Almost two years ago I had just finished my last A-Level exam and had no intentions of getting a degree or studying any further. I really thought I was done with education. But approximately two weeks after I had left sixth form, I decided I actually missed studying (something I never thought I would say!) and I decided maybe university might be the path for me after all. But the idea of moving away, having to make new friends and not being able to work at my job was something that terrified the life out of me, and I knew I couldn’t do it. My mum was actually the one who brought up the Open University, I’d always known that it existed, but I had never even considered it as an option for me.
I was disappointed to realise that the Open University had never been mentioned by any members of staff when I was at sixth form. I thought the only option was to move far away to a university that I didn’t even want to go to. I think it is so important for schools to speak to students all their options and not make it seem like there is a one size fits all path for life, because there’s certainly not!
It was the ideal situation, keeping my part-time job, not losing touch with any friends and not having to move out aged 18. I’m now nineteen, in my second year of study with the OU and couldn’t be happier with my decision.
However, being a young OU student comes with its challenges. Hearing my friends’ stories about university did make me have my doubts about whether I did the right thing; I could have a whole new friendship group, be out partying every weekend in cheap student clubs, and living with like-minded people in a student house. But then I remember all of the pros that come with Open University and how I am managing to work and earn money alongside studying for my degree. I am in the comfort of my home, living with my family and I still manage to go out every weekend and live the stereotypical university student lifestyle with my friends who also haven’t moved away to university.
Being a young distance learner can be daunting. I faced judgements from my peers who were moving away to university and they thought I was crazy for wanting to stay at home and study. Even some of my work colleagues who aren’t students would question how I would motivate myself to get a degree from my bedroom (I had to inform them I will be getting up every day and not just doing work in my duvet). I would even find myself not wanting to bring up my degree or studying because I was too scared of facing judgement for my decision to be a distance learner.
I think the Open University is great route for young people to take however, I would never try to persuade someone who’s thinking about moving away for university, it can be a great experience and be exactly what some young people need to kickstart their adult lives. It’s all about what is best for you.
If I had to give one piece of advice to a young person thinking about studying with the Open University, I would say 100% do it!! And remember is not for others to judge what is right for you. There are so many benefits to distance learning and it’s definitely not as scary and daunting as it first seems. There is plenty of support available to you, this could be your family and friends, the student support team, your tutor group forum or your tutor. It is a fantastic opportunity and I am so glad I wasn’t pressured by my peers and teachers to do something different.