Attending A Good University Might Not Make You Any Happier In The Long Run

A poll of graduates in American found that an individual's experience of university is much more important than where they go


by Rebecca Holman |
Published on

Who else remembers desperately scanning hundreds of university course brochures as you filled out your UCAS form, trying to work out how far up the university league table your predicted grades would take you?

Well, it turns out all that anxiety over getting into politics at Bristol may have been a total waste of time. A recent poll of 3000 American graduates conducted by Gallup and Purdue University revealed that it was the individual’s experience of university, rather than the prestige of the institution they attended that had the most impact on their work life and wellbeing after graduation.

It makes sense - if you attend a total party college, have an amazing time and make loads of friends, then you’re bound to look back more fondly on your university experience than someone who spent three years sitting in a cold library not talking to anyone. 'I'm not surprised by that at all,' says Jo - a masters student with an undergraduate degree from Cambridge. 'It's not that people don't have fun there - but I had worked so hard to get to Cambridge, I didn't feel like I could slack off and waste all that work once I was in, so I got my head down, and as a result, never made any particularly good friends. That probably wasn't everyone's experience, but equally, there were plenty of people there like me.'

However, getting a job after university would, you assume, also improve your wellbeing, and common wisdom tells us that the better the university you attend, the more likely you are to get that dream job after you graduate. But again it looks like that’s another fallacy.

Recent research shows that the top universities for graduate employment are actually Nottingham and Manchester, which come 24th and 25th respectively in the Times Good University Guide. Which isn't a surprise to Sara, 25, who studied english at Durham because she thought it would make her more employable - only to spend two years after university job hunting. 'Everyone on my course had more money than me, no-one was in the same boat at all, which made me miserable. But I though because I was going somewhere that was 'the best' it would all pay off in the end. The reality is, it took me longer to find work than friends who'd done vocational courses at much less prestigious universities, and I still don't get paid anywhere near as much as they do now.'

For anyone at, or about to head to uni, it’s certainly food for thought. And for the rest of us? Well, we can finally stop agonising over how different our lives would have been if we hadn’t got that D in French...

Follow Rebecca on Twitter @rebecca_hol

Picture: Getty

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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