If everything had gone to plan, today would have been the day I packed up my bags and headed off for my new life at university.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve thought university was the only option. Of course I knew people took gap years, but those people were the fearless, adventurous sort who got a thrill out lugging a backpack around in the sweltering heat, or jumping from deathly heights on a bungee cord. In other words, the cool type. Leaving my home comforts rarely appeals to me (not least because of my irrational fear of flying), so how on earth would I be able to take a gap year? This was the question I constantly asked myself as I reluctantly applied for universities which I had researched rather half-heartedly. Days were spent trying to avoid questions from relatives eager to hear about what I would be studying, whilst nights were spent wallowing in self pity over my sealed fate. It wasn’t until August 15th that I finally stood up and said “I don’t want to go to university… yet.”
The prospect of not being in education for a whole year terrified me; all I’ve known for the past fourteen years is “put your blazer on, I don’t care how hot it is!” and “put your phone away and do some work!” … How would I cope with the freedom to check my phone whenever I want? Imagine, a year without uptight teachers telling you, with their coffee-tainted breath, that your work “doesn’t quite fit the mark scheme”. A year without running to the canteen every Friday to fight off the rest of the animal kingdom for the last portion of chips. A year without any structure, any boundaries… In fact, the whole process of deferring a year was so frightening to me that it has taken me almost two months to pluck up the courage to write this article! However I largely felt a sense of relief, for now I’m free to carve out my own path for the next 365 days. I am now free to write about whatever I want, whenever I want (as opposed to weekly essays that read way too much in to the name of a protagonist, or the colour of their pet cat), whilst also indulging in my other hobbies.
Maybe working in a café whilst enjoying writing, photography and shopping on the side isn’t the most ground-breaking gap year there ever was, but it is one that makes me happy. Along with the fact that the majority of my friends also took a year out I can’t help but give myself a pat on the back for making this decision, although that’s something I may have to get back to you on in nine months or so.
So, is going straight from sixth form to university the right decision for you, or do you need a year to gain some independence and get a stronger grasp on exactly what you want to do? When you’re applying, as your mouse hovers over that little “2014 entry” tick box, ask yourself if you really are ready to up sticks and start afresh. If you are, then great! However if you’re not then don’t hesitate to investigate the idea of taking a year out, or a whole life time out! Maybe you are the aforementioned cool type, and jetting off to see the Seven Wonders of the World is exactly how you plan to spend your gap year. Perhaps you’d rather spend a year volunteering, or gaining experience, or perhaps you’re simply not ready to fly the nest. As long as you know the decision you’re making is the right one for you, then no one can tell you you’re doing the wrong thing. Apart from your parents… and your head of year… and your teachers… but you can ignore them.