“Oh my God, I have no clue what I am doing with my Life!”
Me too love! Nevertheless I have literally been back at year 13 for just over two weeks and I have already got to a stage where I want to ban the letters A,B,C,D and E from the alphabet! Though we know that grades don’t really define our lives as much as some think they do, and they certainly don’t define ourselves! Yet the question still arises as to what to do after we finish A levels, with one of these options being a gap year.
Now most years, year 13s would picture a gap year as almost some tropical fantasy, going from beach to beach, clambering over numerous rocky mountains and discovering amazing wildlife. Including as newts, while probably getting as pissed as one! But of course, it is going to be expensive. Very expensive. And unless you have very rich parents or parents who are going to spoil you sick, or that you are doing so much paid work that you would end up failing your A levels, Period. But this year, even with unlikely prospect of families offering up a lot of money, we have another limitation. Covid-19. Meaning that our gap year would most likely be spent watching everyone else go off to university while we are stuck at home. Sigh…
So how common are gap years and what is the use of them? As it does look as if they have been on the rise, but in actual fact it is estimated that about 3% of freshmen take a gap year”. While it sounds fun, the estimated cost is between £3000 and £4000, making it a difficult option for the average student as I have already mentioned!
Furthermore I personally find (though I could be wrong) that there is this kind of stigma associated with going on a gap year, because people think that they are a waste of time, and that they are only for very wealthy privileged students. In this way we can understand why there may be some backlash. For instance Malia Obama’s decision to embark on a gap year before joining university, provoked much discussion. With there being some controversy, raising questions to whether it is just a “luxury for the rich“. However due the number of advantages taking a gap year has, and the amount of maturity people attain from taking one, it it is felt that they “are not just for rich kids anymore”. Remembering that there’s also opportunities to go on “working holidays” abroad, or simply do a job at home.
Though when thinking about it, it is not surprising that students who have taken a gap year return to university far more mature than those who haven’t. Thinking that from the age of 4 (or 2 if you count nursery) to 18 you are trapped within the system of (mainly) academic education. And while from 16 there is the opportunity to partake in an apprentice, the mainstream route to university is via A levels. Sadly the education system does focus very heavily on academic achievement, from the importance of SAT testing at 11, to the new and much harder 9-1 GCSE grading system. Therefore having the opportunity to go on a year’s long adventure, while probably attaining a completely new outlook on life, is bound to mean that a student will return to the education system, much more mature.
With programs offering opportunities ranging from helping to build infrastructure projects in poor areas, helping deprived children or even helping endangered animals (forget my joke about newts), the advantages are pretty apparent.
Though sadly the volunteering industry does have its issues, with some questioning whether it is appropriate for anyone to be using their services at all. For a start it is worth billions, which exploits people paying immense sums of money to be part of them. Meanwhile often the programs aren’t at all productive, such as in that certain infrastructure is built in where there is the equivalent to that near by. Furthermore those running the programs often lack the understanding of the culture in that area in order for them to help the people in a sufficient way. But at the same time, often these projects do result in successes, though I would advise (from a background of limited knowledge) that it is best to do a little research into the sort of program you would like to do, before embarking on anything.
But with this in mind, the matter of needing certain amounts of money is not going to go away! Yet a gap year isn’t necessarily something that you need to pay for at all, but rather the opposite. Yes, you could choose to go on a paid gap year, and while the experiences aren’t going to be quite the same, it will still be something of worth- totally different to anything experienced beforehand.
Now it is all the worthwhile arguing out both sides on whether having a gap year is good or not, though it can still seem very hard to reach a conclusion. Because while we want the experience of a lifetime, we don’t want to make a naive decision and we may not want to feel “left behind either”. Though depending on who you are, this doesn’t have to be the case. In this sense, it depends on the person as to whether the benefits of a gap year outweigh the costs. While I would agree that you don’t have to be super rich to be able to go on a gap year, as the nature of them does vary, though saying this if someone has a lot of money they are not going to be as limited.
Though sadly it is true that next year it may be more difficult to embark on a gap year because of the travel restrictions and the rather high potential chance that many of the programs are likely to be cancelled.
So there are so many positive and negative sides to doing a gap year, however I would argue that attaining this experience, whether it is from a year out, a few years out, or odd scattered months out, it is an experience that would be very valuable at some point in life. The stigma attached to them may be true to some degree, in about them being expensive as well as the fact that not all programs are always fully effective. Yet the money situation should not put anyone off, because if it is something which one is passionate about, then it is critical to do whatever that can be done to make it happen. Even if it consists of quite a bit of paid work while travelling. And while the industry of volunteering is quite rightly a concern, programs should be compared to find which programs are more “legit”. Finally a gap year does not have to be a year straight after sixth form, but it could be at whatever time that suits.