I’m really not sure what I was going for here when I produced this for A-Level Art… looks uncomfortable, though, and can only really say cheers to my friend Alice who wilfully modelled it

Views on gap years vary. At my sixth form it was considered the no-man’s land for those who didn’t get into uni. Just like purgatory you take a further year of waiting, waiting, waiting for that offer…biting your nails and praying for the gates to open, all the while suspecting you might be out here longer than you thought.

Not. True. At all. Here’s why!

“I just don’t know what I’d do with a gap year”

Ermmm… Whatever you want! It’s a year of final freedom after 2 years of stress, regiment, and exhaustion! You coulllddddd….. get work experience, earn money, learn a new skill, take some qualifications, go travelling, volunteer, write a book, start a blog, learn a language and more! There’s an endless list of things to do in a gap year- you’ll find yourself unable to squeeze it all in.

“I’ll be a year older than everyone when I go to uni”

This just does not matter at all. Seriously, if you’re considering a gap year, please don’t even factor this into your pros and cons list. People seem to think that ‘being a year behind’ is like just missing a year and starting at the same point only one year older than everybody else. This is simply not true: you will be older for a reason, you will be more travelled, more rested, you will have, instead of doing A-levels, been doing something else with the past year. Furthermore, do some research into how many ‘mature students’ unis actually take-the stats are staggering. I went to uni for two weeks before dropping out and I met freshers of all ages for various reasons: doing a second degree, had an illness, wanted  a gap year, changed courses, and more… And further still, you won’t just mix with freshers, you’ll be able to socialise with students in higher years, post-grads, and locals, especially if you get a job or get involved in any projects in the area.

“I don’t think I’d ever go back to education”

Yeah, okay, I can see this one’s point. Sometimes I do see job/apprenticeship offers and think about never going to uni, because I don’t know if I even need to. I’d firstly say I don’t think it’s the end of the world if this is what happens, or if you end up taking more gap years than you expected, but I have to admit, some downsides, such as working for £5.25 an hour (which I’m hoping would improve with a degree) and hearing all my friends go on about how great uni is hasn’t deterred me. If anything, having a break from education has made me miss it and got me really excited to get back to learning, so I don’t think I’ll take it for granted.

“It’s a waste of a year”

Okay, maybe it would be a waste of a year-depending on what you want out of it. If you sat on the sofa all year watching TV then yes, maybe you would kick yourself for not working towards a degree instead. But as long as you can justify it, whatever you do on your gap year is worthwhile. I personally just needed some time away from education, and even if I am currently earning £5.25 an hour and haven’t ‘achieved’ that much (whatever that means for you, personally), I still think it’s worth the improved state of mind, which will definitely make degree completion easier.

“All my friends will move on without me”

I did worry about this one, but it’s really not the case. Don’t think of it as everyone else moving linearly forward and you staying put, think of it as you all exploding in all different directions. It can sometimes feel like you’re the odd one out, because you’re the one who didn’t go to uni (depending how many of your friends go to uni/take a gap year/go to work – most of mine went to uni) but really everyone is just doing their own thing. In a few years’ time, some of your friends will be on years abroad, some have 4 year courses or longer so some will graduate later, some will do post-grads and stay on, so in the long-run I think any difference just won’t be noticeable.

“I want to get on with getting a degree so I can start my career”

This is really up to you. If that’s how you feel, then maybe you shouldn’t take a gap year. I personally want to go to uni for the experience, for learning and for making friends, and don’t really care if I graduate 4 years from now or 10. I think we all feel a lot of pressure to ‘get on with’ a set trajectory of going to uni, getting a job, getting married, and having a house etc. etc. but I think it’s personal whether or not you can or choose to fit that mould. One of the wonderful things about the gap year, for me, is I haven’t really been feeling any of that! I feel so young compared to all the other adults around, at work and when travelling, and like I have infinite time to carry on enjoying being young. Taking a gap year has definitely given me some perspective on time pressure.