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A Level help...

I was one of the many young adults yesterday that received their final A2 grades. I was bitterly disappointed to say the least, though I did not help my case: procrastination was the primary theme of my school years.
I have never performed excellently in examinations however I can somewhat hold my own in verbal discussions and debates (my Head of Learning stating that I "ooze with eloquence")!

Long story short: I do not know where to go from here. My ultimate goal is to run my own business(es) and I have a few promising ideas in the pipeline, but I do not feel ready enough to try and plunge into a world where your educational achievements are more important than whether or not you can 'get the job done'.

I am not a fan of the educational system. We are not taught enough about current affairs and important things such as how to do tax returns etc. (Simplified example I know!)

Now I feel that I have been let down by a system that doesn't accommodate the needs of every student individually. I had no idea what I wanted to do when it came to applying for universities last year so I didn't apply. The sneering looks that I received when I told people of my choice said enough about the society in which we live. Parents, teachers and even fellow students would be shocked that I was doing the unthinkable and not following the masses - though I try to reason with them that many hundreds of thousands of post-grads are being left jobless, in debt and without any hope of employment in the future. And these are the 'EDUCATED' ones!

Teachers were useless as the only advice they offer is "I advise that you go to university to boost your chances of employment."
But what good is a degree to boost your chances, when the original chances are looking shady at best?

I would have loved to go to university, though I don't know if I can face retaking another year of studying (however I feel I may benefit from being outside of a class environment).
If I was to go to university, I would study a Business Management course to help me pursue my dreams of running my own business(es), but my question is: Will university really help? Or should I learn from buying books and information from the internet and teaching myself?

Apologies for the long post, but I honestly feel as though I have nowhere else to turn to vent and get advice.

Cheers.
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Comments

  • The idea that the overarching purpose of getting an education is to help you get a job is questionable to say the least.
    The purpose of education is hardly ever debated, and the whole student loans/fees thing doesn't help at all. Students in the current era are expected to pay tuition fees and are told 'never mind, with a degree you will earn more than the average Joe, and be able to pay the debt back'. This may be true, but the impact is that people feel that learning must have an end purpose with regard to employment, rather than learning and study being worthwhile for any other reason.
    In my view it is a sad state of affairs.
  • Are you sure you don't want to go? If you're not then ignore your grades and try and go through clearing.

    I did 3 years ago when I was your age, for Computer Science, and despite having no formal qualifications and still being 18 (so not a mature student) I was offered 3 places based on the strength of my personal statement. (Oxford Brookes, Greenwich and Southampton Solent)

    Did I go for it? No, I'd proved a point that 'Hey, I could if I wanted to!' and turned my back on the whole idea and continued doing my own thing.

    In only 3 years though, I've managed to build up a pretty impressive portfolio regarding my chosen area (web and mobile app development) - and generally get contacted (directly, rarely through agencies) about relatively senior positions.

    I see friends leaving uni now, no experience and struggling to get Junior/Graduate positions - when I've managed to get a decent job with some awesome additions to my portfolio and my prospects look good. So for me, I've worked it out well - and it can work out just as well for you. It's not easy, it can be embarrassing at times (Especially when you're with groups that are solely Uni educated (and, in my case, my boss/friend is a Cambridge graduate who naturally bases a lot of judgement about a persons education)) but it can work, and it can work quicker in the long run.

    I'm not downplaying education, it is important - and there's a fair bit of my past which let me down (ill health etc), and that stole my opportunity away. However, just because it didn't work out perfectly doesn't mean you should feel stuck.

    One area to consider is part time study. Birkbeck (University of London) do Certificate of Higher Education courses in a variety of subjects, and if you continue to study with them I believe on certain programmes it takes a degree down to 2 years after. So if you think fast, you could still come out of the other end with a degree, but more importantly, valuable experience.

    You've obviously got a head on your shoulders by this post, so I'm sure you'll work something out - or something will work out for you.
  • My education was basic at best, primary school in the early years and secondary school when I had too/bunking off when I could. I left school when I was 16 without any qualifications worth mentioning and I now own and run my own business employing over 40 people.

    I have an advert running on a web site for a junior to work in our accounts department paying 15k per annum and we have received over 100 replies, a vast majority of which are from University graduates with degree's in all sorts subjects who are desperate to do anything so do not fall for the "University boosts your chances of employment" most of them leave with debt and end up flipping burgers whilst waiting the "magic" job to come along.

    First and foremost you need to find out what type of job you enjoy doing, you can read all the books and complete all the courses but it is no good if you do not understand the sector/industry you are aiming to run your business in.

    I could not do this subject justice on here with limited time and space, plus you are talking about your career and future which is of huge importance.

    My company is based in the Maidstone area and I live near Sevenoaks so if any of those areas suit you I would be happy to meet for a coffee and a chat to hopefully offer some advice.
  • The thing is, whether I go to university or not doesn't matter especially much to me; its more the fact that it'll matter to pretty much everyone else who has access to them (employers etc). I would retake so that I'm not embarrassed (as I am now) of my A Level results, but that may be pride more than anything else. I believe that the internet is a huge resource and that with a couple of sensible investments into books and educational packages, I'd be able to get the most out of myself more than a university would... or am I being too naive?
  • University isn't for everyone and the emphasis is based on private learning so this may or may not be to your liking.

    personally i had to go to university for my chosen career (scientist) but if you want to run your own company you may be better doing courses in accounting at an adult education centre or you could try an apprenticeship in that sort of field to get some much needed business experience
  • Most employers I speak to now and including myself look for experience, not a bit of paper in their back pocket with "A's" on it. This does not help you of course as you seem to have neither but the fact you do not have A Levels should not put you off looking for work.
  • Thanks all for the advice. I am still unsure, but I know that its not the end of the world, and if anything this just gives me the perfect opportunity to prove my doubters wrong.

    I think a few days of pondering and a couple of sleeps will reveal what I want ultimately.

    Thanks again to all (If anyone still has advice it is more than welcome)!
  • Most employers I speak to now and including myself look for experience, not a bit of paper in their back pocket with "A's" on it.

    Only cos you're all being dicks and can't be bothered to train people up
  • edited August 2013
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  • edited August 2013
    Hi,

    First thing is have you ever been tested for dyslexia? Dyslexia comes in many forms and degrees and doesn't mean you can't read at all. It's just that the way you describe your ability to reason verbally as much higher than writing an exam paper is a classic sign of dyslexia. I didn't find out I had very mild dyslexia until I was much much older but I was/am the same.

    You might also want to re-think your exam and revision technique. Some people and often dyslexics like visual aids. Try Mind maps.

    On the wider issue I think you need to go back a step to what do you want to do? If that is run your own business then why? What does that offer you and why is it appealing. It is something you are "attracted to" or something that you are "attracted away" from? ie does starting you own business sound good because it means you get away from exams/study/regular employment etc. That might sound like an odd question but it is quite important in establishing your motivation.

    You can thrive in business but it can be very hard as well. If you have ideas than I suggest you contact your local Enterprise group. They often run workshops on starting a small business and talk you through tax returns. company set up etc. And if you are female there is a lot of Woman in Business help from RBS as well.

    I think going to Uni can be over rated but I disagree about the internet being a good learning tool. It is too random and unstructured. Books can be good but only if you already know what you need to learn.

    Try these for more ideas

    SkillsFundingAgency @skillsfunding

    Creative Skillset ‏@SkillsetSSC

    Inbox me if you want some more info/help.

    Good luck and well done for being so honest.
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  • Blimey where to start? I feel for your predicament I really do. I have two grown daughters who were never overly academic and that was pretty obvious from a early age. I on the other hand sailed through the whole process of school, exams and qualifications. Looking back on it after all these years it was only personal family circumstances that stopped me continuing on happily to complete the sixth form and perhaps go to Uni.

    What did 11 years of formal education give my two girls? Nothing practical that they would actually find helpful out in the world I can tell you. This is where the modern educational system has fallen down in my opinion. Not everyone is cut out to complete compulsory formal education to 18 years old and there should be an alternative (and there was once...). Better minds than me will think they have that worked out I am sure but as to whether it will ever be implemented correctly I have my doubts.

    You seem pretty confident about what you like, you have ideas and the ambition to work for yourself. Go with that and I think you will not go far wrong. Try a few duff jobs, anything just to get you out there and to get an idea of what you definitely do not want to do.

    Good luck.
  • My sister is dyslexic, however I don't think I am - to be painfully honest I believe the reason my exam grades are lower is because I just didn't put in the work I should have done.
    I suppose I was one of those in the class that could talk all lesson (when being distracted -or distracting!- and then still manage to give a reasonably good answer to a teacher who is trying to catch me out!

    The main reason I want to run my own businesses is because I have an issue with authority (in the least ASBO-y way possible!) I just like the freedom of being your own boss.
    There is a quote that I quite like; "If you don't follow your dreams, someone else will hire you to follow theirs."
  • Most employers I speak to now and including myself look for experience, not a bit of paper in their back pocket with "A's" on it.

    Only cos you're all being dicks and can't be bothered to train people up
    If you would care to look back at my original post you will see I am advertising for a junior to work in my accounts department, none of the applicants so far have indicated they have any accounts experience therefore I will be training them and sending them to college.

  • As Mark Twain said, never let school interfere with your education. Breeze off for a year, cycle your way round the world or whatever you like doing. See different cultures, feel and share different ways of life and thinking. Live with host families and help by teaching English in schools e.g. in S. African townships, work on a cruise ship, save Amazon rainforests or cut gorilla toenails, there are just so many ways to escape the mind numbing tedium of little Britain and clear your mind. All the best to you.
  • Most employers I speak to now and including myself look for experience, not a bit of paper in their back pocket with "A's" on it.

    Only cos you're all being dicks and can't be bothered to train people up
    If you would care to look back at my original post you will see I am advertising for a junior to work in my accounts department, none of the applicants so far have indicated they have any accounts experience therefore I will be training them and sending them to college.

    But most companies who are looking for a junior want someone who's educated to degree level, which again is unfair.
  • There are many things that I could say about the educational system, from the fact that it was designed to accommodate the industrial revolution and so had to train as many engineers as possible (hence the maths and physics etc) all the way to lacklustre teachers who do little to inspire and not much more to educate, but I have complained enough. I simply didn't do enough work myself - and it is of my opinion that it is both my fault, and the systems.
  • I have plans to go travelling next year and so this year needs to be made the most of with me earning as much as possible. I am employed (by family) and this is something I am so grateful for, however it does make me feel like a scrounger and I want to be able to make my parents proud, since I am not able to do so through educational means.
  • For what it's worth, LilAddick, as an English teacher, I think you write very eloquently. Good luck with your heart-searching and decision making.
  • LilAddick - I am sure your parents are proud of you, I certainly would be with the honesty you have shown on this thread.
    My daughter is 16 and has just decided she doesn't want to do her A Levels but wants to go to college instead, doesn't make me any less proud.
    You sound like you have the determination to make a success of yourself and that can go a lot further than a piece of paper with an letter on it in the long run. Good Luck!!
  • A lot of good advice here and I would add "plunge into a world where your educational achievements are more important than whether or not you can 'get the job done'" This is only true of school. In the workplace it is actually totally the opposite. I do a job with no degree which many others have a degree for - I just went out and got a job to see where it would take me. By 23 I was started to come up against people my own age - they had a degree in a random unrelated field, I had on the job experience and it got me to job. In a recent appraisal my manager told me I had to realise that common sense was not actually all that common and it was my greatest asset.

    Scan the web - there are many jobs you wouldn't even have thought about yet, have a think about where your skills are - or better still get someone else to tell you - and ask around about what jobs they would suit. This is a great site for finding out about random jobs from those that do them.

    I don't know if the Guardian still does it but they used to produce a book which just listed jobs, get it and ask around on any jobs you haven't heard of, you never know where it will lead.

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  • When I flunked my a levels I was very despondent , but my university still took me. Then, once at university I found I hated it, more because of the place and course I was on. When I was at school I didn't really have any idea what i wanted to do after university, so just applied for courses for the subjects I was enjoying at school. Anyway I dropped out after 6 weeks, and after a stint of four years in the city applied and gained a place, following taking one extra A level at night school, in the health sector. This was as far removed from my original subjects as could be, and is the bestthing I ever did.

    If you have an idea of what you want to do, I would say go for it now, get as much advice from friends / books / internet as possible and see how you go.
    If you find you cannot progress without a specific degree, then you can do that in a couple of years, you will still be young, you've lost nothing. If you succeed any way, you will be ahead of all your peers, and will have proved everyone else wrong.

    Look at the TV, all those programs with people giving away money like Dragons Den and the Apprentice, few of those people have followed the route of university and salaried positions. You may end up as one of them!
    Good luck!
  • It's an employer's market at the moment. So many people have been laid off, especially in the public sector, that jobs are going to those way senior than the position. It's hard to get on the first rung. However, if you know what you want to do, or what skills you need to develop, that's an advantage as you can be smart when you find a job and take what you need from it.
  • Thanks to everyone, your combined advice has really helped my gain different perspectives. Like I said earlier, I'm not going to rush into a decision but your help is greatly appreciated.

    Eynsfordaddick - Incidentally my C in English Lit. was the highest A Level I received this year. And I would never rule out the possibility of going into writing, at least part time. I have attempted to write books before (when I was 13ish I tried writing a thriller based in Zimbabwe - I think Mugabe was in the news a lot at the time - But I stopped after a few chapters because of a lack of organisation and the fact that I had no idea what Zimbabwe was like! I'd like to eventually write a book but only once I've seen the world.
  • LilAddick said:

    My sister is dyslexic, however I don't think I am - to be painfully honest I believe the reason my exam grades are lower is because I just didn't put in the work I should have done.
    I suppose I was one of those in the class that could talk all lesson (when being distracted -or distracting!- and then still manage to give a reasonably good answer to a teacher who is trying to catch me out!

    The main reason I want to run my own businesses is because I have an issue with authority (in the least ASBO-y way possible!) I just like the freedom of being your own boss.
    There is a quote that I quite like; "If you don't follow your dreams, someone else will hire you to follow theirs."

    Then you should definitely get yourself tested for dyslexia. It runs in families. Yours may be different or less severe than you sisters.

    as I said your motivation to run your own business is not "to" but "away" ie away from authority. Unfortunately being you "own boss" doesn't mean you have all the authority. Customers, supplies, customers, regulators, customers, oh and customers have that more often than not.

    That doesn't make it wrong but it's good to be clear what your motivation is.
  • seth plum said:

    The idea that the overarching purpose of getting an education is to help you get a job is questionable to say the least.
    The purpose of education is hardly ever debated, and the whole student loans/fees thing doesn't help at all. Students in the current era are expected to pay tuition fees and are told 'never mind, with a degree you will earn more than the average Joe, and be able to pay the debt back'. This may be true, but the impact is that people feel that learning must have an end purpose with regard to employment, rather than learning and study being worthwhile for any other reason.
    In my view it is a sad state of affairs.

    Agree totally with this.

    LilAddick, university should be a place you go to for studying something simply because you love studying it. These days there is a strange notion in education (pushed by the government) that you have to learn stuff to get you ready for a particular job/career. With the exception of a few professions, eg medicine, its complete nonsense. Most intelligent people can do a job excellently after they've learnt the ropes "on the job".

    As for school- you'll thank them eventually for letting you fail. It's clearly already given you some fire in your belly.
  • I no longer care if students study for the 'joy' of studying or for their future job prospects, the choice is entirely theirs, I am just glad us taxpayers no longer pick up the tab for them.
  • I no longer care if students study for the 'joy' of studying or for their future job prospects, the choice is entirely theirs, I am just glad us taxpayers no longer pick up the tab for them.

    I fully understand this viewpoint. I digress a little though by saying that an educated population benefits us all in tons of ways. Taxpayers and non taxpayers gain from living in a developed society, which is why, despite the high tuition fees we still make financial contributions to the general education system. There is still a 'tab', even if the detail has shifted. Taxes certainly didn't go down as a result of tuition fees going up.

  • I no longer care if students study for the 'joy' of studying or for their future job prospects, the choice is entirely theirs, I am just glad us taxpayers no longer pick up the tab for them.

    When and how did taxpayers "pick up the tab" for students? Genuine question because as a graduate I wasn't aware that taxpayers had helped me in any way other than the same way they help everyone.
  • edited August 2013
    Going to uni gives you more options, particularly if you aren't sure where you want to go in terms of your career, but it isn't for everyone. I got straight A's at A Level and a degree from a prestigious university, while my cousin got straight D's at GCSE and left school at 16, but 20 years on he earns more than I do. Why? He got an apprenticeship doing something he had a talent for, worked his arse off until he was in a position to go into business for himself, and put in many hours and many miles to make it a continuing success.

    You need to think about what your interests, strengths and weaknesses are, and what sort of careers would suit those things. Being your own boss may seem attractive, but it comes with a whole set of additional responsibilities. If you're not passionate about the business you're in, are you going to put in the extra hours to make it work? Resitting your A-Levels in order to do yourself justice will also give you a chance to do further research on the next steps to take to give yourself the best chance of success.

    In some cases a degree may be essential, in others it may not, but if it's being used as a filtering mechanism you're still out of luck jobwise. If like LuckyReds you are able to get significant experience off your own bat, that's great, but in the current environment there's a lot of competition. One thing that might be worth looking at is sandwich degrees and HNDs, rather than the more traditional 3 year academic degree. A sandwich course will take longer but give you a year (or 2 periods of 6 months) working in a relevant industry in the middle. HNDs are shorter and generally more focussed on specific sectors, and you can often do them part-time or online while you're working. That way you can get experience AND qualifications at the same time.

  • Going to university is an opportunity to lean something specific in your chosen subject. If this doesn't appeal to you then don't go.

    My worry for you is that you don't seem to have any specific business that you want to run. We would all like to run businesses but I fear that your aspirations are a little vague and unless your family (those that employ you) are young to give you a number of businesses to run you are going to have to build them.

    This will require you having some skill/knowledge in what you want your businesses to do. If you have just left school at 18 you may find it difficult to compete with others running businesses in areas that they have experience. You may find this particularly difficult if you have a tendency to avoid working hard, something that you have admitted in your posts.

    For me, University has two main benefits. 1) It enables you to spend three years (presumably away from home, parents and a comfortable lifestyle) to find a bit more about yourself so that you, hopefully, have a better understanding of what your interests and strengths are. This will help you to choose a career that you will be able to stick to. And 2) It gives you a qualification that both confirms that you have the intelligence and application to achieve, and it also offers the opportunity to open some doors both when you leave and later in life.

    I don't want to attract unwanted criticism but I would say that it is very common for successful people that didn't go to university to feel disappointed that they didn't go. If you have an opportunity to go I don't personally see a down side. It is great fun, it allows one to study a subject to a very high level and it ensures that what ever one does and where ever one goes that will always have a degree.

    Needless to say, I went and, even though I didn't come out with much debt, I wouldn't swap those four years for anything I've achieved in work since. This is just my view, but I think it's only fair to offer different views.
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