Is University Really a Waste of Time?

By Laurie MacFarlane

I can’t believe it. Already? Surely not.

Over the past few weeks I have come to accept a cold, grim reality: my time at University is almost over. Indeed it doesn’t seem that long ago since I moved into halls of residence as a fresh out of school 17 year old. But, unfortunately yes, it was that long ago. More than three years have been and gone and I wonder if I have changed much. I can grow a beard now, I’m a few stone heavier and am also substantially less fit. Is that all?

I recently came across an article in The Guardian written by a recent graduate who describes his time at university as “the worst three years of my life”.  He describes his horrifying experience as being “like experiencing the shock of retirement, suddenly having hours and hours of free time to fill” before groaning on about how “the boredom and apathy that a seven-hour week induces should not be underestimated”.

In one way he is right. Many courses have between seven and ten hours of classes a week, and only a few of these hours require compulsory attendance.  Granted, there is a valid argument that the scarcely occupied timetables of some courses can be counterproductive and some could easily be condensed to a two or three year course. This would save students, parents and the government some valuable money.

However, to say that I wish that the university experience was only about being in class all day then retreating to the library to do advanced calculus and a bit of light reading and nothing else would be a gross fabrication. The stress of “suddenly having hours and hours of free time to fill” is not something that I and many others struggle to cope with. I am sure there are millions, if not billions, of hard working people in the world who dream of encountering this monstrosity of a problem.

It is my view that this gentleman did not seem to grasp what to me is the most important aspect of university; life experience. What he sees as “boredom and apathy” resulting from a seven-hour week, myself and many others embrace it as a window of opportunity. It is a chance to explore what makes you tick, what you believe, what you wish to do in life and expand your knowledge base. It is without doubt the best opportunity to explore the vast ocean of social interaction and meet all kinds of new people.

With life after university more than likely to be filled with the stress of uncertainty, long working hours, unlikeable managers, mortgage payments, report deadlines, personal responsibilities, financial worries, relationship strains and occasional deaths; the opportunity to be relatively free of modern society’s constraints and explore what is around you is not one that should not be overlooked. The opportunity to try new things, learn from others, interact with new people and experiment in new environments is very much an important part of the learning process.   Having previously worked full time it is my view that these inevitable afflictions brought on by the stresses and monotony of full time employment are too often what distract people from focusing on what is best for them.

Some, like our unfortunate Guardian contributor, may say that 4 years of learning, social interaction, essay writing, reading, occasional lecture going, last minute road tripping, conversing, occasional substance experimenting, debating, late nights and waking up in other people’s living rooms is “a waste of time.” Yet I disagree entirely, in fact my time at university has provided me with some of the most enlightening experiences I have ever had such as having the opportunity to meet many great people, to work out who I am and what I want from life and hey, I may have even learnt something along the way.

Has university only made me fatter with a beard? Absolutely not. As a result I am more knowledgeable, more confident, more mature, more experienced and better placed to enter the world of work and embrace life with a great network of people around me. Through a good balance of hard work and recreation I have gained an array of transferable skills, valuable experience and a wealth of knowledge that has made me a better person and set me up to succeed in employment and beyond. Personally, there isn’t a thing I would change about my time at university and I am eternally grateful for what I am sure will be some of the best years of my life.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);