Bridging the 'Gap'

Taking a year out (or a "gap year") can be a fantastic life experience, but it is an important decision. Below are some of the key things that you should consider before making a decision.

"Why do it?"

  • To find To find the 'real you' - it sounds cheesy, but it's true for many people.
  • You'll develop your skills (i.e, interpersonal, initiative, responsibility, maturity and confidence) meaning you'll get the best out of uni.
  • To enhance your CV. This will make you more attractive to employers once you've finished uni.
  •  A break from education; it's probably best not to make this as your primary reason for deferring on your UCAS form - it might give the wrong signals.
  • £££! - Universities find this a perfectly acceptable reason to defer your entry. Think about more than stacking shelves for a year while living at home.

"What do the universities think about gap years?"

There's an increasing trend to positively encourage 'gap' years, but...

  • Do check the individual prospectus and course for policy;
  • - e.g. Maths tend to be less keen - one tutor once said his students peak at 19!
  • - e.g. Medicine - generally encourage as skills which you develop during your gap year (maturity, wide interpersonal and commitment) are all essential.
  • - e.g. Engineering - generally encourage - see practical applications of work
  • Do check the individual prospectus and course for policy;

 

  • Policies vary across subjects at the same uni so beware of comments (usually from people who are out of date) such as "Oh, Brompton uni absolutely hates gap year students."
  • If the message from a uni is ambiguous, phone them - note the name of the person you spoke to, what they said, then write to them confirming what they said and keep a copy of the letter you sent for future reference.

 

"What about my application to university?"

Complete section 3 (j) on page 1 of the UCAS form if you want to apply for deferred entry. If you are deferring for some courses, but not others, explain your reasons in your personal statement.

If you don't initially apply for deferred entry and subsequently change your mind, it is possible. Generally universities will agree, but you will need to make a good case.

You can apply for uni during your gap year - only do this if you're not sure which course to apply for. If you're planning to travel, make sure you can still get hold of any forms you may need and possible attend interview.

"What will my parents think?"

"You'll forget how to study" - a common reaction, it rarely happens. However, be prepared to put some work in during the months immediately prior to the first term - this is especially true of maths and science subjects. Note: Remember, parents are there to make you think through all manner of real and imaginary obstacles. Don't be hard on them: it's in their job description!

"What can I do in my gap year?"

  • Turn your part-time job into a full-time job. If you're currently a 'store floor furniture refurbisher' (i.e, shelf stacker) or something similar you may want to consider finding a job that offers more of a challenge and has more opportunities to learn new skills.
  • Work experience relevant to future career/course aspirations. Anything and everything - from voluntary work with disabled youngsters, to filing in a legal practice, working on a construction site or portering in a hospital - they all give you invaluable experience.
  • There are over 100 organisations that run structured gap year programmes. Although cynics may say these are nothing more than holidays - universities will see them in more positive light of a you taking the opportunity to find the 'real you'.

 

Websites with more information

 

www.thesite.org.uk - Charity and Voluntary organisations
www.gapyear.com - Aimed at Gap year travelers
www.worldwidevolunteering.org.uk - A comprehensive source for full-time volunteering opportunities.