The first thing I was told in my sixth form wasn't "do you want to go to university?" it was "ok everyone, here's the date when we'll be prepping your UCAS forms." At the time, this all felt completely normal, because you don't question what you don't know. And for most of the less-brave of us, from figures of authority. No one on the Taylor side of my family had ever undertaken an education course past the age of 18, which didn't help when being told "here's the university application form. Let's fill it out".
It actually served to just confuse me even more about my choices. The faux paus are the words "university" and "course" as dangerous, misleading and false synonyms to what we should be instilling into teenagers' minds: the words "higher education experience". Language is so crucial to defining who we are and have been throughout history. Language is the tool to instilling passion (or often lack of it) when faced with a choice in life. A choice such as deciding what you might want to do at 18. If you're told that university (and a 3 year full-time degree) is the only choice AT 18 (not "from 18" as we should be saying) then no wonder teenagers feel anxious and a sense of a "ticking time bomb" about their decisions, instead of generating a feeling of proactive choice and excitement at what they might want in life. If we only talk about university at 18 with students, we might as well make it illegal to even consider any other choice straight after school, such as apprenticeships, foundation degrees, degree apprenticeships, gap years or just a year or two to break the educational system by throwing oneself enthusiastically into the unknown void of social and cultural capital (part time jobs, volunteering, travel, short courses, gaining more experience in your favourite hobbies, stopping to breathe and just rediscover the joy of procrastination and play) as a way to build your employability and figure out what you want from life. University is an amazing choice for a lot of people, but certainly not for everyone who ends up going straight from school at 18.
Have a look next month for part 2...
MOJ TAYLOR is a comedian who started stand up when selected for the BBC's Stand Up If You Dare in 2013 - and was mentored by Mark Dolan and Jasper Carrott. He is the Executive of Push - he has also won a Fringe First award in Edinburgh as an actor. Within Push, he is responsible for overall business development, the selection and training of presenters, and collaborative outreach. He also works closely with Johnny to ensure all the Push framework is deeply informative, but also inspiring and funny. His website is mojtaylor.com
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