Why I... skipped university despite having obtained good A-level results

August 13, 1999

Charlotte Whittaker. Investment management assistant in Exeter. She obtained three As and a B at A level two years ago, aged 18.

I had been offered a place on a joint course in film studies and American studies at the University of East Anglia. But even before my results came through I had decided against it. At the time I wanted to work in films - possibly directing, possibly acting. But all the courses I could find were happy to try to turn me into Barry Norman but not into Meryl Streep.

At the time, I felt a bit of a social leper for not going. But it was the right move. So many of my friends seemed to be going to university just because they did not know what they wanted to do and were putting off the decision for three years.

Student loans had just come in and I would have needed to take out a full one. I thought: "Do I really want to spend three years of my life ending up about Pounds 15,000 in debt?" I have to admit that living like a student just does not appeal either.

I do not think I am missing out. I left home a month after I got a job, I have independence and I am getting qualifications. Exeter is a university town, lots of my friends are students and quite a few are living at home to save money.

I have not ruled out university. My problem two years ago was I could not find a course that excited me. At some stage I could see myself going down the Open University route - perhaps in computing or something in the production side of films.

People are beginning to say: "Oh, you didn't go to university, why not?" I try to explain and most understand. So many people are going to university who ten years ago would not have thought of it. In many ways that is good, but I also think, why?

With student loans, I believe in the next few years it is going to get a lot easier to explain why you have decided not to go. I would still like to end up in the media, but probably with a different set of skills. And learning about money, as I am doing now, will certainly not close any doors.

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