When finishing your final exams in school, you’ll probably find yourself thinking about your future. There are plenty of options for what you can choose to do, so why is university the decision that so many sixth formers and college students decide on?

Going to university seems more popular than ever. UCAS has seen a 10-year high in the number of applications from school leavers for undergraduate degrees, with 320,000 sixth formers across the UK having applied so far. This is an increase of 14,000 from 2021 and 50,000 more than in 2019.

Here we’ll look at why so many people are choosing higher education over getting a job or an apprenticeship, and how it can help set you on a course for the rest of your life.

Find your career path

When you’re first applying through UCAS, you will be told that a university qualification helps further your career path. Within your degree, your lecturers will have years of experience within your subject and industry. This will give you a greater scope for your learning and you may learn things you never expected.

Many university courses offer the chance to do a placement year within the industry you wish to join. Also referred to as a sandwich year, this is an internship that runs between half or a full academic year. This gives you the opportunity to experience working in an industry of your choosing and they can be full-time, paid positions. Taking the opportunity of a placement year not only gives you an example of what a role in an industry is like, but also allows you to apply the knowledge you have gained from your course to a working environment.

As well as placement years, universities have dedicated careers teams and services available year-round. These teams can discuss applications for jobs, assist in CV writing, and provide guidance on how to prepare for interviews. Careers services can also refer you for various part-time and holiday roles that can assist with an income and help build skills that can carry over into employment after graduation.

Explore a new place & meet new people

Leaving home isn’t easy, but the thought of moving somewhere brand new is exciting. Part of the university experience is packing your stuff and travelling to study in a city that is completely new to you.

Whether you’ve had your eye set on somewhere from the earliest stages of your university scouting/ national tutoring programme if you picked somewhere during the university clearing process, the opportunity to live in and explore a new environment gives you that sense of independence and lends a lot to your personal growth.

Each city has its own social scenes and nightlife. Part of the fun of moving to a new area is finding out about the hidden gems, as well as some of the more tourist-centric spots. The best part is just because you’re discovering somewhere new doesn’t mean you can’t visit home occasionally. It’ll give you a great, nostalgic appreciation for where you grew up too.

New cities also mean brand new opportunities. You’ll meet people you’d never have thought you could meet before, and this could help you professionally as well as personally. Networking is important at every stage of your life and the connections you build at university can help you with opportunities years down the line.

Discover hobbies & extracurriculars

University is a great opportunity to meet new friends and new people. You have opportunities to meet people who are on the same course as you and in your accommodation, but what about making new friends with shared interests?

Societies are a great way to mingle and make new friends with your interests being at the centre of the discussion. Most universities will have a freshers’ fair where the societies will have stalls and you can see what they offer in terms of activities, trips, and get togethers. They might even have some free swag to give out!

Joining a society also gives you the opportunity to grow into an official position within them. Each society has a number of roles with different jobs behind them, including planning events and activities that the members get in on. Leadership roles in extracurriculars also look fantastic on your CV!

University offers the unique experience of allowing yourself to find out who you are and maybe what you want to do. Courses are led by lecturers with years of experience in your industry and a lot of university courses offer the opportunity to gain experience in what working within your industry of choice is like. This will give you a greater scope for what life will be like once you’ve graduated and help set your career off on the right track. Being able to explore your own independence in a new city is also an exciting prospect, as well as getting to make new friends and explore hobbies you can connect over. Building these networks can also benefit you with opportunities down the line.