Gap Years: Should You Take One?

October 20, 2022

The dawn of adulthood is a challenging period. You’ve spent 18 years being funnelled through the system, dying to get out, and yet when the moment comes, and it’s finally up to you to decide on the next steps to take, sometimes you simply draw a blank. The transition into that stage where enormous life decisions seem to pop up every five seconds is rarely a smooth one. So if you’re stuck in the should-I-shoudn’t-I phase and just can’t decide whether or not to take a gap year, read on for our thoughts on the matter.

What is a gap year?

A gap year is when someone who is planning to attend university chooses to take a year away from studying when they finish school. 

And that’s pretty much where the sweeping definitions end. 

People choose to spend their gap year in a huge variety of different ways. Some will have already received a university offer and opted to defer while others will complete the UCAS process during their gap year in order to be able to start their course the following September. Some will travel, others will work. Many choose to seek out internships or do work experience in order to gain experience in a particular field. Some will spend a lot of time with friends during this year, others will take a more independent route. 

There really are no rules to how you spend your gap year. Given that this will likely be the first time you have had complete control over how you spend your days, grasp it with both hands! However, if you are still trying to work out whether a gap year is the right option for you, allow us to offer you a humble pros and cons list.


A time for self-interrogation

A gap year promises what might well be some much needed thinking time. Not everyone emerges from school with a clear sense of where to go next. Applying for university comes with a lot of big decisions - where to study, what to study, whether to study at all - and no one should do themselves the disservice of rushing these. A gap year, complete with exploration, new experiences and a whole lot of personal reflection, will allow you to get to know yourself in a completely new way, which might be just what you need to tend to those unanswered questions about your future.

Time for a break

Sometimes you just need a break from studying. After being in education for almost your whole life, who could blame you for needing a bit of a shake it up. It doesn’t mean you’ve abandoned the books all together; in fact, coming back to academia afresh after a few months of something different may well be highly beneficial for your outlook on studying, and make you a more productive learner in the long run.

A-level retakes

A gap year can also be an excellent practical tool for those who may have regrets about their performance during their last years of school. If you’re unhappy with your A-level grades, you can use this time to rinse and repeat in order to achieve the results you deserve this time around. See our A-level retakes blog to learn about the courses we offer and how we can help you create a flexible study schedule.


Returning to study

Whether you’ve spent the year backpacking around South America or sipping coffee in a suave office building, it can be tricky to get back into the swing of studying when this period is over. Going straight from school to university sometimes helps students retain the momentum needed to cope with the jump from A-level to degree level work. Each case is different but everyone should be prepared for a likely shock to the system in the aftermath of a gap year, whatever form it may have taken. If you’re having trouble finding your rhythm once the new term has started, be sure to check out our degree level tutors.

Lack of direction

It is possible to feel a little rudderless during a gap year, especially if most of your school friends have already started on their university journey. A dream gap year is not always easy to pull together; from raising the necessary funds for travel to finding the perfect work experience placement, the logistical elements can be challenging and if things don’t go as planned, a year is a long time to plod through with no real direction.

Beware forbidden fruit!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you might well find that you enjoy your gap year a little too much and feel very disinclined to return to your original plan of going to university as the year draws to a close. Your first taste of freedom away from the books can be a seductive one, and it can be all too tempting to discard university plans in favour of continuing to party in Ibiza, which may not be the most sensible option in the long term.

That said, higher education is not for everyone and if your gap year convinces you that a degree simply isn’t something you want to pursue at this stage, there is nothing wrong with considering an alternative plan.

Mind the gap (year)!

When it comes to deciding whether or not to take a gap year, there is no right or wrong answer. 99% of the time, the solution to indecision is research, research and more research, so look into what your gap year might look like and how feasible your daydreams could be in reality. Whatever you choose, embrace your first major adult decision and enjoy the ride!

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Ella Burgess

Ella is a content writer at Tutor House and explores a range of education centred topics, having previously spent time teaching English while living abroad. A foreign language enthusiast and lover of text art, she is devoted to words in all their forms. She'll happily immerse herself in anything wordy from conceptual art to vintage murder mysteries.

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