To Learn Or To Live?


Whenever students come upon the crossroad in their life where they have to make a decision about what to study at college or university, people find it very easy to advise them with the words “do what you enjoy.” This is of course great advice but there are a few things which can make it impossible to act upon.

In today’s economic climate, the freedom for students to pursue whatever they want can be restricted by the financial situation they find themselves in. This has been exacberated by the recent increase in University fees across the UK as well as the ever soaring price of education around the world.

Take for example, students who come from a poorer background. They have been brought up with the daily pressure to find enough money to survive, facing restrictions on what they can do, buy and experience. This weighs down their outlook on life and makes it appear bleak as their focus is on money which is why they are likely to place careers that are more financially rewarding above ones which they truly enjoy.

This also explains to some extent why many parents declare their child’s career before they can even speak! “My son is going to become a doctor. My daughter will be a lawyer.” We all know this is ridiculous but the reason why some parents do this is because they have experienced how difficult life can be when money is tight. Therefore, when a teenager feels like pursuing a non-traditional career path where a high-wage job is not guaranteed, they face barriers in the form personal doubt and family.

When my English class were asked as to why they are going to university, the majority replied because they wanted to get a good job in the future and not primarily because they enjoy the subject. Some people may say that this should not be the objective but the reality of today’s economy sadly makes this the pragmatic approach. Teenagers are constantly told that jobs are hard to find, that money is important and so they are sometimes forced to sacrifice personal happiness for what they think will result in a better future.

So what can be done to help address this issue? Well firstly, attitudes need to change towards student’s and the choices they make. This is of course difficult as traditional thinking such as being a doctor, engineer or lawyer are the only things to aspire to is rooted in people’s minds. Even a Professor from Oxford University told me how his family wanted him to go into the scientific field rather than the humanities, luckily he did not bow to their pressure. Only with this change in attitude will teenagers develop the confidence to pursue whatever they love.

Secondly, there needs to be more confidence in the job market. If teenagers can see that there are jobs waiting for them once they graduate, the worry about studying a particular subject just because there are more opportunities in the field would vanish. This is of course easier said than done but the government needs to do something about it. Currently, they are focussing hugely on science and maths but the humanities are being neglected. Furthermore, the higher tuition fees mean students are being given only one chance to study as a second go would mean even more debt. This is curbing exploration and thus is a restriction on student’s lives.

How do you feel about the choices students make? Should they pursue what they want or should they go for careers that will leave them financially secure? The dilemma is what exactly is meant by being financially secure? For many, it merely means being able to live a comfortable life, free from the worry about paying your bills or being extremely restrictive when it comes to spending. For others it goes a step further and includes being able to buy a house, a luxury car and perhaps a holiday or two a year. Whatever the case, students face a problem when it comes to making choices about their future and something needs to be done about it

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8 thoughts on “To Learn Or To Live?

  1. Too true. In school when we have careers advice and all that stuff, it’s encouraging to be assured that doing what we want, and what we enjoy, will make us feel better and all in the long run, but the financial aspects – I personally feel – are too overpowering. Merely telling us sometimes isn’t enough to believe that we shouldn’t choose for the money. But then, how can we obtain employment, and a stable future? Gah! Growing up is too immense for my teenage brain. I’ve tried tackling this before but oh, is it frustrating! Shame how I’m hard to convince. -_-

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    • Yes, the advice we get in school seems like it just wraps reality in cotton wool. I think we just need to be told and given proof that there will be a comfortable life waiting for us whichever path we choose. A decent job with a decent wage, surely that would be enough to tempt students to study something they enjoy? At the moment, we aren’t even getting those assurances.

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      • Oh no, I do think you have missed one of my points. You seem we do get assurance, well..in my experience, I’ve had great careers advice so far.
        But it’s believing it. That’s all it we need. Goodness knows how it’ll happen..but I think I’m close.
        Although, yes. This isn’t true in all cases, which is the biggest problem.

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      • Oops I wasn’t clear enough. The advice we get in school is great but when we look at the world and think to ourselves, we feel it can’t be true. So yes as you say, believing in the advice we are given is difficult which is why the factors that cause doubt need to be removed such as negative sterotypes regarding certain careers and fears over future job opportunities.

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