I will try and relate this to social work, though not all will be related.
University is a natural progression for people leaving school at the age of 18 in my opinion. In sixth form, I feel that people are pressured to apply to UCAS, even if they are unsure about going to university. This was certainly the case in my college too, especially in my Health and Social Care class. Now, I know this is a generalisation and my opinion, but I feel social work courses have a lot more mature students on them, especially with the undergraduate degree. This may not be the case in all universities but from my experiences, there tends to be more mature students. Mature students do bring a lot to a course: knowledge, well rounded skills and experience. Experience is key in social work. If you haven’t experienced life then is there a point in applying? In short, of course there is. There are a lot of younger students applying to the course too, do they have anything to offer? Again they too have a lot to offer: they have an understanding of this generation, they have gone through radical changes already, relating to politics, media, technology etc and are in some ways more eager to learn. To get onto a social work degree you have to show passion and show that this is something you really want to do, therefore people who are unsure about Social Work may not get a place. On the Social Work programme, some people may have doubts that the course is for them, but for younger students, I feel that the university experience as a whole is important too. We gain independence, learn new skills (cooking!, managing budgets etc) and experience a lot. This is a learning curve for younger students, a learning curve that mature students have already experienced. I applied to university when I was 17, to go and do a Media related course. At that time I wanted to be a journalist, so naturally I applied to university as that was the only way I felt I could get into the sector. After going through the process and getting a place at the university, I decided that the course wasn’t right for me. You could say I had wasted this opportunity. I know I picked the wrong course, but I learnt a lot from the experience. If you pick the wrong course and are already at university, you could switch courses or drop out and find your true passion. I decided to go to my local college to do Health and Social Care, I like to call this my 2 gap years in a way. I thought about what I wanted to do and in short I chose Social Work. If I was to give any advice, I would say at 18 don’t be forced into applying for university if you are unsure. Take time to pick the right course for you, gain some life experience and then apply to university when you are a little older. If you choose to go to university at 18 and know you have picked the right course, great! You won’t have wasted going to university as you will learn so much.
So really, whilst university is a natural progression and some people do get their choice of course wrong, it isn’t wasted on younger students. It’s about the whole experience, learning about yourself and what you want your path in life to be. For people going into Social Work, I think everyone doubts whether the programme is for them, before applying and once they have a place on the course. I did and wanted to change my course to Primary Education, but I didn’t. As long as you think about the course and the challenges you will face, then go for it. Apply to Social Work or any other course you are interested in. In the end there are always other options!