Gap year or go straight to University?

We can’t help but empathise with current school/college leavers making the difficult decision whether to go straight to university or take a gap year. It’s a tough decision…

Do any of these thoughts or feelings sound familiar?

  • I’m worried the new assessment system will have a negative effect on my grades
  • I’m worried I’ll have to take an exam in the autumn if I don’t get the grades I’m hoping for
  • If a university offers me an unconditional offer, should I take it?
  • I had planned to take a gap year but I now can’t travel abroad, as planned. Should I change my study year to 2020 instead?
  • Should I continue with my course for 2020 or would it be better to defer my entry?
  • If I take a gap year, will I actually be able to travel and get part time work to fund it?
  • I’ve always wated to do a ski season but will the resorts open in time for the 20/21 season
  • With so much uncertainty I don’t know how to make the right decision

If so, you’re not alone and perhaps a year out is what you need to reset.

We’ve been reading as much as possible to try and help you make the right decision.

With the prospect of more remote learning and missing out on the epic social scene that is a key part of the university experience, we think there is a bigger case than ever for taking time out this year.

The University of Cambridge have already revealed that they won’t be holding in-person lectures until Summer 2021. Manchester University have also said that their Autumn term will be held entirely online this year.

We recommend you take a gap year and wait until 2021 when university campuses are more likely to be fully open. You will still be able to travel (maybe in a different capacity but there is so much to gain nonetheless…more on this below) and you won’t compromise on your university experience.

You won’t be alone as 1 in 5 students plan to defer. The main reason being that most students are worried about the quality of education they will receive and physical distancing having an impact on social activities.

Articles of interest

Links to some really interesting reads:

We have summarised below some things to consider and areas to help – the benefits of a gap year, uncertainty around future travel, the effect of coronavirus on a ski season and gap year fundraising ideas.

Benefits of a gap year with statistics to back it up

For many students, even before the impact of Coronavirus, a big worry is that if they take a break from the academic track they won’t ever return to education. This is a possibility if you do a ski season…you may get the bug and want to do another winter! But, that aside and on a more serious note, 90% of students that took a gap year entered university on their return so don’t let that get in the way of your decision making.

There are even more statistics to back up that a gap year will also have a positive impact on how well you get on at uni, overperforming to a statistically significant degree.

66% of students took their academic work more seriously after having a gap year and 80% of gappers believe their gap year added to their employability.

Data from reports by the Gap Year Association and Department for Education.

In addition to getting more out of your time at university, taking a break is a brilliant opportunity for you to grow personally, see the world independently from family holidays, discover new cultures and gain lots of new life experiences and skills.

All these benefits still stand in light of COVID-19. Use your time constructively and you can, on top of having fun, prove adaptability and resilience to future universities and employers. You are the year students had to deal with a pandemic – own it!

Uncertainty around future travel and holidays

There is so much uncertainty about how, when and where we will be able to travel. This makes planning a gap year slightly harder.

Although borders currently remain closed and rigorous social-distancing procedures in place, “air bridges” are being hotly debated.

Air bridges between Britain and countries with low infection rates would enable people to travel without having to quarantine for 2 weeks. This is believed to be the best strategy to contain the virus while allowing travel to begin again, thought to be in place by the end of June. Yay…you may be able to travel sooner than you think ?

However, a gap year isn’t all about travel, it’s a great opportunity to earn money, gain work experience and life skills. You could start off incorporating those elements (see section on fundraising below) and get to the travelling part in late 2020 or into 2021 when travel is much more possible.

Speak to travel companies offering experiences you might like to do – now more than ever there is a case for joining a planned trip rather than independent travel. They will be keeping up to date on travel guidance for the countries they operate in and then your safety while out there.

Keep an eye on the FCO for travel advice to the countries you are interested in exploring.

Even if you can’t travel to your ultimate, international destination, we have some stunning scenery on our doorstep. The UK is packed with history and stunning scenery for you to explore. Have you ever walked the north Cornwall coast or hiked up one of Scotland’s towering Munros?

Grab yourself a UK travel guide and find your new favourite spot closer to home!

Fundraising ideas for your gap year ?

A big part of taking a gap year is making money to go off and do the things you’d like to, whether that’s joining a trip and/or going solo travelling.

Raising money is part of the challenge, arguably more challenging with the impact of Coronavirus. It takes time, personal drive and determination.

Subsequently you will be able to use your fundraising efforts to demonstrate certain skills such as excellent communication and negotiation.

Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

1. Get a job
Perhaps the easiest way to make money – it doesn’t need to be glamorous; your motivation is to fund your gap year. With the hospitality industry likely to be the last to ease out of lockdown, these jobs won’t be so easy to get. However, fruit picking has more job vacancies than ever before. Pick for Britain are actively recruiting students.

2. Set up a personal enterprise
Write down every talent and skill you have and think about how you can make money from it. For example, are you artistic? Create postcards of your paintings and sell to family and friends. Utilise platforms like Etsy to sell your crafts. Bake brownies and present in personalised packaging. Create a series of work out videos to do at home…the possibilities are endless, get thinking!

3. Clear out and sell stuff online
Not only is decluttering hugely satisfying, you probably have more stuff than you realise. Sell clothing or upcycled furniture you don’t want on sites such as Depop or Ebay.

4. Online freelance jobs
There are websites out there such as Upwork where you can pick up work in writing and translating, graphic design, programming, IT and admin support – pick work based on the skills you have.

5. Online tutoring
Find part time online tutoring jobs from home in your strength subject. It is well paid and very flexible so you can easily keep teaching for the duration of your gap year and into your time at university.

6. Set up a fundraising page and host events
Plan events around hobbies you know your friends and family enjoy, such as pub quizzes, virtual bake off or choir practice! Use a site like ‘Go Fund Me’ to take donations for participation – this is a great platform to deliver a heartfelt message to help people feel your cause is worthwhile.

The rewards of fundraising are worth all the hard work so give it your best effort – there are plenty of opportunities out there. Maybe slightly cheeky, but always worth a try…pitch it to your parents to see if they will match you pound for pound!

Final thoughts

There are so many opportunities out there, albeit with a slightly new normal.

Resist the temptation to follow through with current plans to avoid tough decisions – taking a gap year could be the best decision for you. Or vice versa. Make sure you go through the pros and cons of each scenario and engage your parents…they will be able to help you make a decision that is right for you. If it was our decision, take a gap year! ?