Don't go to university if you're unsure

Last updated 05:00 28/01/2013

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My high school was very poor in telling me early on what I could do in seventh form, and what I couldn't.

Long story short, I stopped school after sixth form because there were not enough subjects to pick in seventh form, as I did subjects that stopped after sixth form. I tried to move in to other subjects, but they refused as I hadn't done them in fith and sixth form. So, I left.

I went to the local polytech, while still living at home (and later flatting), to study for a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. I started when I was 16 years old.

After two and a half years, through people I met through the diploma, I managed to get a job as a trainee mechanical designer.

I have now been here two and a half years, and am now a mechanical designer on a decent wage, and am effectively the main designer on several large projects.

Being in the workforce for this time has been invaluable; I have met so many more people in different companiesand in different roles, which has lead to job offers coming my way pretty much from word of mouth. I have a good idea of what different engineers do, and what avenues each sort of engineer can go down in the future.

In two weeks I move to Christchurch to study Chemical and Process Engineering at Canterbury University. I have chosen this degree as I now know what exactly it involves. When I was studying mechanical engineering I didn't mind it, it's what mechanical engineers do in the real-world that doesn't interest me that much.

Chemical and Process is the type of engineering that most appeals to me. A bonus is that work has kindly offered to help me pay for my degree, and I will pretty much be a guaranteed job doing what I'm studying, during the holidays, and after I've graduated.

I now know that if I stayed and completed seventh form, just to try and get University Entrance, I would have messed around as I would have had no idea what I wanted to do. I have not stopped studying at any time; after my diploma I studied an Advanced Diploma of Plant Engineering through an engineering school in Perth, and am nearly finished.

If I could give any advice, it would be that if you're not sure what you want to do, go to a company that does what you think you would like to do, and ask them what qualifications you need to get in to which role.

Get them to explain the roles so you better understand them. They may say you only need a certificate to get a foot in the door; so start from the bottom and get a better understanding of the industry, then make a decision.

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Unfortunately, many people coming fresh out of university with degrees are starting off as trainees, working under me for many jobs, for less money.

When I finish, I'll be 25, with a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, Advanced Diploma in Plant Engineering, and a Degree in Chemical and Process Engineering (with Hons), as well as having two-and-a-half-years' experience. My student loan will be small as work is paying for most of it (and I've saved up money over these two years). I still know many people in the industry that I know would be interested in hiring me, and if worst comes to the worst, I still would have an enjoyable job available to me, doing what I'm doing now.

Don't go to uni because everyone else is; go because you want to study and work in a field that you're passionate about, or else you'll regret it later on. I can guarantee it.

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