When you were 16 and still in school, all your teachers would tell you how exciting university was, how you would make new friends and have your own independency living away from home. What they didn’t tell you was that you don’t need to carry on straight into more education, but you could defer a year and go off on your travels before being thrown into doing more essays and exams.
When I was in 6th form, our teachers would talk non-stop about UCAS and how we need to ‘make sure we pick the right universities for us.” No one ever talked about the choice of having a gap year; they were concerned about getting our UCAS forms in on time so we could start the process.
Since going straight to university from comprehensive school, it has made me regret wanting to get my degree ‘out the way’ as I would have had all the time in the world to get my Journalism degree and because of this, I want a year or two to travel the world before settling for full-time employment.
Asking one of my lecturers, Rob Campbell, what his views about gap years are, his response was that “gap years should be compulsory. In school you are assessed all the time with essays and coursework and so when students do come to university they think it’s an unofficial gap year.”
He goes on to say “Students get assessment fatigue, so if they take a year out they aren’t being assessed and they can work along the way to pay for university and not see it as extended A Levels.”
But as I stated, not every lecturer or teacher agrees with this argument. Speaking to a former educator at my comprehensive school, Mrs Evans, my old English teacher, told me that gap years should be saved for when people have enough money to ‘go gallivanting around the world.’
Her reply to my question about whether students should take a year out before going to university was simply “No.”
“I think students should continue straight to university, and get their degree before thinking about travelling the world. I know many students who go on gap years and just never want to get back into the education system.”
But while chatting to my old teacher, I found out that she only thinks this view because one of her children went on a gap year a few years previous and when they came back, they didn’t want to go to university, they wanted to go straight into employment and start earning money.
While there will always be conflicting arguments about whether students are better off continuing their education straight from secondary school, or whether they should take a year out, if it’s to work to afford university or just to travel the world, at the end of the day, students will always follow their heart.
No matter what parents or educators tell them, if deferring a year to work or go travelling is what they want to do, then teenagers of my time will do exactly what they want.