The Big Dilemma - University or Gap Year

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The thought of university can sometimes seem incredibly daunting. Even when you know exactly what you want to do as a career and have known since you were little, you can still have your doubts. Making such a big decision can take time, time that I don't believe we have enough of. As soon as year 11 begins in the UK you are asked to look at various prospectuses for choosing your A level choices or college choices, I believe at that age your head is somewhere else, meaning no offence to the people reading this that might be in year 11 I just don't believe we should be ready for this kind of choice even if it's just choosing your A levels it's still a big deal and I remember at the age of 15 I had no idea what I wanted to do. Also because my school had a sixth form I was not given the option of college or any other career path, so I followed the crowd and went to sixth form, which ended up being kind of the best years of my school life. As soon as we got to sixth form we were told to start thinking about university, this terrified me because I had just come out of doing my GCSE's and they want me to think about what uni I'm going to ? omg etc. In my first year of Alevels we attended two career meetings about universities and about how beneficial it is to know what uni you want to go to before you apply, I was cowering in a corner at this point I had absolutely no idea. After AS exams were over we were told to start doing uni research over the summer holidays, we were given so many prospectuses which I did find helpful but I knew in my heart of hearts I didn't want to go to. My thought pattern was that if I just picked a random course that seemed enjoyable at the time and get there and hate it and I'd spent all this money on it and then I had to shape my career around it, that would be the worst, so what's the point if I don't even know what to do as a career ? So then on this university day the school told us about I was being asked time and time again why I wasn't doing my uni research and why I hadn't made a choice yet, I tried to tell the staff the reasons but they didn't understand (I'm guessing schools are really into uni's because it reflects back on the school if all their pupils go straight away) I then went home pretty upset that my lack of uni knowledge was frowned upon. The next day I decided that instead of fretting over a university choice (subject and location) I would take a gap year, I would do my research in my own time, when I feel like I am ready and then I shall decide what I want to do as a career. I believe that this was the best decision I made because now I know exactly what I'm doing and I feel a lot more mentally prepared for university than I did last year. 

What I'm trying to say is I believe that schools and sixth forms maybe even colleges, don't like to take in the fact that some of us aren't ready to even think about university at that age, when your're stressed out with exams the last thing you want to think about is whether you'll get in to an already applied for university, my advice is to take a gap year if you still don't know what to do don't go to university for the sake of it or if it's just what your friends are doing. You need to know in yourself that you are mentally ready to take that next step and I really think that schools should be teaching this more. I also think that schools should stop teaching the whole 'if you don't go to university you'll end up unemployed and living on the street etc etc etc' because I know many people that haven't been to university at all and are settled into well paid jobs and feel happier for the lack of dept hanging over them. 

However what I have found out about gap years is there not all what the magz say, during my gap year I took a part time photography course at college because I knew that I would be bored stiff, I then began a very intense job hunt which failed for about a quarter of the year. When I did find a job I aspired to go away to volunteer (what many people do on their gap year) what I didn't think about was the cost of all this. As you can probably tell I didn't go away to volunteer which I thoroughly regret but I just couldn't afford it. Although choosing my gap year was a great decision for me I do regret not doing everything I wanted to, this was just because of money though, so my main advice to you if you are taking a gap year be sure to get a well paid, stable job before sorting out your plans for the year. I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent. 
Anyway I have created some positives and negatives of choosing a gap year:

The Positives of Choosing a Gap Year
  • Having more time with friends- Because some of my friends are younger than me I have been able to spend more time with them before they too go off to uni which is lovely.
  • Spend more time with my boyfriend- If you have been in a long term relationship you may relate. Although Gareth is going to university my gap year has allowed us to spend more time together while he finishes his course at college, many a day has been spent sitting in front of a TV series and eating homemade cakes. Why go to uni when you can have this ? 
  • Gaining more qualifications- Although I didn't really need to go to college to do photography I thought it would be a great opportunity to expand the skills in my hobby. Also try and wipe away that D I got in Alevel art oops!  
  • Allowing you more time to think about the future- This is the most important for me. Having no idea on what to do can be stressful and being on my gap year has allowed me to ventilate my thoughts and choose a well thought out career path. 
  • Saving up money and working full time- Although this hasn't happened to me because of the area I live in  and unemployment etc a gap year is one of the most important times to save up a little at a time it will really help if you do go to uni when you are left with a loan that gives you no money for food. 
  • Experiencing new things- Although I didn't get to volunteer abroad I did get to volunteer locally which is just as rewarding also my gap year has allowed me to go off on short breaks with Gareth and see more of the place I live in.  

The Negatives of Choosing a Gap Year 

  • Boredom- If you can't find a full time job during your gap year you may spend a lot of time on your own with nothing to do due to all your friends being at school, college, work or uni. However this is a great time to gain a new skill e.g a musical instrument (I'm currently trying to learn the guitar pretty badly) 
  • Unemployment- If you live in a small county like me there probably will be an increase in unemployment in your area, even when you do get a job they could be very short hours and in a gap year it's frustrating because you have all this time that could be spent earning money. All I have to say to this is just keep applying, keep popping into the place you want to work, just keep persuading until they are sick of you and give you the job! haha 
  • Impatience- If you're like me and have a sudden epiphany and decide what you want to do with your life, you then have to wait a year until you get to go to uni. However you should know that this is what you signed up for and the year will be over pretty soon. And while you wait you can get everything sorted and get excited about the new things that are coming your way. 

Well I hope this post is helpful to some of you, if it is be sure to leave a comment about your experiences I would love to hear about them. 

And remember when choosing that big decision whether to go to uni, you know that you can take your time, don't rush such an important choice you may regret it. 

see you all soon 



  1. Great post! I struggled for months and end trying to decided whether I should go to uni this september or take a gap year, in the end I've decided to go to uni this september and go travelling once I've finished! x

    1. That's a great idea. Going to uni first gives you time to save up money for travelling and it's a nice thing to do for a break once you've finished your course :} x

  2. I wish gap years were a thing we did in the states. I regret going straight to university because I didn't have time to really figure out what I wanted to study. Also its hard to travel while in school and I really wish I could travel! Great post! It really showed how you thought it all out! xx
    Rena Kiss and Make Up

    1. I didn't know that gap years weren't a thing over there, I thought that's where the idea came from. It's good to know that not just England through their school pupils into deep water too early, I hope that your course turned out okay in the end. And maybe you should start saving up for travelling now and then hopefully you'll get to go where you want when you finish :} Thank you for the lovely feedback it means a whole lot :} x

  3. I completely agree, It's too much of a big decision to start making in year 11, It really stressed me out thinking about it all!
    - Grace

    1. Exactly it's just too soon to allow teens to make that kind of decision when they don't even know what career path to take !