Turning Down University for an Apprenticeship - Charlie Hayward’s Story

At the age of 18, most students reach an unavoidable crossroads where they are forced to choose a career path. No matter what your grades are, what industry you’d like to work in, or how certain about your future job you are, this decision is a tough one. University is the right choice for many, and with dozens of fellow students heading down this route, it can often seem like the best path to take. But the conventional route is not always the best route to success.

I turned down an unconditional offer from a Russel Group university to study law to accept an apprenticeship instead - and I don’t regret it one bit. It can be difficult deciding not to go to university, particularly when friends move away to study, but rest assured the benefits of an apprenticeship often outweigh a university degree.

Choosing an apprenticeship over university

At the end of my final year of college, I was dead set on attending university - I had an unconditional offer from Lancaster University, student finance application underway, viewings for accommodation arranged, the lot. I never stopped to consider the alternative options - throughout school I had generally just presumed I’d end up at university to better my career. However, after seeing an advert for a law apprenticeship scheme with Fletchers Solicitors I started to consider a different route to becoming a solicitor.

Admittedly, I was slightly reluctant at first. Not knowing much about apprenticeships, I associated them with less academic and more practical subjects than law. I assumed that a law degree would be viewed more favourably by employers and overall would improve my career. After a family member encouraged me to research the apprenticeship further, I realised that the benefits were undeniable. The apprenticeship meant that I could avoid £52,000 of university debt, earn a degree whilst getting the experience of working in a law firm, and would guarantee that I will become a qualified solicitor. In the end, it was a no brainer.

I am now in the fourth year of the apprenticeship, and have worked for the law firm’s medical negligence brand Patient Claim Line. The benefits of the scheme have held true, and I have avoided any debt over the years, maintained a healthy social life and am much closer to my career goal. In fact, many of my peers have recently graduated from university with law degrees, but are struggling to find work or achieve placements to get their solicitors qualification - I am much further ahead.

Advice for students

It can be hard to know what to look for in an apprenticeship scheme, and how to shine in the interview process. Choosing my apprenticeship was actually an easy decision for me. As Fletchers Solicitors are a local business, I already knew that they had a beaming reputation, and from researching further found that they were one of the UK’s top law firms who had won many awards. Nonetheless, if you’re considering an apprenticeship the top three factors to consider in my opinion are the qualification that you will gain, the fees/payment involved, and the company offering the apprenticeship.

My top tip for interviews and/or training days, is that it’s important to showcase your personality as much as possible. Remember that this company is looking to invest in an individual for a number of years, so it’s crucial that they understand who you are and what you will bring to their organisation. Be personable - provide genuine reasons why their specific scheme is right for you, and what you will bring to the role.

One of the major difficulties that students pursuing an apprenticeship may face (myself included) is the prospect of saying goodbye to friends who move away to study at university. At first, you may worry that you’re missing out, but after you have settled into your new role these feelings will definitely subside. Yes, I did miss my friends, but I found myself travelling around the country most weekends to visit their halls of residence and meet new people. Plus, a new job brings a new social life of its own. I have made close friends through the scheme that I work and study with. It feels like the best of both worlds!

To find apprenticeships in law or across a variety of sectors, click here.


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