on taking a gap year


This time, exactly a year ago, my life was a-buzz with future decisions.
What uni are you going to? What course are you doing?
I felt so much pressure to have chosen a direction, written a personal statement and decided upon an academic path for the next 3 years.
It wasn't until I sat down with my tutor and she said "Katie, why don't you just take a year out?" that I heaved a deep sigh of relief and felt a sense of calm.
I still got bombarded with questions, people couldn't comprehend why someone academic wouldn't be disappearing off to uni at the drop of a hat. To be completely honest, people fail to understand, fullstop, that uni just isn't the path that everyone wants to take.
One conversation I remember vividly, I sat down with my history teacher and he went "so why aren't you applying to uni?" and I divulged the ins and outs of "not being ready" and "my brother dropping out", sort of regretting my decision because his opinion was one I really valued. But he ended it with "I wasn't trying to change your mind, I was just exploring the reasons", "nothing would change my mind" I replied, because I knew what was right.
It didn't feel right, as I cried relentlessly from January to September (and sometimes still now) about my fear of the future and emptiness, but going to uni straight away wouldn't have been right either.
So if any of you are in a similar position, whether you feel lost or unsure what to apply for or not ready to leave home or just need a break from studying, here are some positives that I have gained from the brief moments of my year out, so far.
And, if you're not sure uni is for you, embrace it. Everyone is different, ignore the pressure.

(Also disclaimer, I suppose my gap year hasn't been all that rosy so far, I mean we are 1 month in, but its caused a lot of panic, so this post may seem ironic–however, I can also see immense value in what I've done so far, so I'll share the positives to make others feel less alone)

Its allowed me to clarify what I want to do. This time last year I had written a PS for European Studies/French and Politics, I now know that that would have been entirely wrong for me, and that History is the course I want to study.

Its allowed me to solidify where I want to go. Again, had I applied this time last year, I would have gone to entirely the wrong place, where I would have been unhappy and lost. I think I now know what I want and where I want to be.

It allowed me to get the grades I did. Had I been panicking about needing to get in, I wouldn't have come out with the A-levels I did. The knowledge of a year out gave me space to put everything into my studies, it didn't really matter what I got, I could resit if I needed to.

It was rewarding knowing I was doing something for me. I was getting the best grades I could for myself, because I wanted them, because I was capable, not because the shitty education system told me I needed them.

It has allowed the improvement of my mental health. I'm still working on this but had I continued studying this year, I would have layered the bad habits I had already acquired, until I had 5 years of self-neglect to contend with, as oppose to 2. I've had time to face the problems and work on solutions, the space to listen to these problems has been terrifying but I have also begun to understand myself a little better.

It's allowed new experiences. My life was solely studying prior. But I've met new people, joined new organisations, created a new routine, learned new approaches. It's also allowed so much freedom. I've built my time with volunteering, working and other past times, others have taken on full-time work, courses or travel. I suppose I have no responsibilities, and can make use of this as much as I want. I doubt I'll ever have so much freedom (this can also be slightly daunting)

I've already grown, so much.

I've got so much to look forward to. Exciting things are planned, including meeting new people and travelling, and much of it is unknown, which I am beginning to appreciate for its wonderful intrigue.

SO, I'm not imploring you to take a year out but I suppose I'm suggesting it, it needn't be the end of the world. And nor is not going to uni or taking a break from studying or going into work or pursuing whatever you want.
Do what makes you happy.
As I see it, there's nothing to lose.
(I'll update you on the positives)

3 comments

  1. Cannot wait to hear more about what you get up to on your gap year! I honestly think gap years are a necessity; it's the only time where you are completely free and have an unlimited time to yourself. It's so important to take time just to be, but I defo think it's important not to put pressure on yourself to constantly be doing things. I've made such a long list of things I wanna do on my gap year that it's unrealistic now so I'll have to cut down ahah. Hope you're doing well Katie!! xoxox

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    1. I totally agree, but there definitely is some pressure to use them in a particular way (the number of times I've been asked "so are you going travelling?", yes I would like to see some new places but its about more than just a typical 'gap yah')–guess we've just gotta do what we wanna do!!! would love to see your list, maybe it'll give me some inspo!! Thanks Lexie, you too!!xxx

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  2. I hate the fact that people seem so surprised when academic people thi!nk about taking a gap year. I know if I even brought the idea up, some of my teachers would be like whaaaatt?! I watch 'unjaded jade' on YouTube and she's actually taking a gap year and got all a stars at GCSE and is doing incredibly well in her A-levels so far too.
    Aleeha xXx
    http://www.halesaaw.co.uk/

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Katie