Gap Year and Well-Being: the Unplanned as Part of Your Plan

On my gap year, I didn’t do the typical backpacking-round-Asia. Nonetheless, I gained some valuable life skills and definitely improved my confidence in talking to people in my community.

I recommend a year out. Whether you want to earn some money and work full-time, whilst deferring your studies, like I did. Or go on an adventure of a lifetime and enjoy another side of adulthood.

Making the gap year decision

You’ve just come out of college and are celebrating the end of exams. So it can be deflating to decide to pledge another three years to education without taking a personal break for non-academic development. It doesn’t mean you don’t love learning or that you’re lazier or less committed than your peers. It means you know what’s going to work for you and what will help you engage with university that bit better when the time comes. Of course, some people change their mind on university altogether. That wasn’t my experience. Once the Spring of my gap year hit, I became more and more impatient to start university!

Deferring a year

Through a simple deferment process (I sent just two emails to York), I took a year out of education and could now make some important decisions. My reason for deferring uni was a financial one. I hadn’t anticipated this until I found out before exams. I was frustrated and upset at the thought of being a “year behind” and of not immediately getting onto the path I had chosen for myself. After all, anything could happen in a year. My goal felt far away from me – yet again. But when I considered that I could be more prepared and rested for uni (and that I was a young one in the year anyway!), I decided to remain optimistic for what I could achieve in a year.

What do you want to achieve in your gap year?

A top tip of mine would be to make sure you have goals in mind for your gap year and the means to achieve them. It isn’t easy remaining motivated when you live at home with your parents and your mates are all tasting independence at uni.

Personally, I thought about the skills I hadn’t tried my hand at in Sixth Form, which included learning to drive. If you haven’t already, I would recommend learning to drive. Although make sure you get the best price for your area and find some deals! You may need this life skill for your future job or lifestyle. It also builds your self-confidence and your ability to ensure your own safety and that of others’ in a high-risk situation. It may have taken me five tries but it was certainly well-earned by the time I got my licence!

Don’t worry, there isn’t just one route to uni

On a more personal note, I want to reassure college leavers who, like me, either have their choice taken away from them (they didn’t get accepted to uni and want to reapply next year.) Or who need to build up their financial position before they can justify the potentially high costs and benefit ratio that comes with this career choice.

Having probably just completed your A Levels and endured the new course system of final year exams as full credit, and other changes, you may not be ready for the stress or at least mild setbacks of arranging a move to uni. That is perfectly fine. I know I would rather have maximum time to prepare, practically and emotionally, for how I go about this decision. Rather than be swept up with the crowd in a wave to be accepted to uni and seem like you “have it all together”. There isn’t one route to uni, as we all know.

What I gained from my gap year

Once you get here, you may have the pleasure to meet students who took more complicated and varied routes to uni through trial and error, or just gaining valuable work experience. Having spoken to others who took “gap years”, they don’t regret the decision. Often, their full-time job and experience dealing with the public and organisation resulted in higher confidence, social skills, and a positive attitude in their work ethic.

For me, I can certainly say that if I hadn’t worked full-time in retail, which I had only ever done part-time, I wouldn’t have the nuanced understanding I now have of the cost of living, negotiation with a manager, workplace etiquette, dealing with complaints, being challenged and being a committed team member, and learning how to enjoy solitude. Additionally, I learned how to manage my own mental health outside of the school environment we all grew up in. I wouldn’t trade my gap year for the “normal” progression into uni at 18.

So, if you feel that a break is in your best interest, for whatever reason, be proud of that. Encourage your friends to consider their own well-being before social expectations. You may just make someone think twice.

For more info on what options you have for your gap year and financial advice, please visit sites such as:

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I'm studying English and Related Literature, I'm part of Halifax College and I have now completed my first year and look forward to moving abroad for my second year in the Netherlands!