I think a gap year should be compulsory. And I’m not talking about those gap years where people go backpacking across Bali in bikinis with flowers in their hair, and their Instagram suddenly becomes a travel account. I’m talking about the realistic, taking the time out and recentering yourself to figure out your next move, gap year. I’ve thought about this for a while, and every day this seems to feel more and more prevelant. We are the generation of only living once, we constantly remind ourselves that life is short, and have a real fundamental fear of wasting precious time, but taking a gap year, whether that’s: saving money, making memories, or simply – and in my opinion most importantly, figuring yourself out, none of that is a waste. It’s better to have the feeling of ‘what do I do now’ after college, aged 18, than after university, in £50,000 debt with your parents asking the dreaded ‘so what’s the plan?’.
I recently met up with a friend of mine, who wasn’t happy in her first year. She had felt the natural pressure to go, the temptation of an ‘unconditional’ offer, and the ‘what if I never get one again’ panic and now knows that it wasn’t the right choice for her. The thing about university is that yes, it’s not always going to be fun, but if you can’t physically picture yourself doing it for the next three years then you’re not on the right path. Life is all about trial and error, and it’s ok not to get things right the first time. If anything you come away with lessons learned and reassurance as to what else could be right. If you asked your parents twenty years ago where they thought they’d be right now, their answer would be so far from the truth. Hell if you’d have asked me two years ago if I’d be going to university, never mind to study a completely new subject, I’d have laughed. There really is no straight edged answer to everyone’s life, and that’s why I think there shouldn’t be with education. Before finding Criminology, I applied and got accepted for Screenwriting, Film and Drama courses, all subjects that I love, and all at top universities, but none felt right for me. I think people always know deep down if something is right or not, and as hard as it is to walk away sometimes, you’re doing yourself an injustice if you don’t.
So why does this pressure exist to jump into university? We are conditioned that it is a natural step straight after college. Why is that? People get swept away with pressure for doing a degree despite having no idea what they actually want, and whilst most degrees have universal skills that can apply to many careers, some do not. When I was eighteen, I had just finished college, was getting acting work and seeing what life threw at me. Occasionally over the next three years I’d considered drama school, but the idea of pretending to be an animal, the colour purple, and simply studying something that I did all the time, just didn’t seem enjoyable to me. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think that if something doesn’t excite you, then it’s not meant to be. At eighteen years old, if I’d have gone to university, I’d have studied the wrong course, wouldn’t be able to study what I want to now, and therefore couldn’t have the job that I am interested in. That’s a huge deal, and I can’t help but wonder who has found themselves in the same boat? My boyfriend changed from English to Law after a year, a friend is dropping out, and another wishes she’d had a year out to properly think. Not only does a gap year give you time to save, but it gives you time to focus on your hobbies and what you really enjoy, which can re-enforce your passion, and what you want to do with your career. I hate the idea that by taking one, you’re ‘a year behind’ because in what way? You have more money, more focus, more life-experience, that doesn’t seem behind to me at all, in fact it seems very ahead.
I truly believe that if a gap year was more encouraged and people went to uni slightly older, less people would drop out because they’d be more likely to have really really thought about what they wanted to study, and more people would be going because they want to go, not because of pressure. I also think a lot of people would find different paths and not go altogether, straight away leaving them in less debt. Without the unfair persuasion of an ‘unconditional’ offer, or the pressure of college reminding you daily of UCAS deadlines, where would you be?
Gap years aren’t just good for your savings, but a huge benefit to your wellbeing. It’s the first time that you are actually out of education in fourteen years. FOURTEEN. It’s a time for you to just be yourself, away from all pressures and other people’s expectations to actually ask yourself, what do you want? Not what does everyone else want for you, this is all about you. Not only this, but gap years (this surprised me when applying) are very well respected from universities too. From their side, they view you as more mature, someone who knows exactly what they want, who has life experience, and in your gap year(s) you have more time to do things that can impress them. My personal statement was probably one of the most random in terms of experience for a Social Science course, from acting, having a play performed, running my blog etc, but it was unique and it was me. And having a gap year gives you time to showcase more of who you are and how you spend your time, and that really appeals to them!
I’d love to open a discussion about this, I know for me I’ve seen so so many people jump into university and regret it, and I don’t regret my gap years at all, it’s shaped me completely into who I am. What’s everyone’s thoughts on taking a gap year, or jumping into uni at eighteen?
I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts. All my love, Soph x1