Taking a Gap Year: being 21 and a little behind…

From where it all began…

I’ve always inspired to become a doctor. I have trodden the path that would eventually lead me to medicine. Both my parents and school environment have always supported and facilitated my desire to become a doctor right from the latter years of primary school! Yet, at the age of 19, I found myself stuck in limbo. I’d finished my A levels but didn’t hold a university offer. For the first time in my life, I had no direction.

Rather than attempt to navigate through Clearing and rush into a decision on a course that I would have otherwise never considered. I decided it would be best to take a ‘gap year’ to explore various alternatives including school-leavers programmes, apprenticeships or even extending my further education at college. For the first time in my life, following continuous years of education success, suddenly the prospect of entering university at the ‘status-quo’ age of 18, was no longer a possibility. I recall a summer of pacing my bedroom, tearing my hair out, thinking ”What on earth am I going to do now?”.

Suddenly it came to me. Why beat yourself up about not achieving a life-long goal that, perhaps, you only wanted to fulfil under the pressure of wanting a career, that society views as the epitome of academic success. Instead, why don’t I collate my interests, lay them out on the table, and see what courses may result from those interests and indeed from the A Levels that I had studied? Thus the result was Politics.

What next…

Those of us who take a gap year, find themselves very much outside of the educational system. Suddenly no longer are you cradled by the security of a teacher watching over your shoulder. Or having access to institutional advice from teachers, careers advisers or UCAS mentors. What I would recommend to anyone currently enduring a similar scenario? Approach your college or 6th form and ask for guidance and support with your UCAS application straight away. You might just be surprised, just as I was, to realise that they are very much still wanting and willing to support you, despite the fact that you have left their grasp.

Phhheeww, success after all…

I found myself holding an unconditional offer from York in a matter of weeks after submitting my application. This rocketed me back onto the straight and narrow. Suddenly I could re-envisage the prospect of entering higher education. A million miles away from desperately searching for full-time jobs in a call centre upon leaving college without an offer to my name!

Being invited to an ‘applicants day’ at the department in January helped to reaffirm my desire to go to university, and indeed to come to York! A wonderful welcome from the department and various members of staff ‘recharged’ my confidence in that I was still capable of making the leap to higher education, despite being outside of education for over 12 months!

Here I am today, achieving a 2:1 in my first year, with a wealth of memories and knowledge behind me from whats been a very successful 9 months since moving to York!

Where ever you go, You’ll Be Fine!

Words cannot describe all the fantastic and brilliant opportunities that York has to offer. But, where ever you decide to go, I must stress that a Gap Year shouldn’t be as daunting as some may think. Whilst we are pressured to enter higher education straight from 6th form, perhaps a year-long break to gather your thoughts, taking time to re-think your options, and ensuring that the course you are applying for is 100% for you, isn’t such a bad thing after all!

For me, I can tell you, it was the best decision I ever made. I have no regrets about delaying my entry to higher education. If anything I find myself more mature, entering what will undoubtedly be the biggest and brightest chapter of your life!

Oh, I almost forgot…

Enjoy the journey… and just remember – the most exciting and memorable roller-coaster rides are the ones with all the Ups and Downs!

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I am a 21 year old first year student reading Politics & International Relations. I am a student of Langwith college and play an active role in the life of the college through various means of voluntary participation and as a member of college sports teams - opportunities that epitomise the benefits of our collegiate system here at York! I have various hobbies and interests that extend from choral singing to archaeology; visiting cathedrals to playing my beloved sport that is rugby! I have moved to York from the heart of the South Wales Valleys, Pontypridd.

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