University vs. Apprenticeships: Advice from a real apprentice

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After starting out at university, Michaela Hutchinson, Marketing Apprentice at shares her insight into what you really need to consider before undertaking uni or an apprenticeship.

I’m a huge fan of The Apprentice, but after following the programme, it’s fair to say that that the show offers absolutely no advice for apprentices like myself. We’ve seen, how to sell fish shaped pillows and design VR games – but speaking as a Marketing Apprentice at, I feel obliged to offer some real insight to anyone considering to take on a proper apprenticeship since it’s National Apprenticeship Week. 

Just like many other students, I wasn’t convinced on what career path to take, or how I was going to get there. In the end, I decided to go to uni, but after a few weeks, I started to regret my choice. My tipping point was realising that I learned more from hands-on experiences (rather than sitting in a lecture hall falling asleep) leading me to end my time at uni early and take on an apprenticeship instead.

Although I suppose I wasted a bit of time at uni, I left with some very valuable insight to help me figure out the best career path for me. Hopefully, my experience might shed some light for other students facing my choice too, here are my top points to consider before deciding on university or an apprenticeship…

  1. Doing Listening
Blogging on desktop

It’s important to consider how your environment will affect your learning, as, like many other apprentices, I discovered that I gained more from hands-on experiences, rather than sitting in a lecture hall.  For some people, the uni library is a perfect place to study; but if you’re like me, then you’re most probably a kinesthetic learner. This means you’ll find it easier to digest information when it’s is conveyed through demonstrations or physical activities – so might not learn so easily when you’re left alone with a textbook. By becoming an apprentice, you’ll be learning in a kinesthetic way without necessarily knowing it. Every day you’ll pick up new skills, be it through adapting to a professional working environment or tackling a new task set by your manager.

  1. Wage Debt
Money or graduation

Attending university is extremely expensive and can leave you in an average of £44,000 debt. Yes, there are loans (or perhaps family) that can help to lessen the load, but the thought of student debt is one of the main reasons people opt out of going to uni.

Although an apprenticeship comes without debt, I found that the fact that you’re paid for your labour is often overlooked.  People get the wrong impression that you’re paid poorly for an apprenticeship, but there’s a reason that you pay is likely to be lower than the normal living wage. When you take on an apprenticeship, you receive hands-on work experience alongside a more formal education, with your employer covering both the costs of your time at work and your course itself.  This might mean that you don’t have as much disposable cash as your uni mates when loan time comes in – but I’d rather live on a strict budget for a year and leave the debt behind.

  1. Living at home Vs. Living away

 Living at student halls

The one thing I regret about dropping out of uni is the fact that I had to move back home to complete my apprenticeship. Although moving away means you have bills to pay, it’s a great way to develop your independence (and get a sense of freedom without your parents always nagging!). If your heart is set on an apprenticeship, you could think about picking one in another part of the country, but typically it’s easier to cover your costs of living from home instead.  University does offer a much easier ‘stepping stone’ to living on your own (as university accommodation fees can be covered by your student loan) so make sure you factor this into your decision too.

  1. Early mornings Vs. Late nights

 Early Alarm

For apprentices, working nine to five, Monday to Friday, means early nights and early rises. Unlike uni, an apprenticeship won’t have such a flexible timetable and you certainly can’t skip a lecture (or day in the office) to compensate for a night out.  If you have friends who are going to uni, it can be very hard to avoid feeling like you’re missing out on all the fun of freshers parties. It’s very important to stay focused though and remember that you only have a year to make the most of your opportunity and get the grade you want.

  1. Connections Vs. Societies


It may be fun to hang out with people who share the same interests and hobbies as you but making beneficial connections for your future seemed like a better choice to me.  Although society friends might give you relationships to use further down the line, your new job as an apprentice means you’ll instantly be introduced to hundreds, if not thousands of people, who work in your industry. Although you might not meet everyone face to face, the power of email will also help you build connections and develop long-term networks to help you further your career. 


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