As many students across the U.K embark upon their A-level studies (or indeed highers for those in Scotland), there comes the daunting task of selecting UCAS choices for entry into University. Whilst for many this will come as an easy task, choosing a career and set University pathway from as early as 16, others may find themselves uncertain as to what they wish to pursue or indeed feel pressure to enter immediately into higher education without much thought as to what they wish to study. This is ok! This article will focus on the pros and cons of taking a gap year and why this might just be the best choice for you as a soon-to-be school leaver.
Generally speaking, most academics and higher-level institutions see great value in taking a gap year, if spent wisely. The key word here is wisely, for if you intend on taking a year to do little other than troll Facebook or binge-watch Netflix latest offerings, the chances are you’ll not impress at interview or be able to justify taking a year out. This aside, there is a lot to be said about the benefits of a gap year if you are undecided as to what you want to study at University. I personally did not take a gap-year, choosing to study Law with French immediately following my A-levels. Looking back now, I wish I had done. I don’t necessarily regret my course choice, but I feel I may have made a more informed decision had I taken a year to gain experience in different areas I was interested in or try my hand at some volunteering.
I have friends who have taken a gap year and couldn’t recommend it any higher; some chose to engage heavily in charity work or develop sporting skills and as a result they have entered university with a much clearer focus and are more determined to work hard and succeed. Above all, the concept of a gap year appears to be stable, if you use your time correctly. For many it’s the opportunity to plan the trip of a lifetime with friends, or challenge yourself by learning new skills or embrace new cultures and societies. Besides the personal benefits this can bring, a recent study by Lattitude Global Volunteering has shown that 88% of those surveyed found that taking a gap year actually boosted their employability chances!
No matter what you choose to do, it’s vital that you take the time to carefully plan the next stage of your education, whether that involves taking a gap year to figure out exactly what you want to do or dive straight into higher education or professional courses. The most successful gap year students strike a balance between gaining work experience, volunteering, and independent travel, which enables them to become more rounded individuals and use their time wisely to really impress future employers!