So, it’s that time of year when UCAS is in the air and everyone around you seems to know exactly what they’re doing, whether its university or an apprenticeship. Meanwhile, you’re still trying to figure out the difference between under-grad and post-grad. Well fear not, as there is a secret third option: the gap year.
This doesn’t necessarily mean backpacking through Asia or volunteering in Ecuador, it could just be taking some time away from education and deciding which path is best for you without diving in at the deep end with no armbands. If you decide the gap year life is something you want, here are ten things to help you make the most of it:
Whether it’s a Saturday job at the local paper shop, or full time at a call centre, a gap year is the perfect time to earn some cash and save up for the next few years ahead.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean jetting off on an around-the-world trip if that’s not quite for you, but there’s nothing stopping you from visiting a few places that you’ve always been too busy to go to. You could even invest in a railcard and go interrailing around Europe, or just take that mini break that you know you deserve.
3) Binge everything
So you were late to jump onto the Game of Thrones bandwagon and, between school and studying, you didn’t have time to catch up before the dreaded Twittersphere advertised every spoiler you were trying to avoid. Well now you have your chance to catch up on every show, movie and book you kept putting off because you ‘should really be revising for Monday’s exam.
4) Make time for friends
A lot of the friends you’ve spent the last few years battling through life’s hurdles with, have probably all gone off to do their own thing, and are scattered at universities across the country. Well being on a gap year means you have no excuse not to go and visit them. By witnessing their first year you can make your own personal dos/don’ts list for your first year at uni and learn from their mistakes.
5) Be independent
A gap year will probably mean another year of living at home which is not always ideal. However, this gives you a chance to learn life skills like washing and basic cooking for when you do move out. Impress your new uni flatmates by separating your lights and darks and cooking a pasta bake without setting off the fire alarm all within the first week.
6) Learn something new
I know, I know, the point of a gap year is taking a BREAK from education, so why on earth would you want to learn MORE? However, this year is the perfect time to learn things you’re actually interested in, whether it’s finally getting around to the instrument that’s been gathering dust in the corner of your room since three Christmases ago or reading a book about a subject you’d never think to study in school. Planning on doing an English major? Join an astronomy club. Planning to be a marine biologist? Do an online course in Buddhism and Modern Psychology.
7) Say yes to things
You’re young and have a bunch of free time on your hands – what better way to spend it than to say yes to opportunities you would never normally consider. Search your area for various local events, apply for a game show, or volunteer at a festival.
8) Become an expert in your field
After spending years studying in school, you will be quite knowledgeable in many areas. Saying this, a gap year is still a good opportunity to excel in a specific subject before going on to university or an apprenticeship in that field. You can take time to do extra research online and get work experience in that area. This is especially useful if you’re not sure which career path you want to take and want to try some things out before you decide.
9) Refresh, renew, restore
If you do end up going to university you’re going to have to adapt to the dreaded ‘Student Lifestyle’ – late night deadlines, lots of alcohol and too much pasta. While this is a difficult lifestyle not to succumb to, you can at least spend a year being kind to yourself before the inevitable. Use this time to focus on yourself, eating right, exercising and focusing on your mental health – you’ll thank yourself at the end of the year.
10) Don’t stress
Admittedly its easier said than done, but taking a year out is perfect for getting to know your own interests and hobbies without the pressure of everyone telling you what you should want and what you should do. Some people aren’t ready when everyone else is, and there’s no rush to be! Take time to get to know yourself and to decide the best option for you instead of rushing and regretting your decision like so many people do. In the wise words of Drake ‘YOLO’, so take this time to enjoy the things you haven’t had a chance to yet!