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Reclaiming the label - Uni ‘Dropout’

Having dropped out of University not once, but twice in my life, it’s something that I’ve tried to own rather than be ashamed of. Everyone has their own story, let me talk you through mine;

The First Try

I first attended University when I was 18, as most do. Honestly, I thought it was my only option after college. In September, I moved to Leeds but within the first three months, ended up experiencing my first bout of bad mental health. My anxiety spiked severely and I practically lived in my room; almost having panic attacks whenever I went to step into my lecture theatre.

During a meal celebrating my 19th Birthday, I told my family that I wanted to leave and in a few weeks, I was back at home in Salford. I started working at the Lowry Theatre and after a year and a bit, I felt myself again. My confidence was back up, I saw so many of my High School friends and even colleagues loving Uni life. So, I thought I’d give it another go.

Uni during Covid

This time, it was Edge Hill in Ormskirk, a smaller town, a new course, new people. The first six months of my year were amazing; I made great friends, enjoyed my lectures, went out into Liverpool and spent up my maintenance loan on clothes hauls and vodka (and some books, of course). I celebrated my 21st birthday, very happy with the way my life was going. Then boom, Covid restrictions hit. We were sent off campus, shouting “See you in a few weeks!” to our flatmates and feeling a bit smug that we’d all be receiving extensions on our deadlines.

The reality of lockdown really hit when I lost one of my childhood friends to suicide and from then my mental health spiralled. I passed my first year of Uni but online lectures and lack of support from professors meant that eventually I’d have to redo some of my second year modules. But ultimately, I was miserable. The course that I once loved was starting to feel like it was trapping me - squeezing any remaining love I had for creative writing out of me, drop by drop.

Once again, I made the decision to leave University. This time I felt like an even bigger failure than the last; my mental health was worse than it had ever been, I’d drifted away from many of my Uni friends because of it and now I was back at home, nearly 23, with no degree and no job. And even though I knew in my heart that it was the right decision; to me, there would always be people who would see me as a quitter, unmotivated and undetermined. And, honestly, I felt like a disappointment.

‘The Best Years of Your Life’

It’s easy to misunderstand those who have left higher education, especially when you had a good University experience - which is what we’re all told it will be. ‘University will be the best years of your life’ doesn’t always ring true. Speaking to people around me, there seems to be a general consensus that this phrase can ultimately be damaging, creating the feeling to those who don’t attend Uni that they’re ‘missing out’ or even to those who are struggling that it’s simply something wrong with them.

For some, University can be seen as the only ‘logical’ route from college/sixth form, with so much time spent on UCAS workshops and personal statements; so anyone who strays this course or does decide that Uni isn’t for them, can feel looked down upon or judged by those who can’t see how much peoples experience in Higher Education can differ.

Finding Juice

I’d actually never even considered an apprenticeship until I was searching for a new job after leaving Edge Hill. It was always painted, to me anyway, as an option for those who didn't pass their A-Levels, or only for people who struggled academically. And this obviously is not the case.

Life is aboutits twists and turns and I am a believer of the phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’ so I have no regrets about my decisions but there will always be a tiny part of me that wonders where I would be if I had been if I had known about Juice Academy when I was 18.

I am so grateful that I am now in a career that I love and that learning on the job has been such a positive experience for me. I have made friends for life in my cohort and I have never been under any impression that I would be left to struggle with work, deadlines or even my EPA in my time with the Juice Academy. I haven’t actually enjoyed education so much since being in High School, it has been such a refreshing experience (juice-related pun intended).

To end, I’ll speak to those who are thinking about leaving University. You know what's best for you, and you’re not alone. There are plenty of us dropouts out there - and you can thrive in an amazing career without that degree, I promise.

Izzy Watson, Cohort 34, Digital Content Marketing Apprentice at Scoop PR


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