1. Work to save money

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I’m very relieved to know I’ll be starting uni with a bed of savings to fall back on, as researching expenses consistently just makes my stomach turn. Uni fees alone are hitting at least £27,000 now depending on course length, and although there’s a loan for this part some unis are asking for £7,000 per year accommodation. I’m hoping I’ll have enough money to be able to enjoy myself and spend time studying, socialising, and juggling societies without being too stressed about earning from a part-time job.

2. Volunteer within the country

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(^Volunteering on an Alpaca farm in Loughborough)

If it’s making a difference you’re worried about, you might be better off at home anyway – a lot of ‘voluntourism’ gap year companies help themselves more than the people you volunteer with, and so many charities in the UK need help, too. ( Do It offer some great ideas.) There are lots of  fun things you can do for charity, even if just fundraising – e.g. by doing fun-runs, coffee mornings, curry nights etc. Whilst the main benefit of this is obviously helping others, it doesn’t hurt the CV, either. If you were hoping to volunteer abroad later in your gap year (in an ethical role), it’s also helpful to have some experience, first: a lot of organisations ask for experience.

3. Work experience

A lot of people think a gap year sets you back a year – so wrong. Get ahead of the game so that when you come out of uni you’ve already got loads of experience, something a lot of your competing graduates won’t have. It depends what you’re interested in but I’ve had a lot of friends undertake medical work experience and I’m keeping my eyes out for stuff in Journalism and Social Media.

4. Give your UCAS some extra time

This was honestly so valuable and made the whole application process less stressful. I only worked 20-24 hours a week during the UCAS application period (in comparison to an average 40 now) which gave me so much time to read all the right books for my personal statement, prepare for entrance exams, practice for interview, and really consider my choices. During A-levels I had no time to spend on a UCAS form or visiting unis, but on your gap year you can do all that and improve your application, too.

I also know some people re-sitting exams to meet the grades, who’ve been really happy with broadening their options. A particular friend took a year to study Art a-level so that she could apply for architecture.

5. Travel within the country

I’m doing a tour of England on my gap year! I have friends in Southampton, Surrey, Cambridge, York, Leeds, Durham and more so I intend to road trip my way around all of them (and post some insider reviews here!). People often overlook their home country, but the UK has some gorgeous scenery and awesome cities.

6. Make/Start something

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As you can see I’m spending my gap year writing a blog, something I’ve always wanted to do. This is something I can now sustain throughout uni which I’m hoping will be good writing practice and maybe in my portfolio one day. This may not be of interest to you if you’re not all about creative pursuits, but I’ve always wanted time to spend on projects – like writing a book, or starting an Etsy account to sell some jewellery or artwork, or ever just bettering my cake-decorating skills! It’s been really nice to work on making things simply for the fun of making them, again, rather than trying to meet a deadline or hit a certain grade for an exam.

7. Take some qualifications/Learn some new skills

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(^My best friend’s driving certificate because she passed about 2 years before I will)

I think we all know that in intense exam seasons, extra-curricular activities go to pot. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to speak a language or play an instrument – now’s your time! I’m taking French lessons in my gap year, rediscovering my piano playing, learning to drive, and taking a TEFL(Teach English as a Foreign Language) Qualification.

8. Be more prepared for uni

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(^My bedroom during A-levels…)

This means different things for different people, but for me personally I didn’t feel ready in any way to go to uni. Maybe you just want to read about your subject more (could be particularly useful if you’re studying something you don’t have an A-level in e.g. Psychology doesn’t always require A-level Psychology), or maybe you want to become more independent – I’m practising my cooking skills and learning to clean up better (I don’t think this behaviour stands as decent flatmate etiquette ^).

9. Work on yourself personally

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This may sound stupid, but since A-levels have ended I have just loved having the time to do things like paint my nails, pluck my eyebrows, and go for longer jogs. Now that you’re not pulling your hair out with stress, you can actually find the time to go get it cut, wash it more frequently, and even go on Youtube and learn how to style it! Aside from appearance you can also do a bit of cliche ‘finding yourself’ and soul-searching. Personally I feel I’ve gained some confidence just being in a new environment and listening to my own thoughts, but I’ve also had more time to read more books and broaden my self-help, self-love, and positivity repertoire.

10. Relax!

No – this does not count as a waste! Do you remember A-levels? Or are you in them now? They were hell, they were literally hell. I’m taking some time to recover from the trauma, I honestly just so so badly needed a break. Take one before stepping into the next line of education – you won’t get this chance many times again.