I choose NOT to go to university — a Talking Points lesson for English reading and speaking

Many ESL students are on the path to going to university. For many students this path is preordained and is practically carved in stone. There may be no choice whether they want to go to college or not – they must go.

This is a lesson plan about choosing to not go to college, to reject higher education and to walk another path in life.

As so many ESL students have this choice made for them, I have found this to be an interesting topic to discuss in the English class. You may find that discussion and debate could become heated as there could be a difference of opinion.

This lesson plan comes with a short reading article, a list of essential vocabulary and a huge selection of questions. You don’t need to prepare anything. Just print the lesson and off you go.

Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!





Do you want to go to university? Why/why not?

Do your parents want you to go to university?

What if you told them you do not wish to go?




In the last twenty years, going to university has no longer been a choice but an obligation.

Many young people believe that if they don’t go to university, they cannot get a good job — or any job at all come to that. This is made all the worse by employers making serious demands of young job hunters. These companies HR departments insist on all employees being a college graduate in possession of at least one degree, some expecting applicants to have a Master’s degree too.

Is this reasonable to make these demands of young people?

They often graduate from college saddled with a huge debt — one they may not pay off for many many years.

Is this any way to start adult life?

Because of this, many young people are now turning their back on college. They regard it as a vast expense that could be unnecessary.

Then there are the kinds of things students are expected to learn in university. It is no longer a place where a student simply gains knowledge and gains different opinions and ideas.

Nowadays students are expected to conform to certain ideologies that the college promotes. This has been met with much cheering from most of the students but some have decided that this style of thinking is not needed in a college environment.

And for over twenty years now, students have access to one of the most incredible libraries of information the world has ever known — the internet.

Why bother going to an expensive college with no guarantee of a job when you can learn pretty much any skill you want online?

There is a ton of free information available to all students, teaching them anything they want to learn — from languages to computer programming to website design. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for there are now thousands of online accredited courses offered by top universities.

Many of these courses are even free.

Before the internet people looked down on these kinds of classes — they were known as correspondence courses and regarded as inferior to real college classes. But no longer.

With all this free information available, younger people are now seeing opportunity elsewhere. The chance to learn skills without having to buy the Kool-Aid plus doing it at a very reasonable fee in their own time.

This could be a real wake-up call for many colleges as more and more students take this route.


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Or if you prefer, you can buy the lesson plan here — I Choose Not To Go To University/gumroad




Essential Vocabulary



job hunters





saddled with

huge debt

pay off





no guarantee


looked down on

correspondence courses



wake-up call



Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebook—a small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

“I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”




  1. What do you think about students deciding not to go to university? Is this a good idea? Or a huge risk?
  1. Is university too expensive in your country? Why is it so?
  1. Should university be free for everyone? Justify your claims and explain to the class.
  1. Is university a place to have your ideas and thoughts challenged? Or a place where we all share the same thinking? Tell the class what your views are on this.
  1. Should employers demand that all job applicants hold a degree? What jobs require a degree? What jobs require no degree?
  1. What incentives can colleges offer students to attend their classes?
  1. Can young people really learn any kind of skill or knowledge online? How can they?
  1. What kind of things can only be learned in a college environment?
  1. Have any of you attended college? Or attending college? What do you like about it? What do you hate about it?
  1. Are college teachers doing a good enough job teaching younger people? Explain your reasons to the class.


Teacher’s Notes


This topic may be met with absolute disbelief in some places as it could be the ultimate dream to attend university. I think most Asian students would like to go to college.

Also in this lesson I talk about certain ideas that western students are expected to learn. I am playing devil’s advocate here to encourage debate and discussion.



How did it go? Was this lesson useful in your class?

Let me know in the comments below!



Download this complete lesson plan today by joining my mailing list — ManWrites Mailing List

Or if you prefer, you can buy it here — university/gumroad

4 thoughts on “I choose NOT to go to university — a Talking Points lesson for English reading and speaking”

  1. It’s a very good topic and a critical point for students to consider, especially in the face of university costs, student debts as you mention and the changes in job needs making many current jobs, obsolete.

    Unfortunately there are three disadvantages for students who chose not to go to university:

    1. They may be swimming upstream and having a hard time getting employment in their culture.

    2. If you get a good liberal arts education at the university by taking required courses you might otherwise not take, it expands your ‘whole’ education which gives you a ‘life’ base for whatever you study. whereas when you only specialize in your career interest, you limit your life knowledge.

    3. To study on your own, requires a lot of self-discipline which many students, who are used to doing what they are told, don’t have. If they don’t have a strong entrepreneurial nature, they may be better off with ‘guided’ instruction followed by job finding support.

    1. You are totally right in terms of a lack of university education making it difficult to find a job. The job market now is such that the most basic entry jobs require a degree – some may require a post-grad too. This needs to be addressed as it makes expensive college fees a necessity for a good life.

      And I agree 100% with your third point too. How many young people have the drive and enthusiasm required to study on their own? I think it is fine in theory but in practice may be an entirely different matter. Usually young people require mentoring.

      Hopefully, these are points that can also be raised in more discussion in the class.

      Thanks for the comment Leona. Good stuff as always.

  2. I strongly believe that life skills, and the ability to do everyday things related to our, home, food, belongings, and living conditions is a must and far outweighs university study. I think that all schools should teach health, and life skills before students ever get to the university. We are graduating students that don’t know how to drive a nail or plant a seed or would die if left in the wilderness for two days. This is wrong pre-university education!

    1. This is a very valid point. I think colleges and schools are teaching things today that may be unnecessary for the student’s life. Teach life skills instead of certain ideologies – that is my opinion. The students can find out about all the other things in life as they live their life. No need to be instructed on these matters.

      And college in particular should be a place to have your ideas challenged. This is starting to show itself in the number of colleges that are closing down due to a lack of enrollment from new students.

      Great points, Leona! Many thanks!

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