will be paying.

A lot of courses require independent study and research so you will likely find yourself more often sitting in the library than in a lecture hall.

6. It can be overwhelming

While studying at a university can be exciting, it can also be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are living far away from home. Moving away can be stressful and very hard for those attached to their family and friends.

Homesickness is quite common, especially among college freshmen, but it is something you can overcome with time, especially if you devote yourself to your studies.

7. You may earn less than an apprentice

It may come as a surprise, but you can earn more with an apprenticeship than with an undergraduate degree.

Apprentices get a pay increase through an award programme as they progress from one level to another; they may earn a higher salary than you based on the time they have been working in a company or because of their level of competency and experience.

So, in some cases, embarking on an apprenticeship may be a more viable option than pursuing a degree in that field.  

8. You will have intense workload

School is hard.

On top of seminars and lectures, there’s also mid-term exams, coursework, projects and essays to be written. Juggling this amount of workload can be overwhelming, especially if you also choose to work during your studies or decide to take part in sports and societies, which will also take up a good chunk of your time.

If you are prone to stress, and struggle with multi-tasking and organisation, university could be quite challenging, but you will adapt and learn how to cope with your workload with time.

9. It requires a lot of self-discipline

Throughout your degree, you will be responsible for managing your own time and studies. It will require a lot of self-discipline on your part.

Of course, this is a great learning experience and an opportunity to grow, but if you don’t feel ready to take this kind of step, then perhaps you could consider other alternatives to university and enrol when you are ready.

10. You might change your mind

What if you register on a course and later change your mind to choose a different career path? Well, you will have to wait till next semester to make the switch.

However, the university may not transfer your previously acquired credit hours to the new academic programme, so you might have to start all over again. However, if you end up studying the subject you are truly passionate about, then it will be worth it!

Final thoughts

Now that you know the pros and cons, it is time to put your thinking cap on and weigh your options.

As a school leaver you may benefit from a university degree, which will give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs. However, before deciding if you should go to university, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What career path do I want to pursue?
  • Will a university degree help me achieve my career goals? How?
  • Are there any other viable options I can consider?

If you are still unsure, you could also consider taking a gap year to gain initial experience in an industry, and then decide which degree to pursue, if you do end up going university! This formula has worked for many, as they got the opportunity to explore the real world and discover their own potential, before committing to a degree!

Can you think of any other reasons you should or shouldn’t go to university? Share them with us in the comments section below!

This article is an update of an earlier version published on 25 August 2017.