Just got your A Level results and not sure what to do next? Well despite what you might think a gap year can be a productive and valuable experience…
This week the news has been filled with A Level results. Thousands have passed and dream of heading to university, yet due to the frankly quite stupid rules on tuition fees there’s a massive oversubscription for places.
Which means unis have their pick of the bunch and thousands will be left stuck in limbo, with their life plans hitting a brick wall.
Not good times.
But there’s been some massive coverage on why not getting into Uni might not be a bad thing and some alternatives routes to make the most you time.
And one of the most popular choices is to sack off the Uni plan and head out on a gap year!
Having been through the trials and tribulation of Uni life, gaining a degree and then heading on a gap year I’m nicely placed to share my thoughts on both side of the coin.
I must say though that it would be a rather one sided argument, so I’m going to simply give you my run down of why I’d recommend a gap year over university.
Firstly think about it, would you rather head around the world and enjoy life or spend 3 years still stuck in an education system which can’t even guarantee you a decent job at the end of it?!
Sure Uni is full of fun times, but it’s quickly balanced out with heaps of work, 15,000 word dissertations and uninspiring lectures on irrelevant topics – I must point out that as a photography graduate I’ve never once seen the need to sit through a 2 hour lecture on 18th century landscape photography, so I promptly gave up going to them!
Gap years on the other hand are full of partying, adventure and heaps of good times!
I think the best way to compare them both is that a gap year takes all the best bits of Uni life (ie freshers week carnage!) and extends them for as long as you travel for, minus the boring work and with a lot more sun!
I’m adamant that I learnt more about myself and the skills needed to live in the real world through travelling than I ever did at Uni.
At Uni money is chucked at stuff without a care in the world. Student debt is a joke – no one really cares about it (it doesn’t affect your life after Uni in the slightest as you pay it back in barely noticeable payments) so blowing money on drinking and over priced rent is no biggy.
At the end of the day you wait a max of 3 months and the government give you another tasty pay cheque.
Travelling on the other hand is self funded. Unless of course you’re a trust fund baby who hasn’t had to lift a finger to travel – the kind of backpacker everyone hates but befriends as a good source of freebies!
As a backpacker you either know how to budget or your trip gets cut short. It’s a blunt but affective learning curve.
You soon learn the value of handling money and make sure you get the most bang for your buck – whether your paying for rent, trips of partying.
It goes without saying that you instantly become more independent – from cooking to generally being able to organise your life into a backpack! Your support network of family and friends is thousands of miles away, you simply pick yourself up and find your way in the world or waste a brilliant opportunity.
Become a People Person
At university you make heaps of mates outside your normal friendship circles, people from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations.
But this variety is nothing in comparison with the people you meet backpacking. I now have friends in all corners of the globes, from more races, cultures, locations and religions than I care to list.
You learn not to judge people of face value and you are forced to interact with people you’d normal not give a second glance.
But at the end of it your a better person for it. You can approach strangers, people and places with a fresh opinion and can cope with being outside your comfort zone to an extent that Uni could never match.
Become More Employable
So you can’t go to Uni and train for that top end job you wanted.
No worries – use the 3 years gaining a mass of experience and work your way up. Gap years don’t have to be all about sunbathing on beaches, grab yourself a WHV and use your time productively.
I know my time in Oz allowed me to photograph some amazing events and images that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d stayed at home.
But it’s not just that – I’ve also trained as a diver, gained my surf instructor qualification and have ended up working for companies all over the world – from Morocco to Australia, Ecuador to New Zealand…my CV is more like a postcard than a job application!
Travelling also gives you the time to focus and indulge your passions too – I’ve turned my writing into a job, I’m travelled with people who now make a living off their art and I’ve mingled with heaps of inspiring people who have built businesses on the road.
Even if you don’t fancy working career wise on the road getting yourself stuck into a relevant volunteer project is an epic addition to your CV and will gain you some amazing contacts too.
Put yourself in an employers position.
Would you rather employee the pen pushing student who knows everything on paper but has no real experience in the field, or the well rounded traveller who didn’t get the opportunity to go to Uni but explored the world, worked of their own initiative to use those 3 years productively, gained on the job experience and even used those skills to give something back?
I know which one I’d rather have work for me. Simple yet essential skills such as budgetting, saving and planning are all part and parcel of a gap year – and more than desirable to an employer.
Get a plan together
So if you didn’t get into Uni (or are in college now and debating it) don’t fret if life doesn’t go quite to plan.
Take a step back, re evaluate the situation and use your time wisely.
Get some cash together, search through the options and turn a gap year into the most valuable part of your CV, it’s not just an extended holiday – it’s something that can take your life in directions you haven’t even imagined yet.
If you’d like some ideas and help for getting a gap year on the go why not check my travel booking site – Epic Gap Year – for heaps more inspiration, courses and ideas.