Whether you choose to go to university because the course you've found looks awesome or that it's simply a stepping ladder for a job of any kind, what makes University so great is the people. University is a multicultural and cosmopolitan hub of unique and diverse students who you are very, very likely to share many interests with and make some friends for life. For some, it's living in a vibrant city that makes the experience rewarding and for others it's the fact that it's quiet in the country. There's so much to offer to you in University outside the realm of learning, from independence to expressing yourself perhaps for the first time or the need to have party after party without the parents. Whatever your interests, preferences or necessities, there's a new exciting life waiting for you to discover at University’.
Stonewall Talent Programme 2011 participant
Why go to university?
‘It might cost a packet in the first place, but eventually you’ll be earning loads more with a degree’. Or so they say. Well, we have to admit it, it’s often true. Getting a degree does give you a better chance of finding a job and your earnings will go up if you’re armed with qualifications. Not to mention all the extra opportunities and experiences you can gain at uni. And if money’s an issue, you can get extra help.
You might be worried though that you’ve just come out to your friends at home (and you’re totally in love with the girl/boy you’ve met) and you don’t want to leave. You might also ask why you should bother doing it all over again with a new group of people who might not be so friendly.
These are reasonable and natural things to worry about. But the bottom line is that going to university is usually great fun, you pay the money back if you’re earning, and being gay at university is often fabulous according to Stonewall’s many youth volunteers.
Of course, not everyone will be going to university straight after sixth form or college. If you are going back to education as an adult learner, you will also want to make sure that the university you choose will be one where you can be yourself.
It’s up to you
The great thing about going to university is that you can choose exactly what you want to get out of it, where you want to go (as near or as far from home as you want), the type of place you want to go (a modern university, a sporty university, an international university - check out the ‘picking a university’ page to find out more), what you want to study and what type of course you want to do (a ‘sandwich’ course, a ‘modular’ course, a ‘vocational’ course – you may want to get a little book now and start making notes – there is rather a lot to think about).
With thousands of courses available on UCAS
and over 150 institutions in the UK alone there really is something for everyone. You can pick the right place for you.
Focusing on what you love
The best thing about university is that you get to spend three or four years studying a subject that you love. If you’ve got a passion for Biology then what better way to spend three years than dissecting frogs in Warwick University’s science labs? If sport’s your thing then spending three years with Loughborough’s amazing facilities would be heavenly.
So why not take up the chance to immerse yourself in a subject you like? You do after all have all the time in the world to do the nine-to-five office thing. And your course won’t take up all of your time. In fact, for some people it’ll be more of a case of fitting your course around all of your other activities! Whether you want to join the Doctor Who society or Rugby Club, spend your time at black tie balls or chasing boys/girls on the local scene, there are more than enough extra activities at universities to keep you busy.
When people talk about university being the time of their lives it’s this they’re referring to! People you’ve never met, places you’ve never been, and experiences you’ve never had before. And don’t forget most universities have a society specifically for lesbian, gay and bisexual students - usually an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) society– sometimes known as Queer Soc, Pride Soc or other variations on the theme – so meeting other gay people shouldn’t be that hard. You do have to do some work, but you also have to find plenty of opportunities for fun.
For a lot of people money can be a factor in deciding whether or not to go to university. You might prefer not to spend a few years not earning and racking up debt – although plenty of students do work part-time and during vacations. You might want independence as soon as possible and decide that getting a full-time job is the only way to do this. You might look at Lord Alan Sugar or Hilary Devey and decide that they’re your role models and you want to be just like them –Some people are extremely successful without having studied for three years.
University education is expensive, and you’re likely to graduate with around £30,000 of debt – which we know feels like loads now. However, you don’t have to pay this back until you graduate and are earning - see our finance guide for more information. And this £30,000 gets a great rate of return so it is basically an investment.
Here’s the maths:
Studies have shown that university graduates earn on average about a quarter more than people who leave school after their A-levels, and earn on average between £100,000 and £200,000 more (depending on who you listen to) over their working life. So that’s a big payoff for spending three years making friends and learning a subject you love. Also, gaining a degree can seriously improve your career prospects, giving you a much greater variety of career options but also the ability to progress much faster up the career ladder (hopefully to the very top if that’s what you want).
A degree doesn’t guarantee a good job at the end, especially in uncertain times, but it certainly boosts your chances. And of course for many jobs – doctor, lawyer, etc – a degree is essential. But whatever degree you study, the skills you develop will help to make you more employable.
You also don’t need to be dependent on your parents, so if they don’t accept that you’re gay, for instance, and they refuse to give you money to study, check out our finance guide to find out more about being financially independent. It is possible.
Be yourself and meet new people
One of the biggest plus points of going to university is that it’s a great place to be yourself. You’ll be spending the next three years with other people of a similar age and with similar interests, but from different backgrounds and with a wide range of experiences and stories to tell. This means that you can spend your time at university finding out exactly who you are, from the simple things like whether you like Sushi to bigger things like what you believe about the world and whether you fancy boys, girls or both. The best thing of all is that no matter what you do or say you can leave it all behind after three years if you want to.
A lot of people choose university as a time to come out as gay or to experiment with their sexuality. University is a great place to do this. For some, it might be your first opportunity to meet other lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and given that loads of people find their partners at university it might be the place where you find ‘the one’ – no pressure if you don’t though.
University offers loads of opportunities to develop yourself both personally and professionally, a chance to meet other people like you as well as chances to have lots of fun along the way. It’s true that it might not be right for everyone, and you should think about your choice carefully. But remember there’s no rush to go; lots of people choose to take gap years, so that when they arrive they can share stories about their adventures in the Himalayas or South America or simply take time out to earn some hard cash before going.
For lots of people university offers great opportunities, and you should certainly never be put off because you think that university isn’t right for people like you. Universities are full of people like you. All amazingly different.