That cap and gown just cost me four thousand pounds

Young people have got it bad, and the situation doesn’t look like it's getting any better

Related Topics

Today the BBC asked if young people had ever had it so bad.

Are my generation struggling now more than ever to get a job, find a place to live and escape debt? As a young person I thought I’d be in a decent position to provide a response.

My answer starts on Wednesday the 23 of January. It’s been snowing for weeks and the outside world is one no sane human would wish to enter without several extra layers of thermal clothing. I, however, will be going out there with a suit on accompanied by a ridiculous looking, and highly impractical, cap and gown. Why? Because this day is the day I graduate from my Masters degree.

I decided to do an MA about half way through the final year
of my degree. Like many students I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my career after graduation. I’d made several enquiries to local companies about getting some work experience but the answer was always the same:

‘Thank you for getting in touch. We are not currently recruiting but will keep your name on file for future reference.’

I couldn’t blame them for saying no. After all, what good is a graduate copywriter who can write a few puns and rhymes to most companies when they have hundreds, if not thousands, of other potential recruits all with degrees and all with something else to offer? They can take their pick.

It was then that I realised I had to do more. The idea that a degree was enough to make you stand out above the rest of the crowd was now a lie. I’d been sold a false promise way back in sixth form college, one that may have led to some of the best experiences of my life but had also left me out of work, out of pocket and out of ideas.

I was in a position that thousands of graduates find themselves in every year. The excitement and emotion surrounding the graduation ceremony suddenly evaporates as the dull light of reality shines in and lights up the fact that that we have no money, no real work experience and the same two letters after our names that seemingly everyone else applying for the jobs we want can boast.  Surely an MA would help me stand out?

Unfortunately it isn’t that simple. The MA has simply doubled the amount of letters at the end of my name and made my bank even more unhappy with me. There are jobs out there, the landscape isn’t completely barren, but those jobs expect me to be in a healthy enough financial position to be able to afford to move there to work. They expect me to pay for the deposit on a flat, fork out for that first month’s rent or at the very least buy a season ticket for the train there every day. That just isn’t possible. The graduate overdraft will stretch no more.

Five hours after my ceremony was over I was sitting in the job centre. I wasn’t alone, there were other former students sat around me all wondering where it went wrong. They don’t really care about the letters after your name there, the system is rigid. They just want to know if you’d be willing to work in retail. Believe me, I would be, but my CV is meaningless there. I worked hard throughout my education to get to somewhere completely different leaving me with a niche resume that won’t find the right pile if ever I have to work somewhere else.

So how can this problem be fixed? How can graduates like me turn our £26,000 worth of debt into something positive and ever hope to be in a successful position because of it? The BBC article cites an example from The Financial Times; that a person in their 80’s has a higher standard of living than someone in their 20’s, despite the fact that the younger generation on average have more qualifications, something they did to make their living standard better. It seems not to have worked.

Our degrees can sit proudly on our walls, our parents’ photo albums can be full of glossy photos of us wearing badly fitted caps in front of our university logos, but ultimately that’s the same situation in a lot of homes. Now, more than ever, you have to do something extra to get ahead of the game.

It’s a difficult pill to swallow, especially when we lack the funds to afford the prescription.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions