As your A-level results slot through your letterbox with an ominous thud on the doormat below, you can feel the butterflies in your stomach performing a trapeze act.
Then, tearing the envelope open like a bear pawing at honey, you feel a strange sense of defeat. No matter what your results, university just seems too damn expensive to attend.
With tuition fees soaring as high as £9,000 at certain universities (with the cost of living added, four years of university could set you back an estimated £30,000), you wouldn’t be the only person with that deflated feeling come results day.
While this hasn’t stopped record numbers of people from deprived areas applying for university – despite a trebling of tuition fees in the past four years – many will be trapped in that pit of debt for at least a few decades, if not their entire lives.
But that doesn’t mean you should set education aside. The rise of the internet has meant that an online degree has become just as convenient as the bricks-and-mortar standard.
The endless appeal of distant learning
The educational equivalent of a ninja, distance learning degrees can send you info in bullet-fast time. It’s not like the olden days, or even just a decade ago, when course materials had to be sent through the post or scoured for in local libraries.
Those olden days are gone, as is the isolation that was once inherent in the practice. Independent study used to mean sitting alone in a musty room, books piled on your desk as you tried to concentrate. It was more like groping in the dark for your degree than following a well-lit path.
Now, instant messengers and virtual learning environments mean that the internet is more akin to an ad-hoc classroom than a dank isolation chamber. You can communicate with tutors and peers with just the ping of an email, letting others help you find the right path for your course projects.
Listening to the people who have taken distance learning courses, the successes seem to be endless. Take MalekZouki from Lebanon, for example. After signing up for a distance learning course in Lebanon, he took a Masters course in operations and supply chain management.
And what happened after graduation? “I had put myself in a very niche position,”claims Zouki, “having a Master’s degree and experience in the field. It helped my career big time, because I got a job with a multinational company in Dubai as the regional sourcing manager for the whole of the Middle East.”
It’s just one success story of many, and it’s enough to make those A-level results seem a little more hopeful.