Addressing The Misconceptions Surrounding Gap Years

16/08/2017 13:47 BST | Updated 16/08/2017 13:47 BST
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Just a few days to go. No doubt every university applicant in the UK is having a mental countdown, and needn't be reminded of the daunting, yet potentially exciting day. Results day.

Despite the blissful freedom from coursework and early starts, the ever-narrowing gap between exams and results day can be incredibly stressful. Students are preparing to move away from home, become entirely independent, and are waiting on the results to determine their future plans.

So, let's discuss an alternative. Gap years. Simply postponing university entry for a year might be the perfect opportunity to take a break. They give students the opportunity to refocus, explore interests, develop skills, re-energise and potentially earn an income before plunging into the next pressurised step of their lives.

Many still maintain the misconception that a gap year is nothing more than a glorified holiday for the middle and upper classes, but gap years in the UK are becoming increasingly common. 1 in 4 UK students opted to take a year out in 2016, resulting in a host of benefits.

Whether a year out is pre-planned or spurred by a desire to aim higher in a second round of the examination and application system, it is time to dismantle some common gap year myths.

One of the most frustrating viewpoints is that "gap years are only for students who lack the motivation to go to university." In many cases, gap years are a result of 'deferred entry' where students hold a place at the university of their choice for the following year, showing full intention for further study.

Alternatively, a gap year can be prompted by missing the specific entry grades required for a certain university. In this instance, students may be reluctant to accept anything less than the university place they have set their sights on, so take a year out to re-sit. This develops resilience and demonstrates determination to achieve the best of their capabilities - traits that should certainly not be disregarded.

Secondly, the idea that "you must be wealthy to take a gap year" prevents many people from even considering this route. In reality, there are numerous gap year associations offering scholarships or bursaries to students and overwhelming statistics support the idea that gap years can be self-funded. Only 20% of gap year students in the UK received financial help from their parents or guardians, whilst 80% worked in the UK for a duration of their gap year in order to self-fund.

Some students may have reservations about how a year out could affect their application to university. But gap years aren't just about travelling - the experience can be used to strengthen an application and make it stand above the rest. Global organisations such as IBM, Accenture, Frontier and the Engineering Development Trust offer paid internships for gap year allowing students to gain real world work experience, which in turn enhances their applications and gives them a competitive edge.

During a gap year, students are able to learn valuable life skills such as how to deal with personal finances, understanding their own limits, and being responsible for themselves and their own time. All extremely beneficial skills to obtain in preparation for university.

Numerous reports show that gap year students are more likely to graduate with a First or Upper Second class honours degree than those who went straight to university, as 66% of students take their academic work more seriously after having a year out.

Research across the world has showed that gap year benefits outweighed other variables for university success such as gender and socioeconomic status, whilst also increasing employability by up to 88%, contributing to the changing perceptions surrounding gap years.

University application season is a tense time, but it is also a time to broaden your horizons in order to decide what you want in the future. Isn't it worth taking some time to explore every avenue?