Students considering sponsorship through university are warned by careers advisers to consider the commitment required.
Nowhere is the commitment demanded so great as with the armed forces, though the financial rewards are equally great. Those who gain an Army cadetship through university will receive around Pounds 7,600 during their first year at university, rising to Pounds 10,700 in the final year, in return for a six-week posting every summer and a minimum of five years' service after being commissioned.
Alternatively, students can opt for Army bursaries which pay out Pounds 500 per term and can be applied for during the course of a degree, so long as the student has one year left before graduating. Bursaries require students to spend three years as a commissioned officer after graduation.
Although around 200 bursaries are available nationally, only about 30 students are taken on as cadets.
Daniel Byles has been climbing mountains in Bolivia this summer and is due to row across the Atlantic next summer. He has wanted to be an Army officer since boyhood and revels in the physical and leadership opportunities that his cadetship offers. An economics and management student at Leeds University, he believes freedom from student poverty and the certainty of a job at the end of his degree has made all the difference to his experience of university.
He said: "Quite a lot of my friends are struggling to find work during term-time and during holidays to pay off debts. They spend time when they should be revising for finals sending off job applications.
"I have no money problems as such, though my overdraft is probably higher than anyone I know. I eat out a lot and have holidays abroad every year. There are so many clubs at university and things are relatively cheap. It's just sad that so few students can take advantage of them.
"The Army provides one of the few jobs in the world where you can walk out of university and have 30 men under your care almost immediately. It is a heavy responsibility which appeals to me."
Giles Nightingale, currently in his first year of the Civil Service fast stream, was sponsored through his Oxford history degree as a Royal Navy cadet, paid around Pounds 16,000 in his final year. Six months after leaving university he realised the Navy was not for him and left, a decision which required him to pay back the cost of his university tuition fees and uniform allowance, a total of Pounds 15,300.
He said: "As I settled down into university, I began to understand myself more. I was enjoying my thinking life and didn't like being wrenched away from it. I enjoyed not being short of money but I was prudent . . . I managed to save a few thousand which has helped towards paying back the debt.
"A bursary is much more appropriate for those who are really interested in the subject of their degree. If you are outgoing and want to do something very different then a cadetship can be a good idea."