It’s that time of year again where millions of students across the UK receive their long-awaited A-level results and find out whether they have got into the university they so desperately want to go to. However, what if you’re not sure if you want to go to university, or whether to get a full-time job, in fact, what if you don’t actually know what you want to do with your life?
Welcome to my life in 2015.
Let’s actually rewind all the way back to September 2014 when I just started my last year of sixth-form, I was so excited to see all of my classmates and teachers (well some of them) again, but as soon as you feel like you’re about to settle back in as normal, UNIVERSITY VISITS, UCAS, PERSONAL STATEMENTS get thrown at you quicker than you can process. What universities are you visiting? What courses are you looking at? Have you started writing your personal statement yet? What are you doing with your life? All questions that I had no idea how to answer, yet so many other students did!
Going to a Grammar School, there is an expectation that you should be going to university straight away – but I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted to do. We got told a bit about gap years, apprenticeships and full-time work, but it was mainly university. I started to feel a bit lost not knowing exactly what career I wanted to go into, so how would I know what course to take? I spoke to the career advisor at my school, and they told me to just apply for something I enjoy (no s**t sherlock). I told her I enjoyed media and she told me about runners on film and tv sets and how a lot of people got their start there – I explained that I didn’t want to go into film and tv, but she didn’t really understand as that’s all she really knew about the media industry.
I spoke about gap years with her, however, she described them as a bit of a waste of time. This was because apparently “no one ever goes back to university after experiencing a full-time wage every month and working part-time is pointless because you can do that whilst at university studying for something”. I would have loved to go traveling but didn’t really have the funds as I hadn’t been saving for one, and I knew I wasn’t ready for full-time work just yet – so I came to the conclusion that going to university straight from school was really the only option for me.
Throughout the year I looked at a bunch of different universities and a bunch of different courses. I kind of knew that I wanted to go down a media route, but I just didn’t know where, because it is such a broad subject – did I want to do journalism, social media, publishing, radio, etc? There was so much choice. I ended up applying for a university that I didn’t really love, doing a course that was ok, but deep down I knew that this wasn’t what I wanted.
School’s make you make this decision so fast, that you don’t always have time to think about what you really want to do, and I just wish gap years were spoken about much more highly as I wouldn’t have stressed so much during my A-levels about getting into a university that I didn’t even want to go to. I genuinely spent a whole year stressing out about getting the right grades and worrying that I’d made the wrong decision, so much so that I wanted to get into university as it was easier to tell people I was going rather than I wasn’t and having a million and one questions about what I was going to do instead.
It wasn’t until the day I actually received the A-level results that I decided that university right at this point was not for me, so I declined my offer from my first choice university and decided I would take a gap year. Not really knowing what I was going to do during that year, but what I did know was the biggest weight was lifted from my shoulders, and I felt extremely happy with my choice. It was at that point that I didn’t care about what other people had to say, and I actually started to feel confident telling people that I was going to take a year (or longer if it took that time) to decide what I wanted to do. Luckily, I have such supportive parents, boyfriend and friends around me, that would assure me I was doing the right thing.
You can read all about my gap year here – but to summarise, I had so much more time to myself, that I could explore my options and discover what I really wanted to do without the pressure of A-levels on me. I looked around more universities and found a course that I actually really wanted to do and felt excited for, I worked a couple of part-time jobs to earn a bit of money, went on a couple of holidays, but most importantly I had some proper me-time and a break from education – which was really needed. It was 100% THE BEST decision that I’ve ever made.
Without that gap year, I could have been doing a course that didn’t actually interest me that much, in a place which I wasn’t overly fond of, when actually, I had that extra time to really discover what was going to be best for me, whether that was to be university or a full-time job doing something I loved. Turns out that university was for me, but I only really knew that once I had my results to back me up and the time to properly research this. Now, I have just graduated with first-class honors in a subject that I absolutely loved doing (bearing in mind I hadn’t even discovered it when I was first applying for university), which has now led me to a job within an industry that I really enjoy.
So what is the point of this post? Hopefully, if you’re reading this and unsure whether university is for you or not and whether you think taking a gap year is a good idea this can help you.
1. Don’t let people put you off taking a gap year – it definitely can be a good thing.
2. Don’t feel like you have to do something different or amazing on your year out, you don’t have to travel or work full-time – you are allowed to have a break and take some well-earned ‘me-time’.
3. There is no age limit on going to university, so there is no reason why you can’t go later in life if you are not sure just yet.
4. Ignore everyone who tells you a gap year is a waste of time.
5. Some people don’t know what they actually want to do in life until years after leaving school, so if you don’t know, don’t worry