Connor Gormley Small

A Student's Diary – Applying to University


The world is a big and broad and terrifying place. Its list of possibilities, pleasures and pastimes sometimes reads as a bunch of things that could go horribly, horribly wrong. Why would I want to go to Peru when I could stay at home, playing video games and eating digestive biscuits? Biscuits are sweet. Biscuits are safe. No one gets hurt when you’re eating biscuits.

It’s a dangerous complacence, I know, a flaw that could see me going nowhere with paralysing speed. University, for me then, is more than just a means of eventually getting a job, more than just an excuse to spend the next three years reading old books and more than just an excuse to play video games in a slightly different room; it’s the antidote to that fear.

Because what’s alluring like university? There’ll be new people, new places, new things to do, new books to read, new and wide varieties of digestive biscuits (bought on the cheap, of course), and an approach to learning that excites me to my strange little core. I’ll have the space to form my own opinions, I'll get to frequent expensive libraries dedicated to the stuff I like, and spend three tantalising years studying a subject I adore.

Plus, well, I’m committed now; I shot my UCAS off a little while ago and I’ve got a handful of offers in the bag. All I have to do is pass the exams (no mean feat, I’ll admit) and make sure I don’t die at some point in the summer. Then I’ll be home-free; off studying literature somewhere lovely.

Still, though, I can’t help but feel a pang of terror. If all goes well, I’m heading up North. That means moving away from most of the stuff I’m familiar with. Far away. That means swapping my quiet, unassuming seaside town for the relentless buzz of a major city, it means cooking for myself without having anyone to run to, it means maintaining a façade, however wafer-thin, of self-sufficiency.

University might be the next step, the natural evolution of my A-level studies (English Literature, History and Politics, if you’re interested) but it promises to be very different. And that difference, for all of its potential, is petrifying. But still, I haven’t made it easy on myself; I’m choosing the North. I could stay here, by the coast, I could spend so much time on the beach I sweat fish and chips.

But I won’t. The idea is to use the distance as a launch-pad of sorts, to establish a sense of independence, to make sure I grapple with the world, to rip myself, kicking and screaming, out of my stupor. The best way to deal with fear, I’ve found, is to close your eyes and claw at it until it cries. Not if it’s a person, though. Don’t do that to a person.