Considering a Gap Yah?
The decision to take a year away from your studies can be one of the most daunting, yet powerful choices you can make as a young adult. It may seem like you are straying from the norm or even ‘wasting time’ but the skills and experiences you can develop during a gap year – if used wisely - can really shape your future. Unfortunately, due to a viral YouTube video a few years ago, ‘Gap Yah’, gap years have got a little bit of bad press recently. However, we are convinced that under certain circumstances, taking some extra time before committing to a minimum three-year degree can be incredibly beneficial. So how can you tell if a gap year is for you? Below are six different situations where taking time away from academia could significantly improve your experience with further education:
Uncertainty.If there are a few courses you are interested in but you are not yet ready to commit to one fully, it could be useful to have a gap year to help you decide which discipline or speciality you would be best suited for. A gap year would allow you to spend time researching the finer details of each course and maybe even allow you to participate in a few taster lectures, online courses or work experience so that you can make more of an informed decision when the time comes. Aside from the academic challenges associated with tertiary education, starting a degree anywhere in the world is an enormous financial commitment so you need to make sure you are confident and happy with your decision. In time you will find a degree you are fascinated by and really can’t wait to start, this is the point when you know you are ready to commit.
Grades. Maybe you have your heart set on one particular university or college and no other course will quite live up to this. Unfortunately, sometimes your predicted or achieved grades may not quite make the mark to secure you an offer from that university, but do not be disheartened as all is not lost. Opportunities such as ‘clearing’ help you to have a second chance at applying to study your particular degree but not necessarily at the university that captured your heart. If this is the case, take time away and reapply. You can either reapply with your awarded grades, or if you are not satisfied that they reflect your understanding and knowledge then why not consider retaking your exams? We have helped many students who missed their offer by a point/grade or two and with a new sense of focus and determination most of them achieve even higher than they thought possible when resitting their exams. On the other end of the spectrum, if you achieve higher than your predicted grades and want to apply to a more challenging university then this is also something that a gap year can help you to arrange. There are programs that will help you connect with more prestigious schools, for example in the UK you can use spring board, however these programs are only available if the course has places still available. If this is not the case you can opt to take a gap year where you can reapply to your higher band universities already armed with your fantastic grades. You will have a heightened sense of security as you have awarded not predicted grades and, in most cases, universities should give you unconditional offers (interviews and entrance exams dependent). Again, this is something we have consulted many students on and as a result they have been accepted into some of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Maturity. At Feynman Education, we are huge advocates of the idea that there should be no rush with your education. Age does not matter at university. Whilst studying my undergrad we had many mature students who thrived! One gentleman had run an incredibly successful business for many decades and during his retirement had decided to pursue his passion for astrophysics. So why the rush? University is a manifold for people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures – they are one of the most diverse places you will ever experience. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to attend university after they complete high school and some just might not have the inclination at that particular stage in their lives. This is absolutely no bad thing. Waiting for some time before committing to your degree can really help you to refine your specialism and find your passion. By deciding to take some time away from academia and throwing yourself into some new life experiences, you will inevitably gain more confidence and maturity which will be hugely beneficial when starting further education.
Experience. A gap year can provide you with some life changing experiences; whether this is in a professional setting, the service industry, volunteering in any capacity or fundraising. Every experience you undertake will be different and each one will arm you with a new set of skills that will help you to thrive, not only at university but also with all future employment. You will quickly realise that completing just a few weeks of ‘work experience’ or following an internship will not mean you develop every essential skill to work in that discipline. However, it certainly will give you a much greater understanding of the industry as a whole and potentially help you to realise which area you find the most interesting. The transition between school and university can be challenging in many aspects, but academically, one of the most significant differences you will notice is the undeniably high expectations of your lecturers. By using your gap year to develop independence and proficiencies, such as time management, prioritisation and problem solving, when faced with these challenges later on you will be much more readily prepared.
Volunteer. Has there ever been a better time for you to give back? Assisting with a community development, focusing on helping one individual, joining a conservation project, helping at an animal shelter - volunteers are required at every corner you turn. From as close to home as your neighbours or as far away as a new continent, the value of volunteering and the impact you can have is immeasurable. Think about a field you feel passionately about helping and find a volunteer project where you can actively contribute to this– it could be helping the homeless, an education outreach project, a local community centre, the elderly, an animal protection/extinction program or global warming. By volunteering you learn to value what you have and empathise with those in different circumstances to your own. Make a meaningful contribution to society and you will forever reflect back on this period with pride and a sense of accomplishment. "Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts." - Albert Einstein
Travel. If you are looking to travel and immerse yourself in new cultures before beginning a new chapter of your life (and really, who isn’t?!) then a gap year is a fantastic way of doing this. This can go hand in hand with our previous point about volunteering, or you can travel for the purpose of gaining knowledge, understanding and new experiences. Travelling is a huge privilege and something we can take for granted in the 21st century. If you would like to spend some time away from academia travelling, I would really recommend completing some fundraising in order to do so, this could be anything from getting a job for a few months to completing some challenges for a sponsorship. By earning your own money to travel you will really develop a greater understanding of the value of money and feel incredibly proud that you have managed to experience this adventure due to your own hard work. Travelling does not necessarily need to mean overseas, you should also take time to discover places within your own region and home country – whatever your budget allows. Any form of travel will require you to budget. This might be your first experience of budgeting or you may have been doing so for many years, whichever category you fall into, any experience with budgeting before university is hugely beneficial. Financial independence is both exhilarating and intimidating but the more experience you have in this department before leaving home, the less likely you are to splurge when you really don’t have the means. Whenever you travel, either with or without your family, you need to adjust to the culture and environment around you – step away from the French fries and embrace the local cuisine! Socialising with individuals from different cultural, educational and social backgrounds to yourself is a vital skill for university, so having some experience in this department before you get there can really help you to feel more comfortable and improve your social skills and understanding.
So with all things considered, maybe a gap year is the right option for you? If you are not sure how to take a gap year as you have already had offers made by universities then you can contact them for a deferred acceptance. This means that your place is secured for the following academic year and therefore there is no need to reapply or take any additional entrance papers from this point. Win - win!
If you are considering this path then really think about HOW you will use this time. You might not ever get an opportunity such as this again so really try to make every moment count. Challenge yourself and exceed your own expectations.