Didn’t get into uni? It’s not the end of the world

You should know by now whether or not you’re going to uni this month.

If you are, you’ll be buying Sainsbury’s Basics penne, 5 tog duvets, and pans that you will never see again once you leave halls, in preparation for the year ahead. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking, and hopefully you’re going to have a brilliant few years.

If you’re not, there’s a million ways you might be feeling. For some, it’s a time to rejoice that you never have to buy stationery or listen to adults tell you what to do ever again… And good for you lucky carefree few. For others, though, your mind can’t help but start worrying that you’re not on track, and comparing yourself to those who are heading to uni.

Being totally and completely honest with you, that feeling will probably never leave you fully. We all suffer from imposter syndrome growing up, and it has nothing to do with what you have or haven’t achieved. I’ve met CEOs who think they just stumbled into the boardroom by accident, and magazine editors who are fully convinced they don’t know how to write.

What matters is what you do with the time you won’t be spending at uni. Here are just some of the options available to you.

Day-job (with optional side hustle)

If you have a passion, but don’t have rich parents to fund it, you’ll need something to pay the bills. Who cares what that is; retail, hospitality, or admin. I’ve always found that it’s the people that make the job, so get the cash and spend your evenings and weekends making cool shit. If you choose to monetise that, you should reach out to someone higher up in a similar field and see if you can buy them a coffee in exchange for their wisdom.

Remember, too, it’s okay to not want to monetise your hobbies, and just be happy in a job you feel comfortable with. It doesn’t get said enough, but sometimes it’s like there’s so much pressure to get ahead, we sacrifice our mental health and what we actually want in return. You’re allowed to just be happy being you.


These aren’t as common as they once were but are a particularly good way for young women to get into stereotypically ‘male’ jobs in STEM industries. There are also plenty of creative apprenticeships at the likes of the BBC or in digital marketing.

The main up side of this is obviously that you get paid while you get your qualification and if you pass everything there’s usually a guaranteed job at the end of it. No student debt for you, you lucky thing.

For details of apprenticeships in Scotland look here, or for England here.

Starting from the bottom

You want to be a buyer for a brand you love? Start in store and learn the ropes. Do any special projects or tasks available to get yourself noticed, and work your way up. You could go in through store management or visual merchandising, or you could find you actually love the customer service side of things on your journey. Similar pathways are available regardless of your job choice.

The decent money should mean you can fly the nest if that’s what you want to do, and you’re getting real-world experience every single day (something many graduates down the line won’t have). Let them know you’re planning on staying and moving up at the interview, as it’ll show you’re worth hiring, training, and developing long-term.

Study in a different way

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You might not be done learning yet, so you need to know that uni isn’t the only way to do this. Specialist schools (like The Academy of Makeup in Glasgow) cater for niches that don’t always require the same qualifications as universities.

Think about the skills in the career you want that you can’t teach yourself. For me that was shorthand (which I still haven’t learned, OOPS) and for others it’s an industry standard certificate that you need to get. This will possibly cost you, but check with the institution first because you might be eligible for grants or bursaries.

Start a proper business

Eep, this one is proper scary. It helps to have something you know works and you’re good at, as well as some basic business knowledge.

There’s far too much to go into here, as you’ll need to think about everything from taxes to insurance to legal, but this government page should get you started.

Do whatever the hell you want

Take a gap year, take up knitting, take a damn break if that’s what you need. Nobody feels young while they still are but, trust me, I notice you lot are young when I’m stood next to you in the club. You’re gonna be around for a while, which means you can decide to change or stay the same for however long it makes you happy.

The best part of uni is fresher’s week anyway, so get yourself a bottle of cheap pinot and get to your mate’s halls to soak it up. You’re not missing out, and you’ll have a three/four year head start on your pals in the workplace – and in terms of graduate anxiety you are on the safe side!

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